Reports

February, 28 2006 |  Share

Factory Fire in Bangladesh Kills 84 Workers Producing for American Companies

 

Ask U.S. companies for justice for the killed and injured workers

Death toll at the KTS Textile Industries Ltd. factory in Bangladesh is 84, but could climb as high as 200 or 300

  • Main emergency exit was illegaly locked
  • Many of the dead and missing were 12, 13, 14 and 15 year-old girls who were paid just seven cents an hour
  • Bodies were burnt beyond recognition

Sewing operators at the KTS Textile factory were paid just 10 to 14 cents an hour and forced to work 10 ½ to 14 hours a day, seven days a week.  They were routinely at the factory 74 to over 90 hours a week.

Workers report being slapped and hit, denied maternity leave, docked a day's wages for arriving late, needing permission to use the toilet, only having access to unsafe drinking water, total denial of freedom of association and right to organize.

Workers have never heard of, let alone seen, any U.S. companies' codes of conduct.

The KTS Textile Factory was producing for these U.S. companies: Ambiance USA, INc., O'Rite International Corp, Uni Hosiery, ATT Enterprise, Inc., VIDA Enterprises Corp. and Leslee Scott, Inc.


Table of Contents 

Action Alert

 

Children Among the Dead and Missing

Workers' Demands

Working Conditions at the KTS Factory

Factory Pays Paltry Fine for Locking Exits

Companies Who Bought From KTS

Buyer Contact Information 

Introduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


KTS Textile Factory

Chittagong, Bangladesh 

(part of Arina Group, located in BSCIC Industrial Area of Kalurghat)

Owner: Wahidul Kabir

 


Please Help!

Send a letter to the companies asking for aid for the injured workers and the families of those who died—and that they act to ensure that workers are never again locked in.

Circulate this alert to your contacts. Click here for a model letter. Click here to see the company contact information. Back to the top


On Thursday evening, February 23, 2006, at approximately 7:20 p.m., a fire broke out at the KTS Textile factory in Chittagong.  The main emergency gate was illegally locked, leaving hundreds of workers with just one narrow staircase to escape.  Boxes of clothing cluttered the stairs.  There was no fire safety equipment, and no fire drill had ever been held, despite the fact that fires have occurred in the past.

  • "There was no fire alarm, no bells; just screams, people running for exits or grabbing each other for safety, and complete darkness"My skin was burning from the heat even in the staircase, although I couldn't see the fire—and it was becoming difficult to keep breathing," said one woman worker at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital who was bandaged from head to foot with severe burns.
  • "The most unfortunate were the women.  They could do nothing but be burnt alive,"  said one survivor worker.
  • Surviving worker Thakurani Das only realized the factory was on fire when she heard "screams of agony and panic from the ground floor and the factory was suddenly plunged into darkness."
  • "Many of us had to get out of the building using ropes, bamboo, and other construction materials, but most of our female colleagues could not follow us and were trapped inside." said Hasan, an injured worker. Many bodies were found on the staircase.
  • Another worker, Delwar Hossain, testified, "Some of us suffered injuries jumping out the windows, or racing to escape through a narrow staircase that was fortunately open." Many workers died after jumping out of 3rd and 4th floor windows.

Sources: New Age Extra, March 3-9, 2006; The Daily Star, February 24, 2006; The New Nation, February 24, 2006; The Financial Express, February 25, 2006. Back to the top
Among Those Initially Reported Dead or Missing Were Seven Girls 12, 13 and 14 Years Old


 

Rosy 

12 years old 

Yasmin

13 years old 

Najma

14 years old 

Nipa Akter

14 years old 

Sharmin 

14 years old 

Rina Akter 

14 yeard old 

Lavlv

14 years old 

 

 

 

 

 

Many 15 and 16-year-olds were also among the dead and missing.  Unfortunately this list will only grow.

The death toll has risen from 54 to 84, with 80 percent of the confirmed dead women.  Local independent women's and worker rights organizations fear the death toll could reach as high as 200, or even 300 people.  Many bodies were burned beyond recognition.

