Walmart Rejected Proposal To Protect Bangladesh Factories Against Fire: Report [UPDATE]

In this photo taken on Friday Nov. 29, 2012, Roksana, 20, left, a survivor of a garment factory fire, sits in her house in Dh
In this photo taken on Friday Nov. 29, 2012, Roksana, 20, left, a survivor of a garment factory fire, sits in her house in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Major retailers have disavowed the Bangladesh garment factory where 112 workers died in the fire last month, but the survivors of the fire have not. Factories like the one gutted on Nov. 24 are a rare lifeline in this desperately poor country, and now many of the more than 1,200 surviving employees have no work and few prospects. (AP Photo/ Ashraful Alam Tito)

Last year, Walmart reportedly decided against aiding factory upgrades that could have stopped fires like last month's blaze at a Bangladesh garment factory.

Bangladeshi suppliers of Walmart clothes wanted to upgrade their facilities to make them more fire-proof, and other retailers approved the plan, according to Bloomberg. The plan only fell through after Walmart and the Gap said they would not pay higher prices to make such upgrades feasible.

Walmart declined to comment on the Bloomberg report when reached by The Huffington Post, but told Bloomberg that the company works to make sure "proactive measures are in place to reduce the chance of factory fires."

The Bangladeshi garment factory fire last month, the worst in Bangladesh's history, killed 112 people. Walmart did not confirm for more than a day after the fire whether the factory was making clothes for the company. The retailer ultimately admitted that a Walmart supplier hired the factory without Walmart's knowledge, adding that Walmart ended its relationship with the supplier as a result.

A Gap spokesperson wrote in an email to The Huffington Post on Wednesday that a Gap representative attended the meeting described by Bloomberg to take notes, not to take a position. The spokesperson said Gap takes issue with some details of the Bloomberg report.

"We are proud of the Gap Inc. Fire and Building Safety Plan for Bangladesh we announced in October which includes accelerated access to up to $20M (US) to support factory improvements across our vendor base in Bangladesh as well as up to $2M to pay factory workers for any days missed due to fire safety remediation," a Gap spokesperson wrote to HuffPost in an email.

Some that worked at the site of the fire have expressed a desire to quickly return to work. Bangladesh's garment industry has created millions of jobs inside the country and makes up the vast majority of the country's export profits, according to a 2010 BBC report.

Other major U.S. companies, including Disney and Sears, allegedly used the factory to make clothes.

Walmart took home $3.63 billion in profits last quarter, and the Walton family -- the heirs to the Walmart fortune -- were worth an estimated $89.5 billion in 2010.

This post has been updated to include a statement from a Gap spokesperson.



Massive Fire In Dhaka