Ethical Performance
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Bangladesh factory blaze turns heat on apparel brands

December 2012

Western apparel brands are again under the spotlight over human rights abuses after a fire destroyed a high-rise garment factory in Bangladesh last month, killing at least 112 people.

Despite repeated inspections, fire alarms allegedly went unheeded, extinguishers did not work and exit doors were locked at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Dhaka.

The blaze broke out on the ninth and tenth floors, and many of the victims jumped to their death to escape the flames.

Tazreen Fashions is a subsidiary of the Tuba Group, which reportedly supplies Walmart, Sears, Ikea and other brands in the US and Europe.

Speaking to The Nation, Worker Rights Consortium executive director Scott Nova singled out Walmart, saying that as the largest buyer from Bangladesh suppliers, its “culpability is enormous”.

And he added: “The industry and parent brands have been warned again and again about the extreme danger to workers in Bangladesh and they have not taken action.”

Expressing sympathy for the victims’ families, Walmart said that it was trying to determine if the Tazreen factory has a “current relationship ... or one of our suppliers.”

The company also described fire safety as “a critically important area of Walmart’s factory audit program,” and said that it has been “working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”

This latest blaze is the worst ever in the Bangladesh apparel industry and brings the number of factory fire deaths there to more than 700 in five years. Meanwhile, workers’ efforts to improve their conditions are often resisted.

Tazreen Fashions | Asia | Human rights


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