Another Factory Fire in Bangladesh Kills 29, As Safety Crisis Continues

To:Primary Contacts, WRC Affiliate Colleges and Universities
From:Scott Nova
Date:December 16, 2010
Re:Another Factory Fire in Bangladesh Kills 29, As Safety Crisis Continues

As you may already have learned, another tragic factory fire in Bangladesh has claimed the lives of at least 29 workers and injured more than a hundred others, many critically. The fire broke out Tuesday in a production facility owned by Ha-Meem Group, on the 10th floor of a factory building located in Ashulia, Bangladesh. Eyewitness reports indicate that locked doors impeded workers’ escape. Many of the workers leapt to their deaths as they sought desperately to escape the smoke and flames.

As we reported to you in April of this year, fire and other building safety issues are an enormous problem in Bangladesh . As a result of grossly substandard safety practices, and lax enforcement of fire and building codes by the government, numerous fires and building collapses have occurred in recent years, claiming the lives of hundreds of workers.

However, despite numerous warnings to major brands and retailers that produce in Bangladesh,  the apparel industry has failed to take adequate steps to address the problem. And so these preventable tragedies continue.

There is no indication that the factory involved, which is called “That’s It Sportswear,” produced university logo goods. However, building safety problems in Bangladesh are widespread and, since numerous licensees source from the country, the issue has direct implications for collegiate manufacturing.

The WRC is conducting fact-gathering on the ground concerning the circumstances of the fire and the resulting deaths and injuries. We are also working with labor rights NGOs around the world to coordinate urgent recommendations for brands and retailers. With respect to the specific companies sourcing from That’s It Sportswear, there will also be recommendations concerning compensation for the families of the dead, and compensation and medical care for the injured.

Next March is the 100th anniversary of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the tragedy that took the lives of 146 young women at an apparel factory in New York City and that has since been a symbol of the inhumane conditions faced by apparel workers across the United States in the early part of the 20th century. According to initial witness reports, many of those killed at the Ha-Meem factory in Bangladesh died just as their counterparts did at Triangle Shirtwaist – leaping to their deaths to escape a raging conflagration because doors locked by their employer blocked their path to safety. Locked exits also led to the deaths of 21 workers in February at another factory in Bangladesh , Garib & Garib. It is a sad and sobering commentary on the state of social responsibility in the contemporary apparel industry that, 100 years after the Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy, major apparel brands and retailers are still producing at factories whose practices endanger the lives of their employees. Brands and retailers sourcing from Bangladesh, and benefiting from the extraordinary low wages that make it one of the cheapest places in the world to produce apparel, have a solemn responsibility to take meaningful action to ensure that the Ha-Meem fire is the last such preventable tragedy to befall that country’s garment workers.

Below, please find:

-Links to news coverage of the fire

-A link to a joint communication issued Tuesday by a number of non-governmental labor rights organizations, including the WRC, calling for concerted action by the apparel industry to address fire safety issues in Bangladesh

-A list of brands and retailers that were producing at the factory at the time of the fire or have done so recently

We will update you on this situation as developments warrant.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions about this information.



News coverage of the fire:

Statement from the WRC and other labor rights organizations:

Brands and retailers currently or recently producing in the factory include:

  • Gap
  • VF Corporation
  • JC Penney
  • Kohl’s
  • Sears
  • Target
  • OshKosh
  • Phillips-Van Heusen
  • Next
  • Abercrombie and Fitch

Other major customers of Ha-Meem Group, though not of “That’s It Sportswear,” include:

  • Wal-Mart
  • American Eagle
  • Zara

Scott Nova 
Worker Rights Consortium 
5 Thomas Circle NW 
Washington DC 20005 
ph 202 387 4884 
fax 202 387 3292 
[email protected]