24 Oct 2013

Bangladesh factory collapse six months on – what’s changed?

Primark announces a compensation plan for victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse, six months on from the disaster in Bangladesh – but will it be enough? Channel 4 News takes a look.

Primark announce compensation, but what about the other retailers?

Some 1,129 workers were killed and about 2,500 injured six months ago when the blaze tore through the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka.

Primark, owned by Associated British Foods, is the first of the 28 retailers operating in the building, to offer a long-term compensation plan.

The retail giant say they will begin paying compensation early next year and hope other retailers will adopt the scheme.

A Primark spokesman said: “Primark will make the framework available to other retailers who sourced from Rana Plaza to facilitate their compensation plans. The company calls on other brands sourcing from Rana Plaza to now contribute a fair share of this tranche of aid.”

Compensation fund meeting

Last month, Primark was one of just nine retailers who attended a meeting organised by global trade unions IndustriALL and UNI to discuss a common compensation fund.

However, given the time it is taking to reach agreement on an industry-wide framework, the company said on Thursday that it was pressing ahead with its own compensation scheme.

Campaigners told Channel 4 News that although they welcome the scheme, they are urging Primark not to work unilaterally. Channel 4 News understands that Primark remains committed to a standard compensation agreement.

Read more: Bangladesh factory collapse - UK donates £18m in aid

On Wednesday advocacy groups Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) released a new report examining what progress has been made on delivering compensation to the families and workers affected by the tragedy.

The report details which of the brands are stepping up to their responsibilities.

Primark and Loblaw are singled out for committing to providing short-term relief and, in the case of Primark, for establishing a process of delivering this to the affected families.

CCC and ILRF said in the report that it welcomed the commitments made by these companies, and urge all of them to stay engaged in this process and to ensure the sums contributed constitute a sufficient amount to cover full and fair compensation to all the victims.

The report calls for all remaining brands linked to Rana Plaza to commit to join the arrangement, to paying into the fund and to ensuring the compensation fund is sufficient to provide full and fair compensation.

Ineke Zeldenrust of the CCC said: “It is time that all brands linked to the tragedies step up and commit to supporting the arrangement and pay into the fund, and thereby take financial responsibility for a disaster that they failed to prevent.”

Bangladesh safety accord

In the wake of the Rana Plaza building collapse, retailers committed to a fire and building safety accord.

IndustriALL general secretary Jyrki Raina, said: “All actors in the supply chain in Bangladesh agree that the enormous scale of the devastation at Rana Plaza gave all involved the historic chance to fix the industry’s safety problems.

“The Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh answers that call. The next five years will see the Accord regularly reporting success stories of factory repairs and improvements.”

UNI Global Union general secretary Philip Jennings added: “The accord will continue to be the central engine maintaining the momentum for safety reform. The only way factory safety can be monitored and verified is with worker involvement, this international industrial relations agreement is built on this sentiment.”

Retail giant Matalan, who have signed the accord, said it has “independently developed a Safe Building Charter, the goal of which is to ensure that standards at our supplier factories exceed the requirements set out in the accord and are delivered ahead of the schedule set out by the organisation.

“We look forward to continuing our conversations with the accord group and other similar organisations as we constantly look for ways of further improving the health and safety of our factories.”