Compensation Talks Start in Geneva for Bangladesh Factory Victims

By Katarina Gustafsson | September 11, 2013

Representatives of retailers, labor unions and non-governmental organizations began meeting today in Geneva to discuss compensation for those killed or injured in two factory disasters in Bangladesh.

Today’s talks are focused on November’s Tazreen factory blaze, said Jenny Holdcroft, policy director at IndustriALL, a Geneva-based union federation representing workers in 140 countries. A meeting tomorrow will consider the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the nation’s worst industrial accident, which killed more than 1,000 people.

“This is a specific discussion of the actual money that the companies will provide,” Holdcroft said. “We hope that the outcome of the meetings will be specific commitments of dollar amounts by the brands of what they will contribute to the compensation.”

C&A Group is among five retailers who have confirmed they would attend the meeting today, while the meeting tomorrow will be attended by at least 11 retailers, including Primark, according to IndustriALL. While IndustriAll had said Inditex will be there, a company official at Inditex said the world’s biggest clothing retailer has no plans to attend.

IndustriALL has previously estimated long-term compensation for Rana Plaza will be more than $71 million and about $5.7 million for Tazreen.

Paying Up

“Obviously there is a discussion about how much the brands contribute vis-a-vis the factory owners, the government in Bangladesh and the employers’ federation,” Holdcroft said.

The meetings, overseen by the International Labour Organization, aren’t part of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an agreement set up by retailers and labor unions in July.

The talks were initially planned for Aug. 11 and 12 in Dhaka and were postponed. Representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Carrefour SA are among those who have said they won’t attend, according to IndustriALL.

Wal-Mart pledged in August to lend $50 million to Bangladesh factory owners in an initiative with other retailers called Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety.

“Our goal is to positively impact global supply chain practices both by raising our own standards and by partnering with other stakeholders to improve the standards for workers across the industry,” Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said in an e-mailed comment. “We are focused on investing our resources in proactive programs that will address fire safety in the garment and textile industry in Bangladesh and prevent fires before they happen.”

‘Full Compensation’

Carrefour officials didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. C&A confirmed it’s attending today, while a spokeswoman for Primark, a unit of Associated British Foods Plc, said she wasn’t immediately prepared to comment.

“Only full compensation can help bereaved families and injured survivors mend their broken lives,” said Murray Worthy, a campaigner at War on Want, a U.K. group that says it aims to fight poverty. He commented in a statement. “Every brand that sourced clothes from Rana Plaza should have acted to ensure their workers’ safety. This wasn’t an accident, it was an entirely preventable tragedy.”

With assistance from Manuel Baigorri in Madrid, Renee Dudley in New York, Andrew Roberts in Paris and Gabi Thesing in London. Editors: Thomas Mulier, David Risser

 

 

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