It's job of govt
International garment buyers yesterday urged the government to play a more pro-active role in setting standards for the construction of factory buildings since garment makers had no authority over it.
“It is the government's duty to make the buildings safer. The BGMEA and buyers can only assist the government, but not punish anybody,” said Roger Hubert, a vice-president of the Hong Kong based Li & Fung.
“There has to be very quick implementation of laws for setting the standards for building construction to avert further tragedies,” he said.
Hubert said the standards for fire safety in many factories had already improved a lot since the Tazreen Fashions disaster, in which 112 workers died. “But the safety of a building lies in the hands of the government,” he said.
High-ups representing international brands held a rare meeting with the leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), a garment factory owners' platform, and expressed concern over the fate of the garment business in Bangladesh.
The meeting was held at the BGMEA office in Dhaka, where officials of more than 30 brands were present.
At the meeting, the buyers said approvals of the majority of the factory buildings were “managed” and building codes were not followed during construction.
They said the collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar, where at least 384 workers died, was a blow to the sector, which is already dealing with frequent hartals and production suspensions due to labour unrest. The survival of businesses in the sector had become very difficult.
Jenefa Jabbar, regional director of the US-based retailer JC Penny, said, “Baseline surveys are needed to be conducted by professional structural and electrical engineers for ensuring safety of the buildings and fire safety.
“We have to see something credible being done regarding building safety,” she added.
BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said the Phantom Apparels factory, which was in the Rana Plaza, was a Bangladesh-Spain joint venture.
The Spanish entrepreneur concerned could have told his partner in Bangladesh not to open the factory since cracks had developed in the building but he did not, Atiqul Islam told the buyers.
At the post-meeting press briefing, he said, “Buyers have expressed their concern over the recent volatile political situation and the tragedy in Savar as their customers were demonstrating worldwide.”
He, however, said a committee comprising members of the BGMEA, government officials and buyers, would be formed within a week to determine terms and references for compensating the victims and building inspections.
“We have found both owners and engineers responsible for collapse of Rana Plaza,” said former BGMEA president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin.
After two days, garment factories resumed operation yesterday with a few incidents of violence at Ashulia and Gazipur.