Published: Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bangladesh Garment Safety

Wal-Mart, Gap under global fire

24 retailers to fork out $60m over 5 years; 2 US giants opt out

The world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart and another US company, Gap, yesterday came under fire from rights and labour activists as they opted out of a legally binding accord already signed by at least 24 other retailers to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh.
The companies, including Hennes & Mauritz, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Loblaw and Associated British Foods’ Primark, each pledged to contribute as much as $2.5 million [ $500,000 a year] over five years under the agreement announced by IndustriALL, a global union.
The initiative has been prompted by the collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar on April 24, which killed 1,127 people.
Wal-Mart and Gap’s refusal to sign the accord has come as an attempt to undermine or evade the safety plan devised to prevent disasters at garment units, a rights group said.
The landmark project will save lives, said Murray Worthy, campaigner at British anti-poverty charity War on Want.
“It is appalling to see attempts by companies like Gap and Wal-Mart to try and gut the agreement or propose their own voluntary models of inspection — the same voluntary models that failed so badly and led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people.”
“These companies must stop trying to wreck this landmark deal and join this vital effort to ensure disasters like the recent building collapse never happen again,” Worthy said.
In a statement, Wal-Mart announced that it would conduct in-depth safety inspections at all the 279 factories in Bangladesh, which produce goods for the retailer. It will complete all reviews within six months and make public the information revealed during the inspections.
“As a result, workers in these facilities can be assured of safer working conditions, and the entire market will be lifted to a new standard,” the statement says.
Meanwhile, Gap released another statement, saying, “We take our commitment to improving working conditions in Bangladesh very seriously.”
However, the company said it would sign the agreement only if it is not legally binding.
“There is a serious gap in Gap’s credibility,” if it says so, said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of, a corporate watckdog.
“Gap’s argument that it is unable to sign the agreement because of US liability rules is ridiculous. PVH, the American owners of Tommy Hilfiger and other global brands has already proven that it is possible.”
Backed by the International Labour Organisation, European right group IndustriALL devised a plan to ensure fire and building safety at Bangladeshi factories. The body has already published a document regarding the move.

  • Abul Khan

    Initially ,it was declared that legally binding accord placed by industrial ALL will be signed by all concerned giant retailers of Europe & Walmart/Gap of the US. Now the US retailers have backed out on one pretext or other. This is sad & reprehensible.All joining together could have done much better for the safety/security of the workers in building premises, environmental situation & in promotional matters.Those who suddenly withdrew look to be self-centered & motivated alone by profit-making. Majority signing the accord, will hopefully start working immediately on the ground for the benefit of the garment workers.

  • Ali Ahmed

    Wal-Mart and Gap are in a position to face Chapter 11 by this year, so it is natural that they will flee away from the initiatives taken by industrials.

    • Dev Saha

      Where did you get that information? Both companies are very profitable and have plenty of cash in their bank accounts. These companies are very powerful and they won’t budge when it comes to their profit margins.