Inditex suspends links with suppliers after Bangladesh blaze

Factory did not have proper license from fire department

Inditex, the world’s largest clothing retailer, has stopped doing business with two subcontractors after garments with the company’s labels were found at the site of a fatal factory fire in Bangladesh, Bloomberg quoted the company as saying on Monday.

Seven people died in the January 26 blaze at Dhaka’s Smart Export Garments, according to the local fire department. Garments from Inditex’s Bershka and Lefties brands were found in the wreckage, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights said on its website.

The blaze was the second major fire at a Bangladesh clothing factory in two months and is prompting labor groups to renew calls for better conditions at factories supplying the world’s biggest brands. More than 100 people were killed on November 24 at a local plant producing clothes for companies including Wal-Mart Stores.

More than 700 garment workers have died since 2005 in Bangladesh, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, a Washington-based advocacy group.

Inditex has stopped doing business with Spanish supplier Wonnover and its Bangladeshi sub-contractor Centex as a precautionary measure, Inditex spokesman Jesús Echevarría said in a telephone interview. Both companies deny handing off production to unauthorized suppliers and Inditex has sent its own investigators to the scene, he said.

Smart Export wasn’t licensed by the fire department, Mohammad Mahbub, a director of the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence, said in a telephone interview. Mahbub, who is part of a four-member panel investigating the fire, said today that the death toll has risen to seven.

Mahbub said his team did not find any fire extinguishers or other firefighting equipment at the factory during an inspection after the latest blaze.

Smart Export employees died either after jumping out of windows or in a stampede, Abdul Halim, a deputy assistant director of the fire Service, said on January 26.

The government, garment associations and western retailers “need to act rapidly to stop the killings and to ensure a safe workplace for our workers,” said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity in an email.

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