Walmart Refuses to Pay, Despite Competitor’s Agreement to Help Victims of Factory Fire

Two Years After Deadliest Fire in Bangladesh, C&A Foundation commits significant funds to full and fair compensation of victims; Still no commitment from Walmart, Sears, Disney


International Labor Rights Forum

Two years after Bangladesh’s deadliest factory fire, IndustriALL Global Union, their Bangladeshi affiliates, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and C&A have reached an agreement on a system for delivering compensation to the injured workers and to the families of the workers killed in the disaster.

On November 24, 2012, Tazreen Fashions, a factory on the outskirts of Dhaka that supplied global clothing brands and retailers, was engulfed in flames. Over 120 workers died trapped behind locked exits, trying to escape, or as a result of injuries sustained from the fire. Three hundred workers were seriously injured. For two years these workers have faced destitution and ongoing medical problems as a result of the fire; some have even died due to untreated complications from their injuries.

Today, the International Labor Rights Forum joins with Bangladeshi and international union allies and the Clean Clothes Campaign to mark the second anniversary of the Tazreen fire. We are asking all brands that were buying from Tazreen Fashions to pledge an immediate and substantial contribution to the compensation fund.

“We urgently need Walmart, Sears, Disney and all the other companies whose clothes were made at Tazreen to make the needs of Tazreen victims a priority and to join with C&A in the compensation process,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum.

Workers say at the time of the fire they had just completed a shipment to Walmart, which was the main buyer of garments made at Tazreen. “Walmart has yet to take any responsibility for the workers killed and injured,” said Babul Akhter from the IndustriALL affiliate BGIWF (Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation).

Tazreen workers also produced clothing for Delta Apparel, Dickies, Disney, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, El Corte Ingles, Sean John Apparel, Kik, Piazza Italia, and Sears. None of these companies have paid a cent towards compensation. Hong Kong based Li & Fung, the world’s largest sourcing agent, and the C&A Foundation already made some payments through the Bangladeshi government. El Corte Ingles and Kik have made informal promises to such a commitment and we are now asking for those companies to join C&A and make concrete and public pledges.

Over recent days the parties to the agreement with C&A have been engaged in ongoing negotiations, facilitated by the International Labour Organization (ILO), to agree on principles for an agreement. Details of the program will be finalized over the coming days, with the hope that compensation will finally be delivered.

Ineke Zeldenrust from the CCC stated: “Just prior to the second anniversary we are extremely pleased to be able to announce we and IndustriALL have reached an outline agreement with C&A on the principles of a compensation process. The system will be based on the system already developed for the Rana Plaza victims. This system covers compensation for loss of income, provision of independent medical assessments and ongoing treatment.

“As part of this agreement C&A Foundation has pledged to contribute a significant amount towards full and fair compensation for Tazreen victims, in addition to those funds that have already been committed. The final details of the pledge will be worked out and made public once the cost of the package has been finalized. We welcome the positive role that C&A has played in this process, which has been instrumental in getting this agreement.”