Two owners turn down request to reopen factories
Two garment makers who shut their factories after an inspection found poor safety records are now refusing to reopen the plants despite repeated requests from European retailers.
A team of experts of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a platform of mainly 150 European retailers, on March 6 identified the premises of Softex Sweater Industries and Fame Knitwears Limited as unsafe.
An abrupt shutdown of the factories led the workers to stage demonstrations, which prompted Accord to request the owners to reopen the units.
“First the inspectors said my factory was unsafe and instructed me to shut it down and now they are requesting me to reopen,” Rezwan Selim, managing director of Mirpur-based Softex Sweater Industries, told The Daily Star.
“It could be that they realised they made a mistake, but I will not resume operations at that unit—I don't want another Rana Plaza tragedy there.”
Selim along with Moshiul Azam Sajal, managing director of Fame Knitwears, yesterday held a video conference with Brad Loewen, chief safety inspector of Accord, and Rob Wayss, executive director of the Bangladesh operations of the platform, over the matter.
“If my building is unsafe, how can I reopen it?” Sajal said, adding that he would much rather pay compensation as per the laws of the land to the 500 workers employed at the factory.
The Softex MD went on to suggest that he would claim financial losses from the Accord for the great inconvenience caused.
“I was not at all ready for all this. Some 3,500 workers were employed at the factory and one day the Accord engineers show up and decide my factory to be unsafe and ask me to shut it down. I will not be able to afford such huge losses.”
Neither Wayss nor Loewen could be reached for comments.
Meanwhile, Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of the local arm of IndustriALL, a global union federation which initiated the Accord, said the factories were not closed down by the Accord engineers.
A nine-member review panel consisting of representatives from Accord, Alliance, ILO, Bangladesh government among others recommended the factories' closure after going through the findings of the Accord engineers.