Procedure : 2015/2589(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B8-0364/2015

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PV 29/04/2015 - 10.66
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Texts adopted :


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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0363/2015

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission

pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse and the state of play of the Sustainability Compact  (2015/2589(RSP))

Gabriele Zimmer, Anne-Marie Mineur, Paloma López Bermejo, Patrick Le Hyaric, Marie-Christine Vergiat, Pablo Iglesias, Lola Sánchez Caldentey, Malin Björk, Eleonora Forenza, Kateřina Konečná, Rina Ronja Kari, Younous Omarjee, Curzio Maltese, Marisa Matias, Stefan Eck, Fabio De Masi, Josu Juaristi Abaunz, Marina Albiol Guzmán, Lidia Senra Rodríguez, Javier Couso Permuy, Ángela Vallina, Sofia Sakorafa, Kostas Chrysogonos, Helmut Scholz, Martina Michels on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group

European Parliament resolution on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse and the state of play of the Sustainability Compact  (2015/2589(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–       having regard to the Joint Statement ‘Staying engaged: a Sustainability Compact for continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh’, signed in Geneva on 8 July 2013 by representatives of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), the European Union (EU), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO),

–       having regard to the European Commission’s technical progress report of 8 July 2014 on ‘Staying engaged – a Sustainability Compact for continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh,

–       having regard to the International Trade Union Confederation’s (ITUC) publication ‘A review of the 2013 Bangladesh Labour Act’,

–       having regard to the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact follow-up meeting that took place on 20 October 2014 in Brussels,

–       having regard to the joint ITUC, UNI Global Union, IndustriALL publication ‘An evaluation of the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact’, updated in March 2015,

–       having regard to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 81 on labour inspection, ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association and protection of the right to organise and to ILO Convention 98 on the right to organise and collective bargaining, to which Bangladesh is a party,

–       having regard to the ‘Understanding for a Practical Arrangement on Payments to the Victims of the Rana Plaza Accident and their Families’, known as the ‘Arrangement’, agreed in November 2013,

–       having regard to International Labour (ILO) Convention 121 on Employment Injury Benefits,

–       having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises,

–       having regard to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, signed in May 2013,

–       having regard to the joint statement from the Governments of the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain made at the 26 June 2014 OECD meeting in Paris, calling for increased compensation for the victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse,

–       having regard to the European Year for Development and the flagship initiative on responsible management within the garment supply chain,

–       having regard to the EU’s Generalised System of Preference (GSP), under which Bangladesh, as a Least-Developed Country (LDC), is granted duty-free, quota-free access to the European market via the ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) scheme,

–       having regard to the Cooperation Agreement between the European Community and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on partnership and development,

–       having regard to the UNHRC (UN Human Rights Council) resolution adopted on 26 June 2014 which establishes an intergovernmental working group with the mandate of developing an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations,

–       having regard to its previous resolutions on Bangladesh, in particular those of 17 January 2013(1), 14 March 2013(2), 21 November 2013(3), 16 January 2014(4) and of 18 September 2014(5),

–       having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.     whereas 24 April 2015 marked the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Sayar, Bangladesh, in which 1 134 people were killed and about 2 500 more were injured, many of them permanently or temporarily disabled as a result; whereas the Rana Plaza collapse constitutes one of the world’s biggest industrial disasters but at the same time does not constitute the first fatal industrial disaster in Bangladesh resulting from a consistent and systematic lack of respect for health and safety standards and a lack of respect for workers’ and trade union rights;

B.     whereas on 31 January 2015, at least 13 workers were killed in a fire in a plastic factory in Dhaka; whereas on 8 October 2014 seven people died in the fire at Aswad Composite Mills, which supplied fabric for other Bangladeshi factories to be turned into garments for North American and European clients such as Walmart, Gap, H&M and Carrefour; whereas on 24 November 2013 112 people died in the Tazreen Fashion factory fire outside Dhaka, the clients of which included C&A; whereas according to a report by the Clean Clothes Campaign and SOMO, almost 600 workers died in 245 fires at garment factories in Bangladesh between 2006 and the start of 2013;

C.     whereas 29 global brands had recent or current orders with textile and apparel factories located in the Rana Plaza building at the time the disaster struck; whereas, according to UNI Global Union, cracks had been detected in the Rana Plaza building just prior to 24 April 2013, which led to a temporary shutdown of the complex; whereas garment workers employed in the Rana Plaza building were forced to resume work the following day;

