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How Safe Are Wal-Mart’s Overseas Factories?

December 9, 2012 by  

How Safe Are Wal-Mart’s Overseas Factories?, Wal-Mart (WMT), which has been dogged this year by allegations of bribing foreign officials, now stands accused of putting profits above worker safety before last month’s deadly fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh.

According to Bloomberg News, Wal-Mart rejected an industry proposal in 2011 that would require retailers to pay to help suppliers in Bangladesh upgrade factories. Wal-Mart dismissed the idea as being impractical, arguing “we are talking about 4,500 factories, and in most cases very extensive and costly modifications would need to be undertaken to some factories,” according to minutes from a retailer meeting obtained by Bloomberg News.

More than 100 people died last month in a fire at a Bangladesh factory that produced apparel for Wal-Mart, Walt Disney (DIS) and Sears Holdings (SHLD). All three companies have distanced themselves from the factory, however, saying the work there was done without approval. Wal-Mart said it knew of safety issues at the factory before the fire and decided to stop doing business there, the Associated Press reports.

“The fire incident is indeed tragic and unfortunate,” said Shafiqul Islam, a counselor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington D.C., in an email to MSN Money. “However, to prevent such incidents in future, numerous actions are being taken by the government as well as the industry. We hope things will be much better in the coming days.”

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