Workers and family members of victims from the deadly Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh last April who have been struggling to re-collect the pieces of their lives in the wake of the disaster will now be granted a $40 million compensation fund from at least four major Western retailers involved in the incident.
Primark, El Corte Ingles, Loblaw and Bonmarche, who along with other retailers had their clothes stitched at the factory, struck the agreement with manufacturers and labor activists on Tuesday after similar negotiations had failed in Geneva in September.
The talks have been organized by the International Labor Organization.
The collapse of Rana Plaza factory was the worst industrial disaster in recorded history, killing 1,135 people and injuring countless others. The incident sparked public outrage across Bangladesh and record-setting mass protests over the notoriously abysmal conditions for factory workers in the region—as the multi-billion dollar international garment industry continues to place pressure on countries to provide cheap labor and fast production.
While only four international brands and retailers were involved in the deal, the financing will be dependent on voluntary contributions into the fund. The deal left an open invitation to other international donors to contribute.
No U.S. based retailers have signed on as of yet.
“These brands produced at Rana Plaza, yet did nothing to protect the workers who made their clothes, despite a history of deadly building collapses in Bangladesh,” Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium told the New York Times.
“Incredibly, some companies do not seem to feel the slightest responsibility to the families whose lives were destroyed as a result of this negligence,” said Nova, referring to brands such as Walmart and The Children’s Place, who have denied claims their their garments were manufactured at the factory at the time of the collapse—although they had used the factory in the past.
"We hope all 29 brands who have had their clothing made at the five factories at Rana Plaza would contribute to the fund," said Roy Ramesh, head of the Bangladesh chapter of international worker association IndustriALL, who said the agreement was a step towards ending "decades of injustice" for Bangladeshi garment workers.
"It is the least they could do for the workers and their families who lost everything while making apparel for them."
Agence France-Presse reports:
Under the new agreement, families are expected to receive the first payments in February, according to Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign, an Amsterdam-based textile rights group which also signed the arrangement.
Although Spanish-based giant El Corte Ingles, Primark, Canadian company Loblaw and British retailer Bonmarche have signed up, it is not known how much they will contribute. [...]
And the New York Times adds:
Several officials involved in negotiations to establish the fund said in interviews that the families of the dead would receive, on average, more than $25,000 each, while hundreds of workers who were injured or maimed would also receive compensation. Per capita income in Bangladesh is about $1,900 a year.