Bangladesh factory collapse victims no closer to recovery

Rana Plaza building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh
The Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013 killed 1,127 people and injured many more
Photo: ActionAid

Six months after the world’s worst ever garment factory disaster, at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, an ActionAid survey reveals that victims are still awaiting compensation and suffering debilitating injuries - preventing the vast majority of them from returning to work.

The survey comes as the Bangladesh government, along with the global alliance of trade unions, continues to negotiate compensation for survivors and families of the deceased.

ActionAid surveyed 2,297 people - nearly two thirds of survivors and families of those who died in the eight-story factory collapse on 24 April 2013. The study reveals that:

  • 94% reported they have not received any legal benefits from their employers since April, including sick pay or compensation. 
  • 92% of survivors have not gone back to work.
  • Of these, 63% said physical injury such as amputations, paralysis, severe pains in the head, leg and body has stopped them going back to work. 
  • 92% of survivors reported being deeply traumatised, with around half experiencing insomnia and trembling from loud sounds. Some said they were scared to walk into a building or an enclosed room. 

21-year-old Naneen Akter Nazma was pregnant when pulled from the rubble and lost her husband in the collapse. She said:

“The day before the factory collapsed we heard that a crack had developed on the second floor, but the supervisor announced that the building was safe and threatened to withhold a month's pay if we didn’t attend work.

“My husband worked on the second floor and I on the seventh floor. When the building collapsed I was unconscious for two hours. When I regained consciousness I found out that my husband was gone forever.

“I heaved a sigh of relief when the doctor said my unborn baby was OK, but now I am worried that I can’t provide for my child. I haven’t had any compensation. My rent is five months overdue and soon shopkeepers will stop giving me credit for food.”

In addition to physical and psychological trauma, the report reveals that victims are facing severe financial difficulty.

Food, medical treatment and household essentials were identified as immediate needs. But over half of those surveyed said they had mounting debts and over 90% said they had no savings because of low wages before the factory collapse. 

To date only one company, Primark, has provided any compensation to survivors – approximately £115 each to 3300 people.

The Bangladesh government has given £18,000 each to 777 people - around a third of the victims and their family members - but no long-term compensation package has been agreed.

Farah Kabir, ActionAid’s Country Director in Bangladesh said: “It’s indefensible that for nearly six months, multi-million pound companies have left victims to fend for themselves.

“While corporations sit on their hands, the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster are in urgent need of medical and psychological support, as well as the financial means to feed and care for their families.”

ActionAid is calling on companies negotiating the compensation package to deliver a fair deal for the survivors and families of the deceased.

We are also calling on companies to sign up to The Bangladesh Safety Accord, a five-year legally binding agreement between international labour organisations, non-governmental organisations and retailers to maintain minimum safety standards in the Bangladesh textile industry.