The move by the Italian fashion brand comes after more than 1 million people signed a petition on the campaigning site Avaaz in less than a fortnight calling on it to pay up.
Benetton said it was working with an “independent, globally recognised third party” to “define the principles of our fair and equitable share of compensation” to the fund, which is backed by the UN’s International Labour Organisation. It is the last of the major retailers who sourced from the eight-floor building to back the fund.
Dalia Hashad, Avaaz campaign director, said: “This is a victory for everyone around the world who wants to ensure our clothing never again costs lives. We’re hopeful Benetton will make a significant contribution so the families of Rana Plaza workers aren’t left high and dry.”
Benetton has promised to confirm the amount it will pay before the second anniversary of the disaster on 24 April. Campaigners are hoping the brand will make up the $9m (£5.8m) required to meet the $30m total that would fully compensate victims and their families.
So far 5,000 people – injured workers and families of the deceased – have received only 40% of the money due to them and there is only enough in the pot to ensure they get 70%.
More than 3,000 people making clothes for western brands including Primark, Walmart and Matalan were injured or killed in the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The incident highlighted the plight of millions of low-paid workers making clothes around the world and kicked off a string of efforts to improve conditions in Bangladesh.
Despite pressure from campaigners and government ministers, Benetton has, until now, held back from contributing to the ILO-backed scheme. The company backed a separate victim support scheme led by Brac, a Bangladeshi development organisation.
But pressure groups, such as the Clean Clothes Campaign and Labour Behind the Label, have said the Brac scheme does not amount to proper compensation.
Benetton said: “At the time we had no other option but to launch our own support programme in partnership with Brac.
“We did this immediately, starting already only one month after the tragic events and we have since supported 280 victims and family members, to ensure that they had the means, including financial, to rebuild a sustainable future. Step two will be a further contribution in support of the victims, this time through the Rana Plaza trust fund.”
Campaigners have also called on retailers that have made only small donations, such as US chain Walmart, as well as the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, to contribute more.
The biggest contributor is Primark, which has paid a total of $12m in support for victims, $8m of which counted as part of the ILO-backed scheme. It began making payments directly to workers more than a year ago.
This article was written by Sarah Butler, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th February 2015 15.53 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010