As U.S. retailers face mounting pressure to join a landmark plan to improve factory safety in Bangladesh, newly found documents indicate that apparel had been produced for Wal-Mart at one of the operations in the factory building that collapsed last month, killing more than 1,100 workers.
The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity has provided The New York Times with photos of several documents, not disputed by Wal-Mart, that were recovered in the building’s rubble showing that a Wal-Mart contractor from Canada had produced jeans last year at the Ether Tex factory, which had been on the fifth floor of the collapsed Rana Plaza building.
While both the contractor and Wal-Mart denied any knowledge of the production orders there, Wal-Mart on Tuesday announced that it would put in place new safety measures at the factories it was using in Bangladesh.
Saying it was unwilling to sign on to the broad safety plan embraced by more than a dozen European companies this week,
Wal-Mart said its factory monitors would “conduct in-depth safety inspections at 100 percent” of the 279 factories it uses in Bang-ladesh and publicize the results on its website.
Wal-Mart promised to stop production immediately at factories if urgent safety problems are uncovered and to notify factory owners and government authorities of improvements. But the company stopped short of committing to help underwrite the improvements — one of the crucial aspects of the Bangladesh safety agreement adopted by European companies. The only non-European companies to sign are PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, and Loblaw of Canada.
Wal-Mart maintained Tuesday that it had no involvement at the Rana Plaza building, playing down the newly discovered documents.
One document, dated May 12, 2012, that was found in the rubble detailed a purchase order by a Canadian company, Fame Jeans, for “dark blue wash,” “skinny fit” jeans to be delivered to Wal-Mart in fall 2012. Another document, dated April 27, 2012, discussed pricing for five styles of jeans.
But Wal-Mart emphasized that the documents dated back a year.
“Our investigation of the Rana Plaza building site after the collapse revealed no evidence of authorized or unauthorized production at the time of the tragedy,” said Kevin Gardner, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
Alen Brandman, chief executive of Fame Jeans, blamed a “rogue employee” who had decided to use the factory without his knowledge.