TORONTO, April 24, 2017 /PRNewswire/ - Today will mark the fourth anniversary of the horrific collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza collapse is considered to be the largest industrial disaster in history: it killed 1,130 people and left another 2,520 seriously injured. The Rana Plaza collapsed as a result of serious building safety defects. Many of the injured required amputations while others are permanently immobilized. Many of the victims were young women and girls.
The Rana Plaza building housed several garment factories that employed over 5,000 garment workers who produced apparel for major Western brands, including Loblaws' Joe Fresh brand. It is alleged that orders for Loblaws represented 50% of all apparel made in one of the largest garment factories in Rana Plaza which occupied the illegally constructed top floors. Shortly after the collapse, Galen Weston Jr., the Executive Chairman of Loblaws Companies Ltd., publicly acknowledged that "the top floors of the building should never have been built". He stated that the scope of the audits undertaken on behalf of Loblaws at Rana Plaza did not cover structural integrity and that "workers were exposed to unacceptable risk".
Rana Plaza was originally constructed as a four-story building licensed for commercial use, but doubled in size through the allegedly illegal construction of several additional precariously canter levered floors required to accommodate increased garment orders from Loblaws. The ninth floor was under construction at the time of the collapse.
The proposed class action commenced in Ontario on behalf of the victims of the collapse and their families seeks fair compensation from Loblaws and Bureau Veritas, the firm retained by Loblaws to audit the Rana Plaza factories that produced Joe Fresh apparel.
The Plaintiffs allege that Loblaws assumed responsibility to the Rana Plaza garment workers to ensure that they worked in safe and legally operated factories. They allege that Loblaws voluntarily adopted Corporate Social Responsibility standards, which required that its suppliers comply with local safety laws and regulations. They also allege that Loblaws failed to require – and Bureau Veritas failed to recommend and perform – adequate and reasonable audits that would have detected the serious safety hazards that resulted in the collapse of the Rana Plaza. It is alleged that the collapse and the harm to the garment workers were foreseeable to both Loblaws and Bureau Veritas.
The motion for certification of the proposed class action was heard by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice between April 3 and April 10, 2017. Loblaws continues to vigorously defend the claim, which seeks to provide access to justice, including fair compensation, to the victims and their families.
"This is an important suit for garment workers in developing countries who have the right to work in safe environments that are not a threat to their lives. Western corporations which seek to benefit from the low cost of labour in countries with notoriously poor records for workplace health and safety must be held accountable when the workers that produce their products are exposed to unnecessary risks and are injured or die as a result of unsafe working conditions. Compliance with safety laws and regulations, industry standards and best practices ensures the health and safety of the workers in global supply chains," said Joel P. Rochon, partner at Rochon Genova LLP. "This class action aims to reaffirm one of the foremost policy goals of the Class Proceedings Act, to provide access to justice to the thousands of garment workers who were injured and to the family members of the injured and deceased"
The garment workers and their families are represented by Joel P. Rochon, Peter R. Jervis, Lisa M. Fenech, Obaidul Hoque and Golnaz Nayerahmadi of Rochon Genova LLP in Toronto, Canada.
SOURCE ROCHON GENOVA LLP