Global actions targeting Benetton and Mango in Rana Plaza aftermath

Today marks one week until the two-year anniversary of the worst industrial accident to ever hit the garment industry, when the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh came crashing down. Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and its trade union allies and partners mark the second anniversary of disaster with a global call to action, demanding brands such as Benetton and Mango to pay up to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.

The Rana Plaza survivors and victims’ families also need to receive immediate, full compensation which they are entitled to. In addition, all apparel brands and retailers doing business in Bangladesh should sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

$8.5 million shortfall

Despite the growing urgency, brands continue to postpone payments to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund.  Additional payments are necessary to fill the current $8.5 million shortfall in the Fund, which would then ensure that the survivors and victims’ families of the Rana Plaza tragedy receive full compensation.  To date claimants have only received 70% of what they are owed, with further payments indefinitely delayed as a result of the current shortfall.

Global actions begin tomorrow, 18 April, in Genova, Italy, where activists in collaboration with the Italian affiliate of the Clean Clothes Campaign, Campagna Abiti Puliti e Fair, will create a concert of sewing machines, a public theatrical art installation.  Following the art installation, the public is invited to attend a discussion with documentary filmmakers, Liza Boschin and Elena Marzano, who last year caught Benetton managers defending child labour through secret recordings.  Actions will continue next week, leading up to and around 24 April 2015, including in the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh.  Bangladeshi trade unions and NGOs including the Workers Safety Forum, BLAST, and BILS are planning actions in Bangladesh.

Refuse to set payments

The ILO set up the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund in January 2014 to collect compensation for the victims of the disaster.  The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee (RPCC), set up in October 2013, was tasked with developing and overseeing the compensation process, known as the Arrangement.  The RPCC includes representatives from the Bangladesh government, Bangladesh industry, global brands and retailers, Bangladeshi and international trade unions and Bangladeshi and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), with the ILO acting as the neutral chair.  In the development of the Arrangement the brand representatives refused to set specific payment amounts for each company.  Instead, they insisted on a purely voluntary system, with no payment guidelines, believing that all brands and stakeholders would donate generously to ensure the Fund received sufficient funds.  This process has so far failed.  

Nearly every brand linked to the Rana Plaza building has made insufficient donations, thus failing to live up to their responsibilities to the victims.  Some brands, such as Mango, Matalan, and Inditex have refused to disclose their donation.  Others, such as Walmart and The Children’s Place, while publicly disclosing their donation, still only contributed a minimal amount.  Worse still, Benetton, continues to be the last major international brand with undeniable links to Rana Plaza that has yet to contribute anything at all to the Fund.  

There still remains cause for optimism and hope.  Benetton made a public commitment to donate to the Fund by the second anniversary.  There are also rumours that the Bangladesh Alliance, which consists of a number brands including Walmart will also make a significant donation.   

Benetton is delaying

“Benetton’s history and its contradictory commitment to compensation in the past, may make it hard for some to believe Benetton’s promise.  However, given Benetton's public commitment and its responsibility to the victims, the company really has no choice: they have to donate a very significant amount to the fund by the second anniversary,” says Ilona Kelly of the Clean Clothes Campaign.  “Benetton knows the world is watching, and is united in action and solidarity with the victims.  By delaying this long they have made the situation of the victims far worse, and they now can't hide behind a consultant that they hired and paid to shift the responsibility to pay to others. Benetton is uniquely placed to finally do what’s right and lead by example through donating at least $5 million.  It would be absolutely shocking if Benetton did not live up to its promise.”  

Since the opening of the Fund in January 2014 campaigners have argued that donations should reflect a company’s ability to pay, the size of their relationship with Bangladesh and the extent of their relationship with Rana Plaza. On this basis the CCC have consistently demanded that Benetton pay at least $5 million into the Fund.

On April 24, 2013, shortly after 8AM, the Rana Plaza building collapsed, when eight storeys of concrete came crashing down, killing 1,134 people.  Many were killed instantly.  Many others were buried alive, forcing some to amputate their own limbs in order to escape and survive. It is estimated that there were 3890 people in the Rana Plaza building at the time of collapse.