Why Wal-Mart won't sign Bangladesh safety pact

The company is among US retailers voicing concerns that the IndustriALL accord contains unacceptable liability provisions.

By Jonathan Berr May 15, 2013 9:42AM
Bangladesh rescuers look for survivors and victims at the site of a building that collapsed April 24, 2013 in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh (© A.M.Ahad/AP Photo)Wal-Mart (WMT), under pressure to improve conditions for workers at its contractors in Bangladesh, announced plans Tuesday to conduct "in-depth safety inspections" at all factories in the poor Asian country that produces many of its goods.

The world's largest retailer, though, balked at signing the IndustriALL, an accord backed by some European retailers and labor groups that commits to funding safety improvements at Bangladesh factories. Wal-Mart is concerned that the agreement would leave it open to lawsuits from aggrieved workers.

"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," according to a company statement.

Wal-Mart argues that its own plan meets or exceeds the IndustriALL accord and will get results more quickly. However, if its concerns are addressed, Wal-Mart says, it will sign the broader agreement.

Gap (GPS) has also raised concerns about IndustriALL because of liability. A spokesman told USA Today that the company is "six sentences away" from signing the accord. Sears (SHLD) is reviewing the pact, as is J.C. Penney (JCP), according to the paper.

PVH (PVH), the parent of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, and several European retailers have signed IndustriAll.

Western companies have heard demands to improve conditions in Bangladesh factories after series of tragedies there, including the factory collapse on April 24 that killed 1,127 people at last count. Eight more workers were killed at a sweater factory fire last week.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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May 15, 2013 11:05AM

Walmart is a rotten company, rotten all the way to the top. My wife worked in management

for seven years. Store manager would have emergencies and require asst. Managers to

work 18-24 hour straight on many occasions, on salary with no compensation. Store mngr.

had a G.E.D. and called her stupid. She had 2 Masters, working on her 3rd. Open Door Policy

means that if you call upper mngt. about a violation of policy they call the manager and tell

them that they have a trouble maker and they need to get rid of them.




Wal-mart is probably wondering how they can get cheaper than $28 a month for garment workers.


Probably thinking real hard about getting a country to force their prisoners to work for free and then use those countries. Perhaps even getting a kick back from the prison system.


Gee this stuff happened here in America and started the unions. Have we forgotten the past so soon. Is it some kind of garment shop ritual sacrifice that spans the ages going on here?

May 15, 2013 10:51AM
Wal-Mart sells stuff made in Bangladesh? That's surprising, I thought everything they sold was made in China. I guess they don't care where the cheap crap comes from. Over a thousand people lose their lives making garbage for them, and THEY'RE worried about potential lawsuits affecting their bottom line? Typical. Here's a thought. Make sure the factories that produce goods for you aren't death-traps, and you won't have to worry about it.
May 15, 2013 12:00PM

Everybody jumping on the hate Wal-Mart bandwagon as usual. 

I know.......It is the PC thing to scream.


How many of ya'll will be boycotting all the other retailers that do business in these countries and had cloths made in that factory that collapsed? lol 

May 15, 2013 12:34PM

As usual Wal Mart is more interested in cash than worker safety.  They will sign another contract with some company in a broken down death trap and make more money.  Big business exist for cash flow not morality.  Wal Mart has gone to blazes since founder and his son passed away.


I was at Wal Mart yesterday.....couldn't get the regular brand of dog food empty shelves of course or buy the store brand. Some of the other items I wanted were not there either.  That means a 60  mile round trip to go to another Store. 


When will we all get tired of this retail giant???? 

May 15, 2013 3:07PM

walmart built there business on "made in america". some time after mr. sam died  they started buying nearly everything from third world countries. they do not care about anybody working in those factories because they are greedy and wished their employees would work for less here. walmart wages keep most of their  workers on some type of government assistance. who can live on $7.90 an hour and they are paying third world people $28 a month overseas. when walmart puts all small business out of business they will dictate prices.

May 15, 2013 11:07AM
No love for Walmart, however, take a look at 90% of every clothing label item on the market and its probably not made in North America. So i would ask you finger pointers to do the following; Take off every peice of clothing you have on right now thats made in a foreign country and take a walk down your local main street. "see you in jail you fat naked POS"   LOL!
May 16, 2013 9:12AM
If people stopped going there, this wouldn't be a problem would it.
May 15, 2013 12:44PM

People bash Walmart for using suppliers in foreign countries. The bash because the workers are not making US wages. Unfortunately we only have ourselves to blame. If we were willing to pay a lot more for our jeans and clothing and retailers can sell them for a profit then things would be made her. However we prefer our low cost clothing. Those who say they are willing to pay more have answers for this. If we take factories from those countries and move them back 1) what jobs will those countries have for its citizens. Retail is mass selling 2) so what is your answer to getting everyone to accept the higher cost for goods. We complain that the US sends to much money to foreign countries. Is it better to have some jobs done in those poor countries where they are producing something for the global economy instead of the US giving them money to exist.

Some of this is basic economics if a country can only produce 1 item and the US can produce that item them we all come out better if the US backs off and lets that small country produce that item and have trade with the US. That way we make more money, they make money and both economies can thrive.

