5 Jun 2013

Bangladesh factory collapse: UK donates £18m in aid

The UK government is donating £18m for the safety and skills training of Bangladeshi factory workers following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in April.

Bangladesh factory collapse

Existing UK aid will be spent on the enforcement of building standards in Bangladesh in wake of the factory collapse in Dhaka, Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development, has said.

More than 1,100 people were killed and around 2,500 more were rescued from the building, which housed many operations producing low-cost garments for Western companies.

Wake-up call

Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development

Mr Duncan, who is in Dhaka to discuss challenges facing workers and businesses in the garment industry, said: “I have been incredibly moved by the courage of the people I have met today, many of whom lay trapped for days and sustained appalling injuries.

“The Rana Plaza factory collapse was devastating in its scale and, along with factory fires, must be taken as a wake-up call to all of us.

“Safety and standards must be made to catch up with the rapid growth in the garment sector, which is a massive success story and must not be allowed to go sour.

Our own high street brands must assume responsibility for their products, from the store right back to the sewing machine Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development

“The industry has been built from nothing in the past 30 years and now needs to be turned into a long-term development success, which means that urgent action is needed across the sector.

“Our own high street brands must assume responsibility for their products, from the store right back to the sewing machine, and the UK is ready to help make this happen.”

Mr Duncan said that the UK was ready to commit funding a set of common compliance standards to bring accountability to the supply chain, health and safety to workers and robustly enforced construction standards to the buildings in which they work.

He also toured the Babylon factory, which produces clothes for Tesco and other UK buyers, and raised the issue of garment workers’ conditions at a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Primark building surveys

Primark have today announced that they have begun a programme of building surveys in Bangladesh in order to assess the structural integrity of factories they use.

The surveys will assess planning records, including structural drawings where available, and will assess building integrity, evaluate the standard of construction and materials, and check other issues such as the location and loading of heavy machinery.

The company have commissioned an expert team of structural and civil engineers to carry out the assessments.

A Primark spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We already have an extensive and established fire safety programme, which we have now extended to include these surveys on structural integrity.

“We believe the Accord on Building and Fire Safety that we recently signed, along with other brands in Geneva, is the way forward to sustainable positive change in Bangladesh. However, the implementation will take time and we felt that we could not wait. Our work will be absorbed within the implementation framework of the Accord over time.

“We want everyone, especially the workers themselves, to be confident that Primark products are produced in safe factories.”

However the company was unable to specify how much it was spending on the project.