In a rare victory for workers’ rights, all those affected by the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in 2013 will receive full compensation for loss of income and medical care.

The Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund – set up by the International Labour Organization in January 2014 to collect compensation for victims and their families – reached its funding target of $30 million in June, with a final, large, anonymous donation.

‘This compensation will help each person to sustain their lives – enabling some to continue to send their kids to school, and at the very least, now no-one will starve,’ said Kalpona Akter, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity.

The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in April 2013 was the worst industrial accident in the history of the garment industry, killing over 1,000 workers, many of whom were making clothes for Western retailers.

Compensation did not come without a fight. Brands such as Matalan only donated an undisclosed payment to the Fund after a campaign by British online pressure group 38 Degrees; Benetton was nudged into coughing up $1.1 million by campaigners Avaaz’s one-million-strong petition. A global day of action two years after the disaster pushed brands to bring the fund within $2.4 million of its target. These stand-out moments were built on the sustained efforts of a select few in Bangladesh and Western partners outside.

This campaign victory is ground­breaking, with far wider implications beyond addressing the immediate needs of the Rana Plaza victims. The first ever compensation scheme to be created and implemented for the victims of a large supply-chain disaster, it will bolster future efforts to hold brands and retailers to account.

Ilona Kelly