x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

EU may consider trade action against Bangladesh over building collapse

The European Union is considering trade action against Bangladesh to pressure Dhaka for improved safety standards after a building collapse killed hundreds of factory workers.

The European Union is considering trade action against Bangladesh to pressure Dhaka for improved safety standards after a building collapse killed hundreds of factory workers.

Duty-free access offered by Western countries and low wages have helped turn Bangladesh's garment exports into a Dh73.4 billion-per-year industry, with 60 per cent of clothes going to Europe.

But any action by the EU on Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free access would require the agreement of all member states and could take more than a year to implement.

"The European Union calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to act immediately to ensure that factories across the country comply with international labour standards," the bloc said.

Anger in Bangladesh has been growing since the illegally built Rana Plaza in Dhaka's commercial suburb of Savar collapsed last week, killing at least 402 people in the country's worst industrial accident.

There were about 3,000 people inside the complex, which was built on a swamp, when it collapsed. About 2,500 people have been rescued, but there are still some who are unaccounted for.

"Why are they taking so much time to pull out bodies?" asked a grief-stricken father who, like many others, has been waiting on the streets near the collapsed factory, hoping for information about his son.

Preparations were being made yesterday for the mass burial of about 40 people who cannot be identified.

Several thousand workers rallied in the capital to mark Labour Day and demand capital punishment for those responsible for the tragedy.

"The owner of the building ... should be hanged to death and compensation should be given to the injured and those who died," said the labour leader, Moshrefa Mishu. "A healthy and safe atmosphere should be made in the factories."

About 20 people were injured on Tuesday as police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse protesters in Savar, who were calling for the death penalty for the owners of the building and factories.

The building's owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, and his father, Abdul Khalek, are among eight people arrested so far, and police are seeking a fifth factory boss, the Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.