WASHINGTON — An anonymous donor has enabled the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to reach its target goal of $30 million to help compensate survivors and victims’ families of the building collapse more than two years ago that killed and injured thousands of workers.
Ineke Zeldenrust, international coordinator of the Clean Clothes Campaign, which for months had pressed companies that had production in the Rana Plaza complex to contribute to the fund, said, “Now that all the families impacted by this disaster will finally receive all the money they are owed, they can finally focus on rebuilding their lives. This is a remarkable moment for justice.”
Zeldenrust said, “This would not have been possible without the support of citizens and consumers across Europe who stuck with the campaign over the past two years. Together, we have proved once again that European consumers do care about the workers who make their clothes and that their actions really can make a difference.”
The eight-story Rana Plaza complex collapsed on April 24, 2013, killing more than 1,135 people and injuring another 2,515. The tragedy sparked a global outcry and scrutiny of the $20 billion garment export industry in Bangladesh.
The CCC said more than 1 million consumers across Europe and the world have pressured the companies that had products being made in one of the five factories housed in Rana Plaza. On the two-year anniversary of the tragedy in April, the fund was $2.4 million short of its target goal.
The CCC said a large donation from an anonymous donor in the last few days “led the fund to meeting its target.” The exact amount of the donation was not disclosed.
The International Labor Rights Organization set up the fund in January 2014 with the aim of covering the loss of income and medical costs suffered by the Rana Plaza victims and their families. The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee revealed in November it would need about $30 million to pay in full more than 5,000 “awards” granted to victims and their families.
The CCC said it will continue to support Rana Plaza victims who are pursuing further payments “outside the scope of the arrangement.” While labor rights groups hailed the milestone, they expressed anger that brands and retailers took more than two years to reach the target goal.
“This is a huge victory, but it’s been too long in the making,” Zeldenrust said. “That brands with a collective annual profit of over $20 billion took two years and significant public pressure to come up with a mere $30 million is an indictment of the voluntary nature of social responsibility. We now need to look at ways to ensure that access to such remedy is provided by brands and retailers as a matter of course, and not only when public outrage makes doing nothing impossible.”
The CCC called for policy changes and reforms for potential future disasters and lauded a new ILO initiative in Bangladesh to develop a national workplace injury system for the country’s 4 million garment workers. The group also urged European politicians to develop stronger oversight of supply chains to hold companies accountable in the future.
“With this payment, the final installment will be paid this month. This has already been approved by the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee. We will be able to address all the pending matters,” Srinivas Reddy, country director of the International Labour Organization, told WWD.
The ILO has been the chair of the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee since October 2013, when it was established to support and provide relief to the victims of Rana Plaza.
In January 2014, the ILO also established the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to support the committee’s effort to finance the scheme.
It is apparent that meeting the milestone is not enough — and the ILO is looking at taking the issue beyond the immediate $30 million target and Rana Plaza.
“This is a milestone but we still have important business to deal with,” said Guy Ryder, director-general of the ILO. “We must now work together to ensure that accidents can be prevented in the future, and that a robust national employment injury insurance scheme is established so that victims of any future accidents will be swiftly and justly compensated and cared for,” he said.
By April 2015, the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza accident, more than $27 million had been raised and the committee had paid out 70 percent of the awards promised to more than 2,968 claimants.