BANGLADESH: Wal-Mart admits goods made at fire factory
The garment factory in Bangladesh where a fire at the weekend killed at least 111 people and injured another 100 had been making clothing for Wal-Mart without its knowledge, the world's largest retailer confirmed today (27 November).
A spokesperson for the retailer told just-style that the Tazreen Fashion factory was "no longer authorised to produce merchandise for Wal-Mart," but a supplier sub-contracted work to it "in direct violation of our policies".
"Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier. The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh," the spokesperson said.
The fire, which took place on Saturday, raged through Tazreen Fashion Ltd, based in Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
The blaze, which gutted the eight-storey building, is said to be the worst ever in the history of Bangladesh's US$20bn export-earning clothing industry.
First reports suggest the fire was started by an electrical short circuit, and broke out on the ground floor, which was used as a warehouse.
Nearly 100 people were seriously injured by burns and smoke inhalation, a police official confirmed yesterday (26 November).
Tazreen Fashion employs more than 2,000 people - with around 1,100 working when the fire broke out on Saturday evening. The factory works around the clock in three 8-hour shifts.
Tazreen Fashion, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, manufactured ready-made garment (RMG) products including trousers, socks and sweaters for export to the US and European Union (EU).
Pointing to its 2012 sustainability report, Wal-Mart emphasised the steps it has taken to improve fire safety in the factories it uses in Bangladesh.
In the report, it said consultation with industry experts on fire, electrical and structural safety helped it to establish criteria for factories at high risk of fire.
Last year it ceased working with 49 factories in Bangladesh due to fire safety issues. A meeting in February 2011, held in collaboration with other brands and retailers on fire safety, was attended by 160 suppliers.
According to unverified documentation seen by just-style, the Tazreen Fashion factory was given an Orange rating by Wal-Mart in an audit during May 2011, which means that the factory had violations and conditions which were deemed to be high risk.
Separately, C&A, Li & Fung, and Piazza Italia have all been confirmed as buyers from the factory.
However, labour rights group the Clean Clothes Campaign said labels and documentation found at the facility identify other customers as rapper Sean Comb's Enyce label, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Kik, Teddy Smith, Ace, Dickies, Fashion Basics, Infinity Woman, Karl Rieker GMBH & Co, and True Desire (Sears).
A spokesperson for German retailer Kik, which also sourced products from a factory in Pakistan where a fire killed 260 people in September, told just-style that Tazreen Fashion parent company Tuba Garments produced garments for Kik between 2009 and August 2012, but there has been no Kik production at Tuba Garments since then.
A statement from C&A said it had placed an order for 220,000 sweaters to be delivered to C&A Brazil between December 2012 and February 2013.
Li & Fung said it had placed orders worth US$111,000 with Tazreen on behalf of Kids Headquarters, a division of LF USA. It also confirmed no orders had been placed with Tazreen on behalf of its other customers.
The sourcing giant said it is participating in aid efforts and is pledging BDT100,000 (US$1,200) to the family of every victim - matching the financial assistance offered by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Li & Fung added that it is in "contact with the owner of the factory and it will be carrying out its own investigation into the circumstances which led to the fire."
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