Bangladesh Army to Wind Down Operations at Factory Collapse Site

The Bangladesh army will wind down rescue operations at the site of a garment-factory building collapse as the government considers raising the minimum wage of workers in such units from about $39 a month.

The army will hand over operations to the district administration tomorrow, spokesman Tazul Islam said by phone today.

The death toll from the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building two weeks ago -- the nation’s worst industrial disaster -- rose to at least 1,127. The tragedy has led Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to shut factories as the European Union’s Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht considers steps including trade sanctions against Bangladesh to encourage changes in working conditions.

Bangladesh inspectors found 700 garment factories “faulty in terms of workplace safety” after inspecting 2,400 units since Feb. 7, Commerce Minister G.M. Quader told reporters in Dhaka yesterday.

“The factories have been set a deadline to fix the faults. The government will shut those factories if they don’t comply with the order,” he said, without specifying the cutoff time.

The government will set up a panel to make recommendations in consultation with clothing factory owners and labor leaders on how much the pay should be increased, Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddique told reporters yesterday. The raise would be effective from May 1, according to Siddique.

The South Asian nation last increased the minimum pay to 3,000 taka ($39) a month in 2010 from 1,662 taka in 2006.

The Bangladesh cabinet today gave final approval to an amendment to the labor law to allow workers greater freedom to form trade unions.

“The interests of the workers have been upheld by this amendment,” Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters in Dhaka.

Rescuers combing through the debris of the eight-story garment-factory building pulled a survivor from the rubble May 10. The 19-year-old woman, Reshma Begum, was the first survivor found in almost two weeks from the site.