D.     whereas no amount of money can compensate for the pain of those who have lost their loved ones; whereas financial compensation for the families of the dead and those injured and disabled as a result of the disaster is, however, essential in their struggle for economic survival; whereas two years after the Rana Plaza disaster, compensation is still a burning issue; whereas the amount determined to cover the total of all claims was set to be between USD 30 million and USD 40 million; whereas in February 2015 the total amount raised by these contributions was USD 21.5 million, leaving at least USD 8.5 million outstanding;

E.     whereas in August 2014 garment workers of Tuba Group went on a hunger strike as they had not been paid for three months; whereas Tuba Group is the same company that owned Tazreen Fashion, in whose factory over 100 workers died in a fire in 2012; whereas adequate compensation has still not been paid to those workers;

F.     whereas the Rana Plaza disaster laid bare the existing shortcomings in relation to transparency and traceability throughout supply chains;

G.     whereas the ready-made garments (RMG) sector in Bangladesh employs 4 million people, 80 % of whom are women; whereas the EU is Bangladesh’s biggest export destination for garments, followed by the USA;

H.     whereas, as a result of the Rana Plaza disaster and the public outcry that followed, various initiatives were taken aimed at improving the situation in the RMG sector in Bangladesh; whereas these initiatives include the Sustainability Compact, which, together with Bangladesh, the EU signed in July 2013, the ‘Accord on fire and building safety’ between brands and trade unions, which was signed in May 2013, and the ‘Understanding for a practical arrangement on payments to the victims of the Rana Plaza accident and their families’ (Rana Plaza Arrangement), which was signed in November 2013;

I.      whereas the Sustainability Compact builds on existing commitments on respect for labour rights, occupational safety and support and promotion of responsible business conduct; whereas the Accord on Fire and Building Safety is a five-year independent, legally binding agreement between global brands and retailers and trade unions, with the objective of building a safe and healthy Bangladesh RMG industry; whereas the Rana Plaza Arrangement, chaired by the ILO, has been signed by representatives of all major stakeholders and forms the basis for establishing a credible, transparent and independent system for delivering support to the victims of Rana Plaza, their families and dependants in line with the standards enshrined in ILO Convention No 121, which is concerned with employment injury benefits; whereas compensation is meant to be paid through the Donor Trust Fund;

J.      whereas despite the fact that some progress was made, it is widely recognised by all international actors that workers’ and trade union rights continue to be seriously and systematically violated in Bangladesh; whereas the 2013 amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) were very limited and therefore continue to fall short of international standards with regard to freedom of association, the right to strike and collective bargaining as well as the right to join a trade union, particularly with regard to the Export Processing Zones (EPZs); whereas the Government of Bangladesh has to date failed to issue the implementing rules and regulations with regard to those amendments, despite repeated promises to do so; whereby programmes such as the ILO Better Work programme and the training programme under the Bangladesh Accord depend on the issuing of those rules and regulations;

K.     whereas despite the fact that new labour inspectors have been recruited, the government failed to reach its goal of 200 by the end of 2013, and to date has still not met it; whereas reporting on labour inspections is infrequent and incomplete;

L.     whereas ITUC expresses growing concern about employers encouraging the formation of so-called company- or management-led unions rather than worker-led unions; whereas the 30 % minimum requirement to form a union is still in place; whereas trade unions remain de facto banned in the EPZs that employ roughly 400 000 workers; whereas the current draft legislation covering the EPZs maintains this ban and keeps the EPZs outside the scope of the national labour inspectorate;

M.    whereas despite the increase in the minimum wage from 3000 taka (EUR 35) to 5300 taka (EUR 62) a month in November 2013, Bangladesh garment workers do not earn a living wage, are still amongst the most poorly paid in the world and struggle to make ends meet; whereas it is estimated that 8 900 taka (EUR 104) are needed to cover basic needs; whereas different reports suggest that between 40 % and 80 % of garment factories fail to pay the current legal minimum wage;

N.     whereas 2015 marks the European Year for Development and whereas Bangladesh is a beneficiary of the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which grants Bangladesh, as a Least-Developed Country (LDC), duty-free, quota- free access to the European market under the GSP’s ‘Everything But Arms’ (EBA) scheme;

O.     whereas Bangladesh ranks 136 out of 177 countries on the Transparency Index and whereas corruption is endemic in the global garment supply chain and involves the political establishment as well as local and multinational corporations;

P.     whereas, according to the World Bank report, Bangladesh has seen a decline in people living in poverty over the past decade; whereas despite this official decline, 53 million people out of a population of 160 million still live in poverty; whereas Bangladesh ranks 142 out of 187 on the Human Development Index;

Q.     whereas trade union and workers’ rights are an integral part of human rights; whereas leading human rights organisations refer to a serious deterioration of human rights in Bangladesh, particularly since the January 2014 elections; whereas Bangladesh was given the lowest score on the ITUC Global Rights Index, indicating no effective guarantee of rights;

