US global retailer Walmart yesterday said Tazreen Fashions, the garment factory where a fire killed at least 111 people, had been making clothes for the retailer without its knowledge.
But the website of Tuba Group, a major Bangladeshi garment exporter that owns Tazreen Fashions, shows Walmart on the list of its top 29 buyers.
The Daily Star called the group's Managing Director Delwar Hossain on his mobile phone twice yesterday. His assistant answered the phone both times and only said Delwar was at a meeting.
In a statement released on Monday, the US retail giant said Tazreen was no longer authorised to produce merchandise for Walmart. “Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this tragedy.”
“A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorisation and in direct violation of our policies. Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier,” America's biggest retailer said.
“The fact that this occurred,” Walmart said, “is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”
A certificate from Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP), a global certification programme for apparel production in terms of working conditions in a facility, shows Tuba Group's compliance rate as B-level on its website, pointing to its mediocre safety standards.
The WRAP certified the group for one year -- from February 4, 2009 to February 4, 2010. No updated certification is available on its website.
Walmart categorises a factory's compliance as “Green”, “Yellow”, “Orange” and “Red”. A compliance audit of Walmart shows some of the units of Tuba Group, like Tazreen Fashions, had been rated as “yellow” for four consecutive years, according to the website.
“Orange” indicates high risk, “yellow” indicates medium risk and “Green” low risk.
If a factory has the “Orange” category over three assessments for two consecutive years, it automatically goes to “Red”, leading to the cancellation of a business deal for a year, the BBC said.
At one stage of the fire, many workers tried to escape through the ground floor of the building. But the thick smoke from yarn and fabrics stored on the floor got in their way.
The managing director of Tuba Group said he had used the ground floor as a warehouse for Tazreen and six other factories.