Pressure increases on Benetton to pay up

published 11-02-2015 14:39, last modified 11-02-2015 14:39
Pressure increases on Benetton as nearly 1 million activists demand they immediately pay into Rana Plaza victims’ compensation fund

Campaigners are calling for compensation to victims of the world's worst ever garment factory disaster as an Avaaz petition, demanding that Italian fashion giant Benetton finally pay compensation to the victims of Rana Plaza, is set to top one million signers.  The petition adds to ongoing campaign efforts by the Clean Clothes Campaign and the International Labor Rights Forum, urging multinational brands to contribute to the fund for the victims of the 24 April 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse.

To date 5,000 people – dependents of the deceased as well as injured workers – have received 40% of the total compensation payment due to them, according to the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee, which is chaired by the International Labour Organization (ILO). In the past year, the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund set up by the ILO in January 2014 has received around US $21 million in donations from global brands, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s Fund, trade unions and civil society. With $9 million more in donations still needed to fill the gap in the Fund, victims will be forced to continue to wait for full compensation. Campaigners are urging brands to pay now to ensure that the victims will receive their full compensation by the second anniversary of the disaster in just ten weeks’ time.

The compensation amounts are calculated in line with international standards.  After a meeting on 3 December 2014, the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee revised the Fund’s goal based on the claims received. The amount currently remaining in the Fund is sufficient to pay an additional 30% of the award to each eligible beneficiary.

The Clean Clothes Campaign and the International Labor Rights Forum – joined by one million signers on the petition hosted by Avaaz – are urgently calling on Benetton to make a significant contribution to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.  Benetton is the only major international brand with confirmed links to Rana Plaza that has refused to contribute a single penny.  Campaigners urge Benetton to pay $5 million into the Fund – a proportional amount given the clear association between Benetton and one of the Rana Plaza factories and the huge profits made by the company.   

While Benetton has not contributed anything to the Fund, other companies such as Children’s Place, Inditex (Zara), Mango, and Walmart have failed to contribute a significant and proportional amount.  Therefore all companies connected to the Rana Plaza building are urged to increase their donations immediately in order to ensure the Fund reaches US $30 million by the second anniversary of the disaster.  Walmart – the largest company in the world – contributed only $1 million and Children’s Place gave merely $450,000. Inditex and Mango haven’t disclosed the amount of their donations. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister's Fund, which collected numerous donations following the disaster, and the Bangladeshi factory owners’ association (the BGMEA), should also contribute to the Fund.

The current funding gap is achievable if all brands that produced clothing at Rana Plaza step up and take responsibility. Without a contribution from Benetton, families cannot rebuild their lives,” said Deborah Lucchetti from the Campagna Abiti Puliti, the Italian affiliate of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “With less than 90 days until the second anniversary of the disaster, we need to complete this process so all those affected by Rana Plaza can finally move on with their lives.”

The online activist network Avaaz recently joined campaign efforts, launching a global campaign and petition addressing Benetton on 5 February 2015. Within 24 hours, over 500,000 people had signed the petition. 

“Avaaz joining our campaign efforts comes at a critical moment because there is a real threat that those affected by the building collapse will not get the full compensation they are owed and need to survive,” said Liana Foxvog of the International Labor Rights Forum. “The new Avaaz petition demonstrates that consumers around the world are united on this issue and want to ensure that the Rana Plaza survivors and families are not forgotten. Campaign efforts will not stop until the brands that did business at Rana Plaza uphold their responsibility to pay fair compensation.”   

“After everything we have gone through, we should not be forced to beg or rely on charity for our living. We are entitled to full and fair compensation,” said Mahinur Begum, a Rana Plaza survivor who will be traveling in the U.S. on a speaking tour later this month.