May 15, 2013 1:34PM
All these people bashing Walmart.  I wonder where they are getting all their customers.
May 16, 2013 9:01AM
Instead of looking toward other countries for cheap labor we should be looking internally. All of the people on welfare who aren't working and  all of the prisoners could be used.
May 16, 2013 5:10AM
What ever is the comments ...here we in Bangladesh got enough  expertise to make quality products better than any other country is only buyer wants ! 
We do also have a strong team of technical people and companies to give proper safety training and systems.
So only awareness and personal interest might be the strong cause to solve the isse. 

Nafis Rahman
Multisystem Engg. Ltd.
May 15, 2013 12:50PM
WalMart won't sign the agreement because they don't have to. All those other companies are going to take care of the problem for them.
May 16, 2013 11:25AM

People apply at walmart because they always seem to be hiring; and there are a great many people that need jobs.  why is walmart always hiring?  because they treat their employees (in general; not necessarily every employee will have the same experience) like crap and there is a high turn over; from firings AND people quitting.

 BTW, puzze;

Sure people choose to apply at and/or take jobs at WM.... but, many of those people don't have many employment opportunities available.  Remember; W/M helped perpetuate the outsourcing of higher paying American jobs; and replaced them with their own crappy-paying jobs.  And some people are at the end of their ropes; and HAVE to take whatever job they are offered... just the way W/M and other Corporate America Tycoons like it... because when consumers can't afford choices; you know they will take the "lowered price" crap you are peddling...  you have them over a barrel.

May 16, 2013 11:12AM

My problem with this is that it seems that the employers like W/M and a few others; do not want to take any responsibility for the working conditions of the people making their products.  If it was in the US: there would be no way that working conditions like that would be tolerated... or legal.


W/M is ok with saying that they support safety standards; but, they want to make sure that they aren't in any way, shape, or form; held responsible for anything that might happen... and THESE are the people in the places  that W/M "advised" their US suppliers to have their products made; or else - walmart wouldn't buy from them.  


@ puzze face;

wow... angry  much?

first of all; "impeach the coon"???  what friggin planet are you from that you think the use of that word is even remotely ok?  I do think our freedom of speech is not really as free as we'd like it to be; and I do think that too many people have thin skins and need to stop trying to change words in Mark Twain's (and others) stories & stop being so dang sensitive that people can't speak their opinions freely.... HOWEVER, when we tolerate comments like yours about the President of the US; we are releasing our culture from the necessity of showing respect.  I disliked "W"; but, I would not have gone on such a public forum and called his a kracker or anything else.  Respect the position; even if you don't like the person.  Of course; I am fully aware that I am wasting my time addressing you; because your posts are evidence that you are obviously very closed-minded and that you are incapable of even attempting to see things from other people's perspective.  Still; it's better to try and fail; than to do nothing and succeed... you poor, poor soul...

May 15, 2013 11:54AM

It bothers me that we cannot buy American anymore at MOST stores.  I have old clothes but don't shop because I hate to support this betrayal of the American worker.  But most states tax the devil out of companies so they ended up going overseas to be able to compete in the market place.  Punitive tax rates on the "rich" hurts the poor who used to get jobs from them.  Blame our overtaxing state and federal governments for forcing these companies overseas.  The taxes need to be reduced (heck, give them incentives) and tariffs need to be put on imports.  Jobs would return and we wouldn't be dealing with this nonsense. 


I have decided to start sewing my own clothes to replace the worn ones (thanks heavens I have that skill) but, heck, the fabric is probably made overseas as well. 


May 15, 2013 12:15PM
I can understand Walmart's reluctance to sign off. They are the biggest target for being sued. On that list  Walmart is around 450 Billion in sales while everyone else on that list is 40 Billion or less. Sorry but Walmart has more at risk to blindly sign off on an agreement that could put them at a greater risk of lawsuits.
May 16, 2013 10:43AM

May 16, 2013 11:19AM

Walmart is an empire.  History dictates that when one gets way too big it will fall.  Although I would hate to see so many lose their jobs it really would be best for this country.  It would allow others to come in and compete and keep prices low.  Americans love variety. In my community they have a small Walmart which in a couple months will be a SuperWalmart.   WE did not need this.  We needed a Lowes,Trader Joes, Anna's linens, Designer show warehouse, A larger JCP and everyone wants a Kohl's!!!!! Target would be wonderful but the population size is not yet large enough.  I can tell you as a former outside merchandiser  there are only a handful of happy employees that work there.  I myself was harassed, bullied and disrespected by certain management and my boss was not truly supportive.

That was hurtful. I lost that job and have been recovering for almost a year with a mild PTSD condition.I am still unemployed and will not consider Walmart as a viable Employer.  I will keep looking. God has a plan, I continue to pray.

May 15, 2013 12:35PM

Since WW2, American prosperity has depended on cheap foreign goods and expensive AMerican export.


Over last few years as Thrid workd  coutnries have some sing of advancement, we and Western Europe are comign to reality. What makes clothes you buy expensive is not the production cost.

It is rent, taxes, regulations. With all this spending if you walk down the street it is hard to figure how every one is dressed so snobby.

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