Primark Almost Alone in Giving Aid to Bangladesh Victims

Clothing retailers that sold garments made at the collapsed Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh failed to reach agreement on compensation after talks yesterday, with Primark saying it will pay more short-term aid.

Of 29 brands that were invited to yesterday’s meeting in Geneva, only nine attended, the IndustriALL Global Union said in a statement. One of the absentees, Benetton Group SpA, said the meeting wouldn’t provide a framework to address compensation.

More than 1,000 people were killed in April’s collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, Bangladesh’s worst industrial accident. Yesterday’s meeting came a day after representatives of retailers, labor unions and non-governmental organizations met to discuss compensation for those affected by a November fire at the Tazreen factory, in which at least 112 people died.

“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,” Monika Kemperle, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, said in an e-mailed statement. “I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.”

IndustriALL said it, along with the Workers Rights Consortium and Clean Clothes Campaign, proposed a model for compensation to pay for pain, suffering and loss of income. The amount needed for the Rana Plaza victims would be about $74.6 million, it said, adding that clothing brands have been asked to contribute $33.6 million of that amount.

Food Aid

Primark, a unit of Associated British Foods Plc, said it will pay salaries to all the factory’s workers and their families for three months, declining to disclose the amount. That follows earlier payments and food aid of about $1 million to victims and their families. The retailer has registered the details of 3,333 workers as part of the program.

“The company remains concerned about the length of time it is taking to agree a framework for long-term compensation,” Primark said in a statement late yesterday.

Benetton, which joined a safety initiative called Bangladesh Fire & Building Safety Accord earlier this year, said it participated in discussions over the last two months that were “aimed at setting forth a multi-stakeholder framework” to address compensation.

Most companies felt that this week’s meeting wouldn’t provide such a structure “mainly due to lack of clarity around the objectives as well as the nearly complete the lack of involvement allowed to several key stakeholders,” Benetton Chief Executive Officer Biagio Chiarolanza said in a statement.

Also yesterday, C&A Group said it had allocated 1 million euros ($1.3 million) in total to support the long-term needs of victims of the Tazreen blaze.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.