The KTS Textile factory is also now being officially charged with the exploitation of child labor.

Fifty workers are still missing and as many as 450 have been injured.

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Workers' Demands
  • A 500,000 taka ($7,375) compensation to the families of the dead workers.
  • Free medical treatment and a compensation of 50,000 taka ($738) for the families of the injured workers.
  • Full payment of the workers' wages while they factory remains closed.
  • Thorough investigation and prosecution of KTS factory management and owner, Mr. Wahidul Kabir for illegally locking the main emergency exit.
  • Recognition of core UN/International Labor Organization worker rights standards of freedom of association, right to organize unions and to bargain collectively. Back to the top

 


KTS Textile Factory Conditions

 

 

  • Forced Overtime 

10.5 to 14-hour shifts, seven days a week, workers routinely at the factory 74 to more than 90 hours a week.

The standard shift at the KTS Textile factory is from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., 9:00 p.m., or 10:00 p.m.  The workers receive a half hour for lunch.  Workers report having to work seven days a week, without a single weekly holiday—Friday is the Muslim day off—in the last three months.  Nor do the workers receive government decreed national holidays.  The only time they had off during this period was for the Eid religious festival.  The workers also report being forced to work grueling 19-hour all-night shifts, on average once a week, from 8:00 a.m. straight through to 3:00 a.m. the following morning, after which the workers sleep on the factory floor only to begin their next shift at 8:00 a.m. that same day.  Under this schedule, the workers would routinely be at the factory 74 to well over 90 hours a week.

  • Below-Subsistence Wages

Sewing operators receive just 10 cents to 14 cents an hour, while helpers receive seven or eight cents.

Junior sewing operators at the KTS factory earn 1,400 taka ($20.65) a month, while senior operators—with more than three or four years of experience—are paid 2,000 taka ($29.50) a month.  Helpers, who supply the assembly lines with fabric, earn just 930 to 1,100 taka ($13.72 to $16.22) a month.  (67.798 taka = $1 U.S.
 

Wages  Junior Sewing Operators Senior Sewing Operators Helpers
Per Hour 10 cents 14 cents 7 to 8 cents
Per 8-hour Day 80 cents $1.12 a day 56 cents to 64 cents
Per 48-hour Week  $4.77 $6.81 a week $3.17 to $3.74

Per Month

$20.65 $29.50 $13.72 to $16.22
Per Year $247.79 $353.99 $164.61 to $194.70

 

  • Routinely Slapped and Threatened

Workers report being routinely shouted at, slapped and threatened by management for failing to fulfill their mandatory production goal, or for even the most minor errors.  Protesting, or even questioning their mistreatment, often provokes further abuse.

  • Legal Maternity Rights Violated

By law, pregnant women are guaranteed at least three months maternity leave with full pay.  This is not the case at the KTS Textiles factory, where pregnant women are either fired or must quit, and then return to the factory as a new employee.

  • Bathroom Visits Monitored

Workers are required to ask permission and must receive a toilet pass in order to use the bathroom.  Nor are there sufficient toilets for the hundreds of workers.

  • Unsafe Drinking Water

The workers have access to only unfiltered tap water, which is unsafe.

  • Docked a Day's Wages for Arriving Late

Anyone arriving late will be punished by having a full day's wages docked.

  • Total Suppression of Freedom of Association, the Right to Organize and to Bargain Collectively

Anyone even suspected of wishing to exercise their legal rights to freedom of association and to organize a union will be threatened and immediately fired without their back wages.

  • No Place to Eat 

The workers report that the factory lacks even the most primitive dining facilities.

  • No Daycare Center

There is also no daycare center, which is illegal for a factory of this size.

  • Corporate Codes of Conduct Unknown and Meaningless

Not a single worker interviewed had ever heard of, let alone seen, any so-called corporate code of conduct.  The workers had no idea that their supposed function was to help guarantee respect for their legal rights.


