DHAKA: A dozen retailers and clothing brands are meeting in Geneva to discuss providing compensation to the victims of the Rana Plaza and Tazreen factory disasters in Bangladesh, although several companies were noticeable by their absence.
The talks, chaired by the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, are aimed at setting up funds to compensate the victims of both the Rana Plaza disaster in April, when an eight-storey building collapsed, killing 1,129 people, and the fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in November 2012 that killed 112 workers.
The collapse of Rana Plaza, a factory built on swampy ground some 20 miles outside Dhaka, ranks among the world’s worst industrial accidents and has galvanised brands to look more closely at trying to improve safety standards at suppliers.
About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh’s clothing industry, making it the world’s second-largest clothing exporter behind China, but some of the workforce, which is mostly female, earn as little as $38 a month.
Garment exports in the last financial year which ended in June were up 13 percent at $21.5bn, with 60 percent of the clothes going to Europe and 23 percent to the United States, according to the country’s Export Promotion Bureau.
“The families and the injured have already waited far too long,” said Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary of the IndustriALL international trade union federation that is coordinating the talks.
IndustriALL is seeking a deal on a long-term fund for Rana Plaza worth more than 54m euros ($71.8m), with 45 percent to be contributed by brands. It plans a statement on the outcome of the talks, which started on Wednesday, later yesterday.
The participants include Zara-owner Inditex, the Primark discount chain owned by Associated British Foods , Canada’s Loblaw Cos Ltd, European retailer C&A and Spanish department store chain El Corte Ingles. Also attending are Bonmarche, Matalan and Store Twenty One from Britain, Germany’s Karl Rieker and KiK, Camaieu of France and Mascot of Denmark.
But some retailers have attracted attention for staying away, including Wal-Mart, which sourced garments from the factory hit by the fire, as well as Italian clothing retailer Benetton and Spanish fashion chain Mango, which placed orders at Rana Plaza.