Three years after the garment factory Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh which killed more than 1,100 people, some of the world's biggest retailers, including Walmart, Gap, and H&M, have failed to improve workplace safety.
A series of new reports by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of rights groups and trade unions, finds that tens of thousands of laborers in Bangladesh are still making garments in buildings without proper fire exits, while pregnant workers in Indonesia and India face discrimination and wage theft. In Cambodia, workers who demanded an extra $20 a month were shot and killed.
Walmart has continued to benefit from forced labor in more than a dozen of its supplier factories in India, Cambodia, and Bangladesh, the report found. Workers described "harsh conditions with strict line leaders, tough supervisors and abusive management practices" including verbal abuse, threats, and denial of water breaks. Due to a lack of transparency in the supply chain, Walmart has been able to evade accountability for many of its abusive practices, the report states.
H&M, which was the first to sign the post-Rana Plaza international deal known as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. An earlier report from the Wage Alliance found that the company's factories continue to allow wage theft, sexual harassment, and other workplace abuses in its factories. And many of those buildings have yet to be fitted with proper fire exits, the report found. Anannya Bhattacharjee, the international coordinator for the Wage Alliance, told the Times, "At this point, we do not see H&M working in a way that would prevent another Rana Plaza."
Workers Rights Consortium executive director Scott Nova added, "It's so grossly irresponsible to put thousands of workers into a building that doesn't have fire exits."
Gap factories continue to force laborers to put in more than 100 hours a week for poverty wages, the report states.
"Corporate and multi-stakeholder 'corporate social responsibility' schemes have had little if any positive impact on guaranteeing workers’ rights," International Trade Union Confederation general secretary Sharan Burrow wrote.