Rana Plaza
Rana Plaza after the disaster in April [Reuters].

A group of Bangladeshi garment suppliers have denied claims by American retail giant Walmart that they rejected the company's offer of low-cost loans after the Rana Plaza factory disaster.

Walmart has said that a $50m cheap loan fund was offered to several retailers in Bangladesh but no-one wanted to take advantage of it.

The fund, designed to cover essential factory improvements, was launched in April, four months after the Rana Plaza factory collapsed killing 1,100 workers. It was announced in a conference call to investors and attracted widespread publicity.

However, four suppliers have come forward to claim that they never received any information about the fund.

"Walmart has not offered any loan but certainly it would be a welcome step," said Itemad Ud-Daulah, managing director of Dird Garments in the Toronto Star.

"Low-cost loans would create a lot of goodwill" added Daulah, whose company manufactures jeans for Walmart in two factories near Dhaka.

Walmart spokeswoman Susan Schutta said the company "cannot speculate on what was said by individual factory owners".

Jay Jorgensen, Walmart's chief compliance officer, suggested that the lack of interest in the loans was due to the quality of Walmart's supply chain.

"What [the lack of uptake] says is that the factories Walmart is in are among the better factories, the more capitalised factories. They haven't needed it."

His remarks were ridiculed by Scott Nova, chief executive of the Workers Rights Consortium, who said: "Nobody wants any of Walmart's money because all the factories are perfectly happy to pay for this themselves and have no desire to have low-cost financing to pay for it. It's completely ridiculous."

Duke and hazards

News of the dispute came after Walmart CEO Mike Duke retired to be succeeded by company veteran Doug McMillon.

Chairman Rob Walton said the change "comes at a time of strength and growth at Walmart".

Walmart has faced serious scrutiny in recent days, following claims by campaigners that the company was to be prosecuted for "violating the rights" of workers who participated in strikes in support of a wage claim in the US.

According to campaign group Making Change at Walmart, the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) was to prosecute Walmart for "widespread violations of its workers' rights".

The NLRB has not confirmed that.

A Walmart spokesperson said: "We've treated the associates in these cases respectfully and lawfully, and we're pleased that several of the claims were found to be without merit.

"There has not been a single National Labour Relations Act decision against Walmart in the last five years because we take our obligations under that act very seriously.

"The remaining claims are at a procedural step in an ongoing process, and we look forward to continuing to work with the NLRB and using this opportunity to shed light on the facts."


Walmart is a Ruthless Corporate Monster - but it's Not too Big to Fall