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Six months after Rana Plaza: Workers still waiting for compensation

November 5, 2013

Photo: Laura Gutierrez

Six months after the Rana Plaza building collapse, more than 2,500 injured workers and the families of more than 1,100 workers killed in the disaster are still waiting for compensation.

According to a recent report by the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), some of the permanently injured workers have had to pull their children out of school, because of a lack of income.

To date, only one of the international brands whose clothes were made in the Rana Plaza building, UK retailer Primark, has provided some short-term relief to the victims.

On October 24, in the midst of Toronto’s Fashion Week, Canadian retailer Loblaw (owner of Joe Fresh) announced that it would also be providing relief to workers and dependents from the New Wave Style factory, where their products were being made at the time of the building collapse.

Loblaw also promised to begin providing long-term, direct compensation for the victims and their families beginning in 2014.

Both Loblaw and Primark, along with Benetton and El Corte Ingles, form part of a coordinating committee working on an agreement for calculating and distributing long-term compensation to the Rana Plaza victims through a joint fund to which each company will contribute. 

Other companies that have committed to contribute to the fund include Inditex (owner of Zara), Bon Marche and Mascot. North American companies that have so far refused to provide compensation include Children’s Place, JC Penney, Dress Barn and Walmart. 

Accord moves forward

Meanwhile, considerable progress has been made on the implementation of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

The Accord is a  legally-binding agreement between Global and Bangladeshi unions and apparel brands and retailers sourcing from Bangladesh, with four international labour rights NGOs, including MSN, signing as witnesses. Supplier factories covered by the Accord will be subject to independent safety inspections and training programs.

As of October 25, over 100 major brands and retailers from Europe, the US, Australia, Hong Kong, and Canada have signed the Accord. Loblaw is the only Canadian signatory.

Factory information released

The Accord has posted information on the over 1,500 factories employing over 2 million workers, including factory names and locations, number of buildings in each facility, number of floors of each factory, whether the factory is located in a multi-story building, total number of workers, and number of Accord-member companies using each factory.

Once the inspection program is underway, the findings will also be posted, as well as the actions taken to make the facilities safe. Under the Accord, the signatory companies are also obligated to underwrite the cost of any factory upgrades needed.

On October 17, the Accord announced the hiring of Brad Loewen, formerly employed by the City of Winnipeg, Canada, as the Chief Inspector for the program.  

Serious challenges remain

Two recent incidents since the Rana Plaza disaster underline the serious challenges to making Bangladeshi garment factories safe.

On the evening of October 8, a fire at the Aswad Composite Mills factory in Gazipur killed nine workers and injured 50. If the fire had started earlier in the day, hundreds of workers might have died.

Shipping records indicate that the factory was producing fabrics for both Accord-member and non-

Accord-member companies, including Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and Loblaw.

HBC has confirmed that it had orders in the factory that were to be delivered in April 2013. Loblaw says it had no knowledge of any of its products being made in the Aswad factory.

Aswad is a textile mill, and is therefore not under the scope of the Accord. However, shortly after the fire the Steering Committee announced that the signatory members using the facility “have agreed to work within the spirit of the Accord in providing necessary support to the victims and their families….”

In the second incident, an inspection carried out at the request of a group of Accord-member companies at the Liberty Fashion Wears factory found that the main sewing unit of the factory was in danger of collapsing putting the workers at serious risk.

Although the brands reportedly provided considerable financial support to upgrade the factory, the owner failed to carry out any repair work while the factory was closed, and therefore risks losing business with Accord-member companies.

A plan is now being put in place to ensure that the workers are paid what they are owed.


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