Bangladesh factories probe launched by St Albans MP

Workers watch as a crane lowers the ceiling of the garment factory building which collapsed in Savar

Workers watch as a crane lowers the ceiling of the garment factory building which collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh on Monday April 29, 2013. Rescue workers in Bangladesh gave up hopes of finding any more survivors in the remains of a building that collapsed five days ago, and began using heavy machinery on Monday to dislodge the rubble and look for bodies - mostly of workers in garment factories there. At least 381 people were killed when the illegally constructed, 8-story Rana Plaza collapsed in a heap on Wednesday morning along with thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building.(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) - Credit: AP

A REPORT has been commissioned by St Albans MP Anne Main into garment factory conditions in Bangladesh and the supply chain leading to the UK, which is expected to be completed by the end of September.

The politician’s intervention follows the devastating collapse of an eight-storey garment manufacturing complex in April which killed 1,129 people.

The Rana Plaza factory disaster has struck a nerve in St Albans as the district is home to 5,000 Bangladeshi, the largest such population in Herts.

Mrs Main explained she wanted to work with suppliers “on the ground” and retailers within the UK to ensure that Bangladeshi-made garments were always ethically sourced and of a high standard.

Primark, one of about 40 brands producing clothes within Rana Plaza, last week announced that it had terminated its relationship with supplier Liberty Fashion Wear Ltd as it had failed to evacuate the premises despite being advised it was housed in an unsafe building.

Mrs Main, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh (APPG) and president of the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh, said she did not want her report to be a “knee-jerk reaction” to the disaster.

But the MP is keen to improve conditions for garment factory workers: “We want to ensure we are moving forward with positive suggestions.

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“We have a golden opportunity to help the country move forward with a dynamic garment manufacturing industry, but in a safe way.”

The MP, who has visited the country several times, said it was common practice in Bangladesh to construct the first level of a building, and then later add additional storeys on top of a structure that never had the correct foundations.

She is also concerned about the ramifications of corruption in the country on workers’ safety.

The politician said: “We want to know if workers feel coerced; for example some have said that cracks were seen in the building before the collapse. Were the staff threatened?”

Her attempts to improve conditions have been applauded by Mina Rahman, chair of the London Bangladeshi Women’s Network.

She said: “Everyone in the British Bangladeshi community knows someone affected by the recent tragedies in garment factories and this report will help to improve conditions for thousands of people in Bangladesh.

“I hope this report will be taken up by the Bangladeshi Government and by garment retailers in the UK.”

Mrs Main is also leading a cross-party delegation to Bangladesh in mid-September, funded by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to learn more about clothing manufacturing.

She explained: “We want to talk to those in the industry about ethical trading and find out more about safety. The delegation will be visiting factories, and we want to speak to people in the factories.”