This morning, as Walmart shareholders gather for the company’s annual meeting, Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, sent a public video message to Walmart urging the company to pay a total of $17 million to the victims of the April 24, 2013, Rana Plaza building collapse – the deadliest disaster in the history of the global garment industry.
Akter also called on Walmart to compensate the victims of the November 24, 2012, fire at Tazreen Fashions, another Bangladeshi garment supplier. More than a year and a half later, Walmart has yet to pay a single penny to the Tazreen workers and families of the deceased despite the fact that the majority of the product in the charred out factory was for Walmart.
On Tuesday, survivors and children who lost their parents demonstrated at the Rana Plaza site, calling on Walmart and Children's Place, a popular children’s clothing retailer, to pay full and fair compensation to the victims of their negligence.
An online petition addressed to the companies by Rana Plaza survivor Aklima Khanam reached 105,000 signers this morning. To date the two companies have paid less than 6% of the amount activists are calling for and have refused to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally-binding agreement between 175 companies and a dozen unions for independent inspections of nearly 2,000 factories and mandatory company-financed renovations to make the factories safe.
“On the morning of April 24th, the management forced us into the factory using physical violence and said that there was a shipment of 24,000 pieces that needed to go out. They said we would be fired and not paid if we couldn't meet the target,” said Khanam. “Now I stay at home. I’m ill a lot of the time so I can’t do much. If the brands don’t pay compensation, it will be really difficult to get by.”
“Many of the workers can’t access necessary medical care because they don’t have money to pay. Families are starving because they don’t have money for food. Some workers have had to pull their kids out of school,” said Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. “This is why we’re campaigning for companies to pay full and fair compensation.”
At the end of March, Walmart and The Children’s Place each made a small contribution to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund, the victims’ compensation fund under the Rana Plaza Arrangement, which is facilitated by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Walmart contributed $1 million and The Children’s Place gave $450,000. The ILO has estimated that at least $40 million is needed to adequately compensate the victims, but more than a year after the tragedy there is only $17 million in the fund.
“The International Labor Rights Forum and allies are urging Walmart to pay $16 million more to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum. “This compensation is the only hope many survivors have for avoiding homelessness or having to send their children out to work."