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Union Delays Bangladesh Meeting With Brands

The IndustriALL Global Union said Friday it was forced to postpone until September a crucial meeting with brands and retailers.

WASHINGTON — The IndustriALL Global Union said Friday it was forced to postpone until September a crucial meeting with brands and retailers to negotiate a full compensation package for victims of the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse, which claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people.

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The global union estimated the long-term compensation cost to cover injured workers as well as victims’ families of the two disasters is a combined total of $76.7 million.

IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina said in a post on the union’s Web site that the meeting with labor and worker rights groups, unions and brands and retailers initially scheduled to take place Aug. 11 and 12 in Dhaka, has been rescheduled for Geneva in September.

“With the sudden illness of a key union official and a strike threat in Bangladesh, we feel that the meetings will be more fruitful at a later date,” Raina said. “All major brands and signatories are invited and we are expecting a high level of attendance.”

Raina said in addition to brands and retailers, factory owners, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and the government of Bangladesh all share responsibility in compensating victims.

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The estimate for payment to families of the dead and injured workers takes into account loss of earnings, pain and suffering and medical costs, funeral costs and other family expenses. IndustriALL estimates compensation for Rana Plaza to be more than $71 million, while compensation for Tazreen will total about $5.7 million.

If a compensation package is agreed to, payments will be divided based on an established mechanism developed after an apparel factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2005. Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, said apparel buyers are responsible for about 45 percent of the $76.7 million total, based on that mechanism.

He noted there are an estimated 1,500 injured workers in addition to the families of the more than 1,200 deceased victims.

Several individual brands and retailers with production sourced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have already pledged to compensate victims and their families from the two tragedies.

Li & Fung matched the BGMEA’s financial assistance pledge of 100,000 Bangladeshi takas, or about $1,200, to each victim’s family after the Tazreen fire in late November.

Primark, which pledged to give short-term aid to victims of Rana Plaza, said in June it would complete registration of close to 4,000 former employees or their dependents and committed to pay $1 million to its food distribution program, as well as to give short-term financial support for victims and their families.

Other brands that manufactured through companies at Rana Plaza and have unveiled plans to pay compensation to victims of the disaster include Joe Fresh of Canada, Matalan of the U.K., El Corte Inglés of Spain and PVT from Denmark, according to labor groups. Nova said C&A and German-based retailer Kik have also made public pledges to compensate victims, but he noted many other companies have refused.

“The compensation process has been woefully slow and it is finally moving forward and companies are beginning to pay,” Nova said. “Pressure is mounting for those refusing to contribute.”

He said individual companies that have unilaterally made direct cash payments to victims and their families will be credited once a compensation package is determined.