Will Walmart, Benetton and Mango show they care?

All brands, including Walmart, who are linked to the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters are being called on to attend meetings on compensation in Geneva on September 11 (Tazreen) and 12 (Rana Plaza) convened by IndustriALL Global Union. The ILO has agreed to facilitate the meetings as a neutral and independent chair. Representatives of the Bangladesh government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exports Association (BGMEA) have also been invited.

The Clean Clothes Campaign is increasing its pressure on Benetton, Mango and other fashion brands to pay full and fair compensation to victims of the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.

Consumers from all over Europe are using social media to call on on Mango & Benetton to come to the compensation meeting and pay Rana Plaza survivors.

The Clean Clothes Campaign expects the brands to make commitments to paying compensation and to collectively develop a mechanism with other stakeholders that will ensure the money is transparently distributed, so as to ensure the people affected can restart their lives. Brands have been asked to confirm their attendance by the 6th September.

Coordination of compensation in both cases is essential. The Tazreen fire killed at least 112 on November 24th 2012 and the Rana Plaza building collapse killed at least 1133 on April 24th 2013. Some of the bodies are yet to be identified. Many more were injured, but the exact numbers and extent of injuries are unknown. Whilst a small amount of compensation has been paid to victims in both cases, this is insufficient and the information on who has received what is uncoordinated and lacking in transparency.

Ineke Zeldenrust from the Clean Clothes Campaign says: “Victims of the Tazreen fire have been waiting for over eight months to receive full compensation. Rana Plaza victims have been struggling to survive for since the building collapsed in April. Benetton refuses to come to the meeting and Mango still dodges responsibility. Walmart, the biggest company in the world, whines that it can't keep control of its supply supply chain. Hundreds of families have lost breadwinners, while the workers who survived have been horrifically injured and lost their jobs, not to mention the psychological impact of these disasters. They deserve better.”

Fatima, a sewing operator at Tazreen for nearly two years before the fire broke out last November, has been forced to move back to her village. She says: “My husband died three years ago. Since then, I have lived with my son, who is now five years old. I can't send him to school because there's not enough money. Just when I wanted to enrol him in school, I was injured in the fire. After months of medication I can just manage to walk, but if I work too long at a machine and use my foot for pedalling, my foot bloats. The BGMEA (Bangladesh exporters' association) did not pay me anything and I did not receive anything from the government. If I could somehow manage to buy a sewing machine to use at home, I could live off this income and take care of my son.”

The estimated long-term compensation for Rana Plaza will be more than 54 million Euros (71 million USD). For Tazreen this is at least 4.3 million Euros (5.7 million USD). These figures include compensation for pain and suffering, as well as long-term loss of earnings for families of deceased workers, and injured workers unable to return to work. These figures are likely to increase once medical costs for the physically injured workers, psychological support for all workers or their families and payments for lost wages and legal severance payments are calculated. .