Tensions broke into the open on Monday involving two large groups of retailers — one overwhelmingly American, the other dominated by Europeans — that have formed to improve factory safety in Bangladesh.
An official from the European group voiced concern that the American retailers would piggyback at no cost on the efforts of the Europeans — which includes H&M, Carrefour and more than 100 other retailers — in financing safety upgrades at hundreds of factories.
The members of the European-led group, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, have made binding commitments to help pay for fire safety measures and building upgrades when shortcomings in safety are found in the more than 1,600 garment factories its members use in Bangladesh.
(Read more: Bangladesh garment workers protest, factories shut)
While the American-dominated group, which has 26 members, including Walmart Stores, Target and Gap, has stopped short of making such a binding commitment, it has pledged to provide loans for the improvements.
Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights group based in Washington that is a member of the Europe-led accord, said members had a "significant concern about a free-rider situation."