Wal-Mart Declined to Pay to Upgrade Bangladesh Factories

Paying suppliers more to cover safety improvements was too costly, exec said.

At a meeting convened in 2011 to boost safety at Bangladesh garment factories, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. made a call: paying suppliers more to help them upgrade their manufacturing facilities was too costly.

The comments from a Wal-Mart sourcing director appear in minutes of the meeting, which was attended by more than a dozen retailers including Gap Inc., Target Corp. and JC Penney Co.

Gap Plan

In October, Gap outlined a four-part plan to make factories Bangladesh garment factories safer. It included hiring a chief fire safety inspector to inspect factories, giving suppliers as much as $20 million in capital to make safety improvements and working with the Bangladesh and U.S. governments as well as the International Labor Organization to “promote comprehensive change.”

Living Hell

On Nov. 26, two days after the fatal fire at the Tazreen factory, Akter witnessed the aftermath of a blaze at a Dhaka garment warehouse. Workers were forced to climb down a bamboo pole because they couldn’t exit through the stairs, she said. Graffiti on a restroom wall at the warehouse read: “Work here and your life is a living hell.”

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