WALMART's FACTORY AUDIT
Walmart, with over 200 Bangladeshi factories producing merchandise for them, has released the results of an initial audit of 75 factories. Of the 75, 10 had outright failed.
Each factory audited was given about 60 days to improve on their safety score. As a result, the retailer discontinued business with 2 factories, and reported that 34 have improved their initial grades from a C or D to A's or B's. This is a powerful indication of what can be accomplished in the country's garment industry when a retailer applies pressure.
The report makes no mention of the number of factories who received an initial C or D rating and did not improve their scores. But it is a good start, 45 percent of the factories showing improvement.
WAGE INCREASES FOR GARMENT WORKERS
Much of the focus in Bangladesh, since the factory collapse and fires earlier this year, has been spit between building safety codes and treatment of workers. Earlier this month a government-appointed panel voted to raise the minimum wage to 5,300 takas a month (or about $66.24 US) from the current $38 US level. However The Ministry of Labour still needs to approve the amount to make it law.
Workers have rejected the proposal indicating that nothing below 8,114 takas ($100) is acceptable. Factory owners are also fighting the wage hike, as it will increase their production costs, effectively eliminating their competitive advantage.
With 100 companies now signed to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, 1500 of the 3500 active garment factories are slated to be inspected in the new year. "You can feel there is a momentum quite frankly that is quite different to what I saw six months ago, " Gilbert Hounbo, ILO deputy director-general said earlier in Geneva.
In order for the Bangladesh garment industry to continue to improve its production quality, worker livelihood, and growth (although the latter has been quite strong despite the former two issues), the world's retailers will have to do their part to maintain that momentum and pressure for improvements.
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