Bangladesh factory tragedy orphans vent grief

SAVAR, BANGLADESH (TIP): Orphans who lost their parents when a garment factory complex collapsed in Bangladesh vented their grief and anger at leading western retailers on Thursday as the country marks 6 months of the disaster. Relatives of the 1,135 people who lost their lives when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed on April 24 also said they had still to receive any compensation for their loss as they rallied at the site of the tragedy. “We lost our parents for your work: Walmart, Carrefour, Benetton …,” read a banner held by a group of orphans, listing some of the retailers whose clothing was made at Rana Plaza before it collapsed. Although some retailers have promised to pay into a compensation fund, activists complained that money was not reaching those in need. “If you talk about legal compensation, none of the 3,629 workers working in the Rana Plaza at the time of the disaster has been paid a single cent,” said Roy Ramesh, Bangladesh head of the IndustriALL global union, which is negotiating with retailers for compensation.

“The government donated some money from its charity fund and British retailer Primark paid 30,000 taka ($375) to each of the victims,” he said, adding factory owners and the rest of the 28 retailers who were making clothing at the Rana Plaza factories have paid nothing. Rezaul Karim, 32, was one of the injured workers who joined the protest in front of the Rana Plaza ruins, demanding more money to treat his broken spinal cord and a monthly pension to maintain a decent life. “Since the collapse, I’ve got only the 30,000 taka given by Primark. I am now reduced to begging,” he said, clutching the hand of his eight-year-old son. “The government has paid for some of my treatment but more treatment is needed and it’ll cost a huge amount. “My son cannot go to school and there are days we don’t have enough food,” he said, adding he now depends on charity from relatives and neighbours. A report by British charity ActionAid published on the anniversary also highlighted a failure by the authorities and the retailers to compensate the Rana Plaza victims and their families. The charity surveyed 2,297 people — nearly two thirds of survivors and families of those who died — and found that 94 per cent reported they have not received any legal benefits from their employers since April, including sick pay or compensation. The Bangladesh government has paid some funds to 777 people — around a third of the victims and their family members — but no long-term compensation package has been agreed, it said.

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