Walmart, along with 13 other major North American companies, refused to sign a legally binding agreement to improve working conditions for overseas factory workers that manufacture their clothes after a garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing an estimated 1300 workers, the New York Times reports.
The agreement requires retailers pay $500,000 to improve worker safety measures over a five year period. The 13 other companies are The Foot Locker, Macy’s, Sears, JcPenny’s, North Place, The Gap, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Carters/Osh Kosh, North Place, Cato, The Children’s Place, American Eagle and Target.
According to the Daily Kos, Walmart stated that it was “not financially feasible …to make such investments.”
Walmart refused to invest in worker conditions back in 2011 as well when a group of Bangladeshi and international unions put together a proposal.
The Swedish retailer H&M, Spanish Inditex (Zara), British Primark and Tesco, Dutch C&A, and others all announced their commitment to pay for fire safety and building improvements as part of an agreement with the global labor union IndustriALL. The agreement, called “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh,” also requires independent safety inspections with public reports. Companies also agree to terminate business with any factory that does not complete required upgrades.
H&M is the largest clothing retailer that manufactures their products in Bangladesh and is the second largest worldwide. The largest worldwide retailer is Walmart. Walmart, along with other major US retailers, have announced that they will not participate in the accord. Instead Walmart has decided to perform its own review of factory safety standards, arguing that it will produce results more quickly. The Gap has announced that it would be willing to sign the agreement if a change could be made to its arbitration clause. U.S. retailer PVH which makes Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin
Klein, and Izod, announced that they will sign the accord.
The decision to improve standards is the result of an eight story building collapse that killed over 1,100 workers at the end of April, and a small factory fire that killed eight last week. Last week, rescue efforts for the building collapse ended making the official death toll 1,127.
Media Resources: Daily Kos 5/18/2013; New York Times 5/15/2013; Feminist Newswire 5/15/2013, 5/10/2013