A fire that killed 112 employees at a Walmart supplier in Bangladesh has prompted a workers-rights group to take action, calling on the world's biggest retailer to improve its safety efforts.
SumOfUs.org said Thursday it has gathered more than 85,000 signatures on a petition demanding Walmart join an independent fire safety inspection program.
“While adoption of this program cannot bring back the lives of 112 people killed this week, it would raise the standard of working conditions across Bangladesh and prevent the injury and death of hundreds of people,” SumofUs.org Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said in a release.
Survivors of the Saturday blaze at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory said emergency exits were nonexistent, fire extinguishers didn't work, and supervisors ordered employees to keep sewing even as alarms rang out out, according to reports.
The Bangladeshi factory also made clothes for Disney, Sears, Sean Combs' Enyce and other labels, the Washington Post reports.
Walmart told the paper it had already planned to sever ties with the factory before the fire, because it knew of the potential dangers, and that a supplier continued to use the plant without authorization.
But SumofOfUs says Walmart could go further by pledging to support a fire-safety program.
A SumOfUs's public relations representative told The Huffington Post in an email that Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein parent PVH, along with labor organizations, have already committed to a two-year fire-safety program, contributing $1 million. PVH said in a release provided by the rep that participating companies are expected to underwrite the venture, which is to be overseen by a fire inspector. The program would focus on both prevention and emergency procedure.
“Walmart is wrong to claim that severing its relationship with this particular supplier is enough,” Stinebrickner-Kauffman said in a release. "It could easily move on to the next rock-bottom supplier and still subject the people who make Walmart's clothing to highly dangerous and potentially deadly conditions."
Walmart declined to comment Thursday when contacted by The Huffington Post.