Three years after Tazreen factory fire Walmart still refuses to pay
Next Tuesday will mark the third anniversary of the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh on November 24th, 2012. When the fire broke out, workers were trapped inside the building. Exits to the outside were locked and the only way out was through windows on the upper floors. Over a hundred workers were injured by jumping from the windows of the third and fourth floors, sustaining serious back and head injuries which have left many of them in constant pain. For the last three years the families of those killed and injured have been fighting for compensation for the loss of their loved ones or loss of their own ability to earn an income.
Tazreen produced for U.S. giant Walmart, the Spanish department store El Corte Ingles, the German discount retailer KIK, C&A and Sean John’s Enyce brand. Other linked brands include Edinburgh Woollen Mill (UK), Karl Rieker (Germany) and Piazza Italia (Italy), Teddy Smith (France) and U.S. brands Disney, Sears, Dickies and Delta Apparel.
An agreement to make payments specifically to cover loss of income and medical treatment was signed by IndustriALL Global Union, the Clean Clothes Campaign, C&A and the C&A Foundation just prior to the second anniversary of the fire in 2014. This agreement led to the creation of the Tazreen Claims Administration Trust which oversees the claims process, cooperates with organizations representing the families and collects funding to make the payments. Families of the workers killed in the fire have begun to register their claims and today the Trust launched a new website, providing information about the claims process and details on how contributions to the Trust can be made.
It is expected that the Trust will raise money to cover the payments primarily through contributions from brands and retailers whose products were produced at the Tazreen factory. Brands with a revenue over $1 million are being asked to pay a minimum of $100,000. C&A and Li & Fung (which sourced on behalf of Sean Jean) have already committed to pay into the fund. German brand KiK, currently embroiled in a controversy regarding their refusal to negotiate compensation with victims of the Ali Enterprises fire, has also now agreed to pay a contribution to the Fund.
Not all brands have been willing to take responsibility. Tazreen’s largest customer, Walmart, still has not provided any funds to compensate the survivors and the families of the deceased workers. In 2014 Walmart publically declared it would contribute $3 million via BRAC USA for the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse and for victims of other garment factory tragedies in Bangladesh. $1 million of that was paid to the Rana Plaza victims’ fund, up to $92,000 has been provided for medical treatments. Yet to date Walmart has refused to pledge any money to the injured workers and families affected by the Tazreen fire. What Walmart intends to do with the remaining $1.1 million it promised remains unclear.
The Spanish department store El Corte Ingles, which participated in the original Committee set up to develop the process for Rana Plaza victims, has also stalled on making a payment for Tazreen workers.
Sam Maher, who represents the Clean Clothes Campaign in the Tazreen Claim Administration Trust said: “These workers have been waiting for three years to get the financial payments which they need for daily survival; to pay for rent, education and health care. They should not be forced to wait any longer. There is no justification for refusing to pay – Tazreen workers deserve to be treated the same as those at Rana Plaza. We urge all those brands that were buying from Tazreen to contribute now, without further delay.”
Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said: “It is unconscionable that after three years the Tazreen victims and families still haven't received meaningful compensation and Walmart hasn’t paid or pledged anything at all. That is why, on the third anniversary of the tragedy, we are encouraging consumers to take action online and at Walmart stores as part of the Black Friday week of action.”