Bangladesh garment factory collapse kills hundreds, ignites massive protests

[Bangladesh’s garment industry, the second-largest exporter of clothing after China, has a notoriously poor fire safety record. Since 2006, nearly 1000 Bangladeshi workers have died in factory fires and building collapses, according to Clean Clothes Campaign, an anti-sweatshop advocacy group in Amsterdam. Experts say many of the fires could have easily been avoided, but the profits generated by the lowest wages and no corporate spending on safety and health conditions have made the garment industry a death trap.  The industry employs more than three million workers in Bangladesh, most of them women. Activists say that global clothing brands like Tommy Hilfiger and the Gap and those sold by Walmart dismiss their responsibility for the working conditions in Bangladeshi factories that produce their clothes. “These brands have known for years that many of the factories they choose to work with are death traps,” Ineke Zeldenrust, the international coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, said in a statement. “Their failure to take action amounts to criminal negligence.” — Frontlines ed.]

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Token, symbolic arrests over Bangladesh building collapse

Owners of collapsed buildings and an engineer responsible for maintenance arrested while death toll rises to 324

 27 Apr 2013
Bangladeshi police say they have made three arrests after a garment factory outside Dhaka collapsed, killing more than 300 people.The building’s owners and an engineer who was responsible for maintenance were arrested on Saturday after the death toll rose to 324.

“We’ve arrested Bazlus Samad, the chairman of New Wave Buttons and New Wave Style factories, and Mahmudur Rahaman Tapash, a managing director of one of these plants, after midnight,” Shyamal Mukherjee, deputy chief of Dhaka police, told AFP news agency.
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[Associated Press–Bangladeshis watch the rescue operations at the site of the collapse on Thursday.]

One manager for the New Wave Styles company, one of the five manufacturers in the building, said the owner had consulted an engineer but then ignored his warnings.”Those who’re involved, especially the owner who forced the workers to work there, will be punished,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told lawmakers.

“Wherever he is, he will be found and brought to justice.”

The police said they plan to arrest at least ten more, after the Hasina’s statement.

Widespread anger has been fuelled by revelations that factory bosses forced 3,000 workers to continue working on Wednesday despite police orders to evacuate the building because of cracks found in the structure the day before.

Thousands of garment factory workers in Bangladesh protested on Friday.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets on Friday as protesters attacked factories and smashed vehicles, forcing many garment factories to shut down operations.

“The situation is very volatile. Hundreds of thousands of workers have joined the protests,” M Asaduzzaman, an officer in the police control room, told the AFP news agency. “We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them.”