Several retailers and labor groups are pledging to establish a $40 million compensation fund to help Bangladeshi families affected by April’s catastrophic Rana Plaza factory building collapse. Bonmarché, El Corte Inglés, Loblaw and Primark have said they will contribute to the fund, an arrangement that is considered to be unprecedented in the apparel industry. To date, no U.S.-based retailers have agreed to contribute.
Families of the deceased victims would each receive an average of more than $25,000 – more than 10 times the yearly per capita income in Bangladesh. Workers who were injured in the collapse would also receive an undisclosed amount. Payments could begin by February, with money to be added in installments to ensure steady income for those affected well into the future.
Working conditions and wages for Bangladesh's garment workers have been sharply criticized since the Rana Plaza complex that killed more than 1,100 people. Dozens of major companies that source from Bangladesh pledged to begin safety audits in the wake of the disaster. Bangladesh factory owners also recently agreed to a 77% wage increase that was recommended by a government board. Minimum-wage garment workers now make $68 a month, up from the previous total of $38.
Garment exports in Bangladesh jumped nearly 25% between July and September of 2013 compared to a year earlier, despite multiple accidents there. Bangladesh is the second largest apparel exporter in the world after China.