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.

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

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.