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Bangladesh factory-collapse toll passes 400

EU says it may use trade as leverage for improvements in working conditions, as demonstrators hold May Day protests.

Last Modified: 01 May 2013 16:54
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May Day rallies in Bangladesh have taken on an added significance as workers marched through the streets to demand improved safety standards after the deaths of more than 400 people after a building collapsed near Dhaka.

Almost 150 people are still missing follow the collapse of the structure last week which housed clothing factories and other businesses.

Some protesters on Wednesday called for the death penalty for the owner of the factory, who remains under arrest in the capital.

The EU said on Tuesday that it was concerned about labour conditions and was considering action to encourage improvements in the country.

In a statement issued by Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign affairs chief, and Karel de Gucht, the trade commissioner, the bloc said measures could include using its trade preference system which gives Bangladesh duty- and quota-free access to EU markets.

The EU is Bangladesh's largest trade partner and clothes made inside the building - an illegally built structure - were produced for European and Canadian retailers.

"The EU is presently considering appropriate action, including through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) - through which Bangladesh currently receives duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under the 'Everything But Arms' scheme - in order to incentivise responsible management of supply chains involving developing countries," said the the statement.

Asset freeze

Britain's Primark and Canada's Loblaw, two Western retailers that had factories in the building, have pledged to compensate families of the victims. 

Jyrki Raina, secretary general of IndustriAll Global Union, talks on workers' rights and western companies in Bangladesh
A top Bangladeshi court on Tuesday ordered the government to "immediately" confiscate the property of Mohammed Sohel Rana, the owner of the collapsed building.

A two-judge panel of the High Court also asked the central bank to freeze the assets of the owners of the five garment factories in the building, and use the money to pay the salaries and other benefits of their workers.

The order came after police produced Rana and the factory owners in court. The order did not elaborate but it was implied that the salaries of the dead victims would be paid to their relatives. The court has given the police 15 days to interrogate Rana.

The April 24 collapse has become the deadliest disaster to hit Bangladesh's garment industry, which is worth $20bn annually and supplies global retailers.

Al Jazeera's correspondent, whom we are not naming due to reporting restrictions, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who visited the site and met survivors, has promised to severely punish those responsible for the tragedy.

On Tuesday, clashes between thousands of garment workers and police in Savar reportedly left at least 100 people injured.

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Source:
Agencies
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