As the dust continues to settle in the wake of the recent Bangladesh factory tragedy--debris is still being cleared, and the death toll, currently at 381, could rise to 1,000 once all workers are accounted for--retailers associated with the garment factories have announced plans to offer compensation to victims and victims' families.
A Primark rep told the Telegraph that the company will "pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier” which will "include the provision of long-term aid for children who have lost parents, financial aid for those injured and payments to the families of the deceased.”
Joe Fresh's parent company, Loblaw, will also be compensating those affected by the tragedy.
"Our priorities are helping the victims and their families, and driving change to help prevent similar incidents in the future,” Loblaw spokeswoman Julija Hunter told Globe & Mail, adding that they are still working out the details of the compensation.
Matalan, a U.K. retailer that also sourced out of one of the garment factories, announced this morning they "are working closely with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Export Association (BGMEA) and our local team in Bangladesh to provide financial and other support to help those affected."
The news comes on the heels of a petition, urging retailers Primark, Matalan, and Mango (strangely Joe Fresh is not named) to pay compensation and sign up to the Bangladesh fire and building safety agreement, garnered 64,664 signatures.
While retailers have agreed to offer compensation, none have so far signed the Bangladesh fire and building safety agreement, which would help prevent future tragedies from happening.
"While Primark has taken some responsibility, the retailer and the other companies involved must pay full compensation, including loss of earnings, sign the Bangladesh Fire and Safety Agreement and ensure such a disaster never happens again," Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, told the Telegraph.
Liana Foxvog, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum, praised Primark and Loblaw, noting that other Western retailers involved in similar tragedies have not offered compensation, or have only done so after considerable pressure from activists. For instance, the U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart, associated with the Tazreen factory fire, which killed 112, have yet to pay any compensation to victims.
After the Tazreen fire, Foxvog worked with local and international unions to develop a compensation model, which would entitle victims families to $36,000 (U.S.) each. While there's no word yet on how much Primark, Joe Fresh, or Matalan will give, Foxvog says she hopes they follow her model.
"It doesn’t seem like much. But in Bangladesh, it helps provide for a family where the minimum wage is $38 (U.S.) a month,” Ms. Foxvog said.“None of this compensation can obviously do anything to bring back the people who died … but at least the children of the workers who die are not starving.”
“Now we’re waiting for the U.S. brands and all the other European brands to follow suit,” Foxvog, who is still campaigning for compensation for the Tazreen factory victims, said.
So far, Mango and Benetton, also among the retailers associated with the collapsed building, have yet to announce compensation to victims.