6 years ago

124 garment factories still operate in risky buildings

AP file photo used for illustrative purpose only.
AP file photo used for illustrative purpose only.

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More than one hundred readymade garment factories located in the capital and the port city are still operating in risky buildings, defying the government's instruction to close such factories putting the lives of workers at risk, sources said.

During the initial inspection on structural integrity, fire and electrical safety conducted by the western retailers' two platforms -- Accord and Alliance and the national initiative -- soon after Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, a total of 163 garment factories have been found running in the risky buildings. They have been asked to relocate but only 39 factories complied.

A government-led review panel comprising representatives of Accord, Alliance, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) later visited the buildings following the recommendations of the engineers and asked the authorities to shut down the units.

Out of the 163, only 39 factories complied with the government's order while the remaining 124 have been operating their business in the same buildings without taking any remediation measures, according to the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE).

Even after the 39 garment units relocated, the building authorities allowed other establishments to run businesses despite the government's order not to use the structure for any commercial purposes until required safety measures have been put in place, its officials said.

The department has asked both the factory and building owners repeatedly not to use the buildings without retrofitting or renovating it, they added.

"We have to seal off the buildings and we need cooperation from the government's agencies concerned in this regard," Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan, inspector general of DIFE, said.

Though DIFE, which is under the labour ministry, has the authority to shut down any establishments, it needs support from the police as well as RAJUK (Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha) or Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) to do so, he explained.

The labour ministry will shortly seek cooperation from them to this end, he added.

After the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1100 people, mostly garment workers, some 2000 garment factories have been inspected by Accord, Alliance and some 1500 factories by the government-ILO joint move.

More than 80 per cent remediation have so far been completed in Accord and Alliance-listed garment factories but the progress is slow in factories under national initiative, people familiar with the process said.

The DIFE, however, set the April 2018 deadline for factories to complete the remedial measures, Mr Bhuiyan added.

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