In 2005, the factory Spectrum, in Bangladesh, collapsed leaving 60 workers dead. In 2013, the commercial building Rana Plaza, also in Bangladesh, suffered a fire in which more than a 1,000 people died. These are two tragedies which defined Javier Chércoles’ path, who when both events took place, was working in the department of Corporate Social Responsibility for Inditex and Primark, respectively.
However, what happens when something like this takes place? What responsibilities do the companies who work with these factories have? Moreover, how do they manage the tragedy that follows? In both of these cases, it was Javier Chércoles who took the responsibility of compensating the families of the dead workers and the injured workers themselves. An insurance that would have covered these workers didn’t exist, there wasn’t a defined compensation scheme, and therefore they had to start from zero.
Consequently, in these scenarios, two questions arose according to Javier Chércoles, on the one hand, a compensation for the workers and their families has to be established. On the other hand, the reality of what happened needs to be taken into account, with the aim that the subsidies actually serve to help improve their situations.
In this regard, understanding the situation of the widow, whose father-in-law does not allow her any access to the money received through the compensations, and addressing these issues of vulnerability so that she is not enclosed in an ever more precarious situation is essential to achieving a fair compensation system.
All this leads to analysing the labour crisis as a social crisis, as Javier Chércoles explains in the interview conducted by Via Empresa. Assuming that, just as the crisis does in essence, the compensation must have an impact on all the people concerned with the victims.
Experiencing these two catastrophes first-hand and managing the consequences this way was, for Javier Chércoles, the raw material of his doctoral thesis and is now the raw material for his project: the creation of an insurance system for industry in underdeveloped countries and its implementation.
A system devised with the aim of covering the workers and their families in the event of any accident at work, would mean, for the business or factory, a similar investment to that of the bosses when purchasing car insurance. The next phase is that the businesses start to work under this system.
Moreover, in all of this, what role do Spanish businesses have to play? As Javier Chércoles states, now is the time for businesses such as Mango, Inditex, El Corte Inglés or Mayoral to make a statement. If all of these businesses impose that insurance for the workers of their suppliers is an absolute essential, not only will they be improving the working conditions of these employees but also they will be contributing to the development of the countries of the South.
For the time being, Primark will be the first business to implement this system and there are already four other business who have joined the project.