flesl.net paired story 1-10b (Sagar Chowdhury)

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Sagar Chowdhury

In 2000, Sagar Chowdhury was living in Narasingdi, Bangladesh. He was the managing director of the family business, Chowdhury Knitwears. In November 2000, 52 of his employees died in a fire at the factory. The fire happened late in the evening. It was started by a spark from an electrical “gun” used for putting stain remover onto cloth.

The workers at Chowdhury Knitwears usually worked twelve hours a day. They worked almost every day all year long. Some of the adults working there were getting only six cents an hour, and children even less. There was no overtime pay.

Between 1995 and 2000 there were thirty fires in clothing factories in Bangladesh, and people died in seventeen. Sagar’s factory was typical of the places where those fires happened. It was in an old building. The halls were narrow. There were electrical wires hanging everywhere.

The day of the fire everyone had to work 18 hours because the company was rushing to get sweaters ready to send to England. When the fire started, many of the 1,250 workers ran downstairs to the main entrance, but when they got there, they discovered that the gate across the doors was locked. The ones who got down first started to run back up, but they collided with others coming down. Most of those who died, mainly young women, were trampled to death on the staircase.

When he was interviewed by a reporter soon after the fire, Sagar said nothing about the people who had died, but he did complain about having to spend $US 20,000 on new safety equipment. And he also said, “This fire has cost me $586, 373, and that doesn’t include $70,000 for machinery and around $20,000 for furniture. I have made commitments to meet deadlines, and I still have those deadlines. I am now paying for air freight at $10 a dozen when I should be shipping by sea at 87 cents a dozen. That means I am paying 12 times the shipping price.”

Sagar told the reporter that in a good year his business made a profit of US$1 million. The reporter mentioned that some adult employees at Chowdhury Knitwears were making only $25 US a month. Sagar replied that some workers made much more, up to $74 a month. He also said that his workers were paid double for overtime, but when the reporter asked him more questions about this, he suddenly stopped talking.