St Albans MP Anne Main’s safety call after Bangladesh tragedy

Workers and fire fighters are shrouded in smoke as they prepare to dislodge the debris and fallen ce

Workers and fire fighters are shrouded in smoke as they prepare to dislodge the debris and fallen 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

THE devastating collapse of an eight-storey complex killing hundreds of factory workers in Bangladesh has prompted St Albans MP Anne Main to urge the provision of safer conditions for employees.

In the wake of last Wednesday’s building collapse near Dhaka Mrs Main, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh (APPG) and president of the Conservative Friends of Bangladesh, has written to high-ranking officials expressing her concerns.

There are close ties between St Albans and the country as there are 5,000 Bangladeshi in the district – the largest such population in Herts.

The city has formal friendship links with Sylhet.

In a letter to the Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK, Mohamed Mijarul Quayes, Mrs Main said she was saddened to hear that so many of his countrymen had died. According to official figures over 380 people were killed but sources say the toll is likely to be much higher.

The complex housed five clothing factories, employing more than 3,000 staff. High Street shops including Primark have been criticised by public figures for not ensuring workers making their clothes in Bangladesh were employed in safe premises.

A regular visitor to the country, Mrs Main told Mr Quayes: “When I have visited Bangladesh I have been told that quite often buildings are developed without the adherence to building regulations that is required to ensure their safety.”

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She said she hoped the Government of Bangladesh would now take a “keen interest” in such regulations and conditions for factory workers.

In a letter to the Minister of State for Trade and Investment Lord Green, she said that the tragedy could have been avoided had factory bosses heeded warnings of a crack in the building the day before it collapsed.

Mrs Main said that considering the trade links between Britain and Bangladesh, it was vital that the Government ensured garments made there were imported only from companies providing safe conditions for workers.

When she visited the country last year, she was horrified to find buildings did not have emergency exits.

In a statement to the Herts Advertiser Mrs Main said: “United Kingdom stores import a great deal of garments from Bangladesh and it does seem that some of the factories are death traps.”

Primark has recently issued a statement pledging to pay compensation to victims of the disaster who worked for its supplier.

It urged other retailers with suppliers in the complex to come forward and also offer assistance.

Helal Choudhury, vice-president of the Bangladesh Welfare Association St Albans, said he hoped that those responsible for the collapse received the “maximum punishment”.

He and other Bangladeshi in St Albans were “really horrified and upset” about the incident.

Mr Choudhury added: “We feel for the victims and their families.”