Eleven of the brands and retailers sourcing from the factories involved in the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters joined high-level compensation meetings, facilitated by the ILO as a neutral chair, on 11-12 September in Geneva. Many other major companies failed to attend, showing total contempt for the 1,900 workers who were injured and the families of over 1,200 workers who were killed making their products.
IndustriALL Global Union Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle stated: “Consumers will be shocked that almost a half-year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster with only one brand so far providing any compensation to the disaster’s victims. I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.”
Regarding Rana Plaza out of a total of 29 brands that were invited the following 9 brands showed good faith by attending the meeting: Bon Marché, Camaieu, El Corte Ingles, Kik, Loblaw, Mascot, Matalan, Primark and Store Twenty One.
20 other companies, all of whom were invited, failed to show up: Adler, Auchan, Benetton, C&A, Carrefour, Cato Corp, The Children’s Place, Dressbarn, Essenza, FTA International, Gueldenpfennig, Iconix Brand, Inditex, JC Penney, Kids Fashion Group, LPP, Mango, Manifattura Corona, NKD, Premier Clothing, PWT Group, Texman and Walmart.
IndustriALL, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) presented a proposed model for compensation, which has been used by brands and retailers in previous factory disasters in Bangladesh. The model includes payment for pain and suffering and loss of income. For Rana Plaza US$74,571,101 would be needed to provide full compensation to all workers, of which the brands are being asked to contribute US$33,556,996. For Tazreen US$6,442,000 is required, with US$2,899,000 being asked from the brands.
International experts outlined best practices for the establishment of a compensation fund, overseen by a multi stakeholder committee, which could be created through an agreement by all the parties involved. No such agreement was reached at this meeting, although the brands present committed to continuing discussions on this issue.
IndustriALL, CCC and the WRC would welcome the creation of such a fund and urge all parties to work together to ensure this is set up at the earliest possible date.
The Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Md. Abdul Hannan also addressed the meeting.
Bangladeshi workers and victim’s families hoping for immediate aid will be disappointed. Brands’ commitments after two days were limited to:
1 – Meeting again within the next two weeks to share information and tools, exchange views, and consider next steps.
2 – To contribute financially to a fund to assist injured workers and victims’ families, and commit to move the process of establishing the fund forward quickly. A coordination committee was created to take the process forward through a multi-stakeholder forum which would be open to the Bangladesh government and employers, together with the brands and retailers, unions and NGOs.
3 - Commitment to coordinated work going forward, building on initial assistance U.K. retailer Primark has already provided to victims. Primark made available their local banking infrastructure in Bangladesh to deliver any funds that are made available on an emergency basis.
Immediately after the meeting Primark committed to providing a further three months salary to all affected families as emergency relief. Unfortunately, none of the other brands or retailers present at the meeting committed to provide such emergency relief.
ZM Kamrul Anam of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council called on brands to act swiftly:
“We appreciate Primark having already made a three month salary payment to the injured and victims’ families. But when I go back to Bangladesh they will ask me what more was decided here. Those families need food, medicine and housing. Please, all brands and retailers, match that three months salary for these people in urgent need. Some time can be expected to establish a sustainable solution, but an immediate payment to help these families must be made now.”
At the Tazreen compensation meeting on the previous day, C&A tabled its substantial compensation initiative for the victims and demonstrated its continued commitment to finding a definitive solution. Karl Rieker, which was also in attendance also signaled a readiness to contribute and was commended for positive participation in the Tazreen discussion.
Of the brands and retailers invited to the Tazreen process the following companies failed to participate in the 11 September meeting: Delta Apparel, Dickies, Disney, El Corte Inglés, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Kik, Li & Fung, Piazza Italia, Sean John, Sears, Teddy Smith, and Walmart.
IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle stated:
“The disregard of the absent brands for the plight of workers in Bangladesh whose lives have been destroyed by the avoidable accidents at Tazreen and Rana Plaza is shocking in the extreme. Empty promises and direct untruths since the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza collapse all so that these Western multinationals can avoid making payments that amount to a minute percentage of turnover.
UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings stated: “Walmart is the world's largest retailer and one of the largest buyers from Bangladesh. They should be a leader in taking responsibility for their global supply chain. Once again Walmart had failed to make a commitment to the workers in Bangladesh who produce the millions of garments sold around the world at large profit.”
Clean Clothes Campaign’s Ineke Zeldenrust stated: “CCC will continue to put pressure on those brands who have not yet committed to immediately and actively engage in the negotiation process and commit to providing sufficient funds to meet the amounts needed to provide the workers and their families with the compensation they are entitled to under international standards.”
Worker Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova added, “It is past time that the victims of the worst industrial disaster in history and their families receive assistance from the international brands and retailers that profited from these workers’ labor. It is shocking that not only have hardly any brands committed to any concrete level of assistance, but even more so that most of the companies implicated in the disaster did not even bother to show up to discuss helping the victims.”
Tom Grinter, IndustriALL Global Union: +41796934499
Ineke Zeldenrust, CCC: +31 651280210
Scott Nova, Worker Rights Consortium, +1 2023607957
Sam Maher, CCC +44 751 751 6943