01/29/2013, 00.00
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Bangladesh, another factory blaze: European giant cancels contracts

The Spanish group Inditex, a leading name in the fashion industry, says it will no longer produce products with Smart Garments Exports of Dhaka after the deaths of seven workers in a fire. As in the fire at Tazreen Fashion, the Bangladeshi factory did not meet the safety standards.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Inditex SA (ITX), a Spanish group among the largest in the world, has terminated contracts with a textile factory in Dhaka after the deaths of seven workers in a fire that broke out on January 26 last. The company made the decision after discovering Bershka and Leftie  clothing, its own brands, among remains at the Smart Garments Exports Ltd.

Bangladeshi authorities have not yet clarified the cause of the fire, which evokes a similar incident at Tazreen Fashion, on 16 November 2012. In that case, the human consequences have been more devastating - more than 100 dead and at least 200 injured - but the dynamics are similar: one emergency exit, blocked, preventing the flight of workers. In both cases, the victims died in a stampede, or in jumping from windows in an attempt to save themselves.

There were about 300 workers, mostly women in Smart Garments Exports. In addition to the seven victims, 15 other people were injured, five of whom are in critical condition. Some survivors say that the flames, on coming into contact with tissues and chemicals, created a thick blanket of smoke, blurred vision and triggered panic among those present. Mahububur Rahman, chief of the fire department, said that the factory never received permission to begin work: "The owner put some sewing machines on the floor, without any regard for the necessary safety precautions. We found no emergency exits or fire safety equipment".

For this reason, three sector unions yesterday issued an ultimatum to the government, demanding the arrest of the owners of Smart Export Garments and Tazreen Fashion, threatening to besiege the Labour Directors' Office on February 3rd.

Founded by Amancio Ortega, the richest man in Europe, Inditex has more than 100 signatures, including Zara, Massimo Dutti, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Oysho, known all over the world. The Bangladesh accident will not have a serious impact on sales, but in the last years the group has tried to find producers who comply with basic norms of labour law. An attitude advocated by many in Bangladesh, the second largest exporter of clothing in the world after China: signing agreements and contracts only with companies that respect the safety standards and ensure workers' rights would create a more functional market system. (NI)

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