Five years on: abuses that led to Rana Plaza disaster persist
Today MEPs will hold a hearing to assess the level of progress that has been made to enhance due diligence in the global supply chain of the garment sector.
The meeting is organised jointly by the European Parliament Committees on Development and International Trade to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster.
In 2013 1,129 textile workers in Bangladesh died when the garment factory where they were working collapsed. The disaster put the spotlight on unethical practices in the garment sector and underlined the need for tougher legislation to protect workers.
Last year the European Parliament approved proposals by GUE/NGL rapporteur Lola Sánchez Caldentey (Podemos, Spain) for binding due-diligence obligations on the garment sector. Sánchez Caldentey lamented the EU’s inaction:
“Europe has so far failed to adopt binding rules that ensure traceability and transparency in the garment supply chains, ensuring that garment manufacturers and sub-contractors are punished for abusing labour rights.”
“The Rana Plaza disaster made the world understand that the extremely low prices – and extremely high profit margins – in the garment industry are the result of pressures put on suppliers to cut costs. These come at the expense of workers’ rights, dignity and safety.”
“During my visit to Sri Lanka I came across appalling work conditions in garment factories. Bosses force extra time on workers and give them extremely low wages, they compromise health & safety measures and fail to provide adequate training and protection from work hazards.”
MEP Helmut Scholz (DIE LINKE, Germany) said that it is clear that a gap in legislation still exists:
“The development towards global production and value chains and related investments highlights the need for a new regulatory framework, clearly committed to the goals defined in the United Nations Agenda 2030.”
MEP Anne-Marie Mineur (SP, Netherlands) sees the ongoing negotiations for a UN Binding Treaty on business and human rights as a glimmer of hope:
“The Commission and member states rely on voluntary practices by corporations to ensure respect for human rights and the environment in their production processes and supply chains. We have seen that these voluntary initiatives do not work.”
“There is an urgent need for binding rules. The member states and the Commission must be pressured to adopt a positive role in the negotiations for a UN Binding Treaty on transnational corporations,” Mineur concluded.