Tazreen fire: fight for compensation
“At 6:40 PM the alarm went off. The manager said ‘nothing has happened, continue your work.’ After a few minutes we saw smoke. I jumped through a window that some workers had broken.” - Nazrin, machine operator
Commemoration in Bangladesh on 24 November 2016
On 24 November 2012 a fire broke out in the Tazreen Fashions garment factory in Bangladesh. Exits to the outside were locked, which left workers trapped inside the building. The only way out was through windows on the upper floors, while the lower windows were barred.
Over a hundred workers were injured by jumping from the windows of the third and fourth floors, sustaining serious back and head injuries which have left many of them in constant pain. For the last three years the families of those killed and injured have been fighting for compensation for the loss of their loved ones or loss of their own ability to earn an income.
Tazreen produced for U.S. giant Walmart (see this doc), the Spanish department store El Corte Ingles, the German discount retailer KIK, C&A and Sean John’s Enyce brand. Other linked brands include Edinburgh Woollen Mill (UK), Karl Rieker (Germany) and Piazza Italia (Italy), Teddy Smith (France) and U.S. brands Disney, Sears, Dickies and Delta Apparel.
What did we do?
We worked together with survivors and families who lost loved ones at the factory fire in their fight for justice.
Our partners in Bangladesh had to enter the smoldering ruins to find information on who was sourcing from this death trap factory. With this information we could hold these companies responsible, standing on their doorsteps in Europe and North America, where they were headquartered.
Through research, media work, and campaigning we kept asking attention for these families’ struggle for justice, even as their fates were overshadowed half a year later by the much larger Rana Plaza disaster.
Using the increased sense of urgency and guilt after this collapse, we first helped negotiate the Rana Plaza compensation fund and on the basis of that helped establish the Tazreen trust fund shortly after.
An agreement to make payments specifically to cover loss of income and medical treatment was signed by IndustriALL Global Union, the Clean Clothes Campaign, C&A and the C&A Foundation just prior to the second anniversary of the fire in 2014. This agreement led to the creation of the Tazreen Claims Administration Trust in September 2015 which oversees the claims process, cooperates with organizations representing the families and collects funding to make the payments.
The Trust raised money to cover the payments primarily through contributions from brands and retailers whose products were produced at the Tazreen factory. C&A, Li & Fung (which sourced on behalf of Sean Jean), BRAC USA (on behalf of Walmart), Spanish department store El Corte Ingles and German brand KiK have paid into the fund. Other brands that sourced from Tazreen fashions have thus far failed to take responsibility towards the survivors and the families of the killed workers.
In June 2016, the Claims Administration Trust completed its work of providing loss of income payments to all injured workers and to the dependents of those who were killed. This meant an important recognition of the rights of the survivors and families affected by the Tazreen fire, after being overshadowed by the scale of the Rana Plaza disaster. The Tazreen claims process also establishes further both the possibility and the necessity of ensuring that victims of any future disasters are provided with loss of income payments and support in line with international norms and standards.
While the claims process has concluded, the struggle of the Tazreen families is not over. They are demanding that those responsible for the deaths and injury of their loved ones are held to account and they continue to wait for the prosecution of Delwar Hossain, the owner of Tazreen Fashions. We will continue to support them in their struggle until full justice is achieved.
Read more about the announcement of the agreement, the creation of the Tazreen Trust fund three years after the fire on (2015) and about the announcement of the completion of the claims process one year later (2016). More information on the process can be found in this University of Sussex report from 2018, the Still Waiting report about families affected by Tazreen and Rana Plaza waiting for compensation from 2013 and the Fatal Fashion report about the factory fires at Tazreen and Ali Enterprises, also from 2013.