Walmart not part of landmark sweatshop compensation fund

Labor rights groups say they found documents and remnants of apparel tying 25 European and American retailers and brands to the five garment factories spread across Rana Plaza’s eight floors. Several of the firms have since denied their apparel came from any of the factories. Mango, a Spanish apparel brand, said, for instance, that it only had a test order in a factory there.
Walmart has been urged to help the Rana Plaza families because production documents found in the rubble indicated that a Canadian contractor was producing jeans for Walmart in 2012 at the Ether Tex factory inside the building.. Walmart said an unauthorized contractor was producing garments there without its knowledge. It says it is focused on assuring that there are no such disasters in the future.

The Children’s Place, which had obtained apparel from one of the factories inside Rana Plaza, said the factory was not supplying it at the time of the collapse.

A Walmart official said the company had no comment about requests for it to contribute to the fund. The Children’s Place did not respond to inquiries.

“These brands produced at Rana Plaza, yet did nothing to protect the workers who made their clothes, despite a history of deadly building collapses in Bangladesh,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a monitoring group based in Washington that is financed by American colleges and universities. “Incredibly, some companies do not seem to feel the slightest responsibility to the families whose lives were destroyed as a result of this negligence.”

Officials involved in the compensation fund say they have not yet worked out how much money each participant should contribute. That will depend, in part, on how many retailers ultimately agree to participate and whether various governments agree to give money.

Some industry experts say the American companies are afraid to participate for fear of being exposed to legal liability or appearing hypocritical after denying that they knowingly did business at Rana Plaza at the time of the collapse.

Mr. Rees, the I.L.O. official, said contributions would not lead to liability. “At the moment, this effort needs support,” he said. “It needs the backing of companies that were in Rana Plaza when it collapsed, that were there in the recent past before it collapsed and that weren’t in there at all and want to show solidarity with the industry.”

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