Thick paint covers cracks at Bangladesh factory Walmart cited

Last Updated: Tue, May 14, 2013 15:00 hrs

By Nazimuddin Shyamol

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, May 14 (Reuters) - Garment workers stitched clothing on Tuesday at a Bangladesh factory that Wal-Mart Stores Inc had asked the government to shut down because of safety concerns, three weeks after the collapse of another building killed 1,100 people.

Stitch Tone Garments Ltd in Chittagong, about 250 kilometres from the capital Dhaka, stopped production from May 4 to May 8, but resumed work the following day and has continued operating as normal, company officials told a Reuters reporter who visited the factory on Tuesday.

Walmart said on Monday that its inspectors had identified structural concerns at an adjacent factory, Dresswell Ltd, which is not part of its supply chain. The U.S. retailer said Dresswell's building appeared unstable and could cause a hazard for workers making its clothing next door, and it asked the government to help it halt production at Stitch Tone.

Walmart said it had "removed its business" from Stitch Tone, and officials at the clothing maker confirmed they were no longer producing for Walmart. Walmart, however, had asked that Stitch Tone stop making clothing for any supplier or retailer until the safety concerns were addressed.

The April 24 collapse of Rana Plaza, which housed several garment factories, has called attention to poor safety standards at Bangladesh factories that make clothing for the world's major apparel brands and retailers. Walmart had stepped up factory inspections after a deadly fire at another Bangladesh garment factory in November.

"We are not producing any garments for Walmart," said Rajib Das Sujoy, a Stitch Tone director, adding that the company had shifted Walmart's order to other factories at the retailer's request. He did not say which companies he was manufacturing clothing for now.

The six-story factory building was freshly painted with a thick, blue coating, but cracks were visible under the paint. The building is almost touching the neighbouring block that houses Dresswell.

Torit Kanti Dey, another Stitch Tone director, said the company had complied with Walmart's earlier requests for safety-related changes such as widening a stairway to 45 inches.

Two workers interviewed by Reuters said they were unaware of Walmart's request to halt production.

"We don't know about the problems of our owners. We don't know about the risk of building. We are working for our livelihood. If we stop the work, we cannot survive," said one of the workers, Parvin Akter.

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