DHAKA, (Reuters) – British clothes retailer Primark and Canadian grocer Loblaw laid out plans yesterday to pay more compensation for the collapse of a Bangladeshi factory that killed almost 1,130 people, as protesters demanded other brands follow suit.
The disaster on April 24 has galvanised most of the clothing industry’s big names to try to improve safety standards but they have failed to agree on a compensation fund for victims despite months of wrangling. It was the world’s most deadly industrial accident since the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India and turned a spotlight on working conditions of those making clothes for global household names for a fraction of what they cost in the West.
Children carried placards reading “Please come forward, our parents were killed while working for you.
Compensate us”, during a rally yesterday of hundreds of survivors and victims’ families at the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza complex.
Primark, the only retailer to pay compensation so far, said it would pay another three months of wages to workers and their families of its Rana Plaza supplier, a pledge matched by Loblaw Cos Ltd for those who produced garments for its Joe Fresh brand.
Both called on other brands to follow suit, but said if they do not, they will together make sure the all those affected, including from other brands, are paid for three more months. With many workers making as little as $38 a month, there is anger that little progress has been made on a broader scheme to set up a long-term fund for the families of the dead and hundreds more injured who will need years of support.
“Survivors and victims’ families at Rana Plaza today remembered their loved ones and all ask the same question: When will we finally receive compensation for our loss?” two global trade unions involved in the process said in a statement.
About 3.6 million of Bangladesh’s 155 million people work in the clothing industry, making it the world’s second-largest garments exporter behind China.
Around 60 percent of garment exports go to Europe and 23 percent to the United States.
A factory fire on the outskirts of the city on Oct. 8, in which seven people died, has raised concerns that standards have not changed significantly since the April collapse and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched a $24 million project this week to improve safety in the industry. But while workers say that better safety standards are essential, many of them are equally worried about their low wages. A wave of pay strikes last month hit nearly a fifth of the country’s garment workshops and looks set to force a rise of between 50 and 80 percent in minimum wages.