Wal-Mart is under pressure to take responsibility for the use of child labour at two Bangladeshi garment factories after a radio programme revealed new code of conduct violations.

The Radio Canada exposé aired on 2 December on the French-language programme Zone Libre reported that 10-14 year-old children were working at the factories, which make clothes for Wal-Mart Canada.

According to Catherine Vaillancourt-Laflamme of the Quebec Coalition Against Sweatshops, Wal-Mart has reacted to the exposé by announcing it is cutting off future orders from the suppliers.

But instead of running from the situation she says the retailer should help to eliminate the future use of child labour at the factories and ensure that children currently working there have other alternatives.

"Cutting and running is the absolute worst possible response to reports of child labour or other worker rights abuses," says Vaillancourt-Laflamme.

Kevin Thomas from the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN) agrees that the policy is counterproductive "because it discourages workers from telling the truth to factory auditors for fear of losing their jobs and encourages suppliers to hide worker rights abuses or to subcontract orders to other factories that will escape inspection."

A just-released study carried out by MSN for the Ethical Trading Action Group (ETAG), which rates retailers and brands based on their publicly available policies and programmes on worker rights issues in supply factories, gave Wal-Mart a failing mark of 30.

According to Thomas, Wal-Mart received the failing grade at least partially because it does not have a staged approach to dealing with most serious worker rights abuses and doesn't report to customers and investors on the results of factory audits or corrective action taken to eliminate abuses.

The Transparency Report Card also criticises Wal-Mart for having a code of conduct that undercuts international standards by setting 14 as the minimum working age and sanctioning a 72-hour workweek.