Press Release: Rana Plaza compensation fund remains in crisis

Press Release: Rana Plaza compensation fund remains in crisis

For Immediate Release
Labour Behind the Label

24 April, 2015


Compensation fund remains in crisis as global day of action commemorates second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster

Today marks the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse, the most deadly disaster ever in the global garment industry. 1,134 people were killed and over 2500 injured as the 8-storey building housing 5 garment factories collapsed.

The fund to collect compensation, established by ILO in January 2014, is in crisis as the majority of brands continue to refuse to donate sufficient and meaningful amounts. Campaigners have consistently called for brands to pay based upon their profits, their relationship with Bangladesh and the extent of their relationship with Rana Plaza. Due to the voluntary nature of donating, many brands have made disappointing contributions. As a result, the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund continues to have a $4 million funding gap. The fund needs $30 million in total to ensure survivors and victims’ families receive the full and fair compensation they are entitled to.

There are reports of a last minute initiative, which has brought together brands in an effort to collectively seek a solution to the current funding crisis. The outcomes of this iniative are already being reported. Children’s Place announced today an additional contribution of $ 2 million to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund. The Children’s Place statement referenced that in an addition to their contribution, other major brands and retailers have also offered additional pledges towards the fund, totaling to $1 million. If these pledges prove to be confirmed donations, then the gap in the fund will have dropped to around $3 million.

Many survivors have had to use their entirety of their compensation payments to date on medical fees and are living in abject poverty, awaiting the final installments. To date, claimants have only received 70% of what they are owed.

“We welcome the news of this last minute initiative among brands. It offers the perfect opportunity to collectively solve this crisis”, says Sam Maher Policy Director with Labour Behind the Label. “Now there is no reason that these brands shouldn’t be able to imminently find a solution.”

Labour Behind the Label and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), trade union allies and partners have been persistently calling for brands sourcing from Bangladesh to pay into the compensation fund. For families and individuals the wait for compensation has had devastating effects, many have faced destitution and are unable to pay ongoing medical costs.

Asha Khat, who survived the disaster, was the main earner for her mother, father, and younger sister, and now the family is desperately struggling to get by. Asha has received compensation for her injuries, but says it’s only been enough to cover her medical costs. Two years after the collapse, Asha says she still can’t eat properly, and she feels pain in her head and chest. She is too weak to stand for long periods, so she no longer leaves the house. The two year wait for compensation has fueled Asha with despair: “I feel like I’m living like a dead person. It would’ve been better if I died, because now I’m a burden to my family.”

To mark the anniversary a global day of action has been taking place today as campaigners and trade unions worldwide call for all brands sourcing from Bangladesh to fill the current funding gap in compensation immediately, and to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Campaigners also hope that the global day of action can continue to help drive forward the need for wider systemic changes in the industry.

Actions have been taking place worldwide, including an alternative walking tour of Oxford Street in London held yesterday on the eve of the disaster, organized by Labour Behind the Label and War on Want. The ‘Rana Plaza 2 years on – long road to justice’ tour, supported by Fashion Revolution Day, TRAID, Traidcraft, Rainbow Collective, Unite the Union – London and Eastern, Brick Lane Debates, Potent Whisper and Tansy Hoskins, highlighted the role played by UK high street brands such as H&M, Gap and Benetton in denying and delaying justice to Bangladeshi garment workers. Wearing white armbands, a Bangladeshi sign of grieving, in remembrance of the 1,134 people who died in Rana Plaza, campaigners and tour attendees stood in solidarity with garment workers in Bangladesh and worldwide.

Other global actions include a mass demonstration held by trade unions and garment workers federations in Dhaka, a public art installation forming a concert of sewing machines in Genova, Italy, demonstrations outside stores including Mango, JC Penney, Zara, and Walmart in the US, and a flashmob outside stores in Berlin.

Sam Maher for Labour Behind the Label said: “It is unconscionable that now, two years on from the disaster, victims’ families and survivors have yet to receive justice through the form of compensation. These people, like Asha, who went through one of the worst experiences imaginable, are continuing to suffer. This ongoing and unnecessary wait for compensation has forced many to live in abject poverty. Why are these brands, the very brands the Rana Plaza victims were making clothes for, prolonging their suffering? These brands need to realize that the world will not forget Rana Plaza, its victims, and its survivors. The public demonstrations and range of events held on this global day of action are powerful proof of this.”

