As Benetton committed to contribute to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund on Friday, nongovernmental organizations in Dhaka celebrated the step forward, saying that the move was a result of the 1 million signatures collected by Awaaz, a global Internet movement that works in more than 150 countries.
The fund is $9 million short of the $30 million target to help victims and survivors of the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza on April 24, 2013, which left 1,133 garment workers dead and 2,515 survivors.
However, Benetton did not specify the amount that would be given to the fund.
The company termed the commitment as “Step Two” with a “globally-recognized third party working to define the principles of our fair and equitable share of compensation.” The amount itself would be made clear in the next few weeks.and no later than April 24, the company noted.
So far, Canadian retailer Primark has paid the largest amount to victims of Rana Plaza, with a total of $12 million in compensation, part of which was made directly to workers.
Other publicly listed donors to the fund already include Inditex, El Corte Inglès, H&M Conscious Foundation and BRAC USA — which collected funds from U.S. retailers such as the Gap Foundation and The Children’s Place — among many.
Benetton Group is one of many apparel brands — from the Swedish H&M to the American Abercrombie & Fitch — that signed the Fire and Building Safety Accord after the disastrous collapse of the factory.
Global brands have been monitoring safety issues for workers in the $24.5 billion Bangladesh apparel export industry, which represents 80 percent of total exports from Bangladesh. The country is the second biggest producer of ready made garments in the world, after China.
“We’re hopeful Benetton will make a significant contribution so the families of Rana Plaza workers aren’t left high and dry, and the UN fund will succeed,” said Dalia Hashad, Avaaz campaign director.
Benetton said that in the immediate aftermath of the tragic collapse, in May 2013, the company launched its own support program in partnership with the Bangladesh-based global nongovernmental organization BRAC to support 280 victims and family members, with immediate-term medical needs and to ensure that they had the means, including financial, to rebuild a sustainable future.
While noting the step forward in making the commitment, the two unions urged the Italian company to be generous in its commitment.
“We call on Benetton to do what’s morally right and compensate with compassion,” said Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL, a global union that have been campaigning on behalf of the victims, along with UNI, while expressing pleasure at the promise to pay. “We expect to see a significant contribution to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund by Benetton in keeping with a major brand that sourced from Rana Plaza and has a considerable investment in Bangladesh. Now, it’s time for Benetton to show us the color of their money,” said Raina.
Philip Jennings, general secretary UNI Global Union, observed: “For a company with a profit of more than $200 million and turnover of $1.6 billion, we expect Benetton to show their most generous colors.”
The unions called on Benetton to clarify certain points. The company said an “independent, globally recognized third party” will advise it, but has declined to reveal its identity, the unions claimed.