Tuesday 29 July 2014

Matalan: Keeping their hands in their pockets over Rana Plaza

As the deadline for the first tranche of payments to the families affected by the Rana Plaza disaster looms, it's become clear that one major UK retailer is yet to pay any money into the official compensation fund. Matalan, who have been asked to contribute £3million to help the victims of the collapse, faces pressure across the board to step up and take responsibility for a situation that is, to an extent, their fault.
The brand have chosen instead to donate to a seperate fund, the Rana Plaza Survivors Rehabilitation Scheme, which is managed by Bangladeshi development organisation BRAC. However, critics claim that BRAC's work is less than transparent, and it still hasn't been revealed how much money Matalan have given to the fund. More worryingly, BRAC has been accused of not spending all the money it recieves on recovery work on the ground at Dhaka.
The UN-backed International Labour Organisation, tasked with collecting and managing the official fund, has stated that contributions so far have fallen horribly short of the £40million target needed. As of July 4th, that fund stood at £17 million--not even halfway there.
David Babbs of 38 Degrees, the independent campaigning group who have helped to keep Rana Plaza and the high street brand's attempts to wriggle out of their responsibilities in the public eye, said:
"Matalan says it's a family-friendly business, yet it still hasn't paid up the money it owes to the children of people who died in the same factory that made its clothes.
"Matalan may have made peppercorn donations to other charities, but that's no substitute for the proper compensation it owes to the survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster.
"If Matalan wants to carry on selling its clothes to Britain's mums and dads, it needs to convince them that its family-friendly image is more than clever PR spin. Paying the money it owes to the families of the Rana Plaza disaster would be a good place to start."
Meanwhile Matalan's closest rival on the high street, Primark, has to date paid £12million into the fund, making it by far the most generous contributor. It's also paying directly to workers, while applicants to the ILO fund are still trickling through the system.
It's unusual to be able to applaud Primark, but their actions far outshine the weasel words and measly contributions that we've seen from many of their rivals with regards to Rana Plaza. Some brand names have given barely a quarter of a million pounds to the ILO funds. Matalan, unfortunately are only the visible part of a worrying trend. They, and the other brands implicated, need to step up and show us that they mean what they say, and that they intend to do right by the families that have lost so much. They talk about commitment and responsibility. Their actions show nothing of the sort.

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