Bangladesh shuts factories, 20,000 workers affected

Dhaka, Nov 10 (IANS) Bangladesh has shut down 73 garment factories for safety reasons since the country’s worst-ever industrial tragedy in 2013, affecting nearly 20,000 workers.

“A total of 37 factories were closed which affected 16,938 workers,” Xinhua quoted Syed Ahmed, inspector general of the department of inspection of factories and establishments, as saying on Tuesday.

“Production has been suspended partially in another 36 factories with 2,041 workers affected,” he said while revealing a latest garments assessment report.

The department, in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), launched the safety assessment after the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh that sounded a harsh wake-up call to authorities to improve working conditions at some 5,000 garment factories that employ nearly 5 million workers — about 80 percent of them women.

Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building housing five garment factories collapsed on April 24, 2013, at the outskirts of Dhaka, killing more than 1,130 people, mostly workers.

According to the assessment report, the Bangladesh government has completed the inspection phase of its efforts to assess thousands of exporting garments factories for structural, fire and electrical safety, with emphasis now switching to remediation.

Syed Ahmed said: “Following Rana Plaza, commitments were made to assess the structural integrity of all active export-oriented factories to identify those with high risk of collapse.

“Virtually all have now been inspected with 37 closed, helping avoid potential loss of life. We now turn our full attention to the challenge of remediation and ensuring a safer garments sector for all who work in it.”

According to the report, a number of significant actions have taken place to underpin the inspection process under the national initiative.

Considerable progress has been made to develop more accurate lists of RMG factories which are operational in collaboration with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

A study on remediation financing, jointly launched by ILO and Syed Ahmed’s department, is ongoing.

Srinivas Reddy, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Bangladesh country director, stressed the need for prioritising the corrective measures, saying that it is absolutely time for remedial action plans.

“Carrying out these inspections is a significant milestone yet it is only the beginning. Our full attention must now turn to remediation. ILO will help build the capacity of the Bangladesh authorities to put in place an effective system for all remediation and regulatory oversight once the support of partners ends,” he said.

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