Failure in Geneva meet draws flak
International trade unions and rights campaigners yesterday heavily criticised fashion brands for their complete disregard to the victims of recent garment factory tragedies in Bangladesh after major players even failed to show up at Geneva to discuss a compensation package.
“It is shocking that not only have hardly any brands committed to any concrete level of assistance, but even more so that most of the companies implicated in the disaster did not even bother to show up to discuss helping the victims," said Scott Nova, executive director of Worker Rights Consortium.
His comments came as a two-day meeting in the Swiss city wrapped up on Thursday without any firm commitments on a compensation package for the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen factory fire.
The talks were called by the global trade union IndustriALL and chaired by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) representative.
Eleven of the brands and retailers sourcing from the factories affected by the Tazreen and Rana Plaza disasters joined the high-level compensation meetings, said IndustriALL in a statement.
For discussion on the collapse of Rana Plaza, a total of 29 brands were invited, but only nine attended.
Delta Apparel, Dickies, Disney, El Corte Inglés, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Kik, Li & Fung, Piazza Italia, Sean John, Sears, Teddy Smith, and Walmart did not participate in the September 11 meeting.
IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Monika Kemperle said: “The disregard of the absent brands for the plight of workers in Bangladesh whose lives have been destroyed by the avoidable accidents at Tazreen and Rana Plaza is shocking in the extreme. Empty promises and direct untruths since the Tazreen fire and the Rana Plaza collapse all so that these Western multinationals can avoid making payments that amount to a minute percentage of turnover.”
For Rana Plaza, $74,571,101 would be needed to provide full compensation to all workers, of which the brands are being asked to contribute $33,556,996. For Tazreen $6,442,000 is required, with $2,899,000 being asked from the brands.
IndustriALL said Bangladeshi workers and victim's families hoping for immediate aid would be disappointed.
The brands, however, agreed to meet again within the next two weeks to share information and tools, exchange views, and consider next steps, said the statement.
They also agreed to contribute financially to a fund to assist injured workers and victims' families, and committed to move the process of establishing the fund forward quickly.
Immediately after the meeting, Primark committed to providing a further three months salary to all affected families as emergency relief.
The C&A set out a “substantial compensation initiative” for the victims of the Tazreen factory fire, mentioned the global trade union.
Clean Clothes Campaign's Ineke Zeldenrust said it would continue to put pressure on those brands who had not yet committed to immediately and actively engage in the negotiation process and commit to providing sufficient funds to meet the amounts needed to provide the workers and their families with the compensation they are entitled to under international standards.
Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh National Garment Workers Employees League, was optimistic about getting compensations.
“International brands will not be able to evade their responsibilities in regard to factory tragedies in Bangladesh as the whole world is watching," he told The Daily Star.
Md Abdul Hannan, Bangladesh's permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, attended the meeting.