A protest by survivors and relatives of the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster last November in Dhaka (Photo: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Just two weeks before the one-year anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, a coalition of activist groups has launched a new campaign to pressure clothing brands to contribute to the fund set up to compensate the survivors and victims of the disaster.
The interntational unions IndustriALL and UNI and the labour rights NGO Clean Clothes Campaign released a statement yesterday calling on the clothing companies who sourced their garments from Rana Plaza to commit to paying into the $40-million US Donor Trust Fund, which was set up two months ago to compensate the families of 1,138 victims and the over 2,000 survivors.
The fund was established as part of the Rana Plaza Arrangement, an agreement between the Bangladeshi government, trade unions, NGOs and clothing brands. The Arrangement set a target of $40 million US for the fund, but did not specify how much each company would be on the hook for.
"Unfortunately the whole process for getting both emergency assistance, and more importantly, long-term compensation for the victims has been painfully slow," Bob Jeffcott, Policy Analyst at Maquila Solidarity Network, told Strombo.com.
So far, about half of the companies that sourced from factories in the building have made a commitment to the fund, and only one third have actually contributed.
“The 29 brands that sourced from factories within Rana Plaza either at the time of the collapse or in the recent past have combined profits of well in excess of $22 billion US a year. They are being asked to contribute less than 0.2% of these profits to go some way towards compensating the people their profits are built on," Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign said.
Irish clothing retailer Primark was singled out by the groups for praise for its contributions. Last month, it announced it would pay $10 million US in compensation: $9 million US directly to the 580 workers employed by its supplier in Rana Plaza or their families, and $1 million US into the fund.
According to Jeffcott, Canada's Loblaw has also contributed $2 million US to the fund, and has committed to adding another $1 million. Loblaw was also one of the companies involved in negotiating the agreement in the first place. "They have made some effort," Jeffcott said, "but the amount they're giving is not sufficient." Based on the target of $40 million US, Jeffcott argues that Loblaw's share should be closer to $8 million US, based on its involvement with the Rana Plaza complex and its profits.
Two other North American brands have experienced particular scrutiny from activists: Walmart and the Children's Place. Both have paid into the Fund indirectly, through the NGO BRAC USA (about $1 million and $500,000 US, respectively, according to the New York Times). Jeffcott and other activists have argued that that amount is relatively low given their involvement in the Rana Plaza complex.
And many retailers, like Benetton, haven't contributed at all.
"There really is no excuse not to have made a contribution one year after the disaster," Jeffcott said.
In the lead up to the one-year anniversary, protests are planned around the world to bring attention to the survivors and the families of the victims. At noon on April 24, a demonstration is planned at the corner of King St. W and York St. in Toronto to demand that the Children's Place pay $8 million into the fund.