2 May 2017
By Bryan T. Smyth
As the 4th anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy was remembered this week, the European Parliament adopts a report calling for new legislation to ensure that the clothes and textiles we buy are not produced at the expense of workers in Asia.
The report, voted on this week, calls for European companies, who outsource production to countries outside the EU, be made responsible for checking that conditions in those factories meet OECD guidelines and international standards for human and social rights.
Ireland South MEP Clune has welcomed the report and said that cheap clothes come with a heavy price for those working in inhuman conditions in parts of Asia and that this report was a proportionate response that is designed to go some way to improving working conditions for factory workers.
The Rana Plaza tragedy drew attention to working conditions in the sector which remain bleak, particularly as the pressure increases on factories to produce ever cheaper clothes. The European Commission recently approved four new projects related to the garment sector, targeting in particular Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Mali and Pakistan. These projects of around €45 million will contribute to improve sustainable business practices and working conditions in producing countries.
Clune says the global clothing trade is worth €2.86 trillion and employs more than 75 million people. Asia accounts for 58.4% of world clothing and textile exports, as it is very cheap to produce clothes there. More than 70% of EU imports of textiles and clothing come from Asia, with consumers often being unaware of the supply chain of these products.
“Everyone loves a bargain but very often the true cost of your latest wardrobe addition is pitiful wages and inhuman condition for workers in countries like Bangladesh – a country where more than 1,100 workers were killed and 2,500 injured when the Rana Plaza workshop complex collapsed in 2013.
“We need to shine a light on the working conditions in the sector. This report puts the onus on European clothing companies to act responsibly and ethically when outsourcing production to countries outside the European Union. EU cloths retailers must ensure that the factories they use meet OECD guidelines and international standards for human and social rights.
“It’s unfortunate that we need to look at legislating for how businesses are meant to act, but it’s important to ensure respect for labour, human and social rights.
“The report also proposed other measures, such as incentives and special labels for textiles that are produced in a sustainable manner.”