Why have 94 per cent of Bangladesh factory collapse victims received no compensation?

Six months on from the disaster that killed over 1,100 workers, Primark is the only brand to have offered victims compensation.

According to the UK charity Action Aid, 94 per cent of survivors and victims’ families from the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 people, have received no sick pay or compensation from their employers.

The factory collapse was the country’s worst-ever garment factory disaster, but despite public outrage at poor safety standards in the clothing industry, earlier this month ten factory workers were killed when a fire broke out at a dyeing mill in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

To date, only Primark has provided compensation to Rana Plaza victims, amounting to around ₤115 per person, for 3000 people. The Bangladesh government has also given ₤18,000 to around a third of victims and their families, but no long-term compensation agreement has been reached.

In September, the global trade union IndustriALL convened a meeting for some of the world’s largest retailers in Geneva to discuss a long-term compensation fund for victims and their families. Only nine of the 23 brands who were using the Rana Plaza factory attended, and no deal was reached. Noteworthy absentees included Benetton and Wal-Mart.

Meanwhile, 92 per cent of survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster have not returned to work, and the same proportion report being deeply traumatised. 63 per cent of survivors have been unable to work due to severe physical injuries. As a consequence, many families face mounting debts as they struggle to cover their living costs.

There have been promising indications of renewed political will to improve health and safety standards. The government of Bangladesh and ILO have launched a $25.2m plan to improve safety over the next three-and-a-half years, with financial support from the UK and Dutch governments, and 100 brands, including Primark, Next, M&S and Arcadia have signed up to a new accord to improve fire and factory safety. But, for the Rana Plaza victims still awaiting compensation this is simply far too little and far too late.

Activists and survivors of the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster demonstrate on the site where the building collapsed. Photo:Getty.

Sophie McBain is a freelance writer based in Cairo. She was previously an assistant editor at the New Statesman.

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Emmanuel Macron's "moralisation of politics" comes at a heavy price for his allies

"Fake" jobs in French politics, season 3 episode 1.

Something is rotten in the state of France. No political party – at least none that existed before 2016 – seems immune to the spread of investigations into “fake” or shady parliamentary jobs. The accusations sank centre-right candidate François Fillon’s presidential campaign, and led to Marine Le Pen losing her parliamentary immunity in the European parliament (and proxy wars within her party, the National Front). Both deny the allegations. Now the investigations have made their way to the French government, led by Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister.

On Wednesday morning, justice minister François Bayrou and secretary of state for European affairs Marielle de Sarnez announced their resignation from Philippe’s cabinet. They followed defence minister Sylvie Goulard’s resignation the previous day. The three politicians belonged not to Macron's party, En Marche!, but the centrist MoDem party. Bayrou, the leader, had thrown his weight behind Macron after dropping his own presidential bid in April.

The disappearance of three ministers leaves Emmanuel Macron’s cross-party government, which includes politicians from centre left and centre right parties, without a centrist helm. (Bayrou, who has run several times for the French presidency and lost, is the original “neither left nor right” politician – just with a less disruptive attitude, and a lot less luck). “I have decided not to be part of the next government,” he told the AFP.

Rumours had been spreading for weeks. Bayrou, who was last part of a French government as education minister from 1993 to 1997, had been under pressure since 9 June, when he was included in a preliminary investigation into “embezzlement”. The case revolves around whether the parliamentary assistants of MoDem's MEPs, paid for by the European Parliament, were actually working full or part-time for the party. The other two MoDem ministers who resigned, along with Bayrou, also have assistants under investigation.

Bayrou has denied the allegations. He has declared that there “never was” any case of “fake” jobs within his party and that it would be “easy to prove”. All the same, by the time he resigned, his position as justice minister has become untenable, not least because he was tasked by Macron with developing key legislation on the “moralisation of politics”, one of the new President’s campaign pledges. On 1 June, Bayrou unveiled the new law, which plans a 10-year ban from public life for any politician convicted of a crime or offence regarding honesty and transparency in their work.

Bayrou described his decision to resign as a sacrifice. “My name was never pronounced, but I was the target to hit to attack the government’s credibility,” he said, declaring he would rather “protect this law” by stepping down. The other two ministers also refuted the allegations, and gave similar reasons for resigning. 

Macron’s movement-turned-unstoppable-machine, En Marche!, remains untainted from accusations of the sort. Their 350 new MPs are younger, more diverse than is usual in France – but they are newcomers in politics. Which is exactly why Macron had sought an alliance with experienced Bayrou in the first place.

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