independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Retail sector in spotlight after building collapse

Workers watch as a crane lowers the ceiling of the garment factory building which collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP)
Workers watch as a crane lowers the ceiling of the garment factory building which collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP)

The international retail sector came under the spotlight after a factory collapse in Bangladesh killed 1,100 people. The Rana Plaza building was used to produce clothing for a number of companies, including Dublin-headquartered Primark, which is owned by Associated British Foods.

Aside from the deaths at the factory, another 2,500 people were injured, many of them so severely that they will never be able to work again in one of the world's poorest countries. There were immediate calls to improve conditions for people working in Bangladesh's garment industry, one of the most important sectors for its economy.

But in September, global trade union IndustriALL convened a meeting in Switzerland with some of the globe's biggest retailers to negotiate a $76m (€55m) long-term compensation fund for the families of people killed in the Bangladesh disaster, as well as those who were injured. Representatives from only nine of the 23 brands that had been produced at Rana Plaza turned up. Those that didn't included Benetton and Wal-Mart.

Primark criticised other retailers for not doing enough to help the affected families of the collapse. By October, Primark said it had provided close to €2m worth of financial and other assistance to affected families. It also planned to start paying long-term compensation to 550 victims, or their dependents, of the firm that was producing clothing for Primark in the factory at the time.

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