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Compensation agreed for victims of Pakistan factory fire

Compensation agreed for victims of Pakistan factory fire

After four years of campaigning and months of negotiations, an agreement has been reached to pay more than US$5 million in compensation to the survivors and families of workers killed in Pakistan’s worst industrial accident.

On 11 September 2012, more than 250 workers lost their lives and over 50 were injured in a fire at the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi.  Workers burnt to death trapped behind barred windows and locked doors. Others jumped for their lives from the upper floors, sustaining permanent disabilities.

German retailer KiK, Ali Enterprises’ only known buyer, has now agreed to pay an additional US$5.15 million to fund loss of earnings, medical and allied care, and rehabilitation costs to the injured survivors and dependents of those killed in the disaster.

It is a day of respite for the victims’ families as their cries have been heard. We know that our nearest and dearest will never come back, but we hope that this kind of tragedy will never ever happen again. The government, brands and factory owners must seriously observe labour and safety standards in factories.

 

Saeeda Khatoon, a widow and vice president of Ali Enterprise Factory Fire Affectees Association, who lost her only son in the fire.

 

Previously KiK paid US$1 million to a relief fund. However, it has taken joint campaigning by the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), PILER, IndustriALL Global Union, to which NTUF is affiliated, Clean Clothes Campaign (represented in the UK by Labour Behind the Label) and other allies including UNI Global Union, to secure proper compensation.

The new funding Arrangement follows negotiations facilitated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) between IndustriALL, CCC, and KiK, at the request of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The Arrangement is intended to supplement payments due to victims by public social security schemes in Pakistan to meet compensation levels required by ILO Employment Injury Benefits Convention 121. Additional periodical payments to victims are expected to begin in early 2017.

This historic agreement is unprecedented in the context of Pakistan’s labour movement. After four years of struggle the victims of this tragedy get justice and their pain and suffering are acknowledged internationally. We are thankful to IndustriALL and CCC who represented the workers’ case successfully. The ILO has also played a vital role to make this landmark agreement possible. Let it remind us that safety in the workplace is a right, not a privilege.

 

Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan

 

Just weeks before the fatal fire, Ali Enterprises received SA 8000 certification from the auditing firm Social Accountability International, meaning it had purportedly met international standards in nine areas, including health and safety. The ensuing tragedy underlines the failure of social auditing models and raises serious concerns about the standard of safety inspections in Pakistan as well as the implementation of labour laws and building safety codes.

Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign stated: “We very much welcome KIK’s recognition of its duty to provide remedy. This Arrangement is an excellent example of how buyers can and should take responsibility for workplace related deaths and injuries in their supply chain, especially in countries where workplaces are known to be unsafe. Garment workers in Pakistan continue to be at risk. All buyers must now focus on ensuring that proper and effective due diligence and remediation measures are put in place in order to prevent terrible incidents like these in the future.”

The Arrangement is the third in a line of compensation agreements negotiated by the labour movement following large-scale disasters in the garment industry at Tazreen fashions in 2012 and Rana Plaza in 2013, both in Bangladesh.

Summary of compensation agreement

  • The US$5.15 million to be funded by KiK will include a US$250,000 margin for a fluctuation in costs, meaning that US$4.9 million will go to the affected families and survivors.
  •    The implementation, administration and governance of the Arrangement will be developed in a process facilitated by the ILO. It will involve close consultation with relevant constituents and stakeholders, as well as a supervisory role for the Sindh High Court.
  •     In total, the Arrangement will provide US$6.6 million for the compensation process, with US$5.9 being provided by KiK and US$700,000 being funded by Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI).
  •     Claimants will be paid a monthly pension. The amount will differ according to the individual’s financial situation and number of dependents.
  •     The pensions will be not at living wage levels, as the international standards for workplace injury are based on actual wages earned. In the Ali Enterprises Arrangement however the proxy used for the actual earned wages is generous and pensions are indexed to meet the inflation rate.
  •     The Arrangement does not cover damages for pain and suffering.
Report: Rana Plaza Three Years On: Compensation, Justice and Workers’ Safety

Report: Rana Plaza Three Years On: Compensation, Justice and Workers’ Safety

Report: Rana Plaza Three Years On

Compensation, Justice and Workers’ Safety

On the eve of the third year anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy a new report has been published by the Clean Clothes Campaign and the International Labor Rights forum. The report provides an update on the key developments and outcomes of the three main areas of focus following the collapse: the Rana Plaza Arrangement; the Bangladesh Fire and Building safety Accord and to improve the legal climate regarding Freedom of Association.

Download the report >> here.

Published in 2016.

Join the global day of action to remember Rana Plaza, 24th April 2015

Join the global day of action to remember Rana Plaza, 24th April 2015

The 24th April 2015 will be the two year anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse, the deadliest disaster in the history of the global garment industry. Join this global day of action, uniting with people worldwide to demand justice for the victims, to hold brands and retailers accountable and to ensure that vital and lasting changes are made in the global apparel industry.

 

Why we must act
On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, housing five garment factories, came crashing down. At least 1,134 people lost their lives. Many were killed instantly. Many more were buried alive under eight stories of concrete and machinery, among the remains of the garments that they were producing for global corporations. Thousands were injured and severely traumatized. Some people were forced to amputate their own limbs in order to escape this concrete grave.

 

In the days and weeks immediately following the Rana Plaza disaster, the world united in pledging support for the survivors and victims’ families. Governments, apparel brands, and the public called for urgent change to the industry. Unfortunately, change has been slow in coming, and many initial promises made have since eroded.

 

Action remains urgently needed and necessary. Some multinational brands are still refusing to pay what they owe in compensation. This is unacceptable.

