The European Parliament today approved proposals by GUE/NGL MEP Lola Sánchez Caldentey that would see binding due-diligence obligations on the garment sector to ensure that disasters like Rana Plaza, which in 2013 killed 1,129 textile workers in Bangladesh, never happen again.
The proposals from the Spanish Rapporteur acknowledge that public-private initiatives intended to promote human rights and sustainability in the supply chain of the garment sector have failed to materialise.
In October 2015, the Commission launched a new trade and investment strategy, which highlighted the importance of global supply chain sustainability. Despite promises, the Commission is yet to act on a ‘flagship’ initiative for the garment sector.
The report approved today is intended to fill the existing gap. Sánchez Caldentey explained the content of her proposals:
“My report tackles three key problematic aspects in the supply chain of the garment sector. The first dimension relates to the working conditions and social standards under which our clothes are produced. It is essential that the EU’s external action – including our trade policy as well as development policy – contributes to strengthening social rights in third countries.”
“The second dimension relates to transparency and traceability of production. Many times we find shirts made using cotton from Uzbekistan that was harvested by children, dyed in Morocco, made in Sri Lanka, with buttons stitched in Honduras by exploited women. This complexity makes traceability especially complicated. We have the right to know about the origin of the clothes we wear.”
“Finally, there is the normative dimension. Voluntary initiatives do not work. We must have legally binding rules on due diligence. Only then we can end impunity of producers along the supply chain that profit from the abuse of workers.”
GUE/NGL MEP Paloma Lopez Bermejo highlighted the fierce competition in the garment sector that has fuelled human rights violations:
“We must not forget that large garment companies – those we watch on TV and buy from – are responsible for the worsening labour conditions and lowering of wages in developing countries as they compete between them to survive a fierce market and global supply chain.”
“The EU must act to ensure that the binding instruments already at its disposal are effectively implemented to promote respect for fundamental labour rights such as freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining and the prohibition of child labour and slavery.”
“However the EU must go further 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,” Lopez Bermejo concluded.