Bangladesh Collapsed Building: Western Companies Offer Help For Victims

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Factory Building Owner
Factory Building Owner

Two Western retailers supplied by factories at Rana Plaza, Britain’s Primark and Canada’s Loblaw, have promised to compensate families of garment workers killed while making their clothes.

Primark has said it will pay compensation to the victims of the Bangladesh textile factory disaster who worked for its supplier.

The high street retailer had confirmed one of its suppliers occupied the second floor of the Rana Plaza building which collapsed last Wednesday in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, killing at least 382 people.

The low-cost fashion business, which is a subsidiary of British food company ABF and has its headquarters in Ireland, said in a statement its team in Bangladesh was working “to put in place immediate and long-term help” for victims of the tragedy.

“We have partnered with a local NGO to address the immediate needs of the victims, including the provision of emergency food aid to families. This initiative began in Bangladesh immediately the extent of the disaster became clear,” the company said.

“Primark will also pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier. This will include the provision of long-term aid for children who have lost parents, financial aid for those injured and payments to the families of the deceased.”

There was a protest outside Primark’s flagship store in central London on Saturday as sympathisers bombarded the Oxford Street branch of the company with placards, calling for Primark to aid the dsaster victims.

The firm said it would be reviewing its commitments constantly to ensure they met the needs of the victims as the tragedy continues to unfold.

“We are fully aware of our responsibility,” it said, urging other retailers who shared the factory complex to also come forward and offer assistance.

The move follows a demonstration outside Primark’s flagship store in central London on Saturday to demand compensation for the workers who were killed.

Shortly afterwards, Bonmarche, the only other big brand to acknowledge supplier production at the site, also issued a statement.

It said: “At this time, we continue to gather the necessary information from our supplier, with whom we have direct contact. Once we have all the facts in place, we will make an informed decision as to how we best offer forward support to the victims and their families.”

On Monday, representatives of about 45 companies including Gap Inc, H&M, Inditex, JC Penny, Marks & Spencer, Nike Inc, Primark, Tesco, Wal-Mart and Li & Fung met officials from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to discuss safety.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the ruins of the building, which housed several factories on the upper floors, but hundreds remain unaccounted for.

Officials in Bangladesh have said the eight-storey complex had been built on swampy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers – most of them young women – entered the building in the morning on Wednesday last week, despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.

A bank and shops in the building closed after a jolt was felt and cracks were noticed on some pillars on Tuesday.

Some foreign buyers have said that whilst they can make efforts to ensure decent working conditions, it is up to the authorities to enforce building safety standards.

“There is a law, but due to lack of implementation and severe manpower shortages such unlawful buildings are being constructed,” said Roger Hubert, vice president of Li & Fung.

“They have substandard building plans, lack of fire safety, and other compliance issues.”

Eight people have been arrested – four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.

There were angry scenes as Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front, was led into court on Monday wearing a helmet and bulletproof police jacket, witnesses said.

“Put the killer on the gallows,” one onlooker outside the court shouted. Rana, who was arrested on Sunday by the elite Rapid Action Battalion apparently trying to flee to India, was ordered to be held on remand for 15 days for interrogation.

Khalek, who officials said was named in documents as a legal owner of the Rana Plaza building, was arrested in Dhaka on Monday. Those being held face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.

Workers on duty at the factory
Workers on duty at the factory

The High Court on Tuesday ordered the seizure of property belonging to Rana and four others.

The collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world behind China. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in a suburb of Dhaka killed 112 people.

The industry employs about 3.6 million people in Bangladesh, most of them women, some of whom earn as little as $38 a month.

Anger over the disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes. Many factories remained closed on Monday due to labor unrest and police used teargas to quell demonstrations.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, said it was sending a high-level mission to Bangladesh in coming days.

“Horror and regret must translate into firm action,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement. “Action now can prevent further tragedy.”

Sources: Sky news, startribune.com