Apex Footwear Limited also known as Apex Adelchi is a renowned company in Bangladesh. And like other conglomerates enjoy impunity even for not meeting compliance at the factory at Harinhati of Gazipur’s Kaliakoir.
No one in the government or media knew what is happening inside the factory until Sunday when the death of a newborn was reported from the local hospital.
The worker, Hamida Akter, sought for leave on Saturday as she fell sick. But the factory supervisor, Ratan Mia, asked her to leave job instead. It is apparent that she had not been given maternity leave as per the law, an injustice commonplace towards the RMG workers.
Being refused to get leave for the day, Hamida fell unconscious in the factory toilet and gave birth to the baby. Doctors declared the baby dead after they were taken to Shafipur Modern Hospital.
We would not have heard about the incident had she not been taken to the hospital.
It is learnt that authorities are bound to pay the workers four months’ wages while granting maternity leave. This is why considering financial loss, the factory authorities usually deny granting leave and pursue the workers to leave job!
However, Apex is a prominent brand in Bangladesh and we demand exemplary punishment of the supervisor responsible for the death of the newborn and a thorough investigation into the attitude towards workers at the factory.
Look at the list of recognition it achieved. National export trophy for several years, AAFL Receives the prestigious WRAP Gold Certification, Compliance Certification by Business Social Compliance Initiative (Nominated for SuperBrands Dun & Bradstreet Rating Agency Award as Bangladesh’s one of the top 500 Companies), HSBC Export Excellence Awards 2010, Macy’s 5 Star Award 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2013.
The High Court on Sunday summoned the managing director of Apex Footwear Limited, Syed Nasim Manzur, and two of its officers to appear before it on May 24 and explain in person the death of newborn. The two others are director Azizur Rahman and logistic section’s supervisor M Ratan Miah.
The court directed the Kaliakoir upazila nirbahi officer to submit an inquiry report to the court within two weeks after visiting the spot. The court also issued a suo moto rule asking the secretaries to the ministries of home, labour and industries, the factory and establishment’s chief inspector, the deputy commissioner and the superintendent of police in Gazipur, the UNO, the Kaliakoir police station officer-in-charge, the Apex Footwear’s managing director, its director, and the supervisor to explain by May 24 their actions after the incident.
In another development, Prothom Alo removed the news report from its website on Sunday night after readers condemned the authorities for such act.
The report was published on the paper’s page 9 Sunday. However, the English version of the report is still there.
The High Court on May 26 fined Prothom Alo Tk1 lakh for publishing the “wrong report!”
A report that was never published in any newspaper:
It was around 11am when Hamida felt sick and went to her supervisor M Ratan Mia to seek leave for the day. But she was refused and rebuked instead.
As her condition deteriorated, Hamida went to the toilet and fell unconscious. At that time, she had a miscarriage.
Later the factory authorities ensured her medical checkup and sent her to Shafipur Modern Hospital for better treatment.
In the meantime, locals said Ratan was seen coming out of the factory’s rear gate with a show box. They first thought someone was stealing shoes from the factory. As they approached, Ratan showed them the box in which the five-month-old fetus was kept.
Thus the incident came into light.
The parents and husband of Hamida too work at the same factory.
Apex authorities yesterday said they had no idea about the pregnancy of Hamida as she never told them about it. Hamida’s brother Laal Mia also said he did not know about her pregnancy.
When this reporter went to the hospital yesterday, its Manager Abdul Majid first said Hamida had been released around 10am the previous day. But her family members at the house said she was still at the hospital.
Later she was found at the hospital under constant supervision of the factory officials.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Hamida’s elder brother Laal Mia claimed that she had been granted leave but the miscarriage occurred before she went home.
“It was merely an accident. It is nothing about negligence of the factory authorities, rather the journalists exaggerated it. The factory is carrying all expenses for her treatment,” he claimed.
However, media reports earlier said she was denied leave and this led to her giving birth to a baby in the toilet. It later died in Shafipur Modern Hospital.
Hospital Manager Majid claimed that Hamida had taken medicine to abort the fetus. Factory Assistant Manager (admin) Monir Hossain, who was at the hospital, echoed Majid.
Apex Footwear in a rejoinder yesterday binned media reports. The statement said Hamida first went to the factory’s medical centre as she fell unwell but concealed her pregnancy. The doctors there suggested that she take some rest.
But after sometime, she felt sick and rushed to the toilet where she had the miscarriage.
However, the victim’s brother claimed that she had been given pain killer by a nurse at the medical centre.
According to the authorities, Hamida joined the factory in 2013 and was well-known as a skilled worker. She had applied for maternity leave early last year and was granted it as per the law. She resumed work after giving birth to a baby.
After this, she took a four-day leave in September last year for the baby’s illness. “But she never applied for maternity leave since last year,” the statement said.
A co-worker alleged that lasting section supervisor Ratan Mia had hurled abuse as she sought leave. “Refusing her plea, he asked Hamida to go to the medical centre,” said a worker of the same section, seeking anonymity.
Several others claimed that the authorities had been strict over workers’ rights and facilities since December last year. At that time, the workers waged movement against the management for deceiving them in payment of attendance bonus. Some dishonest officials had embezzled part of the money allotted for the workers by the owner, they said. The owner later settled the dispute.
However, some of those who led the movement were sacked later while others faced stricter supervision. “We were forcefully given extra task to complete in a tight timeframe while most of the officials started hurling abuse on a regular basis,” said another worker, who requested not to be named.