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Asia-pacific

Primark to compensate Bangladesh factory victims

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-04-30

British discount retailer Primark annouced on Monday it would provide compensation for families of victimes of the garment factory that collapsed in Bangladesh, killing nearly 400 people.

British high-street giant Primark and Canadian retailer Loblaw have promised to compensate the families of workers who died in the garment factory complex that collapsed killing nearly 400 people in Bangladesh.

Primark acknowledged on Monday that it was using the factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The popular retailer said in a statement that it is providing emergency aid and will pay compensation to victims who worked for its supplier.

Responsibility

Owner of collapsed building in Bangladesh arrested

“Primark notes the fact that its supplier shared the building with those of other retailers. We are fully aware of our responsibility. We urge these other retailers to come forward and offer assistance,” it said.

Dorothée Kellou, head of the Amsterdam-based NGO Clean Clothes Campaign, says the compensation is a step forward. “We’re not celebrating a victory yet,” she told FRANCE 24. “But it’s an encouraging first step.” They believe it is the international companies’ responsibility to provide a safe working environment for its workers, even abroad.

On Monday, representatives of about 45 international companies including Gap Inc, H&M, Inditex, JC Penny, Marks & Spencer, Nike Inc, Primark, Tesco, Wal-Mart and Li & Fung met officials from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to discuss a new safety plan.

Disaster sparked protests

The disaster sparked violent clashes in Bangladesh on Friday as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at furious demonstrators who attacked factories and smashed vehicles near the capital Dhaka. Protestors also blockaded roads and forced factories at Gazipur, just outside Dhaka, to close for the day.

The companies are not only facing fury in Bangladesh, but sharp criticism in their home markets for doing too little to safeguard the mostly female workers making their clothes. Last Thursday, demonstrators protested outside the Gap’s headquarters in San Francisco, demanding the clothing giant improve working conditions in their manufacturing facilities in Bangladesh.

Some foreign buyers have said that whilst they can make efforts to ensure decent working conditions, it is up to the authorities to enforce building safety standards.

"There is a law, but due to lack of implementation and severe manpower shortages such unlawful buildings are being constructed," said Roger Hubert, vice president of global trading company Li & Fung. "They have substandard building plans, lack of fire safety, and other compliance issues," he added.

80 arrests

Eight people have been arrested - four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.

Meanwhile, rescue officials in Bangladesh said on Tuesday they had given up hope of finding more survivors from the collapsed factory complex, as the government came under pressure to do more to enforce building safety standards.

At least 390 people have been confirmed dead in what is just the latest incident to raise serious questions about worker safety - and low wages - in the poor South Asian country that relies on garment manufacturing for 80 percent of its exports.

Officials in Bangladesh have said the eight-storey complex had been built on swampy ground without the correct permits.

Third major accident

The collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world behind China. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in a suburb of Dhaka killed 112 people.

The industry employs about 3.6 million people in Bangladesh, most of them women, some of whom earn as little as $38 a month.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, said it was sending a high-level mission to Bangladesh in coming days.

"Horror and regret must translate into firm action," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement. "Action now can prevent further tragedy."

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

Date created : 2013-04-30

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