business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that while US retailers that had products being made at factories in Bangladesh - where conditions related to safety violations led to thousands of deaths and injuries - are working to help improve safety conditions in such facilities, they have not demonstrated a willingness to contribute to compensation funds for the families of those who died or were injured there.

Here's how the Times frames the story:

The International Labor Organization is working with Bangladeshi officials, labor groups and several retailers to create ambitious compensation funds to assist not just the families of the dead, but also more than 1,800 workers who were injured, some of them still hospitalized.

"A handful of retailers — led by Primark, an Anglo-Irish company, and C&A, a Dutch-German company — are deeply involved in getting long-term compensation funds off the ground, one for Rana Plaza’s victims and one for the victims of the Tazreen fire, which killed 112 workers last Nov. 24.

"But to the dismay of those pushing to create the compensation funds, neither Walmart, Sears, Children’s Place nor any of the other American companies that were selling goods produced at Tazreen or Rana Plaza have agreed to contribute to the efforts.

"Supporters of compensation plans say they are needed to pay for medical care for those who are paralyzed or otherwise badly injured, to provide income after a vital breadwinner died and to give families enough income so that children are not forced to quit school and go to work."
KC's View:
The American retailers' position seems to be that because any production of goods in the factories was unauthorized, they do not have any responsibility for compensating the families of the victims. In addition, experts say that the retailers could be placing themselves in legal jeopardy by contributing, that they would open themselves to litigation. Which demonstrates, I suppose, the chasm between legal responsibility and moral/ethical responsibility.

Because you could have a convention of people who believe the "we didn't know that they were manufacturing our products" line in a phone booth. If you can find a phone booth. (Google it if the phrase "phone booth" is foreign to you.)