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Walmart will not sign Bangladesh worker safety agreement

Walmart has stated it will not sign an international agreement to improve worker safety in Bangladesh drawn up by unions.

Walmart has stated it will not sign an international agreement to improve worker safety in Bangladesh drawn up by unions.

IndustriALL and UNI Global have spearheaded the plan in the wake of the collapse of the Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,000 workers and is being described as one of the largest industrial disasters in recent history.

The agreement is a programme of fire safety reforms, independent inspections, and worker-led health and safety committees. It will also give unions access to factories.

A spokesman for IndustriALL told CampdenFB: "We are disappointed but not surprised. Considering their business model of squeezing every penny along the supply chain it would have been a huge shift if they had decided to sign."

Owned by the Walton family, US-based Walmart – a discount department store chain – is the largest company in the world based on revenues. In a statement published 14 May, it said it would conduct its own in-depth safety inspections at all of the Bangladeshi factories that supply its products.

The company stated: "While we agree with much of the proposal, the IndustriALL plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals."

It said its approach would deliver results more quickly, and would meet or exceed all of the proposals made by IndustriALL.

More than 30 big name brands have signed the agreement, including family-controlled fashion chains H&M, Inditex and Primark. The deadline for signatories was midnight on 15 May.

IndustriALL's spokesman added: "By continuing with the social auditing model [whereby the company appoints its own auditors] they're accepting to continue with the status quo. They are saying that they don't care about the 1,100 people trapped under the rubble and they don't care if it happens again. That is their clear message."

When questioned about IndustriALL’s comments, a Walmart spokesman directed CampdenFB to a press release, which said: "The company will complete all [factory] reviews within six months and will publicly release the names and inspection information on all 279 factories. As a result, workers in these facilities can be assured of safer working conditions, and the entire market will be lifted to a new standard."   

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