Ilona Kelly
Director of Campaigns, Labour Behind the Label
Tel: 07794271804

Ilana Winterstein
Director of Outreach and Communications, Labour Behind the Label
Tel: 07813097008


1. For further information on the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund see:

2. The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee (RPCC), set up in October 2013, was tasked with developing and overseeing the compensation process, known as the Arrangement. The RPCC includes representatives from the Bangladesh government, Bangladesh industry, global brands and retailers, Bangladeshi and international trade unions and Bangladeshi and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), with the ILO acting as the neutral chair. In the development of the Arrangement the brand representatives refused to set specific payment amounts for each company. For more information about the Arrangement and a full list of donors to the Fund see: www.ranaplaza-arrangement.org/

3. For more information about the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund and detailed information about company contributions, please see: www.cleanclothes.org/ranaplaza/compensating-the-victims-of-rana-plaza-resolving-the-funding-crisis

4. Link to a short film of the Oxford Street alternative walking tour action held on 23rd April 2015:

5. A brief summary of actions held today in Bangladesh:

At 10 AM on 24 April, 14 IndustriALL affiliated union federations will participate in a human chain at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
At 11 AM in Dhaka, a mass demonstration organised by NGWF will take place, with the participation of the Secretary General of the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council and leaders of 15 garment workers federations. Protestors are calling for the immediate payment of compensation to & rehabilitation of the Rana Plaza victims and the establishment of safe workplace in garment industry in Bangladesh.
In Ashulia and Savar on 24 April, Workers Safety Forum and BILS are organising a mass rally and procession near the Tazreen and Rana Plaza sites demanding safe workplaces and fair compensation for the Rana Plaza victims
BLAST is organising rallies and action on social media calling for full compensation payments and for changes to the national labour law.
Labour Behind the Label is the UK platform of the Clean Clothes Campaign. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) works to improve conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment industry. The CCC has national campaigns in 15 European countries with a network of 250 organisations worldwide.

Please see http://tracking.etapestry.com/t/29796035/1183091806/65863076/0/90567/ and http://tracking.etapestry.com/t/29796035/1183091806/65863077/0/90567/ for further information.

Press Release: Victims of Rana Plaza factory collapse to finally receive full compensation for loss of income and medical care

Press Release: Victims of Rana Plaza factory collapse to finally receive full compensation for loss of income and medical care

For Immediate Release, 08 June 2015
Victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse to finally receive full compensation for loss of income and medical care


Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund reaches its $30 million target

Labour Behind the Label is delighted to announce a major campaign victory with the confirmation that the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund has finally met its target of $30 million, following a large anonymous donation.

Labour Behind the Label, working with partners throughout the Clean Clothes Campaign, has been campaigning since immediately after the disaster in April 2013 to demand that brands and retailers provided compensation to its victims. Since then over one million consumers from across Europe and around the world have joined actions against many of the major high street companies whose products were being made in one of the five factories housed in the structurally compromised building. These actions forced many brands to finally pay donations and by the second anniversary the Fund was just $2.4 million dollars short of its $30 million target. A large donation received by the Fund in the last few days has now led to the Fund meeting its target.

“Finally, now that the Fund has received the required amount, all the families impacted by this disaster can begin to focus on rebuilding their lives. This is a momentous day,” said Sam Maher of Labour Behind the Label. “This campaign received so much support from across Europe and the world, with so many remaining thoroughly dedicated to this cause. This global support and action ensured that the victims of Rana Plaza were not forgotten.”

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund was set up by the ILO in January 2014 to collect funds to pay awards designed to cover loss of income and medical costs suffered by the Rana Plaza victims and their families when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in the garment industry’s worst ever disaster.

In November 2014, the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee announced that is would need around $30 million to pay in full over 5,000 awards granted through the scheme. However, the failure of brands and retailers linked to Rana Plaza to provide sufficient and timely donations into the Fund has, until today, prevented the payment of the awards from being completed.

Labour Behind the Label and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) will continue to support the Rana Plaza victims who are pursuing further payments in recognition of the pain and suffering inflicted upon them as a result of corporate and institutional negligence. These payments fall outside the scope of the Arrangement.

Labour Behind the Label joins with its partners in the CCC calling for policy changes to ensure that those affected by future disasters will receive more timely support. They welcome a new initiative by the ILO in Bangladesh to develop a national workplace injury scheme for the country’s 4 million garment workers. They also urge European politicians to develop better regulation of supply chains to ensure that brands and retailers are held properly accountable in the future.

