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4 factories of top BGMEA leaders found structurally flawed

Mohiuddin Alamgir and Moinul Haque

A BGMEA task force has found that four factory buildings owned by top leaders of the association have flaws in their architectural designs and were constructed in deviations from their original plans and not in compliance with the building code and the labour law.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association formed the task force in early December last year to identify the safety risks at garment factories in the wake of the November 24 Tazreen Fashions inferno that left at least 112 workers dead and several hundreds injured. The task force was scheduled to turn in its report containing the findings and recommendations for correcting the identified flaws by February last.
However, ‘The BGMEA authorities have not made any response to our repeated requests to collect the report as they already know its contents,’ alleged members of the task force technical team.
The team members said BGMEA officials did not help them get the actual scenario of the factories. They said although they were supposed to visit 10 factories under a pilot project to learn the real scenario, the BGMEA authorities allowed them to visit four factories only and did not provide them with all the engineering documents concerned.
The task force technical team visited the factory buildings of Rose Dresses Limited at Ashulia owned by BGMEA president Atiqul Islam, Onus Apparels Limited at Malibagh owned by immediate past BGMEA president M Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, and Bando Design Limited and Starling Creations at Ashulia owned by immediate past BGMEA vice president M Siddiqur Rahman.
‘By reviewing the designs and visiting the factories, we found the four buildings to have deviated from their original plans, faults in their architectural designs, and been constructed without complying with the building code and the labour law,’ one of the team members, architect Khandaker Tazuddin, told New Age.
Another technical team member, Institution of Architects, Bangladesh president Mubasshar Hussain, told New Age that after reviewing the structural aspects of the four factories, they prepared a set of recommendations in March, but the BGMEA authorities were not taking the report from them. 
BGMEA president Atiqul Islam, who is also the task force convener, however, told New Age that the task force was working and the BGMEA would take steps in line with its recommendations.
The country’s booming garment sector is plagued by frequent building-collapses, fires, and other accidents that have left at least 730 workers killed in the past 11 years, according to the data of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies.
Most of the readymade garment factory buildings in Bangladesh are structurally unsafe. Buildings are illegally converted into factories that run day and night to meet production targets. Keeping the costs low is prioritised while widespread, fatal health and safety faults remain.
Faulty electrical circuits, inadequate escape routes, and unsafe equipment are some of the major causes of deaths and injuries in accidents, said Bangladesh Textile Garment Workers’ Federation president Mahbubur Rahman Ismail.
He said, ‘The BGMEA task force is complete eyewash. The factory owners are entirely focused on profiteering and have no interest in ensuring workers’ safety and security. The fact that there is no labour representative on the task force proves their ill-intention.’
According to the chief inspector of factories and establishment, there are 5,170 RMG factories in the country, 4,000 of which are under the BGMEA, who make clothes for international brands by employing about 3.5 million workers.
The country earns about $20 billion a year from garment export, accounting for roughly 80 per cent of its annual export earnings.

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