Victims of the world’s worst garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh are still no closer to compensation after a meeting called to mediate demands was deemed a failure by organizers. Global labor union IndustriALL slammed retailers after only a third of the brands that used the Dhaka manufacturing hub, which collapsed on April 24, turned up in Geneva on Thursday.
“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 victim,” IndustriALL assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle stated. “I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.”
IndustriALL, which represents 50 million workers in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, arranged the meeting with the International Labour Organization as a neutral chair. Their framework for assessing long-term compensation stems from a disaster similar to Rana Plaza in 2005, when the eight-story Spectrum factory outside of the Bangladeshi capital collapsed. Surviving victims and families of the 62 fatalities were compensated for lost income, pain and suffering up to 25 years after the incident.
In the case of Rana Plaza, 1,192 bodies were recovered and 1,900 workers were injured. Using the model set up for the Spectrum collapse, IndustriALL calculated a total compensation of $74,571,101 to be paid between retailers, the Dhaka government and factory owners. The meeting was supposed to initiate discussions between brands on how to divide and expedite payments, and also how to influence Bangladeshi stakeholders to do their share.
In the months that followed, Roy Ramesh Chandra has led IndustriALL’s operation to identify those entitled to compensation. “So far, the approach has not been integrated between organizations, which has made the task very difficult,” he says. “We have sent teams to the villages, to talk to school teachers, elders and religious leaders to verify people’s claims.”
According to Chandra, it will take another month to finalize the list of beneficiaries. During that time, DNA-testing of bodies that have not yet been identified should be finalized too. However, without anyone committed to paying the actual compensation, these discoveries will be of little use.
“There have been seven severe accidents after the Spectrum collapse. Our hope has been that Rana Plaza would help us find a permanent solution,” says Chandra.
In a statement from Biagio Chiarolanza, CEO of Benetton Group, an Italian company which manufactured clothes at Rana Plaza at the time of the disaster, the meeting in Geneva lacked “clarity around the objectives.” He highlighted that Benetton had signed the newly formed Bangladesh Fire & Building Safety Accord and that they had entered a partnership with the Bangladesh-based NGO BRAC.
The Bangladeshi government and U.K. brand Primark have already made payments to over 3,000 Rana Plaza victims. On Thursday, Primark was the only brand that pledged further short-term financial aid.