“While this is a remarkable victory, the fact that it took over 2 years remains a travesty of justice and is an idictment of the the voluntary nature of social responsibility,” said Maher. “The brands connected to Rana Plaza earn a collective annual profit of over $20 billion. There is no excuse as to why it was so difficult to raise a mere $30 million in order to provide those with what they are owed for loss of income and medical costs. Let this be a lesson that we must develop new ways to ensure that access to remedy is provided by brands and retailers as a matter of course, rather than as an exception.”




Sam Maher
Policy Director, Labour Behind the Label
Tel: +44 7517 516943

Ilana Winterstein
Director of Outreach and Communications, Labour Behind the Label

Blog: Why I won’t be boycotting Primark

The recent events in Bangladesh have filled the media with horrific pictures of human tragedy: mothers mourning their lost children, rescue workers covered in dust unearthing more bodies, death and grief mounting under piles of rubble and boxes of unworn clothes.

Amongst a growing inbox of heart-wrenching testimony and photos from workers and rescuers on the scene, there is one image in particular that is seared into my mind. That of a man, dust covered and dead, hugging a woman who lies limp in his arms. I cannot help but wonder, again and again, at what point did he reach over to hug, protect and comfort her? When did they realise they were both going to die? What were their final words to each other? Did they even know each other or did the terror of a collapsing building bring them together?

Pictures like these should not exist. Not for the price of a cheap pair of jeans or a £2 t-shirt that can be worn a few times and thrown away. Not ever.

The sad fact that sweatshop factories are an ongoing problem, and one that Labour Behind the Label have been campaigning against for years, does not change the shock many people feel at the events of last week. This image, along with the hundreds of others that tell of lives destroyed in the building collapse, has brought to the fore questions over what we, as consumers, can and should do.

In the past few days many people have asked me ”where’s OK to shop now?”, assuming that boycotts are the solution. Wanting to put a dent in the pockets of major brands is an understandable response to the tragedy. However, we urge people not to boycott the brands involved. Instead put the workers at the centre of the issue, and ensure their rights are respected. In response to a boycott, brands may cut production or pull out of factories. This would lead to the loss of jobs, garment workers struggling to feed their families and being unable to send their children to school.

The Rana Plaza tragedy is not an isolated incident. The problems are endemic and widespread in the garment and fashion industry, and all too often brands pay lip service to change without putting the finance and provisions in place to ensure it happens.

Countries such as Bangladesh rely on an expanding garment trade. Boycotting may result in a quick-fix solution by brands who will simply pull out of the country, whereas what is needed is a commitment to long-term, actual and lasting change.

We want brands to work with unions on the ground and to listen to the opinions of those who know the conditions best – the workers themselves. Brands need to commit to improving building safety, working conditions and to ensuring workers are paid a living wage. As consumers, our role must be to push this change by asking relevant questions of the companies whose clothes we wear and by lobbying for change. Pressuring brands such as Primark to sign up to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, which importantly places workers and local unions in a central role, can make a real difference to the lives of workers. As a consumer you have power beyond simply where you put your money. You have a voice.

Recent campaign successes, such as the 2,800 Indonesian workers from the PT Kizone factory who won a landmark settlement against Adidas, illustrate the power inherent when workers, unions and consumers worldwide unite. By signing petitions and writing to brand CEOs, you can make a positive impact by pressuring them to respect their workers rights.

Because we owe them. Not only for the cheap clothes we wear, but also because we are still here while they are not. We will go on fighting to ensure that never again should global brands deny their responsibilities until it is too late, and never again should they put profit over people. The death of the dust-covered man and woman who lost their lives in each others arms last week was tragically preventable. As have been the hundreds of other people who have died in factories such as Rana Plaza over the last decade. For them we will go on fighting. Never again should people risk their lives for the price of a cheap t-shirt.


By Ilana Winterstein.

First published in the Huffington Post, 2013

Blog: 19 year old Frida Ottesen visits Cambodia to report on sweatshop conditions

Just two years ago, when I was 17 years old, I was busy with my everyday life, and less concerned with what happened outside Norway.   I took little interest is politics, ethics, or solidarity campaigns. I spent most of my time thinking about school, friends, clothes and how I would spend my free time, instead of thinking about how lucky and privileged I really am. Perhaps this attitude resonates with a lot of us among the Norwegian youth?

On 24th April 2013,  the Rana Plaza building collapsed. A nine-storey building that housed several textile factories where nearly 4,000 workers worked. The so-called accident is the deadliest in the history of garment production. I don’t recall taking notice of this tragedy at the time.  It wasn’t until the following year – after I returned home from the production of “Sweatshop” in Cambodia and I attended a Rana Plaza anniversary street action with Future In Our Hands and the Clean Clothes Campaign – that I realized how serious and inhuman this disaster had been.

