More than a year after the deadly Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the victims and their families are finally being compensated with money from the Rana Plaza Trust Fund. But there's one big problem: less than half of the money needed is in there.
Business of Fashion reports that high street retailers implicated in the manufacturing disaster haven't coughed up money for the fund – and in some cases, only did so verrrry reluctantly after a public outcry. JC Penney and Benetton are two labels that haven't paid in, even though they were among the Western brands which used Rana Plaza garment manufacturers to supply clothing to their stores.
The Rana Plaza Arrangement set up the fund to compensate victims or family members who had lost loved ones in the catastrophe. It estimated that it would need $40 million to carry out this task; but as of 4 August, only $17.9 million has been raised.
Matalan is one brand that has offered compensation, but only after groups like Fashion Revolution and 38 Degrees lobbied the company for its contribution. Tens of thousands of people called and emailed the British retailer in protest, with 1,000 tweets sent to Matalan per hour, lambasting them for not paying up.
It has since donated an undisclosed sum to the fund, although a statement on its website makes it clear that it takes no responsibility for the disaster: "We wish to make it clear that we have never been ordered by any organisation to pay compensation or been found culpable for the tragedy. However, our company is happy to continue to make substantial contributions to help the people who need it most."
Debenhams, H&M Conscious Foundation, Primark and Mango are among the retailers who have contributed to the fund (you can see a full list of donors here). Unfortunately, labels who don't pay up face no legal ramifications – donations are not mandatory and are left up to the brand's discretion.
But as Dazed writer Susie Bubble points out, a better form of compensation would be to work out the percentage of each retailer's output from Rana Plaza manufacturers, and hold them financially accountable accordingly. That's probably a long way off, given that companies are actively trying to wriggle out of claiming responsibility the tragedy. But we think Susie sums it up best with this:
Companies refund customers for faulty goods. Surely they must also compensate workers who have paid ultimate price to make their clothes.— susiebubble (@susiebubble) August 20, 2014
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing