Above: US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal says more needs to be done to improve safety for Bangladesh garment industry
NEW YORK – Wal-Mart said about 10 of more than six dozen Bangladesh garment factories failed safety checks in audits it commissioned.
The retailer hired Bureau Veritas to check some 200 factories it uses in Bangladesh after the April collapse of the Rana Plaza building killed more than 1,100 people and highlighted often grim conditions in the country’s garment industry.
About 75 factories have been audited so far and Wal-Mart said it will release results for other factories as the inspections are completed.
It said factories that failed audits have since made improvements.
In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster, major European clothing retailers signed up to a system of factory inspections in conjunction with labour and activist groups.
North American retailers set up a separate alliance and established a fund that could be tapped for factory improvements.
Bangladesh emerged as a major supplier to global clothing brands because of wages that are among the lowest in the world.
Bangladeshi garment makers employ millions of people, mostly women, but safety has been an afterthought amid pressure to fill orders, while enforcement of labour rights and building safety codes is compromised by corruption and thin government resources.
Last week, garment factory owners agreed to a 77 per cent increase in the minimum wage for new unskilled garment workers to 5,300 takas ($66) a month after Bangladesh’s prime minister stepped in to resolve four days of violent clashes over wages.