'Overwork' kills Bangladesh jeans factory girl

AFP |  By  | May, 13 2009 |  Share  | Source Article

DHAKA (AFP) - A Bangladeshi teenager who died in a garment factory that supplies cheap jeans for export to Europe was "overworked to death," a rights group said.

Fatema Akter, an 18-year-old garment worker in the port city of Chittagong, died during her shift in December last year, according to the US-based National Labor Committee (NCL).

"Forced to work 13 to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, Fatema was sick and exhausted, with pains in her chest and arms," the report said, adding that her job was to clean 90 to 100 pairs of finished jeans per hour.

"Rather than grant her a sick day (her supervisor) slapped her face very hard and ordered her to continue working."

The committee said an investigation showed that 14-hour shifts with few breaks were common at the factory, overtime was compulsory and workers were regularly beaten by their superiors.

The report, released earlier this week, said 80 percent of garments produced at the factory were supplied to German-based retail giant Metro Group.

NCL has called on Metro Group, which sells bargain jeans across Europe, to guarantee the legal rights of the workers.

A statement issued by Metro Group said the company was "deeply saddened" by the death and had immediately terminated its contract with the Bangladeshi supplier that used the factory.

Rights groups have long questioned the working conditions in Bangladesh's thousands of garment "sweatshops," which provide some the cheapest labour in the world.

Last year Spanish fashion firm Zara forced the closure of a supplier's factory in the capital Dhaka after workers said they were being abused.