Wal-Mart Said 'No' To Paying For Fire Safety In Bangladesh

[Workers bury the body of an unidentified garment factory fire victim. Reuters]

Documents found among the ruins of the Bangladesh garment factory where over 100 people perished during a fire last month, show that Wal-Mart worked with at least five different suppliers there this year. Further, in 2011, the retail giant decided against aiding factory upgrades that could have stopped fires like the deadly blaze.

Bloomberg News reports:

Wal-Mart said the Tazreen Design Ltd. factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for the company and that it had cut ties with one supplier that kept using the facility. It’s not clear if any other suppliers continued to use the factory, which Wal-Mart had de-authorized before the blaze, the company said.

Purchase orders, shipment statements, inventory reports and other documents show that two New York-based suppliers for Wal- Mart and a third in California had sourced merchandise from Tazreen. Two companies in Bangladesh also manufactured apparel there for Wal-Mart, the records show. As recently as September, five of 14 production lines at the factory were making shirts and pajamas for Wal-Mart, an income report shows.
The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity photographed the documents. The group passed them on to the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor-rights monitoring group based in Washington, which provided the documents to Bloomberg News. Suppliers cited in the documents include Topson Downs, of Culver City, California. That supplier subcontracted work to Bismillah Sourcing, a Bangladesh firm.

Also among the documents, an e-mail correspondence between a Wal-Mart buyer and IDG (Tazreen produced shorts for Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club brand through IDG) "highlighting the pressure the world’s largest retailer puts on its suppliers."

In a January e-mail, Wal-Mart's buyer requests and early delivery of 266 pairs of shorts from IDG for a new store opening, and IDG complied. Numerous other documents show that "tens of thousands" of the same pairs of shorts were made at Tazreen for IDG since at least the first quarter of 2012.

In 2011, Walmart reportedly decided against aiding factory upgrades that could have stopped fires like the deadly blaze at the Tazreen garment factory.

During an April meeting, Bangladeshi suppliers reached out to retailers of their garments with a plan that would help upgrade their facilities to make them more fire-proof -- other retailers approved the plan -- only to have it fall through when Wal-mart and the Gap refused to pay higher prices to make such upgrades feasible.


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