By International Labor Rights Forum
The horrific catastrophes at Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza exposed the callous indifference of the US brands and retailers that sourced from these factories and the systemic failure of the garment industry to ensure worker safety in Bangladesh. It's been more than four months since the Rana building collapse of April 24th, 2013 and nine months since the Tazreen fire of November 24th, 2012, but injured workers and the surviving families of the deceased have yet to receive even a cent of compensation from the US brands and retailers whose clothing they and their loved ones risked their lives to make.
Today and tomorrow, September 11th and 12th, IndustriALL Global Union is hosting negotiations in Geneva between clothing companies and Bangladeshi unions to ensure that full and proper redress reaches injured workers and the families of the deceased. These meetings follow earlier negotiations in April that were called in response to the Tazreen fire. There, major European retailers agreed to contribute towards a $5.7 million compensation plan for the fire's victims. None of the US retailers whose clothing was produced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have paid any sort compensation to victims or participated in compensation negotiations. This includes Walmart, whose products accounted for 40% of the clothing being produced at Tazreen at the time of the fire and Children's Place, whose failure to ensure safe working conditions at Rana Plaza has left hundreds of children without their mothers or fathers. For the sake of the workers and families who are struggling in the wake of injuries and untimely deaths, we hold onto the hope that these companies will develop a conscience and adopt the industry standard compensation plan put forth by IndustriALL.
While we have hope, we also have the power of action. On September 6th, activists including Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and members of United Students Against Sweatshops, protested at a Children’s Place store in Manhattan, calling for the company to pay compensation to victims and sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Through actions like this, we will continue to tell US apparel companies that we will not let them dodge their responsibility for protecting workers' rights, ensuring safe working conditions, and compensating the victims of blatant misconduct, negligence, and corporate greed in their supply chains.