February 20, 2015 / 6:40 PM / 5 years ago

Italy's Benetton to join fund for Rana Plaza victims

MILAN, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Italian fashion retailer Benetton will pay into a fund set up to compensate victims of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people, the company said on Friday.

Benetton’s decision to contribute to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund came following a petition organised by international advocacy group Avaaz and containing more than 1 million signatures calling for such action.

The Donors Trust Fund was set up to pool resources from a number of public institutions and private companies to compensate 5,000 people affected by the Rana Plaza disaster.

Benetton earlier said it did not want to take part in compensation funds among companies that sourced clothes from the factory due to a “lack of clarity” around objectives and a lack of involvement by key stakeholders.

But in a statement on Friday, Benetton said it was working with “an independent and globally recognised third party” to work out a “fair and proportionate” compensation.

It said it would announce how much it would pay into the fund before April 24, which will mark the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza’s collapse.

Known the world over for its colourful sweaters, Benetton said it had set up an aid programme one month after the disaster in May 2013 that had helped 280 victims and their families.

The Rana Plaza disaster, the world’s deadliest clothing factory accident, took the lives of 1,134 people and left 2,515 survivors.

In the years before the tragedy many clothing companies had moved into Bangladesh, attracted by the low cost base of the South Asian country, including cheap wages.

“We’re hopeful Benetton will make a significant contribution so the families of Rana Plaza workers aren’t left high and dry,” Avaaz campaign director Dalia Hashad said.

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, chaired by the United Nations’ International Labor Organisation (ILO), said on its website that it needed an overall $40 million to cover claims from victims and survivors.

The fund still needs $9 million to reach that amount.

“Honestly speaking I think a fair amount for Benetton would be the 9 million,” Avaaz spokesman Daniel Boese told Reuters. (Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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