FOUR YEARS AFTER ASWAD FIRE INCIDENT

Rights groups urge brands to provide full, fair compensation

Staff Correspondent | Published: 22:44, Oct 09,2017 | Updated: 00:30, Oct 10,2017

 
 

A file photo shows Bangladeshi firefighters working at the scene following a blaze that engulfed garment factory Aswad Composite Mills in Gazipur on October 8, 2013. After four years of the fire incident at Aswad Composite Mills, the families of deceased and injured workers are still waiting for compensation from the global brands which procured products from the factory. — AFP photo

After four years of the fire incident at Aswad Composite Mills in Gazipur, the families of deceased and injured workers are still waiting for compensation from the global brands which procured products from the factory.
Following the fire incident at the apparel unit on October 8, 2013, the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishments filed a case against the factory owners as they did not comply with the safety guidelines, but the officials concerned are not aware of the latest status of the case.
Global rights groups have urged the international buyers and brands that were sourcing from Aswad Composite at that time to provide compensation to the fire victims as per the standard of Rana Plaza victims saying that the compensation offered by the Aswad factory owners fell far below that was received by the victims of earlier disasters.
Clean Clothes Campaign, the largest alliance of labour unions and non-governmental organisations in the garment industry, on Sunday said in a press release that the brands and buyers should not make any more delay in giving Aswad fire compensation.
The CCC urged the brands including H&M, C&A and Primark, to ensure that these families finally received the compensation saying that the four-year wait of the Aswad families was a heart-breaking reminder.
It said that the brands should have provided the compensation many years before.
The fire broke out at Aswad Composite Mills of Palmal Group on October 8, 2013 and the factory was deemed unsafe earlier by government inspectors, but the factory nevertheless continued to operate.
On October 1, a week before the blaze, the DIFE notified the factory authorities to ensure sufficient safety measures.
The department issued the notice as a physical inspection at the factory on September 25, 2013 found that the required safety measures were not available at the apparel unit.
DIFE inspector general Md Shamsuzzaman Bhuiyan on Monday told New Age that he was not aware of the case as the factory falls under the jurisdiction of Gazipur office of the department.
He suggested contacting deputy inspector general of the Gazipur office.
Farid Ahmed, DIG of the Gazipur office, said that he knew nothing about the case regarding Aswad.
He said that during the incident Gazipur industrial zone was under the Dhaka office.
Clean Clothes Campaign in its statement said that the Aswad fire had always been overshadowed by the larger factory incidents that preceded it, such as the
Rana Plaza collapse, which killed 1,134 workers.
‘While justifiably most efforts to ensure compensation went to these larger tragedies, the plight of the Aswad families, which is no less important, has been largely ignored. In these earlier cases brands – including many of those sourcing from Aswad – did provide compensation after international pressure,’ CCC said.
The rights advocate said it was the shared responsibility of the government, the factory owners and the brands to ensure that those injured or left behind after a factory incident, such as the Aswad fire, have access to remedy.
‘For this reason we have been calling on brands to support a more permanent solution for provision of compensation, by supporting a “bridging solution”, facilitated by the ILO, which will help bring Bangladesh closer to a national level employment injury scheme that will protect all of its workers should the worst happen,’ the statement said.
The platform of labour rights groups proposed that Aswad to be the pilot case for such a scheme, which would calculate and distribute the payments contributed by international buyers, based on international standards laid down in the ILO Convention 121.
‘The families affected by the Aswad fire have been waiting for too long already for compensation. Four years since the fire, it is high time that these brands, that made profits on the materials produced at Aswad take their responsibility for these workers in their supply chain,’ Thiruvalluvar Yovel, spokesperson of the CCC, said.
Yovel said that money would not bring their loved ones or health back, but might at least alleviate the dire situation many of them are in since the fire. 

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