Retailers divided over Bangladesh factory victims compensation

Thu Sep 12, 2013 4:09pm EDT
 
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By Emma Thomasson

BERLIN (Reuters) - A group of retailers and clothing brands failed on Thursday to establish compensation funds for the victims of two Bangladesh factory disasters, as many companies that sourced clothes from the buildings decided not to take part in the process.

At talks chaired by the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, the brands discussed setting up funds to compensate the victims of both the Rana Plaza disaster in April, when an eight-storey building collapsed, killing 1,129 people, and a fire at the Tazreen factory in November 2012, which killed 112 workers.

The collapse of Rana Plaza, a factory built on swampy ground about 20 miles outside Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka, ranks among the world's worst industrial accidents and has galvanized brands to try to improve safety standards at suppliers.

But only nine out of the 28 brands being supplied from Rana Plaza came to the Geneva meeting, with some of the absentees saying they preferred to pursue their own compensation plans or citing issues with the approach adopted at the talks.

The IndustriALL trade union, which coordinated the talks, said the group that met on Thursday agreed to contribute to a fund, but would meet again in the next two weeks to establish such a fund, coordinating the process with parties including the Bangladesh government and employers.

"It is difficult to understand why some brands are using any excuse to try to avoid responsibility. The workers are waiting for money and medical assistance," Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, told Reuters.

The Primark discount chain owned by Associated British Foods (ABF.L: Quote), present at the meeting, also expressed frustration.

"The company remains concerned about the length of time it is taking to agree a framework for long-term compensation. As a result the company will now pay a second tranche of emergency aid, lasting three months," Primark said in a statement.   Continued...

 
A garment worker inspects a factory belonging to Tung Hai Group, a large garment exporter, after a fire in Dhaka May 9, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj