Most Bangladesh factory survivors still too sick to work: survey

DHAKA - Most survivors of the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed 1,138 garment workers are still too traumatised or injured to work 12 months after the tragedy, a survey released Monday said.

Other survivors, who are able to work, have been refused jobs in garment factories because owners fear they would now be too slow or could be involved in some kind of labour activism, the survey said.

British charity Action Aid said 74 per cent of the 1,436 survivors they questioned are not working a year after being pulled alive from the rubble of the Rana Plaza garment factory complex.

The survey's findings come as Bangladesh prepares to mark one year since the country's worst industrial disaster on April 24, when the nine-storey building collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka.

"Of those who do not have jobs, some 64 per cent said they were suffering from ailments including amputations, severe chest, head, limb injuries or have their spines broken," survey head Amanur Rahman told AFP.

"Twenty four per cent of them said they could not seek jobs because they were suffering from traumas such as insomnia and fear of work in enclosed facilities," Rahman said.

"Some eight per cent of survivors told us that factory owners were unwilling to employ Rana Plaza victims because they fear these workers would be slow or would be involved in compensation-related activism." Rescuers freed 2,438 workers from the ruined building where they had been stitching clothes for Western retailers for low wages as part of the impoverished country's booming garment export industry.

A trade group representing Bangladesh's 4,500 garment factories paid for survivors' initial medical bills. But a year later, injuries of 10 per cent of those have worsened because they cannot afford ongoing treatment, according to the survey.

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association denied factory owners were turning away Rana Plaza survivors, after pledging to employ them in the wake of the disaster.

"If any survivor says he has not got a job, let him come to our office. We'll employ him immediately," association vice-president Shahidullah Azim told AFP.

The Bangladesh government has given some compensation to more than 800 families of workers killed and dozens of those who lost limbs.

British clothing retailer Primark has also paid compensation to victims and their families. A US$40 million (S$50 million) fund, managed by the International Labour Organisation, was set up after the tragedy but Western retailers have so far only pledged US$15 million.