Surveying the aftermath of the Tazreen factory fire. Photo: Ibrahim Ibrahim / Demotix
Compensation for Rana Plaza victims: the cost of outsourcing grows
This weekend the owners of the Tazreen factory – where over a hundred people died and many more were injured in a fire at the end of 2012 – gave themselves up and started their jail sentences. The victims and their families have still not been compensated, but there is now a glimmer of hope that the survivors and victims’ families of the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1135 and injured 1500 or more, will be looked after.
The Bangladesh government has established a committee to oversee the arrangements for disbursing a Prime Ministerial relief fund, but despite having 31 members, there were no places for trade unions, and they have reacted angrily to the sums recommended at the end of last month for compensation: well below the ILO recommended levels.
Instead, a global initiative negotiated between unions, companies and NGOs could offer proper levels of compensation. A $40m (£25m) target has been set by the Rana Plaza Arrangement, administered by the ILO and with similar initial endorsement to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord which is already improving health and safety in the ready-made garment sector.
The Arrangement was established by international brands Bonmarché, El Corte Ingles, Loblaw and Primark, together with global trade union federation IndustriALL and the Clean Clothes Campaign. Local organisations involved include the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and Employment, and the two main employer organisations as well as the Bangladesh Council of IndustriALL which pulls together most of the many textile unions, as well as the multi-union Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS).
Donations to the Arrangement are being sought from the companies that were sourcing from Rana Plaza, but also voluntary, good faith donations from other corporates sourcing from Bangladesh but who were not implicated in that particular factory disaster. A sort of “there but for the grace of god…” contribution. Campaigners are keen to see the fund reach its target by the anniversary of the disaster, on 25 April.
Meanwhile, trade unionists are continuing to protest for higher compensation in Bangladesh. Lining the street outside the National Press Club in Dhaka, a human chain of demonstrators formed on 4 February, condemning the Government’s inadequate compensation offer.
And the campaign for compensation is running parallel to the continuing campaign to encourage more companies to sign the Fire and Building Safety Accord. In New York last week, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, called 99 pickets, protested outside New York Fashion Week about both compensation and prevention – the Arrangement and the Accord.