Bangladesh: Wal-Mart, other retailers, sued over factory collapse

The Rana Plaza factory was reduced to slabs of concrete due to poor construction and lack of oversight.

Two years after the 2013 factory collapse in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, that killed more than 1100 people, the victims' families filed a lawsuit in a US federal court on April 24. It targets Wal-Mart Stores Inc and other US-based companies that sourced their products from the Rana factory.

The plaintiffs claim the retailers knew “that Bangladesh factories had an extremely poor record of workplace safety standards and industrial building standards, including garment factories”.

The Rana Plaza, a factory where cheap clothing was produced for big Western companies, was reduced to slabs of concrete due to poor construction and lack of oversight. Therefore, many rights groups believe that the companies that used the factory for their supplies were responsible for the tragedy.

The plaintiffs allege that the Bangladeshi government and the global retail companies that did business in the factory were responsible for the collapse of the building. They say the companies knew the poor condition of the building, yet failed to ensure the safety of the employees by demanding better oversight.

The government, on the other hand, failed to require employers to abide by safety regulations. The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund was put together weeks after the collapse of the factory. It is administrated by the International Labour Organisation, activists, families of victims, several Bangladeshi officials and other campaigners.

It demanded the companies connected to the factory voluntarily pay compensation to the victims' families.

At an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting in June last year, ministers from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Britain signed a statement recommending that “companies that sourced in Rana Plaza donate generously to the Trust Fund”. They did not specify any amount, but said the figure should be “appropriate”.

However, campaigners say that many companies, while claiming they would pay, have not yet provided any money. “Companies have either made donations smaller than the amount required, or have failed to make any contribution at all,” the OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Committee said in a recent briefing.

On April 24, many workers and activists took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of the tragedy and demand that the government, as well as the international companies, fulfil their duty in ensuring the safety of the workers and in compensating the victims’ families.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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