UN Calls on Bangladesh to Shut Down Unsafe Garment Factories


The UN’s labour agency urged Bangladesh to close unsafe factories as search teams yesterday pulled more bodies from the wreckage of the nation’s worst industrial disaster, pushing the death toll to at least 550.

The collapse of the eight-storey garment factory complex outside Dhaka last week was the latest in a string of catastrophes to befall the $20 billion textile industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports.

Action is needed to ensure such “avoidable accidents” that tarnish the image of Bangladesh’s industrial image never recur, said Gilbert Houngbo, field operations deputy director-general at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The government must “make sure all factories are inspected and any remedial action necessary is put in place,” Houngbo said.

“Some factories (that cannot be repaired) may have to close down,” said the former prime minister of the West African nation Togo.

His words came as bulldozers and cranes clawed away for an 11th day at the mountain of rubble at the plant site.

Army spokesman Major Sazzad Hossain said the death toll “now stands at 550” and that more bodies have been spotted.

A senior government official reiterated pledges to “inspect all garment factory buildings” as Bangladesh faces pressure from Western brands to take “credible” safety steps.

“We’ve adopted a series of measures to make sure this kind of disaster never happens again,” commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed said.

The government made a similar announcement after a devastating fire swept a garment factory in November last year, killing 111 workers, but the subsequent inspections were widely derided as insufficient.

Ahmed urged the buyers and top trade partners such as the EU, where nearly 60pc of Bangladesh’s apparel are shipped, not to shun Dhaka’s products, saying it would hurt the country’s 60 million poor.

“If anyone takes decision to stop importing from Bangladesh, it’ll eventually hurt the millions of garment workers,” he said.

The 4,500 garment factories employ over three million workers, at least 80pc of whom are women.


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