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Conditions improve at
Bangladesh garment factory
BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Business’ pro- conditions at a new site if you want a heart attack in Bangladesh after the
gramme has highlighted progress Inditex (and Zara) to remain a cus- programme was recorded. Assessing
made at some garment factories in tomer of yours. Mr Khan was told by the new Windy Group factory, Neil said:
Bangladesh, focussing on the Windy Inditex that if he was willing to bring “This is what factories on the way to
Group on the outskirts of Dhaka. about major changes, they would sup- progress should look like. This factory
Around eighteen months ago, the port him and give him orders. “They is very much better than the majority
programme reported on the appall- said we will get priority,” he remem- of traditional factories in Bangladesh.
ing conditions in one of its city centre bers, “if we can improve our working
factories, Windy Apparels, which at conditions as they want.” Since the old Windy factory was closed,
the time was believed to be making Inditex has also persuaded another
clothes for Zara. Now, more than a year later, two company, Elaine Garments, to close its
thirds of the staff have moved to the dangerous city-centre site and move to
‘In Business’ alerted Inditex, the owner new modern site and those who did a safer, more modern factory.
of Zara, and its director of corporate not want to were given severance pay.
social responsibility, Javier Chercoles, All the Windy Group companies have For Neil Kearney the major issue in the
who flew to Bangladesh to investigate. been amalgamated at the new factory garment sector was wages. He was
He established that in fact this par- which has several storeys and room to extremely concerned that the mini-
mum wage set by the Bangladesh gov-
ernment had not been raised for three
years. It is currently 1662 Bangladeshi
Taka a month, about £15 or $24, for an
entry level worker such as a “helper”
in a garment factory.
He took the BBC to a meeting at
the Bangladesh parliament with
Israfil Alam, who is a member of
parliament and chairman of the
Standing Committee of Labour and
Employment. Israfil Alam said the
government planned to double the
minimum wage and pledged that it
would be done within the next year, and
also that Bangladesh would embrace
an International Labour Organisation
(ILO) programme to improve working
ticular factory was not making clothes increase production further.
for Zara, but he realised that it was a Neil Kearney sadly died in his hotel in
sister factory to another which they One of the main players who helped Dhaka the same day as that meeting,
were using as suppliers. When he influence and bring about this trans- shocking many people who had worked
finally got inside the factory he was formation at Windy Group was the late with him over the years. He had visited
shocked by the conditions there. He Neil Kearney, General Secretary of Bangladesh more than 50 times since
said: “Conditions were bad because it the International Textile, Garment and 1988, constantly striving to improve
was an old factory from about 1975 to Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) conditions in the garment factories.
1980, four floors, city centre of Dhaka, - the global umbrella federation of The day after he died the Bangladeshi
no evacuation stairs, too many people.” unions for the worldwide garment unions and the factory bosses’ organi-
sector. sation jointly described Neil as “a true
Mr Chercoles gave the factory owner, friend of Bangladesh” and three days
Mesbah Uddin Khan an ultima- He spent a day with the BBC to help tell of mourning were declared in the tex-
tum: close this factory and improve the story, although tragically he died of tile and garment sector.
Spice Business Magazine 33 February | March 2010
spice_37.indd 33 11/02/2010 00:09
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