A company that makes clothes for Sean Combs' clothing brand ENYCE and other U.S. labels reassured investors that a factory fire that killed 112 people over the weekend would not harm its balance sheet, and also pledged to pay the families of the dead $1,200 per victim.
In an announcement Monday, Li & Fung Ltd., a middleman company that supplies clothes from Bangladesh factories to U.S. brands, said "it wishes to clarify" that the deadly Saturday night blaze at the high-rise Tazreen Fashions factory outside Dhaka "will not have any material impact on the financial performance" of the firm.
The fire broke out on the ground floor of the nine-floor building as hundreds of workers were upstairs on a late-night shift producing fleece jackets and trousers for the holiday rush at American stores, including Wal-Mart, according to labor rights groups. Fire officials said the only way out was down open staircases that fed right into the flames. Some workers died as they jumped from higher floors.
After reassuring investors about its financial health, Li & Fung's statement went on to express "deepest condolences" to the families of the dead, and pledge the equivalent of $1,200 to each family. The company also said it would set up an educational fund for the victims' children.
As reported on "ABC World News with Diane Sawyer" earlier this year, Bangladesh has become a favorite of many American retailers, drawn by the cheapest labor in the world, as low as 21 cents an hour, producing clothes in crowded conditions that would be illegal in the U.S. In the past five years, more than 700 Bangladeshi garment workers have died in factory fires.
"[It's] the cheapest place, the worst conditions, the most dangerous conditions for workers and yet orders continue to pour in," said Scott Nova, executive director of Worker Rights Consortium, an American group working to improve conditions at factories abroad that make clothes for U.S. companies. Nova said the fire was the most deadly in the history of the Bangladesh apparel industry, and "one of the worst in any country."
Today, U.S. companies extended condolences to the families of the victims, and scrambled to answer questions about the dangerous factory that had been making their clothes.
Wal-Mart inspectors had warned last year that "the factory had violations or conditions which were deemed to be high risk," according to a document posted on-line.
Yet Wal-mart clothing continued to be made at the factory, according to workers groups who found clothing with Wal-Mart's private label, Faded Glory, in the burned out remains along with clothing for a number of other U.S. labels, including ENYCE, Dickies and a brand associated with Sears.
Wal-Mart confirmed Monday that its clothes were being made at the Tazreen factory. Even though Wal-Mart is famed for maintaining tight control over its supply chain, the company said its clothes were being made at the plant without its knowledge.