* Primark, Loblaw pay 3 months' wages to workers, families
* Call on other chains supplied by Rana Plaza to do same
* Rally to mark six months since disaster
* Focus on improving fire and building safety
By Ruma Paul
DHAKA, Oct 24 (Reuters) - British clothes retailer Primark
and Canadian grocer Loblaw laid out plans on Thursday to pay
more compensation for the collapse of a Bangladeshi factory that
killed almost 1,130 people, as protesters demanded other brands
The disaster on April 24 has galvanised most of the clothing
industry's big names to try to improve safety standards but they
have failed to agree on a compensation fund for victims despite
months of wrangling.
It was the world's most deadly industrial accident since the
1984 Bhopal disaster in India and turned a spotlight on working
conditions of those making clothes for global household names
for a fraction of what they cost in the West.
Children carried placards reading "Please come forward, our
parents were killed while working for you. Compensate us",
during a rally on Thursday of hundreds of survivors and victims'
families at the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza complex.
Primark, the only retailer to pay compensation so far, said
it would pay another three months of wages to workers and their
families of its Rana Plaza supplier, a pledge matched by Loblaw
Cos Ltd for those who produced garments for its Joe Fresh
Both called on other brands to follow suit, but said if they
do not, they will together make sure the all those affected,
including from other brands, are paid for three more months.
With many workers making as little as $38 a month, there is
anger that little progress has been made on a broader scheme to
set up a long-term fund for the families of the dead and
hundreds more injured who will need years of support.
"Survivors and victims' families at Rana Plaza today
remembered their loved ones and all ask the same question: When
will we finally receive compensation for our loss?" two global
trade unions involved in the process said in a statement.
ROCK BOTTOM WAGES
About 3.6 million of Bangladesh's 155 million people work in
the clothing industry, making it the world's second-largest
garments exporter behind China. Around 60 percent of garment
exports go to Europe and 23 percent to the United States.
A factory fire on the outskirts of the city on Oct. 8, in
which seven people died, has raised concerns that standards have
not changed significantly since the April collapse and the
International Labour Organisation (ILO) launched a $24 million
project this week to improve safety in the industry.
But while workers say that better safety standards are
essential, many of them are equally worried about their low
wages. A wave of pay strikes last month hit nearly a fifth of
the country's garment workshops and looks set to force a rise of
between 50 and 80 percent in minimum wages.
Rock bottom wages and trade deals have made Bangladesh's
garments sector a $22 billion industry that accounts for
four-fifths of exports, supplying retailers such as Wal-Mart
Stores Inc, and Hennes & Mauritz AB
The ILO has been trying to get an agreement on setting up
long-term funds for Rana Plaza workers and for victims of a fire
at the Tazreen factory in November 2012, which killed 112
workers - but progress has been slow.
$2,300 PROPOSED PER FAMILY
Some of the 28 brands supplied from Rana Plaza say they will
not contribute as their production was outsourced to the factory
without their knowledge, or ended some time ago, while others
say they prefer to pursue their own compensation plans.
Primark, whose low prices have helped it expand to more than
250 stores in Britain and Europe, has already paid six months
salary to all 3,621 workers affected by the collapse and their
families, committing some $2 million in short-term financial
support and food distribution.
The company, owned by Associated British Foods, said
it would press ahead with long-term compensation in the New Year
despite the lack of a sector agreement. Unions and families have
proposed 1.8 million thaka ($2,300) per family of the deceased.
Loblaw, whose Joe Fresh affordable casual clothing line is a
key part of its growth strategy, also said it would start
providing long-term, direct compensation for workers and
dependents of its New Wave Style factory in Rana Plaza in 2014.
"Loblaw joins Primark in encouraging all brands that have
been involved in production at Rana Plaza to participate in the
provision of compensation to the victims of this tragedy," said
Bob Chant, Loblaw senior vice president for corporate affairs.
Advocacy group the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) noted that
Italian retailer Benetton and Spanish chain El Corte Ingles were
participating in attempts to establish a fund, while Zara-owner
Inditex, Britain's Bonmarche and Mascot of Denmark had
signalled their intent to contribute.
"It is time that all brands linked to the tragedies step up
and ... pay into the fund, and thereby take financial
responsibility for a disaster that they failed to prevent," said
Ineke Zeldenrust of the CCC.