* IndustriALL targets $74.6 mln fund for Rana Plaza
* Victims of Tazreen fire in November also under discussion
* Primark frustrated at delays, extends short-term aid
* Wal-Mart, Benetton, Mango did not attend
By Emma Thomasson
BERLIN, Sept 12 A group of retailers and
clothing brands failed on Thursday to establish compensation
funds for the victims of two Bangladesh factory disasters, as
many companies that sourced clothes from the buildings decided
not to take part in the process.
At talks chaired by the International Labour Organisation in
Geneva, the brands discussed setting up funds to compensate the
victims of both the Rana Plaza disaster in April, when an
eight-storey building collapsed, killing 1,129 people, and a
fire at the Tazreen factory in November 2012, which killed 112
The collapse of Rana Plaza, a factory built on swampy ground
about 20 miles outside Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka, ranks
among the world's worst industrial accidents and has galvanised
brands to try to improve safety standards at
But only nine out of the 28 brands being supplied from Rana
Plaza came to the Geneva meeting, with some of the absentees
saying they preferred to pursue their own compensation plans or
citing issues with the approach adopted at the talks.
The IndustriALL trade union, which coordinated the talks,
said the group that met on Thursday agreed to contribute to a
fund, but would meet again in the next two weeks to establish
such a fund, coordinating the process with parties including the
Bangladesh government and employers.
"It is difficult to understand why some brands are using any
excuse to try to avoid responsibility. The workers are waiting
for money and medical assistance," Monika Kemperle, assistant
general secretary of IndustriALL, told Reuters.
The Primark discount chain owned by Associated British Foods
, present at the meeting, also expressed frustration.
"The company remains concerned about the length of time it
is taking to agree a framework for long-term compensation. As a
result the company will now pay a second tranche of emergency
aid, lasting three months," Primark said in a statement.
It added it had created the first comprehensive database of
most of those in Rana Plaza at the time of the disaster,
registering details of 3,333 workers as part of its aid plan.
About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh's clothing
industry, making it the world's second-largest clothing exporter
behind China, but some of the workforce, which is mostly female,
earn as little as $38 a month. About 60 percent of garment
exports go to Europe and 23 percent to the United States.
The other brands at the talks that sourced from Rana Plaza
were Canada's Loblaw Cos Ltd, Bonmarche, Matalan and
Store Twenty One from Britain, Mascot of Denmark, Camaieu of
France, Kik of Germany and Spanish department store chain El
Corte Ingles. European retailer C&A and Germany's Karl Rieker
attended talks on Tazreen compensation on Wednesday.
LACK OF CLARITY?
Several retailers were criticised for staying away from the
talks, including U.S. group Wal-Mart, which sourced
garments from the factory hit by the fire, as well as Italian
clothing retailer Benetton and Spanish fashion chain
Benetton's chief executive Baigio Chiarolanza said many
companies had not joined the Geneva talks due to a "lack of
clarity" around objectives and a lack of involvement by several
"We decided to focus our efforts and resources in working
directly with those affected by the Rana Plaza disaster and
their families so that we can provide them with concrete help
while they need it the most," he said in a statement.
Mango did not attend because it did not have commercial
relations with factories at Rana Plaza, a spokeswoman said,
though the company has said it ordered test samples from one
supplier in the building.
Zara-owner Inditex, which had originally been
expected to attend, said it did not join the talks as it was not
supplied by either the Tazreen or Rana Plaza factories.
Asked about the talks, Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Gardner said
the world's biggest retailer was focused on investing its
resources in improving safety in factories, but did not comment
directly on compensation demands from victims.
Wal-Mart is part of a North American alliance launched after
Rana Plaza that seeks to improve worker safety at suppliers.
A European-led group, also brokered by IndustriALL but
separate from the compensation talks, is working on the same
issue, but retailers signing up to its accord accept a binding
arbitration process on safety issues, enforceable in the courts
of the country where a company is domiciled.
IndustriALL aims to set up long-term funds of $74.6 million
for Rana Plaza workers and $6.4 million for Tazreen, with 45
percent to be contributed by brands.
IndustriALL said the compensation plan it was working on was
based on a scheme it developed following other factory accidents
that takes into account loss of earnings, pain and suffering, as
well as medical costs, funeral costs and other family expenses.