02/05/2013 - Demand for action on factory collapse in Bangladesh

Thousands of workers marched through central Dhaka yesterday (May Day) to demand safety at work following the collapse of garment factory last week - the country's worst industrial disaster - which killed over 402 people and injured 2,500. Five garment factories were housed in the illegally constructed eight-storey Rana Plaza.


Eight people have been arrested - four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father Abdul Khalek.Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he is in Bangladesh at the moment.


Rana had permission to build five stories but added three more floors illegally. When huge cracks appeared in the building a day before its collapse, police ordered an evacuation, but Rana told tenants that it was safe and they should go back in. The next day, a bank and some shops in the building refused to open but factory managers told their workers to go back in. A couple of hours later the building collapsed.


A huge procession of workers on foot, lorry and motorcycle wound its way through central Dhaka waving banners, beating drums and chanting "direct action" and "death penalty" for the owner of the factory.

Five months after a fire killed 112 people at another clothing factory, the collapse again exposed safety problems in Bangladesh's garment industry, which supplies retailers around the world.Among the garment makers in the building were Phantom Apparels, Phantom Tac, Ether Tex, New Wave Style and New Wave Bottoms. Altogether, they produced several million shirts, trousers and other garments a year.


The New Wave companies, according to their website, make clothing for several major North American and European retailers. British retailer Primark has acknowledged it sold garments made in a factory in Rana Plaza and on Monday said it was providing emergency aid and would pay compensation to victims who worked for its supplier.


In a statement, Associated British Food who own the company added: “Primark will also pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier.

"This will include the provision of long-term aid for children who have lost parents, financial aid for those injured and payments to the families of the deceased.

"We shall be reviewing our commitments constantly to ensure that they meet the needs of the victims as the tragedy continues to unfold.

“Primark notes the fact that its supplier shared the building with those of other retailers.

"We are fully aware of our responsibility. We urge these other retailers to come forward and offer assistance.”

Patrick Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: "Global capitalism exploits cheap labour and poor safety conditions for profit. How can British workers compete in a market place where standards abroad are so low? What has happened in Bangladesh is a tragedy and our hearts go out to the families of the victims but it is something that will happen again because its real cause is the economic system under which we live.  Nothing will change unless we change that."