Bangladesh fire protests rage, supervisors arrested

Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:56pm EST
 
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By Ruma Paul and Nivedita Bhattacharjee

DHAKA/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three supervisors of a Bangladeshi garment factory were arrested on Wednesday as protests over a suspected arson fire that killed more than 100 people raged on into a third day, with textile workers and police clashing in the streets of a Dhaka suburb.

The government has blamed last weekend's disaster, the country's worst-ever industrial blaze, on saboteurs and police said they had arrested two people, who were seen on CCTV footage trying to set fire to stockpiles of material in another factory.

The fire at Tazreen Fashions has put a spotlight on global retailers that source clothes from Bangladesh, where wage costs are low - as little as $37 a month for some workers. Rights groups have called on Western firms to sign on to a safety program in that country, the world's second-biggest clothes exporter.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, said one of its suppliers subcontracted work to the now burned-out factory without authorization and would no longer be used. But one of the most senior figures in the country's garment industry cast doubt on that claim.

"I won't believe Walmart entirely if they say they did not know of this at all. That is because even if I am subcontracted for a Walmart deal, those subcontracted factories still need to be certified by Walmart," Annisul Huq, former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Reuters following a meeting of association members.

"You can skirt rules for one or two odd times if it is for a very small quantity, but no decent quantity of work can be done without the client's knowledge and permission," he said.

Wal-Mart, in a statement, reiterated that while it does have an audit and notification system in place, in this case a supplier subcontracted to the workshop without approval.

MOST FACTORIES CLOSED   Continued...

 
Garment workers chant slogans during a protest against the death of their colleagues in a devastating fire, in Savar November 28, 2012. Three supervisors of a Bangladeshi garments factory were arrested on Wednesday as protests over a fire that killed more than 100 people raged on into a third day, with textile workers and police clashing in the streets of a Dhaka suburb. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj