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Primark has committed $14m to the victims of Rana Plaza

Primark has organised a press conference on their ongoing work in Bangladesh and

its response to Rana Plaza tragedy. The press conference was held in Bombay

Restaurant in West London on 19 January. The Press briefing was conducted by the

Ethical Trading Director of Primark Katherine Stewart and chaired by Paul Lister,

Director of Legal Services and Company Secretary of Associated British Foods, who

is also responsible for corporate governance and ethics across ABF companies,

heading up the Primark Ethical Trading Team of 55. Mohammed Ismail, the Ethical

Trade Manager of Primark was also present in the meeting.

The written press release which read that read Primark has been sourcing out of

Bangladesh for some twenty years. Today, Primark have around 80 factories

making a range of garments for it. All suppliers who want to work for Primark

have to meet our ethical trading requirements and have to sign up to the

Primark Code of Conduct. Every supplier has to pass an audit before we will

place orders with them. Once a supplier contracts with Primark, we put in

place a programme of regular audits and we expect to be in close contact with

them. In many cases, we also put in place training programmes for factory

management and for the workers.

This work is undertaken by the Primark Ethical Trading Team in Bangladesh,

which currently numbers 9 (the global team is around 50). Their job is to

monitor standards in factories, identify issues, work with suppliers to resolve

issues and to provide the training. They also work with the local communities

where factories are based. To do this effectively, they have built up

relationships with a wide range of groups in Bangladesh. This includes NGOs,

charities and unions such as Sheva and GIZ.

At the time of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, Primark was sourcing trousers

from the New Wave Bottoms factory which was on the second floor of the

Rana Plaza factory. The factory had undergone all the standard ethical checks,

but at the time, this did not include structural surveys to check the soundness

of the building. Much of the focus at the time was on fire prevention, following

a number of fatal factory fires in Bangladesh.

The collapse and immediate aftermath

All of us at Associated British Foods and Primark were shocked and deeply

saddened when the Rana Plaza building, near Dhaka in Bangladesh, collapsed

on 24th April 2013, killing 1,138 people. The building housed several factories,

including New Wave Bottoms.

Primark was the first brand, as far as we are aware, to acknowledge it had a

supplier in the Rana Plaza building and to pledge that it would meet its

responsibilities to the people affected by the disaster. Primark’s supplier was

one factory among many in the huge building, which supplied clothing to 28

brands.

In total Primark has committed $14m to the victims of Rana Plaza. This has

included $2 million in providing food and short-term financial support.

Immediately after the collapse of the building, the Primark Ethical Trade

Director flew out to Bangladesh to do a report to see what was needed and

how Primark could support the New Wave Bottoms workers. Her remit was to

do whatever she felt was the right thing to do.

The first thing she did was to meet with all the partners Primark was already

working with, including Sheva, GIZ, NUK and DFID, to find out what would be

the most effective support the Company could provide.

As a result, we set up helpdesks near the factory site so that we could identify

victims and assess the immediate needs of workers and their families. We gave

emergency food parcels to over 1265 households for five weeks in partnership

with a local NGO. Each package contained enough dry food for a family of four

for one week, and included rice, dal, potatoes, biscuits, tea, oil, sugar, and salt.

We provided short-term financial assistance equivalent to nine months’ salary

for 3639 workers and their families – not just the 663 that worked in the

factory that supplied Primark. We called on other brands that were using the

factories in Rana Plaza to come forward and make similar donations.

To ensure that any funds we gave workers would be safe, each worker was

able to open a bank account at one of several worker registration events that

we held in Bangladesh. We also visited workers in hospital to open accounts

for them there.

Long-term compensation

In March 2014, Primark announced that it would begin paying out long-term

compensation of $9.0m to workers (or their families) at New Wave Bottoms

who died or were injured, as a result of the Rana Plaza building collapse. This

figure has now risen to $11m as further workers have been identified through

work with the International Labour Organisation. Primark also announced

donation of another $1.0m into the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund for the other

victims of Rana Plaza, who worked for Primark’s competitors.

Primark worked with local partners in Bangladesh from the time of the disaster

to establish a rigorous compensation scheme, as there was no existing scheme

or methodology in place. This took around a year to do and we worked with

academics, insurance companies and Bangladeshi organisations, including the

University of Dhaka. It involved collecting the details of everyone who worked

in the entire Rana Plaza building – most of whom worked for suppliers to other

brands – which was a huge logistical exercise. This included holding events, five

in total, which registered over 3000 people. It also involved devising an

actuarial model and creating an approach to medical and vulnerability

assessments, so that payments could be awarded according to these

assessments.

We have subsequently shared all our methodology with the International

Labour Organisation, in the hope that it can be of use in other industrial

accidents elsewhere in the world.

For those receiving by their standards, very large amounts of money in

compensation , Primark held a series of meetings, or what we called the Mela.

Both victims and their families were invited to attend the Mela, which ran over

ten days. The aim was to provide individual advice on investment and to work

out and then provide ways of protecting those who are especially vulnerable. 3

Our work with the victims of Rana Plaza continues today. This includes

monitoring the general welfare and education of children until they are 18

years old and continuing to monitor vulnerable adults until the end of 2015.

Improving worker safety

As importantly, we have been working to make sure this type of disaster does

not happen again. Prior to the Rana Plaza building collapse, our audit

programme did not inspect building structures. This has now changed. Primark

has become a signatory to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in

Bangladesh, which is a contract between over 190 apparel brands and

retailers, international and local trade unions and NGOs, which is carrying out

factory building inspections and working to improve working conditions in the

Bangladesh garment industry. Primark also carried out building surveys in

Bangladesh to assess the structural integrity of the approximately 80 factories

from which we source garments. These were undertaken in addition to the

Accord surveys, as we decided we wanted to undertake these surveys as

quickly as possible. This will be extended to other countries shortly.

The Primark ethical sourcing team in Bangladesh

All the efforts undertaken since the collapse of Rana Plaza would not have

possible without the Primark ethical sourcing team in Bangladesh. Although

the nine of them were employed originally as factory auditors, they threw

themselves into the task of helping where they could. They are practical, had

great networks and were determined to make a difference. They were the

people who saw the needs and implemented the solutions.

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