• Monday, December 22, 2014

Freedom in the air

Owner of a closed factory sends legal notices to inspection agencies

Refayet Ullah Mirdha

The management of Softex Cotton Ltd, a garment maker that had to close its plant in the face of recent inspections, yesterday sent legal notices to factory inspection agencies seeking damages worth $100 million, its lawyer said.
“We sent the legal notices to Accord, Alliance, the labour department of the government, the inspection team of Buet, and BGMEA, as they are responsible for the closure of the factory,” said Mohammed Asaduzzaman, an advocate of Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed & Associates.
“In the labour law, there is no provision of a review panel to suggest closure of factories,” Asaduzzaman told The Daily Star by phone.
The Softex factory in Mirpur was closed at the suggestion of the review panel when engineers of Accord on March 7 found the building was unsafe. Around 3,500 workers were employed in the factory.
“I went for the legal procedure as the way the Accord started inspections is not acceptable. The Accord people are not even following their own rules,” said Rezwan Selim, managing director of Softex Cotton.
According to Accord articles, lead buyers of a factory will have to be present during inspection and would contribute to payments of workers if the factory remains closed for renovation purposes.
“I think the Accord did not even inform the lead buyers of the inspection. The buyers are not paying workers of my factory,” Selim said.


He also termed the certification system of the Accord faulty. "The Accord did not conduct any soil tests before declaring my factory unsafe. Accord engineers are branding buildings risky on the basis of visual reports and hammer tests,” Selim said.
Rob Wayss, executive director for Accord's Dhaka office, said he is yet to get any legal notice from Softex.
“But we are in talks with Softex for a solution. We have already held several meetings with the Softex management,” he said.
Wayss, however, said the lead buyers do not need to be present during factory inspection. “But, the factory management can contact the lead buyers for compensation and fund for factory renovation,” he said.
Mesbah Rabin, managing director of the Alliance's Dhaka office, said he did not receive any legal notice yet.
Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and a member of the review panel for factory inspection, said: "I heard that Softex has gone for legal procedure for demurrage.”
Azim also said a total of 22 factories have so far been closed down due to structural flaws in the buildings and around 18,000 workers lost jobs.
The Accord, a platform of 150 retailers and brands mostly from Europe, started inspection of nearly 1,600 factories in February and Alliance, a platform of 27 US-based retailers and brands, started inspection of 700 factories in March.
In another drive, 30 teams of engineers led by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) started inspecting nearly 2,000 garment factories in November last year.

Published: 12:00 am Thursday, May 01, 2014

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