Inquiry Says Fire in Bangladesh Factory was Sabotage

Monday, 17 Dec 2012 05:53 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A government inquiry into the Bangladesh clothing factory fire in November ruled the blaze that left more than 110 workers dead was an act of sabotage, but failed to name who started it. 

Monday's report did conclude that factory owner Delwar Hossain was guilty of "severe negligence," according to investigator Main Uddin Khandaker, who headed the fire inquiry.

"The owner of the factory could not avoid the responsibility and he committed severe negligence by which such type of death happened," said Khandaker in an interview with the BBC.

Khandaker added that during the fire, nine factory managers had allegedly prevented workers from escaping, having in some cases padlocked exit doors throughout the facility. The owner had previously claimed the factory was safe for all of its employees.

Khandaker would not specify what actions would be taken against Hossain in light of the government's findings.

Despite concluding that the fire was started deliberately, the inquiry failed to name who was responsible.

The factory, which produced apparel for Wal-Mart among other global retailers, is one of approximately 4,500 clothing factories in Bangladesh which employ an estimated 3.4 million people, primarily women, who work long hours for low wages, about $43 a month. Bangladesh's garment industry exports account for 80 percent of the nation’s annual exports, an estimated $24 billion.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that in a 2011 meeting with other major global retailers, including The Gap, Target, and JC Penney, Wal-Mart refused to provide additional funding for factories there to upgrade facilities and make them safer for employees.

In order to maintain low prices with profitability, a trend among global brands has been to relocate facilities from China, where wages have been steadily increasing, to nations in Southeast Asia, such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to Maurizio Bussi, director of the International Labor Organization's Decent Work Team in South-East Asia.

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