KUALA LUMPUR/LONDON (Reuters) – Women who work in Asian factories making clothes for the global retail giant Walmart are at “daily risk” of slapping, sexual abuse and other harassment, rights groups said on Friday.
Based on interviews with about 250 workers in 60 Walmart supplier factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Indonesia, a coalition of charities said women were “systematically exposed to violence” and faced retaliation if they reported the attacks.
The coalition has investigated the factories for more than six years as efforts mount to push Western brands into cleaning up the workplace and improving safety along their supply chains.
US-based Walmart, with at least 11,000 stores in nearly 30 nations, said it was reviewing the findings of the report.
“The accounts by workers is concerning, and we take allegations like this seriously,” a Walmart spokeswoman said.
“We have a robust supply chain monitoring programme. Walmart’s Standards for Suppliers lists our social and environmental expectations for our suppliers, specifically addressing the cultivation of a safe and healthy work environment,” she said.
The charities said they found widespread sex harassment, verbal and physical abuse such as slapping and threats of retaliation when women refused sexual advances from bosses.
“This is a very urgent and serious issue,” Anannya Bhattacharjee of the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a group which represents garment workers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.