 

Join us! It’s easy.
Here’s how:

  • Download the action menu for a full list of things to do
  • Commit to taking action on, or in advance of, April 24, 2015, by signing up to this facebook event.
  • Check if there is a demonstration already happening near you on this map. If there isn’t one that you can join, find a Benetton or Asda store near you, and plan a demonstration for April 24th with some friends. Add it to the map!
  • If you only have a few minutes, post a solidarity message on facebook or twitter such as: ‘No one should die for the price of cheap t-shirt. Remember #RanaPlaza.’ or ‘Cheap Ts cost lives. Remember #RanaPlaza. #Solidarity’
  • Set a reminder on your phone to hold a minute of silence on 24 April, at 11.34 to remember the 1134 people who died two years ago


What we want

On the Global Day of Action (April 24th), and leading up to then, join us to call for industry reforms, demanding that people are put above profit, and safeguarding workers’ welfare and livelihoods.

 

IMMEDIATE DEMANDS:

  • We demand that Rana Plaza survivors and victims’ families receive the full compensation they are entitled to.
  • We demand all apparel brands and retailers doing business in Bangladesh sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

 

LONG-TERM DEMANDS:

  • We demand transparency and due diligence.
  • We demand accountability and access to justice.
  • We demand freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.

 

There must never be another Rana Plaza. The only way to ensure this is to thread these principles through the foundations of the industry.

 

Together we will continue to remember the victims who died for the price of the cheap clothes we wear. Together we must secure justice for their families through full compensation. Together we can reform the industry so that all garment workers are afforded a safe and dignified life.

April 2015.

Rana Plaza survivor and others arrested at Children’s Place headquarters

Rana Plaza survivor and others arrested at Children’s Place headquarters

Nearly 30 demonstrators, including a survivor of the Rana Plaza building collapse, were arrested (12.3.15) after organizing a peaceful protest at Children’s Place headquarters in New Jersey. The protestors were there to ask the company to pay compensation to victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry.

 

Children’s Place was one of the major brands sourcing from Rana Plaza at the time that it collapsed, killing 1,138 workers and injuring another 2,500. 18-year-old Mahinur Begum, a former garment worker who was nearly killed in the collapse, was at Children’s Place to demand full and fair compensation for herself and her coworkers.

 

Rather than listen to this brave survivor and her colleagues, Children’s Place called police and had the peaceful demonstrators arrested. It is the latest callous act from a company that has refused to take responsibility for the deplorable human rights violations occurring in its supply chain. It has contributed a mere $450,000 to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, 15 times less than what companies of similar size and level of purchasing from Rana Plaza have paid into the fund. The $8 million demonstrators asked Children’s Place to contribute is half the salary CEO Jane Elfers earned in 2012.

 

Children’s Place’s continued refusal to pay the $8 million it owes Rana Plaza victims is corporate greed, plain and simple. And now it’s trying to silence criticism rather than do the right thing for Mahinur and her coworkers.

 

Your support is vital to call for Children’s Place’s to pay the $8 million it owes Rana Plaza victim. Please sign the petition here.

No justice in sight: 18 months from Rana Plaza

No justice in sight: 18 months from Rana Plaza

Labour Behind the Label has been meeting survivors and families of victims of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh this week and is shocked and deeply saddened by the number of people who, 18 months on, are unable to find work or rebuild their lives.

 

Factory owners are turning ex Rana Plaza workers away, judging them as too ‘damaged’ and too much of a risk to take on,” says Samantha Maher, of Labour Behind the Label, who has been in Bangladesh this month, “it is shocking to see how defeated so many people are, especially in comparison to the other workers we met.”

 

In the aftermath of the terrible collapse in April 2013, much has been done to prevent another disaster and for those who were not working in one of the five factories in Rana Plaza the measures being introduced through the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Safety offer the hope of a safer future.

 

However, for more than 2,000 women and men who survived the collapse, compensation has not been forthcoming and 18 months after the collapse the compensation fund still needs US$20 million. The current shortfall is being blamed on the failure of leading brands like Benetton, who were sourcing from the factory, to make even an initial payment into the Trust Fund.

 

The significance of not receiving full payments can be felt most keenly when talking to young women who are head of households. Alongside the physical and emotional damages suffered they have no financial security.

 

Women like 18 year old Mahinu Akter, who just two days before the collapse of Rana Plaza, became the sole earner in her family when her father was killed in a bus accident. Mahinu, had been working at Rana Plaza since she was 14, to help support her mother and two brothers. Mahinu has only received just 95,000 taka or £770 in compensation.

 

Mahinu sustained head injuries, and lost a toe in the collapse. She spent 20 days in hospital. Once she was released she was in bed for a month and couldn’t eat. Even now she struggles to eat and has lost her appetite. She suffers from pains in her feet, swollen legs, memory loss and constant headaches.

 

The fact that the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund has only been able to provide 40% of the compensation payments due to Mahinu and others like her – due to big brands not paying what they owe – means that, for most, making long term plans are impossible.

 

In many cases the fact that full compensation cannot be made is having a serious impact on the usefulness of these payments. Receiving money in small amounts means that for people already living in dire financial straits they have no choice but to use it for daily life, instead of saving it or investing in a new business or land to ensure they will manage in the long run,” adds Sam Maher.

 

Benetton said in the aftermath of the collapse that it was committed to “working directly with those affected by the Rana Plaza disaster” however by failing to commit to the ILO managed Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund, they have failed the women and men they relied on to make their profits.

 

Instead of receiving the compensation they are entitled to, young women like Mahinu remain at the mercy of charitable donations, which can be unpredictable and inconsistent and leaves those unable to find work in a cycle of poverty.

 

Mahinu, as with so many others, sees little chance that brands, like Benetton, will pay up, “It doesn’t matter what we think about compensation, we know they will never give it to us,” she says.