On Anniversary of Bangladesh’s Deadliest Garment Factory Fire, Worker Rights Consortium Urges Walmart and Other Laggard Retailers to Join Acclaimed Safety Program

Two months after the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry went into effect in September 2021, 150 apparel brands and retailers had already signed this new binding agreement which expands the model pioneered by the Bangladesh Accord for protecting worker safety. The signatories include H&M, Zara, American Eagle Outfitters, Tommy Hilfiger, and Hanesbrands.

“The Accord is the most effective safety program ever created in the global apparel supply chain. It has generated a hundred thousand life-saving factory repairs and renovations across Bangladesh’s sprawling garment sector,” said Scott Nova, Executive Director of the Worker Rights Consortium. In the years prior to catastrophic death tolls at Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza in 2012 and 2013, 900 workers died in dozens of other garment factory disasters in Bangladesh. Since 2016 – just three years into the Accord’s implementation – there has not been a single death in an Accord-listed factory due to a safety issue covered by the program.

On November 24, 2012, hundreds were working overtime at Tazreen Fashions – where 5 out of 14 production lines were making Walmart apparel – when it caught fire. The building had no fire exits. A survivor, Sumi Abedin, said her manager locked the doors on her floor after the fire alarm sounded, claiming it was a false alarm. When smoke filled the floor minutes later, the manager was nowhere to be found. She survived with a broken leg after jumping from a third-floor window. That day 112 of her colleagues perished.

“On the anniversary of a horrific disaster facilitated by Walmart’s flawed safety monitoring system, the Worker Rights Consortium implores the retailer to stop ignoring the safety of workers in its supply chain and sign the International Accord,” said Nova.

In April 2011, during negotiations that ultimately led to the 2013 formation of the original Accord program, Walmart attempted to block the effort. Walmart claimed it was “not financially feasible” for it to pay better prices to suppliers to help pay for safety renovations like proper fire exits.