Walmart, Sears, Children’s Place, and other American retailers that sold goods produced at Tazreen, a factory that caught fire and killed more than 100 people last year, and Rana Plaza, the factory that collapsed in April and killed 1,132 people, are refusing to contribute to the efforts to create compensation funds for the families of the victims and other injured workers, reports Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times.
Walmart has been asked to contribute to both funds given that documents showed that more than half of the Tazreen factory’s production was made for its contractors and others showed that a Canadian contractor was producing goods for it at Rana Plaza. The company says that they were producing garments without its knowledge. Sears similarly had an unauthorized contractor producing clothes for it in Tazreen and the Children’s Place had goods produced in Rana Plaza. Walmart and Sears confirmed for Greenhouse that they didn’t intend to contribute and Children’s Place didn’t comment.
The International Labor Organization is working to set up the funds with the country’s officials, labor groups, and retailers that include Primark, C&A, Benetton, Loblaw (owner of Joe Fresh), and El Corte Ingles. The fund would assist the families of those who died as well as the more than 1,800 workers who were injured with as much as $70 million, one of the largest funds in history.
Supporters say such funds are necessary to pay for medical care for the injured workers and to provide income to the families of those who died or are no longer able to work. That can help prevent children from quitting school and going to work. Such a fund was established after 29 workers died in the Hameem factory in 2010 with contributions from the Gap, J.C. Penney, and Target.
While the details get worked out, Rana Plaza victims and family members are still waiting on compensation. More than 2,500 injured workers and 4,000 families affected by the collapse still haven’t received the full payments that they were promised by either the Bangladeshi government or the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, which represents companies that operated in the factory. Workers have protested the lack of compensation in the streets, only to be met with police violence.
The lack of compensation isn’t the only broken promise that has been made to the country’s garment workers after the tragedy. The government promised to raise the minimum wage, but the hike it put forward would still leave the workers the worst-paid in the world and fall far short of what they had been demanding. It also eased their ability to form unions but they have been met with violence, threats, and bribes when they try to organize. Workers have protested for higher wages and better working conditions but have been met with increasing violence, with two protesters shot to death last week.
Retailers also promised to upgrade factory safety, with 70 signing on to a legally binding plan and American retailers putting forward their own with less accountability. Yet neither plan has yet to result in inspections, although retailers have conducted some on their own. Walmart’s preliminary inspections found that more than 15 percent couldn’t pass a basic safety test, while other inspections from university engineers found that three-fifths are vulnerable to collapse.