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Loblaw, Primark Commit to Bangladesh Victims’ Compensation

Call on others to step up to help the injured and the families of those that perished.

Canadian retailer Loblaw Cos. Ltd. outlined plans to provide long- and short-term compensation to injured survivors and victims’ families linked to one of the factories producing its apparel at the Rana Plaza building complex, as several rallies and protests in the U.S. and in Bangladesh marked the six-month anniversary Thursday of the collapse of the structure, which killed 1,132 people.

British retailer Primark also announced Thursday that it has set a timetable to begin providing long-term compensation payments to workers and their dependents of New Wave Bottoms, the factory producing its apparel in the Rana Plaza complex, and is considering extending another short-term round of payments to the estimated 3,600 victims of the disaster for another three months.

As part of its longer-term plan, Loblaw said it will begin providing direct financial compensation in 2014 to workers and victims’ families who were employed at the New Wave Style factory in Rana Plaza that produced apparel for Loblaw.

Primark had been the only retailer so far to provide compensation to all of the 3,600 Rana Plaza victims and it said Thursday it will consider paying another three months of wages to all of the victims if the other 27 brands who sourced apparel in the complex fail to step forward and make a contribution. Loblaw echoed Primark, saying it will also immediately provide three months of wages to about 3,600 individuals and their dependents, “regardless of the brand apparel that was being produced in their workplace,” if other companies fail to come forward.

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Worker’s rights and labor groups estimate that 1,132 worker died in the Rana Plaza collapse and another 2,500 were injured.

“Within a week of the collapse of Rana Plaza, Primark committed to paying long-term compensation to the victims of the disaster as quickly as possible,” a spokesman said. “Since then, the company has been working consistently to create a framework that can be adopted by other retail brands.”

Primark and now Loblaw have made the payments to Rana Plaza victims unilaterally and have also joined forces with two other companies — Benetton and El Corte Inglés — in calling on other brands and retailers to contribute. The companies are part of the Rana Plaza compensation coordination committee that is working to develop a large common compensation fund and pressing other companies to join. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, IndustriALL Global Union and the Clean Clothes Campaign are also on the committee. Marking the six-month anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse, several organizations held rallies and protests in the U.S. and in Bangladesh.

Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, joined the NYU Students Labor Action Movement, an affiliate of United Students Against Sweatshops, at a rally outside of the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City to press companies to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and pay into the victim compensation fund. USAS also held demonstrations at more than 30 colleges and universities across the country as part of an “International Week of Action to End Deathtraps” in commemoration of the anniversary. Students and workers are pressing university administrators to require that brands making apparel for U.S. universities to sign onto the legally binding accord, which 100 companies have signed.

Meanwhile, the National Garment Workers Federation held a sit-in in Dhaka on Thursday in front of the Rana Plaza site. It served as a memoriam and call for compensation, as family members of the dead and dozens of orphaned children, along with the injured congregated at the site, which was once home to five garment factories.

The need for this focus on action was underlined by a study released on Wednesday by ActionAid, which surveyed 2,297 people, nearly two thirds of the survivors and families of those who died in the Rana Plaza collapse. The report noted that 94 percent of the respondents surveyed had not received compensation and were still suffering from physical and psychological injuries.

“It is indefensible that for six months, multimillion-dollar companies have left the victims to fend for themselves,” said Farah Kabir, ActionAid country director for Bangladesh. “The victims of the Rana Plaza disaster are in urgent need of medical and psychological support, as well as the financial means to feed and care for their families.”