At least 1,134 people died and several thousand were injured. The day before the accident garment workers discovered cracks in the walls of the Rana Plaza building. All workers in the building were evacuated from the workplace, but the next day the workers were ordered back to work due to strong time pressure on deliveries to Western brands. That day the building collapsed. The world stood still, and when people finally managed to breathe again, people had been killed and injured, and many more had been left behind – some of them orphaned.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, victims and survivors suffer both mentally and financially. All those affected by the tragedy continue to wait for full and fair compensation from the brands sourcing from the Rana Plaza factories. The waiting for compensation must appear endless for victims.  The compensation fund can receive voluntary contributions from anyone, including the buyers, governments, associations, and even individuals.  Despite this, the horrific fact remains: the fund still has not received the full amount it needs to provide full and fair compensation to the Rana Plaza survivors and victims’s families.   Some of the brands with direct links to Rana Plaza have not paid anything into the compensation fund.

In February last year, I went to Cambodia with Anniken, Ludvig, a film crew and the solidarity organization Future In Our Hands. In cooperation with the newspaper Aftenposten, we created a web series, which shows the conditions in the textile industry. The result was “Sweatshop – Dead Cheap Fashion“, a series that raised awareness, provoked, influenced and engaged an incredible number of people, including young people. On this journey I got to experience and witness injustice first hand. I experienced with body and mind what it’s like to live as a garment worker, and I heard directly disturbing stories of many workers.

One day during our trip, Anniken, Ludvig and I went to work in a garment factory. This was a small home business, in which the working conditions were probably far better than at the larger factories. Here we sat for 8 hours and sewed, the same seam over and over again. The day before we had spent with Sokty, one garment worker, who invited us to sleep in her house – a small room about 5 square meters. We slept on the floor. In the morning, we left directly for work without eating breakfast. During the day I spent as a seamstress, I felt the exhaustion, hunger, tiredness and disappointment of having worked for 8 hours and only earned $3 USD. As a garment worker this is the only money I have to survive on. On $3, I need to pay for food for myself and my family. I am responsible for providing money to my parents, and paying for my house, electricity, transport, and clothes.  I must also reserve some of my salary for savings in case of an emergency, like if someone in my family gets sick or needs a doctor.  A few dollars a day is NOT enough!! These are people, like you, and me, and they produce the clothes we wear! Their situation should be much better! It is not human to have to go to work, be treated as a slave, and earn a pittance.


The documentary web series “Sweatshop” did help to raise awareness around the world about the terrible working conditions in the garment industry. Do we see the emergence of a revolution? Some efforts have been made to improve the textile industry, but these efforts haven’t gone far enough. There are many actors in power that need to act if we are to see any of the necessary changes happen. First and foremost, the major brands bear a huge part of the responsibility. Most brands have their production in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and China. However, often times these brands refuse to share details about the factories where the production takes place, keeping secret as much information as possible.  We consumers want to buy clothes from brands that seem credible and it is incredibly important that all companies disclose their supplier list. Transparency is a good thing as it helps to ensure that brands are more responsible and accountable for the factories and workers that produce their clothes.

It is easy to believe that all the responsibility lies with the brands.  But, in fact we all have a responsibility.  While the authorities in producing countries also have a huge responsibility, we, as consumers, also hold much power. The multinational companies provide clothes to fulfill our needs, so if we all step up and say “This is not okay!” we can push the brands to change!

The two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse is only days away.  It is important that we continue to engage and create awareness throughout society. A fierce dedication for change is necessary.  Without it, this wretched industry will continue as it has done for decades. Never before has it been as easy to spread the word about important issues like the urgent need to improve the working conditions of garment workers.  Use social media! Participate in campaigns and encourage people you know to get involved.  Share reports and articles.  Pass on compelling photos and videos. Post Facebook messages to immoral and unethical brands, demanding that they respect garment workers human rights.  We must raise our voices!  We must push brands, factory owners and governments to take responsibility for garment workers human rights so that they can go to safe work places. I urge you to spread awareness about the Rana Plaza tragedy and call upon brands to contribute full and fair compensation to the victims and their families!

Millions of workers around the world are working themselves half to death in unsafe factories and are starving, because we, the consumers, “need” nice and cheap clothes, while the brand owners seek maximal profit. Is this the way we want it to be?  If not, let’s change it.


By Frida Ottesen, 19 years

Watch Sweatshop, the documentary web series Frida stars in, here.