Bangladesh Factory Victim Compensation Talks Start in Geneva

Collapsed building in Bangladesh | Source: Associated Press

GENEVA, Switzerland — A meeting of retailers, labor unions and non-governmental organizations starts today in Geneva to discuss compensation for those killed and injured in two factory disasters in Bangladesh.

Today’s talks are focused on the Tazreen factory blaze that took place in November, said Jenny Holdcroft, policy director at IndustriALL, a Geneva-based union federation representing workers in 140 countries. The meeting tomorrow will focus on the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the nation’s worst industrial accident, which killed more than 1,000 people.

“This is a specific discussion of the actual money that the companies will provide,” Holdcroft said. “We hope that the outcome of the meetings will be specific commitments of dollar amounts by the brands of what they will contribute to the compensation.”

C&A Group and Spain’s El Corte Ingles SA are among five retailers who have confirmed they’re attending the meeting today, while the meeting tomorrow will be attended by at least 11 retailers, including Inditex SA and Primark, according to IndustriALL.

IndustriALL has previously estimated long-term compensation for Rana Plaza will be more than $71 million while its estimate for Tazreen was $5.7 million.

“Obviously there is a discussion about how much the brands contribute vis-a-vis the factory owners, the government in Bangladesh and the employers’ federation,” Holdcroft said.

The meetings, overseen by the International Labour Organization, aren’t part of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an agreement set up by retailers and labor unions in July.

The talks were initially planned for Aug. 11 and 12 in Dhaka and got postponed. Representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Walt Disney Co. and Carrefour SA are among those who have said they won’t attend, according to IndustriALL.

By Katarina Gustafsson; Editors: Celeste Perri, Thomas Mulier, Robert Valpuesta