Time for clothing brands to pay up!
Today, Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) alongside workers and trade unions in Bangladesh and around the world launch a major campaign calling on all clothing brands who source from Bangladesh to immediately pay into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, which is collecting voluntary donations on behalf of the Rana Plaza Arrangement, and is overseen by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Pay Up! campaign comes just two months before the first anniversary of the catastrophic collapse of Rana Plaza, which killed 1,138 people and injured over 2,000 more. The campaign aims to ensure that come April 24th the survivors and victims families are not still waiting for compensation.
Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on major international brands Benetton, KiK and Children's Place, who all had orders at one of the five factories in Rana Plaza at the time of the collapse or in the recent past, to make significant contributions in order to ensure payments can begin.
US$40 million is required to ensure all those injured and the families of those killed are fairly compensated for loss of income and medical expenses. The fund is open to all companies, donors and individuals who wish to express their solidarity and compassion.
To date clothing brands El Corte Ingles, Mascot, Mango, Inditex and Loblaw have all publicly committed to the Donor Trust Fund.
“Numerous reports over the past ten months have highlighted the ongoing plight of the victims of Rana Plaza and their families. We therefore welcome these initial contributions." says Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign. "Compensation efforts to date have been completely haphazard, unequal, unpredictable and non-transparent, and have left large groups of victims with nothing. The Arrangement has set up the entire operational structure, which will put an end to this unpredictability quickly and completely. All that is needed is for companies to pay up. The collapse of Rana Plaza is symptomatic of an industry wide problem, and we encourage the entire industry to make generous contributions." adds Zeldenrust.
Nearly all the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse were garment workers who had been ordered back into the unsafe building by factory bosses.
Shila Begum a sewing operator in one of the factories who was trapped when the building collapsed described the decision to go in. “No one wanted to enter the building that day … [but] I still went back in. If enough people hit you, you do what they say. You could see the tension in people's eyes.” Shortly after arriving at her machine the electricity went off and the generator switched on “The floor gave way... my hand got stuck and I thought I would die”
After being trapped for most of the day under the building Shila was eventually rescued, but her crush injuries were such that she had to have a hysterectomy, and her arm is in constant pain and she is unable to work. The trauma of the day remains with her. “I don't know if I will ever be able to step into a factory again.”
In Dhaka, garment workers and their unions will be creating a human chain, and holding a press conference demanding the early settlement of the compensation claims. Hameeda Hossein of SNF (the Bangladesh Worker's Safety Forum) says "After the Rana building collapsed the whole world watched for weeks while the injured and dead were pulled out of the ruins. Now is the time for all of us to act and ensure US$40 million is donated before April 24th".
The Rana Plaza Arrangement is a groundbreaking collaborative framework to ensure that the losses of the survivors and victims can be paid.
The operational structure has been developed by the former Executive Head of the United Nations Compensation Commission, working with the Bangladesh Ministry of Labour and ILO experts. Some of the most credible labour- and civil society organisations will be involved in the claims processing and post-award services and counselling. Medical assessments will be undertaken by qualified local doctors at the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP). A team of independent local and international claims commissioners has been identified to determine the awards. The German development agency GIZ has agreed to undertake the administrative costs of the operation.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, President of the United Federation of Garment Workers & Secretary General of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) said ”This is an unprecedented step and allows, brands, the government, the employers organisations and unions to work together to ensure a just outcome for the victims of Rana Plaza.”
Ten months after the worse industrial disaster to hit the garment industry, there can be no further excuses. Brands can show that they can be part of the solution if they pay up now!