10/25/2013, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Rana Plaza victims need rehabilitation, not compensation

by Nozrul Islam
According to Action Aid, 94 per cent of survivors have not yet received compensation. Their physical and psychological rehabilitation is the biggest problem, with 63 per cent reporting physical injuries like amputations, paralysis and severe pain. Some individual and private initiatives have been commendable, but a global plan is missing, partly because of phony unions.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Six months after the Rana Plaza disaster, the worst accident in the history of the country's garment industry, 94 per cent of victims are still for compensation, this according to Action Aid. The charity, whose bleak report is based on interviews with nearly two-thirds of survivors and victims' families, found that in addition to the failure to pay compensation, 92 per cent of survivors had not gone back to work, with 63 per cent of them reporting physical injuries including amputations, paralysis and severe pain.

Yet, several agencies, small firms and organisations have offered help to the victims. Yesterday, for example, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh donated 100,000 taka (US$ 1,300) to the father of one of the victims. Primark, an Irish low-cost clothing retailer, is paying a monthly wages to about 3,300 people. However, what is missing is a global compensation plan, not individual initiatives.

In September, an agreement between some of the larger firms and multinational companies and labour unions fell through. The deal was criticised in Bangladesh, with much of the blame put on foreign companies that had subcontracted work with garment manufacturers working out of the Rana Plaza building.

However, the problem also lies with Bangladesh's trade unions interested in signing the agreement. Highly unreliable, the large ones are politicised, the smaller are nothing more than extortionists, unions only in name.

Little of the money that reaches the unions has gone to the workers. In fact, many of the unions that pushed for the deal were not connected with Rana Plaza, but acted as "mediators" in order to get compensation.

Meanwhile, on 22 October, the Bangladeshi government and the International Labour Organization (ILO) launched an initiative to improve building safety and fire prevention in the garment industry. The US$ 24 million, three-and-a-half-year plan is to be funded by the British and Dutch governments.

For the victims what really matters are long-term projects, especially rehabilitation, much more than compensation. However, the authorities have nothing planned for them in this area.

One organisation that already offers services of this type is the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP-Bangladesh) founded in 1979 in Savar by Briton Valerie Taylor.

Some of the victims who lost limbs or suffered other disabilities as a result of the Rana Plaza collapse were hospitalised in CPR's facilities where they are still undergoing physical and psychological rehabilitation. Thanks to private donations, the CRP is able to cover all their expenses.

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