After the big compensation meeting that took place yesterday and on Wednesday, 11th and 12 September, 2013 in Geneva, the victims of the fire at Tazreen Fashions in November 2012 and the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in April of this year are still left out in the rain. Literally in some cases as with the main bread-earner(s) gone, many families now don’t even have enough money to pay for a roof over their heads.
Of the 29 brands and retailers that were invited to discuss compensation payments as they had all been producing garments at the five textile factories housed at Rana Plaza, only nine showed up: Bon Marché, Camaieu, El Corte Inglés, Kik, Loblaw, Mascot, Matalan, Primark and Store Twenty One. Twenty others, among them big players like Carrefout, Benetton, Inditex and Walmart, failed to show up; the remaining ones are Adler, Auchan, Cato Corp, The Children’s Place, Dressbarn, Essenza, FTA International, Gueldenpfennig, Iconix Brand, JC Penney, Kids Fashion Group, LPP, Mango, Manifattura Corona, NKD, Premier Clothing, PWT Group and Texman.
Only 9 brands participated the Bangladesh meeting
IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle was disappointed by the small number of participants on the buyers’ side. “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,” she said.
After the meeting, the one brand that has been paying up so far - Irish clothing discounter Primark - committed to providing a further three months’ salary to all affected families as emergency relief but more is needed. “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,” said ZM Kamrul Anam of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.
Clothing giant C&A did attend the compensation meeting for the Tazreen Fashions victims on Wednesday and demonstrated its commitment and willingness to pay a substantial compensation. German clothing company Karl Rieker was also at the meeting and confirmed its readiness to contribute. The remaining 12 brands and retailers that failed to show up were Delta Apparel, Dickies, Disney, El Corte Inglés, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Kik, Li & Fung, Piazza Italia, Sean John, Sears, Teddy Smith and Walmart.
Especially retail giant Walmart was criticized for its apathy. “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,” commented UNI Global Union general secretary Philip Jennings.
Though the Bangladesh meeting was a first step, concrete results have yet to be achieved. It was agreed though to meet again in two weeks to discuss further steps and a coordination committee was formed. All attending brands and retailers confirmed their financial contribution and their commitment to go forward as soon as possible. Those who didn’t come won’t be able to hide forever: Ineke Zeldenrust from the Clean Clothes Campaign confirmed that the organization and others will continue to put pressure on the brands that have not yet committed to any negotiation process, let alone compensation payments.
In a related case, the workers of Ali Enterprises in Karachi, Pakistan where a fire killed 250 workers and injured more than 600 exactly a year ago and their families are also still awaiting their compensation payments. Though German textile discounter Kik as the only known buyer attended the Rana Plaza meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Ali Enterprises case is long from closed. Upon mounting public pressure, Kik agreed in December 2012 to pay one million US dollars in emergency relief. Though most of this amount has been distributed among the families of the victims, more is pending and needed.