April 15, 2013 - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) have so far declined to join Li & Fung Ltd. and other companies in voluntarily compensating victims of a fire last year at a Bangladesh garment factory.
Wal-Mart and Sears also didn’t respond to an invitation to attend a meeting today in Geneva, where companies whose clothing was manufactured at the Tazreen Design Ltd. factory are expected to discuss compensation payments, said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a Washington-based international labor-monitoring group.
The Nov. 24 blaze killed 112 workers and increased pressure on Wal-Mart and other Western retailers to help improve factory conditions and take more direct responsibility for their suppliers. Clothing bound for Wal-Mart and Sears was found in the charred ruins. Both companies have said suppliers used the Tazreen factory without their permission and were fired. Sears and Wal-Mart, which don’t directly employ workers in Bangladesh and are not legally obligated to compensate them, have instituted worker-safety programs there.
“It’s so important for Western retailers to be at this meeting,” said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, who was in the U.S. last week to ask Wal-Mart to do more to help make Bangladesh factories safe. “If they’re not there, they’re totally giving the message that they are supporting these death traps and they really don’t care how many lives go to make these clothes.”