Rana Plaza: Countdown to second anniversary begins with compensation fund still $9 million short

Three international organisations launch countdown to the second anniversary.

Brands are called upon to fill the gap before April 24 2015.

With one month to go before the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster the three organisations negotiating compensation for its victims are today jointly launching a “countdown campaign” to remind consumers, governments and the brands that almost two years on from the garment industry's deadliest disaster justice has still not been done for the thousands of worker killed and injured.

UNI Global Union, IndustriALL Global Union and the Clean Clothes Campaign – the three organisations negotiating on behalf of the victims – are ramping up demands on global brands linked to the disaster to fill an USD8.5million gap in the funding needed to deliver full and fair compensation to each of the over 5,000 individuals with eligible claims.

So far US$21.5 million has been paid into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund through contributions from buyers, the Bangladesh Prime Ministers Fund and other private donors. All contributions are used exclusively to make payments to Rana Plaza victims and their families. It is calculated that at least US$30 million is needed to cover compensation claims. To date claimants have only received a maximum of 70% of what they are owed, with further payments delayed as a result of the failure of brands to pay the $8.5million needed to complete the scheme.

A number of globally recognised brands, all with links to the Rana Plaza factories have so far refused to provide adequate payments into the Fund. Amongst the worst offenders is Benetton, who is yet to pay a penny into the Fund. Others including Walmart, Mango and The Children's Place are being singled out for making donations that fall far short of expectations. Other companies still to pay the required amount include Lee Cooper, JC Penny, Matalan and Kik.

After several months in which almost no significant donations were received by the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, there are some causes for optimism. In recent weeks a trickle of donations have come into the Fund, reducing the gap by half a million. However a promise by Benetton, made in February, to pay a contribution to the Fund has so far not been honoured and rumours that the Bangladesh Alliance were planning to make a significant donation have to date proven unfounded.

The three organisations are hoping that renewed pressure on brands in the countdown to the anniversary will translate into sufficient contributions to finally meet the full cost of compensation.

IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina said, “For an industry that is all about image, the garment brands are taking shockingly long to do the right thing and close one of the most shameful chapters in the history book of the global clothing industry.

"It has been almost two years since this industrial homicide; the victims and their families are owed compensation and the possibility to build a new future.”

UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “The clock is ticking and we expect to see nothing less than full and generous contributions by April 24th from every brand still to pay.

“Garment industry brands pride themselves on being trend setters and responding to the fast-changing fashion world. In this case the brakes have been firmly slammed on.

“Every cent of this money will go directly to families who have lost loved ones or to victims no longer able to work. It is the right thing to do.”

Ineke Zeldenrust of the Clean Clothes Campaign said: “The victims of Rana Plaza have had enough of the broken promises and false sympathy of the brands. They want this to be settled now so they can move on with their lives.

“That we have been unable to secure a mere $30 million from a group of brands that collectively earn tens of billions of dollars profit each year is an outrage – this anger is clearly shared by consumers here in Europe -  only weeks ago over a million of them signed a petition calling on Benetton in just a few days.   If brands and retailers really want to show to workers and consumers alike that the industry has changed since Rana Plaza, they need to prove it by paying up now, without any further delay. The countdown starts now.”

Brands still expected to pay into the fund include:

Benetton (2013 revenue EUR 1.6 billion)
On 24th February 2015 Benetton publically committed to paying compensation before 24th April 2015 but is yet to honour that commitment. The Italian brand says it has appointed an “independent third party” to advise the company on its payment but has refused to state publically who that third party is. The three organisations question Benetton’s decision to delay its payment further.

The Children's Place (2013 revenue US$1.8 billion)
The U.S. clothing firm initially gave an estimated £450,000 through the charity BRAC US. Campaigners are demanding $8 million from the company which had a revenue of US$1.8 billion in 2013. The Children’s Place is the subject of a major campaign in the U.S. and received critical press recently when the company had a Rana Plaza survivor arrested during a protest at its headquarters.

Walmart (2014 revenue US$ 485.651 billion)
Walmart, the world’s largest and richest retailer, has paid an estimated USD$1 million into the fund through the charity BRAC US – a small contribution given Walmart’s size and the total amount required.  It has suggested it is ready to make further contributions but is yet to follow through with any payment.

Mango (2013 revenue EUR 1.85 billion)
The Spanish clothing company made a very small donation last year but must commit to paying in full before the two year anniversary.

UNI Global Union, IndustriALL and the Clean Clothes Campaign believe all brands sourcing clothes from Bangladesh – not only those connected to Rana Plaza – should pay compensation into the fund.

UNI Global Union and IndustriALL are the two global unions to have developed and signed the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy. The two unions and the Clean Clothes Campaign sit on the Accord steering committee. The Bangladesh Accord has been signed by almost 200 global brands and around 1,500 factories and 2 million workers are covered by its scope.