Toronto – December 11, 2014 – Twenty months after the deadly collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh, both progress and protest by UFCW Canada and allies continue to advance the campaign for victim compensation and improved building and workplace safety.
This week in Europe, the Benetton chain was the target of protest and a consumer boycott for the company’s refusal to participate in the Rana Plaza Trust Fund for the injured workers and families of those killed. Meanwhile, in Canada, the Loblaw Company (the owner of the Joe Fresh apparel line) has been the largest direct contributor to the fund of any company in the world. It is also the only retailer in Canada to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety which requires companies to ensure the factories they source from are safe.
“Loblaw Companies has shown it commitment, yet two years later, Walmart and Target and far too many others shamefully continue to balk at signing the Accord and contributing to the fund,” says UFCW Canada National President Paul Meinema. “The Harper government has also failed to use its influence to urge Canadian retailers to do the right thing by signing the Bangladesh Accord and supporting the trust fund.”
Since the tragedy, 14 factories have been shut or closed for repairs under the Accord. The Accord has also committed to setting up worker centres in five locations. Health and safety committees and training are also on the agenda for 2015, in spite of the reluctance by the garment industry and the Bangladesh government to comply with a Sustainability Compact signed in 2013. Earlier this year, a fact-finding mission by union leaders and social justice activists traveled to Bangladesh, to renew the call for compliance with the Accord, and the Sustainability Compact. National President Meinema was a member of the mission, which is the subject of a just-released documentary.
“While progress has been made since the tragedy, there is still much further to go,” says the UFCW Canada leader. “As activists, consumers, and as global citizens, we must continue to demand that companies that source product from Bangladesh sign The Accord and pay their share in compensating the victims and their families. The Harper government must also press Bangladesh and Canadian retailers to respect the Accord, assist the families in rebuilding their lives, and ensure that a tragedy like the Rana Plaza never happens again.”