Survivors Rana Plaza collapse start claiming compensation

From today, one month before the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, the families of the 1138 workers killed in the disaster and over a thousand workers left with life changing injuries can start registering claims for compensation to cover the financial losses and medical costs they suffered as a result.

As the claims begin campaigners are strengthening their call for brands buying from factories located in the devastated building, including Matalan, Benetton and Walmart, to pay millions of dollars in compensation into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, set up to finance these payments.

The Trust Fund, which has been set up by the International Labour Organisation has been open for contributions since February. The Fund needs to reach a final target of $40million in order to pay out full compensation to all workers and their families. The experts involved in designing the process estimated that 25% of the final target would be needed to make the first round of payments to all workers. The coordination committee now believe that sufficient funds are available and agreed to launch the claims process on March 24th, one month before the first anniversary.

The claims will be calculated and delivered in line with international standards under a system known as the Arrangement. The process will be overseen by a multi-stakeholder coordination committee comprising of international and Bangladeshi representatives from government, industry and the trade unions. The timing of the claims launch will ensure that all victims and their family should receive an initial payment by the first anniversary of the disaster on April 24th. All beneficiaries will be invited to submit a claim, with the aim to process all payments within six months, which will paid out over up to four instalments. Every family will receive a minimum payment of 50,000 BDT by 24th April (around $2 million in total) as an advance payment towards their claim. Those workers whose claims can be fully processed by April 24th will also receive their first full instalment, which will represent 20% of their total claim.

The only barrier now in getting compensation to the victims of the garment industry's worst ever disaster is the refusal of many brands, including Italian fashion brand Benetton, UK high street brand Matalan and retail giant Walmart to make significant contributions to the Fund.

Ten brands have already confirmed donations into the Fund, including Mango, Inditex and C&A. This week an agreement was reached between the Coordination Committee of the Arrangement, the multi-stakeholder body overseeing the compensation process, and Primark, which initially set up its own process for delivering payments to 500 workers employed at New Wave Bottoms, the factory supplying the Anglo Irish retailer. Under the agreement workers employed at New Wave Bottoms will now be brought under the Arrangement process and their claims will be assessed using the same criteria and methodology as all other affected workers. Payments to NWB workers will be made directly by Primark, but the timescale will be coordinated to ensure all families are treated fairly and equitably. Primark have made an initial contribution of $1 million to the Trust Fund; once their direct payments have been calculated it is expected their final contribution will be around $9 million.

However, the final $40 million target remains a long way off and more contributions are urgently needed if the Fund is to cover all the claims. Labour rights campaigners from the Clean Clothes Campaign across Europe, the International Labor Rights Forum in the United States, and the Maquila Solidarity Network in Canada are calling on other multi-million brands, including Benetton, Walmart and Matalan to stop dragging their feet.

Emma Harbour of the Clean Clothes Campaign states: “These brands already failed these workers once by failing to ensure the factories they were using met national and international standards for safety. Almost a year later and they are failing them again – refusing to contribute what is needed to help these families to start rebuilding their lives”.

She adds: “For the first time ever we have a system in place for making sure payments get directly to those families that deserve them. Benetton has no excuse for not paying in and can easily afford a USD 5 million contribution to the fund. Any less would be an insult to all those who were killed and injured.'

“There is no time to wait - we have one month to find $40 million. We urge Benetton to make this contribution immediately and to confirm publicly that it has done so.”