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
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.