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Vol. 77/No. 5      February 11, 2013

Bangladesh: Workers protest
deaths in Jan. 27 fire
Courtesy National Garment Workers Federation

Workers from different garment federations in Dhaka, Bangladesh, rallied Jan. 27 to protest the killing of seven workers in a fire at Smart Export Garment Ltd. the day before—two months after more than 120 workers were killed in a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory north of the city. In both plants workers were trapped behind locked gates and left without fire exits.

Smart Export Garment was housed on the upper floor of a two-story building in the suburb of Mohammadpur. It employed 300 workers, mostly women.

Doctors said most of the workers died from suffocation. More than a dozen were injured. Many jumped from the second floor to escape the flames, according to local police. Workers who survived say they found the door on the first floor locked when they tried to get out. “There was no fire exit,” Mahbubur Rahman, the fire service and civil defense director, told reporters.

Workers’ demands included arrest of the factory owner, compensation for the victims’ families, safe workplaces and job security.

Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest exporter of clothing after China. It has 4,500 garment factories, employing 3.6 million workers.

Since 2005 more than 500 workers in Bangladesh have died in garment factory fires. No owner has ever been prosecuted.

A government panel has concluded that the fire in the Tazreen factory was the result of sabotage, but no one has been charged and no further explanation given. Several middle managers have been arrested for barring the workers from escaping. Dozens of families have still not received their relatives’ last paychecks, let alone the compensation they were promised.


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