Primark only brand to confirm compensation for Rana Plaza factory victims

Two thirds of the retailers involved in the Bangladeshi factory disaster snubbed the compensation talks in Geneva

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 22 Jan 2016
Primark, the UK clothing store often criticised for its use of ‘sweatshop labour’, has emerged as something of a white knight following the collapse of compensation talks surrounding April’s Rana Plaza factory disaster. The UK brand, owned by Associated British Foods, was the only one to agree to pay more short-term aid at the talks in Geneva, to which only nine out of the 29 invited brands turned up.
 
The meeting was called by IndustriALL Global Union, to propose a model of compensation to help the victims of the factory collapse, which killed more then 1,000 people. The union said $74.6m (£47m) would be needed to compensate for suffering and loss of income and asked the brands to contribute $33.6m.
 
But only nine brands attended the meeting and the clothing retailers failed to reach an agreement.
 
‘Consumers will be shocked that almost a half year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster, with only one brand so far providing any compensation,’ said Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL.
 
‘I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.’
 
Primark, the one brand in question, agreed to pay salaries to all the factory’s workers and their families for three months. It has already paid an estimated $1m to the victims and their families.
 
‘The company remains concerned about the length of time it is taking to agree a framework for long-term compensation,’ Primark said.
 
Among those invited and not in attendance were Walmart and Benetton. The chief executive of Benetton, Biagio Chiarolanza, defended the brand’s decision, complaining the meeting wouldn’t be adequately structured. He said companies didn’t attend ‘mainly due to lack of clarity around the objectives as well as the nearly complete lack of involvement allowed to several key stakeholders.’
 
Those brands which did attend have agreed to meet again to discuss a compensation fund. Whether talks will be deemed ‘structured’ enough for the 20 absentee retailers to show up remains to be seen. In the meantime, vitriol towards Primark, which has been the target of numerous protests since the disaster struck in spring, might subside.

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