Victims file claims for Bangladesh garment disaster

Families of Bangladesh textile workers killed in the Rana Plaza tragedy started Monday submitting claims for compensation, 11 months after the disaster that killed more than 1,100 people.

The first batch of 22 claims were filed with officials overseeing a $40 million compensation fund, made up of donations from leading Western retailers in the wake of the country's worst textile disaster.

Wahid Soruar, a Bangladesh official overseeing the claims process from the industrial area of Savar outside the capital, said all families of the dead workers and those injured would be paid in coming months.

"We've launched the claims processing today. Hopefully, claims for all 3,600 survivors and beneficiaries will be processed within three to four months," Soruar told AFP.

All families will receive a minimum 50,000 taka ($650) by 24 April, the first anniversary of the tragedy, as an advance payment on their total compensation claims, said the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which is backing the fund.

Britain's Primark announced last week it would start this month paying out $9 million to the families of 580 dead or injured workers who worked for its supplier New Wave Bottoms, one of five factories based at the Plaza.

Primark was one of more than two dozen Western retailers who had orders at the Rana Plaza factory complex that collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka last April, killing 1,135 workers and injuring more than 1,500.

The tragedy shed unprecedented light on the poor safety conditions and wages in the world's second-largest garment industry after China.

Since the disaster nearly 200 Western retailers from Europe and America have formed two umbrella groups to launch safety inspections in the country's 3,500 garment factories.

But retailers have been criticised for failing to swiftly compensate the victims, while the Bangladesh government has only paid money to 850 families as well as surviving workers whose limbs were amputated.

Total compensation from the ILO-run fund will vary for each family depending on the age of the worker when killed and other factors, according to officials.

"We'll compensate the injured workers and beneficiaries in line with the standard ILO regulations," said Roy Ramesh, head of the Bangladesh chapter of global labour group IndustriaALL who is helping with the fund.

A Bangladeshi legal aid group is scrutinising the claims from the ILO-backed fund while a three-member panel headed by a former Bangladesh chief justice will verify and oversee the process, he said.