BBC uncovers 19-hr RMG shift


BBC Correspondent Richard Bilton has footage of Bangladeshi workers toiling away in HaMeem Sportswear for more than 19 hours a day.

Bilton and his team, on learning of this particular factory’s ‘incredible hours’, hid outside the premises to see for themselves.

Although the shift had begun at 7am, he did not see it end before 2:30am.

As he waited, he saw what he described as ‘shockingly dangerous’: the factory watchman, unaware of the presence of the journalists hiding inside a van, locks the main gate at 1:15am and wanders away.

After the shift finally ended, Bilton managed to talk to an exhausted worker. He said he worked the inhuman hours for approximately “eight nights” in the last “two weeks”.

BBC’s investigation into the workings of the factory shows that the owners are not transparent to visiting foreign buyers making specific inquiries.

Two days after finding out about the shift from his place of hiding, Bilton got an inside view of the ‘old and cramped’ factory as he went in posing as a buyer from a fake British clothing company to learn what the owners tell buyers about workers’ shifts.

Ha Meem Sportswear was working on an order of 150,000 pairs of jeans dungarees for Lidl, a discount supermarket, at the time of his visit. He even saw a woman working under a table.

He is told the factory closes at 5:30pm and when he specifically asks if the workers are ever locked in, the owners flatly deny, saying the gates are always open.

The timesheet he was shown for the night he saw workers toiling for 19 hours and come out at 2:30am said the shift ended at 5:30pm.

Kalpana Akhter, from the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, told BBC that the factory owners kept two separate books — one that was shown to buyers and the other was for the workers.

“These so-called audits by retailers really don’t work.”

Ha Meem Managing Director Swapan Kumar Majumder told there was no policy to force workers to work for 19 hours. The overtime beyond normal working hours was also done according to rules. There was not a single instance where workers were forced to work that long, he claimed.

“The BBC report that claims we force people to work for 19 hours is false and completely baseless.”

Lidl, after learning what the workers are being put through for their order, said it had invested more than £6 million to improve the living and working conditions in Bangladesh.

Ha Meem, however, denied that they locked workers and worked them for 19-hour shifts, terming the evidence “false and baseless”.

The burnt out factory, Tazreen Fashions Ltd, on the outskirts of Dhaka, trapped within its locked gates more than 100 workers, who burnt to death in a massive fire last November.

A UK company, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, has refused compensation to the families of the dead, saying that its clothes that had been stored at the factory were scattered after the fire to imply that its products were not made there.

But after matching specific product codes from a document of the products on sale in the company’s shops, Bilton confirmed that Edinburgh Woollen Mill clothes were, in fact, manufactured and inspected at Tazreen.

The BBC, however, in its end note terms the majority of Bangladeshi factories safe and modern – but hundreds of thousands still work in dangerous and illegal conditions to provide clothing for Western High Streets.

Source: Bd news24