Wake Up Walmart – retail watchdog that focuses exclusively on the activities of the US’ biggest employer Walmart – is calling on the retailer to ensure its suppliers are fulfilling their employer responsibilities. Clothes factories in Bangalore, India, manufacturing for Walmart and other apparel companies have refused to pay the legal minimum wage to approximately 125,000 workers since it was increased a year ago, according to a report released on Friday by the Worker Rights Consortium and being touted by United Student Against Sweatshops.
According to the report, the factories owe the workers more than one month’s back pay, and citywide the Bangalore apparel workforce is owed more than USD10 million.
Walmart’s South Asia procurement and vendor compliance operations are headquartered in Bangalore where it is a major purchaser from one of the biggest offenders cited in the report.
Walmart said it requires compliance with local laws, including minimum wage laws, in its Standards for Suppliers and audits factories that supply the retailer as part of its Ethical Standards Program.
This information follows reports of Walmart’s failure to promote even the most basic of labour standards in supplier factories in China, as detailed in a China Labor Watch report issued on 25 November 2009.
As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart has a responsibility to set the moral ground when it comes to ensuring that factory workers who produce goods sold in its stores are paid according to legal requirements. It is especially telling that such ethical violations take place in the backyard of its regional compliance office.
Wake Up Walmart has called on Walmart to ensure that the workers in the Bangalore factories where its products are produced are paid the back wages they are owed.
Any "ethical standards" programme that Walmart has talked up does not reflect its business practices. The fact that Walmart has chosen to overlook minimum wage laws in India demonstrates a broader pattern of ignoring workers’ rights on a world-wide scale.