Dhaka workers demand action after factory fire

 

Dhaka

Thousands of angry textile workers demonstrated on the outskirts of Dhaka after a fire swept through a garment workshop at the weekend, killing more than 100 people in Bangladesh's worst-ever factory blaze.

The fire has put the spotlight on global retailers that source clothes from Bangladesh, where the cost of labour is as little as $37 (£23.70) a month for some workers – and rights groups have called on the big brands to sign up to a fire safety programme.

A second fire broke out at a separate clothes factory on the outskirts of the city today. Eight workers were reported to have been injured by heavy smoke inhalation.

Workers from Tazreen Fashions, the site of Saturday's blaze, blocked roads and forced the closure of other factories in the industrial suburb of Ashulia, where the huge fire started, demanding that those responsible be punished. "I haven't been able to find my mother," said one worker, who gave her name as Shahida. "I demand justice, I demand that the owner be arrested."

Police and officials said narrow exits in the nine-storey building trapped workers inside, killing 111 people and injuring more than 150.

Amirul Haque Amin, the president of Bangladesh's National Garment Workers Federation, said: "This disastrous fire incident was a result of continuing neglect of workers' safety and their welfare. Whenever a fire or accident occurs, the government sets up an investigation and the authorities – including factory owners – pay out some money and hold out assurances to improve safety standards and working conditions. But they never do it."

Working conditions in Bangladeshi factories are notoriously poor, with little enforcement of safety laws. More than 300 factories near the capital shut for almost a week this year as workers demanded higher wages and better conditions.

Reuters

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