Factories Fined Just $7.37 for Illegally Locking Fire Exits
  • Bangladesh garment industry officials are unable to cite a single case in which they took action against factories where fires had occurred.
  • Over 30 percent of Dhaka's over-1,000 garment factories are operating without fire exits.
  • As many as 60 percent of Bangladesh's 2,000 plus garment factories lack basic fire fighting equipment.
  • The maximum government fine for illegal factory conditions, such as locked fire exits, is just 500 taka, or $7.37!
  • The government's chief inspector of factories explains, "What do you expect me to do.  I have just 47 factory inspectors for more than 40,000 factories currently operating in Bangladesh."  That is over 851 factories for every inspector.
  • No right to organize:  "Factory owners will resort to anything from large scale lay-offs to threatening potential labor leaders with death if they even get word of the possibility that the workers are organizing a union within the factory."  Workers are not only sacked for trying to organize, but are "also beaten up by local gang members hired by the owners," said National Garment Workers Federation President Amirul Haque Amin.

Source: New Age Extra, "Cheap Labor, Cheap Lives," March 3-9, 2006. Back to the top

 


 
California and Utah Companies Linked to Factory Fire

Five California garment companies sourced production to the KTS Textile factory in Bangladesh. The California companies are:  Uni Hosiery, Ambiance USA, Inc., VIDA Enterprise Corp. and ATT Enterprise, all of Los Angeles, and O'Rite International Corp. of Union City.

KTS Textile factory owner Wahidul Kabir resides in the U.S. and may be living in an upscale neighborhood in Irvine, California.

Leslee Scott, Inc., of Ogden, Utah also sources production to the KTS Textile factory.

 

Leslee Scott, Inc., has a contract with the State of Utah.  to provide men's and women's underwear, including Fruit of the Loom label, to correctional institutions.  (PD 1215 runs through August 2006 with option for renewal.)

The State of Utah is paying just 48 cents for women's shirts, 73 cents for men's briefs, and $2.45 for men's Fruit of the Loom pocket t-shirts.  In Bangladesh, the young women who sew garments at the KTS Textile factory are paid just 10 to 14 cents an hour.

There could be other state contracts. The NLC is investigating possible contracts with the states of California, New Hampshire and Florida.  Leslee Scott, Inc. website says, "LSI products are now found in institutions across the nation."

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KTS Textile Industries Ltd.-Buyer Contact Info

 

Abmiance USA Inc.

In-Young Noh, CEO

110 San Pedro St., A-12, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Sells: Women's and misses outerwear and women's and girl's cut and sew

Annual sales: $1.7 million

Phone: (213) 649-0007

Fax: (213) 749-1254

Leslee Scott, Inc.

Evan Tommer, CEO

1631 West 2550 South; Ogden, UT 84401

Sells: Men's, women's and children's clothing and uniforms

Annual sales: $4.5 million

 

Phone: (800) 398-1250 /(801) 622-5741

Fax: (801) 622-5895

Uni Hosiery Co. Inc.

Ha Y Chung, CEO

3829 S. Broadway St.; Los Angeles, CA 90037

Sells: Men's and boy's socks, underwear and undershirts (According to the company website these are the only goods made in Bangladesh; the company also sells women's undergarments)

Annual Sales: $30.68 million

Phone: (323) 846-9900

Fax: (323) 846-8800

O'Rite International Corporation

Frank Chiou, President

30100 Ahern Avenue; Union City, CA 94587

Sells: Men's, women's and children's clothing

Annual sales: $1.3 million

Phone: (510) 487-7896

Fax: (903) 968-3509

ATT Enterprise Inc.

420 W. Pico Blvd.; Los Angeles, CA 90015

www.att-ent.com

Sells: Men's, women's and children's undergarments and socks

Phone: (213) 892-8234/ (213) 747-6482

Fax: (213) 892-8233

Email: sales@att-ent.com

Vida Enterprise Corporation

Ming S. Chou, President

249 S. Los Angeles St.; Los Angeles, CA 90012

Sells: Women's and children's clothing and hosiery

Annual Sales: $13.26 milion

Phone: (213) 626-7880

Fax: (213) 626-6633

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