Wednesday 19 March 2014

Justice for Rana Plaza

Next month marks the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, which left over a thousand factory workers dead, and the families that depended on them scrambling to make sense of their loss and to find a way to survive.

Compensation from the Western companies that funded the businesses in the Rana Plaza has been disgracefully slow in coming. But now, at last, the bereaved are starting to see a little bit of light.

Primark, who interestingly were one of the few firms to offer compensation to the Rana families in April last year, have pledged $9m to the 581 workers, or their families, from New Wave Bottoms, Primark's supplier, which was based on the second floor of the building in Dhaka. Primark are dropping a further $1m into a communal compensation pot which will be shared by all the 3,600 workers affected by the collapse of the complex.

There's now hope that Primark's unbidden move will spark other brands who were involved in the building to appropriately compensate those left behind. Although retailers like C&A and German brand Kik have paid, and others like Benetton and Matalan have set up their own funds, others, such as American giant Walmart, have yet to pay a penny. So far less than a quarter of the amount needed, an estimated $40million, has been paid into the central fund.

Gilbert Houngbo, deputy director general of the International Labour Organisation, the UN-backed body overseeing the management of the central fund, said:
"We hope that Primark's payment will bring the debate out so that people will ask other brands 'What are you doing?' We urge other retailers to show good faith and make a donation."
As ever, the lack of transparency shown by big fashion retailers is backfiring. Their unwillingness to confirm what, if anything, they are doing to help the victims of a tragedy in which they were implicit makes them seem at best shady and at worst uncaring. As the anniversary approaches, it will be interesting to see whether the high street brands will admit to their responsibilities, and show a global audience that they're capable of doing right by the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy.

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