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Bangladeshi factory disasters: Leading retailers shun summit on sweatshops

'Nine out of the 28 brands' supplied by the Rana Plaza factory went to the meeting

A group of leading fashion retailers have failed to agree a compensation deal for the victims of two disasters in Bangladeshi factories that killed over 1,200 people, with less than a third of the companies that source clothes from the buildings involved even showing up to the meeting.

The meeting in Geneva, chaired by the International Labour Organisation, sought compensation funds for the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster in April, which killed 1,129 people, and a fire at the Tazreen factory last November, which killed 112 workers.

The collapse of Rana Plaza, a factory built on swampy ground near  Dhaka, ranks among the world’s worst industrial accidents and has spurred brands to try to improve safety standards at suppliers. But Reuters reported only nine out of the 28 brands supplied by the factory went to the meeting. Those who failed to show up included Wal-Mart and Mango. Several said they wanted to establish their own compensation plans. The IndustriALL trade union, which set up the talks, said the group that met on Thursday agreed to contribute to a fund.

Monika Kemperle of IndustriALL, said: “Consumers will be shocked that almost a half-year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster with only one brand so far providing any compensation to the disaster’s victims.”

Primark, which was present, also expressed frustration. “The company remains concerned about the length of time it is taking to agree a framework for long-term compensation. As a result the company will now pay a second tranche of emergency aid, lasting three months,” it said. About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh’s clothing industry. Some of the workforce earns just £25 a month.