The 4,000 families affected by the Bangladeshi factory collapse in April in Rana Plaza that killed 1,132 people and injured more than 2,500 have not received the full payments they were promised as compensation, according to a report by the Huffington Post’s Emran Hossain. About 350 survivors and family members of those who lost their lives have received between $1,200 and $2,500 from the prime minister’s relief fund, which labor activists say is little compared to the lives lost. Other funds have yet to send out any money. For many, the factory jobs were their sole source of income.
In the aftermath of the collapse, the government and an industry trade group pledged compensation for the victims and their families. The Bangladeshi government said it would pay injured workers and the family members of the deceased $1,200 in cash, $19,236 in savings certificates, and $1,200 in life insurance benefits. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which represents companies that operated in the factory, said it would collect $320 from each of its 5,000 members to contribute to the prime minister’s fund that assists people after disasters. It also said it would pay all workers for the next three months and send those in need of serious medical assistance abroad.
While the association told Hossain that it had paid the wages workers earned the month before the collapse, labor activists say that money has only gone to survivors and not the family members of the deceased. No one has seen the three-month sum. The money from the prime minister’s fund has also only been distributed to those who are able to get to the prime minister’s office in Dhaka and not to those who can’t manage the trip, the activists say.
The president of the industry association, SM Mannan Kochi, told the Huffington Post that the member businesses that owned factories at Rana Plaza can’t afford the compensation originally promised. “The collapse has ruined everything they had,” he said. “How will they pay the compensation?” He said the organization plans to raise funds from other sources than members instead.
Hossain describes one story, of a young girl named Nuresta who lost both of her parents in the collapse and is now living with her maternal grandparents. While her paternal grandparents received $2,500 from the prime minister’s fund for the death of her father, she and her maternal grandparents will face a steep challenge in being compensated for the death of her mother, whose body was never found. They must first prove that she lost her mother in the disaster.
Garment workers have recently taken to the streets to protest the lack of compensation. About 300 workers gathered on Monday and blocked traffic on a highway to demand they be paid after a similar protest on Sunday. In both instances, police used batons to beat back and try to disperse the crowd.
Workers have also been protesting to demand higher wages and better working conditions, which continued in Gazipur on Tuesday. Those protests have resulted in violent clashes between workers and police. Thirty-three were injured in Tuesday’s protests. After 20,000 people took to the streets in May, they were met with tear gas and rubber bullets.
The factory collapse prompted the Bangladeshi government to raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to form unions. While the law easing the ability to organize has passed, a raise in the wage has yet to happen.
It also prompted international calls for safety upgrades in the factory. The official cause of the collapse was shoddy building materials and illegal construction, and a majority of Bangladesh’s garment factories are similarly at risk of collapse. While 70 retailers have signed a legally binding plan to upgrade the country’s factories, mostly European companies such as H&M but also American companies like Abercrombie & Fitch, 17 American brands led by Walmart and Gap have announced their own, less binding proposal.