Better news from Bangladesh: the Rana Plaza Trust Fund launches payments to victims, Accord inspections are advancing at fast pace, and garment unions plan to organize tens of thousands of new members in 2014.
Since September 2013, IndustriALL Global Union was involved in negotiations chaired by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with Bangladeshi partners, global clothing brands and the Clean Clothes Campaign to come up with a comprehensive compensation plan for the families of 1,100 dead and 2,500 injured workers after the Rana Plaza industrial homicide on 24 April 2013.
Finally on 18 March, the Coordination Committee of the so-called Rana Plaza Arrangement could confirm that the compensation payments from a centralized Trust Fund, administered by the ILO, will start as of 24 March.
An advance payment of 50,000 BDT (650 USD) will be made to each of the 3,600 beneficiaries before the one-year anniversary of the industrial homicide on 24 April. These payments will total 2 million USD.
The final compensation will be based on the life expectancy of the dead workers and the degree of handicap of the injured workers. The estimated total required funds are USD 40 million, following ILO Convention 121 and good country practices.
IndustriALL and CCC will now campaign to get all the 28 clothing brands and retailers that were sourcing from Rana Plaza, to pay into the Trust Fund by 24 April. Some companies have already assume their responsibilities, but all need to follow suit to provide the suffering families their long-awaited compensation.
At the same time, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety has become a living reality. 250 inspections are carried out every month by the Accord’s specially hired expert team. By the end of September 2014, more than 1500 factories will have been inspected with recommendations on corrective action.
A key element in the legally binding Accord which covers over 2 million workers is that the clothing brands will need to negotiate with factory owners on how to secure funding for the repairs of dangerous facilities. This could happen through pricing, joint investments, loans, external support or direct payments.
Difficult situations however lie ahead, as recent news about a couple of imminent danger situations and subsequent temporary closures show.
As a next step, we are focusing on building a comprehensive union presence in the Bangladeshi garment factories through a major multiyear organizing project together with our partners.
The reality has already started to change, after the government last year agreed to facilitate the registration of new local unions. During the past 12 months, IndustriALL affiliates have organized more than 100 factories and 40,000 workers. Our ambition is to beat those figures in 2014.
After that the new local unionists will need a lot of training to build their capacity for collective bargaining, health and safety, and for solving problems. I invite our affiliates in other countries to participate in this major union building effort.
The long march towards a safe and sustainable garment industry in Bangladesh is gaining pace.