Un excellent article de Nivedita Bhattacharjee et Jessica Wohl pour « Reuters India » sur les conditions de travail et l’exploitation des salariés du tiers-monde par l’industrie textile et la complicité des institutions transnationales et des consommateurs.
About 18 months before the previous big tragedy in Bangladesh - a fire in November in a textile factory that killed 112 people - shareholders at Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) had the opportunity to weigh in on the safety question. By a nearly 50-to-1 margin, they rejected a proposal to require suppliers to report annually on safety issues at their factories.
In arguing against the proposal, Wal-Mart’s management made its reasoning clear: Having suppliers compile such reports “could ultimately lead to higher costs for Walmart and higher prices for our customers. This would not be in the best interests of Walmart’s shareholders and customers and would place Walmart at a competitive disadvantage,” the company said in proxy materials.
Soon after the fire, Wal-Mart and Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) admitted their goods were being made at the Tazreen Fashions workshop even though they had denied that factory authorization as a supplier.
FAR FROM ALONE
Bangladesh is hardly the only source of inexpensive clothes and cheap labor that has sparked concern about labor conditions. From Vietnam, to the American protectorate of Saipan, to the massive workshops in China, Western companies have found themselves entangled with places where worker health and safety conditions are often questioned.
Disasters such as the April 24 collapse of an eight-story factory building in Bangladesh have not changed the calculation for apparel makers and retailers. Cheaper products appeal to shoppers. And the taint, if any, appears to be manageable.
The courthouse, marketplace and stock market seem to be telling them they are right.
Shoppers such as Mohini Raichura are making decisions that justify the retailers’ strategies. Raichura, a 30-year-old London charity worker, was shopping Friday at Primark, a discount retailer owned by Associated British Foods (ABF.L), even though she knew that some of its products were made at the factory that collapsed earlier in the week.
“I go there because it’s cheap. That’s awful. It really makes me a bad person,” Raichura said. “But you know, I work for a charity, I’m on a limited income, and I pay rent in London -that’s how I justify it.”
Consumers continue to purchase products from brands like Wal-Mart’s Faded Glory, found in the Tazreen rubble, and Loblaw’s Joe Fresh, found in the ruins of the factory building this week.
... That disaster, in which locked doors prevented workers from fleeing to safety, did not appear to have any measurable impact on sales at Wal-Mart and Sears after both acknowledged their products were made there.
The world’s court systems have not provided a disincentive, either. For example, in 2005, a lawsuit was filed in California state court on behalf of factory workers in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and other countries accusing Wal-Mart of failing to address substandard working conditions in suppliers’ factories.
But the case was ultimately dismissed, and according to a search of available filings on the Thomson Reuters legal database Westlaw, there have been no U.S. lawsuits filed against Wal-Mart or Sears on similar matters since the Tazreen fire.