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Issue #1636      April 30, 2014

Rana Plaza: One year on, no justice

The collapse of a factory building which killed thousands of garment workers marks its first anniversary (April 24) – but British companies continue to refuse compensation to those affected. A year after the tragic subsidence of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, central Bangladesh, big brands such as Matalan and Asda are still to contribute to the official Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund for families and victims of the disaster.

“One year later [Matalan] is still sitting on its hands,” said garment workers’ rights group Labour Behind the Label Sam Maher.

Her organisation said that despite many companies’ statements in the wake of the incident – which killed over 1,100 people – only a third of the total £24 million compensation pay has been raised.

Trade Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It is shameful that many of our companies sourcing from Rana Plaza have still not paid into the fund to help victims and their families.” The TUC has supported the historic agreement between international trade unions and fashion businesses guaranteeing safer workplaces for Bangladeshi workers at almost 2,000 factories.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety makes sure that recurrent building inspections are conducted so tragedies like Rana Plaza no longer occur.

Ms O’Grady said she was pleased that over 150 employers had signed the accord, but believe there was much left to be done.

Britain’s second largest supermarket Asda – a subsidiary of the US retail colossus Walmart – has so far declined to sign the accord. Campaigners believe that Asda is determined not to set a precedent on indemnity pay for large scale industrial accidents, donating an undisclosed amount to poverty relief charity Building Relationships Across Communities (BRAC) instead.

“Cowardice”, retorted War on Want campaigns director Jeff Powell.

BRAC USA – to which not only Walmart but also clothing giant Gap contributed – has officially granted around £1.3m to the Trust Fund.

A poor record given that companies such as Primark contributed with almost £600,000. Stitched Up – The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion author Tansy Hoskins spoke to the Morning Star about the double standards of many of the companies sourcing from Rana Plaza, saying that the industry had “grown rich as Croesus” by exploiting workers.

Ms Hoskins said: “The refusal of companies like Matalan to pay a penny in compensation and the attempts by Gap and Walmart to disrupt the vital Bangladesh Accord show what we are really dealing with – capitalist corporations’ callous disregard for human life.”

The TUC is now lobbying International Development Secretary Justine Greening to pressure British companies to pay the due compensation.

Labour Behind The Label hosted a vigil outside of London’s Bond Street Gap shop in memory of all those killed in Rana Plaza.

A Matalan spokeswoman said it had been working with BRAC because it was one of the first development organisations to respond to the disaster and that the “partnership works well”.

Morning Star

Next article – Canada: back off on voter suppression

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