(Adds Inditex measures in Spain)
By Tomás Cobos and Serajul Quadir
MADRID/DHAKA, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Leading global fashion retailer Inditex, parent of Zara clothing brand, said on Sunday it would stop working with two subcontracters after Bangladeshi officials said clothes with its labels were found in the wreckage of a deadly factory fire.
“Inditex has suspended links with Spanish supplier Wonnover and its Bangladeshi sub-contractor Centex as a precautionary measure,” a spokesman for Spain-based Inditex told Reuters.
Earlier on Sunday, international labour rights groups called for global clothing retailers to ensure adequate safety measures for garment workers in Bangladesh after a blaze killed seven employees at a small factory.
Saturday’s fire gutted Smart Exports Garment Ltd, just two months after Bangladesh’s worst ever factory blaze killed 112 workers and injured 150 at Tazreen Fashions Ltd, a multi-storey garment workshop in Dhaka’s Ashulia suburb.
The Inditex spokesman said that the two suppliers deny handing off production to unauthorized suppliers but that Inditex was breaking links while it looks into what happened.
“We want to help the families and the authorities in all they need and we have sent a team to investigate the issue,” the spokesman said.
Inditex has eight brands, including teen clothes Bershka, Oysho underwear and upmarket retailer Massimo Dutti. The company has 6,000 stores in 86 countries. Inditex founder Amancio Ortega is Spain’s richest person and the world’s fifth-wealthiest according to Forbes.
In a joint statement issued after the latest blaze this weekend, three organisations asked retailers and brands to sign a fire safety agreement with Bangladesh.
“After more than two decades of the apparel industry knowing about the risks to these workers, nothing substantial has changed,” the Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, Judy Gearhart, said in the statement.
“Brands still keep their audit results secret. They still walk away when it suits them and trade unions are still marginalised, weakening workers’ ability to speak up when they are at risk,” she added.
The Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) also signed the statement.
Another rights group, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (ILGHR), said on its website it had gained access to the gutted factory and found seven women workers had been crushed to death as employees tried to escape the fire.
ILGHR said labels from Inditex brands and another clothesmaker were found on the site.
Firefighters and police said the cause of the latest blaze was not yet known. Survivors said it could have been caused by an electrical short circuit at the factory on the upper floor of a two-storey building in the crowded Mohammadpur area.
Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity told Reuters that two garment factories had subcontracted orders to the factory’s owner, Smart Export Garments Ltd.
She said the company was not a member of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association and had no license from fire prevention or labour bodies.
An official report into the Tazreen blaze in November concluded it was the result of both sabotage and negligence.
Bangladesh has about 4,500 garment factories and is the world’s biggest exporter of clothing after China. Clothing makes up 80 percent of its $24 billion annual exports. (Writing by Anis Ahmed and Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Ron Popeski)