Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013

18 risky RMG factories shut down

The government has closed down 18 garment factories temporarily as part of its efforts to allay fears of international buyers and rights groups over safety and labour standards in the country’s beleaguered apparel sector.
Of the factories, 16 are in Dhaka and two in Chittagong, Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddique said yesterday.
“We will close down factories deemed to be dangerous,” he said at a press briefing at the labour ministry yesterday.
The government action came less than a week after the International Labour Organisation completed a high-profile mission to the country to call on the authorities to take immediate steps to improve labour standards and working condition in the garment factories.
Earlier, a cabinet committee on garment industry was formed two weeks before the collapse of the illegally constructed Rana Plaza housing five garment factories on April 24, leaving 819 dead.
The government has also formed a two-member panel headed by the textiles minister to inspect garment factories for building flaws and recommend steps to correct them. The committee will submit a report to the prime minister within three months.
“We hope the garment factories with problems will correct them within this period,” said Latif.
The minister also said two taskforces have been formed to ensure the welfare of garment workers and inspect fire safety system in factories.
Meanwhile, the Dhaka office of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) had earlier asked owners of 32 garment factories to shut down their factories because of faults that pose dangers to the workers.
These include the 16 factories already closed down in Dhaka. Officials, however, could not say immediately whether the remaining 16 have been shut down or not.
“We have issued them letter after inspection. If they ignore our orders, we will take legal action against them,” Deputy Chief of the DIFE for Dhaka division Nripendra Nath Das told The Daily Star.
He said they asked the owners to have their factory buildings examined by expert engineers and then submit report to the DIFE.
“We will then decide whether a factory will be closed down finally.”
On Monday, the textiles minister told journalists that he and Monnujan Sufian, state minister for labour, also a member of the panel headed by him, would visit 100 garment factories in Dhaka and Chittagong in the next one week.
Garment makers yesterday expressed concern over the shutdown of factories as the government inspection teams are closing factories due to their poor safety standard.
The entrepreneurs expressed their concern in a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Gono Bhaban.
“Firstly, we went to the PM’s residence, and being instructed, we met Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui at his residence and expressed our concern,” said AK Azad, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
The factory owners are in trouble now as different authorities are shutting down many units, he added.
Atiqul Islam, president of BGMEA, AKM Salim Osman, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and former BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy, were present, among others.