R.     whereas factory fires, building collapses and other incidents relating to health and safety issues at work are not limited to the RMG sector in Bangladesh alone but remain issues of serious concern in other developing and Least-Developed Countries with a strong export-oriented RMG sector;

1.      Acknowledges that long-overdue steps in the right direction have been taken to improve working conditions and safety in the workplace; deeply regrets that apparently a disaster of the scale of Rana Plaza, and the public outcry that followed, needed to happen to initiate the first steps towards change in the industrial relations system in the RMG sector in Bangladesh;

2.      Recalls that the Rana Plaza Coordination Committee established the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund to collect voluntary donations from companies and others in order to compensate the victims and families of the Rana Plaza disaster and that the estimated amount required to cover the costs of all claims was set at being between USD 30 million and USD 40 million; is appalled by the fact that as of February 2015, the total amount raised by voluntary company donations to the Donor Trust Fund is just USD 21.5 million, leaving at least USD 8.5 million outstanding;

3.      Reiterates its position, adopted in its resolution of 18 September 2014, which states that the voluntary principle of company donations to the Donor Trust Fund has failed the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster and that a mandatory mechanism is urgently needed;

4.      Calls on all brands sourcing from Rana Plaza or with significant ties to Bangladesh, as well as the Government of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Export Association (BGMEA), to ensure that the Donor Trust Fund will have at least the estimated USD 30 million at its disposal at the time of the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster to pay out agreed compensation;

5.      Calls on the Commission, the European Council and the Member States to make compensation an integral part of the Sustainability Compact and to use the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse to launch a public ‘naming and shaming’ campaign of those companies that have sourced from Rana Plaza and have failed to live up to their commitments to pay into the Donor Trust Fund in order to pay long-overdue and appropriate compensation to the families and victims of the Rana Plaza disaster;

6.      Calls on the European Council and the Member States to exclude companies and their subsidiaries violating human and workers’ rights in Bangladesh from public procurement contracts; takes the view that this should also apply to companies that were sourcing from Rana Plaza at the time of the disaster and continue to fail to contribute to the Donor Trust Fund;

7.      Calls on the Commission to live up to its monitoring obligations of Bangladesh’s adherence to human rights, labour and environmental conventions under the Generalised System of Preferences and to report back to Parliament on its findings by the second anniversary of the Sustainability Compact with a view to initiating appropriate steps in the event of serious and systematic violations of the principles laid down in the conventions listed in Part III of Annex A to the GSP Regulation;

8.      Recognises that at present 200 fashion and retail brands have signed up to the legally binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety and welcomes this as a first important achievement, but at the same time launches an urgent appeal to all those, particularly EU-based brands, that have not yet signed up to the Accord to do so without further delay;

9.      Calls on the Commission to develop credible and sound proposals and tools to improve transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain; takes the view that mandatory provisions of all supplier data as a requirement for entering the EU market should constitute an important step in this regard;

10.    Calls on the Commission to develop legally binding and enforceable proposals with regard to human rights due diligence in order to identify actual and potential violations in supply chains of EU-based companies and to provide for effective remedies under the flagship initiative for responsible management of the supply chain in the garment sector;

11.    Calls on the Commission, the European Council and the Member States to introduce a legislative proposal for binding and enforceable mechanisms on Corporate Social Responsibility for EU-based companies and their subsidiaries operating in third countries in order to make it mandatory for EU-based companies and their subsidiaries to adhere to social, labour and environmental standards throughout their supply chain; deplores the fact that Members States voted against the UNHCR resolution adopted on 26 June 2014, which establishes an intergovernmental working group with the mandate of developing an international legally binding instrument to regulate the activities of transnational corporations, and urges the European institutions and Members States to work closely with the UN to achieve this goal;

12.    Notes that the Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA) was amended in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster; expresses, however, its deep dissatisfaction with the Government of Bangladesh’s failure to issue the implementing rules and regulations to the BLA, despite numerous promises to do so; urgently calls on the GoB to issue those implementing rules and regulations without further delay and to immediately drop the 30 % minimum membership requirement for trade unions; stresses that any further delay will be interpreted as the GoB’s apparent unwillingness to take the necessary steps required to foster a more mature industrial relations system;

13.    Calls on the GoB to comply fully with its commitments under Sections I and II of the Sustainability Compact by the time of the Compact’s second anniversary in July 2015, stresses the need to further amend the Bangladesh Labour Act; insists that ILO Conventions 87 and 98 must be fully complied with and their coverage extended to all workers, including those working in EPZs, in which trade unions continue to be banned and working conditions and health and safety standards are known to be extremely poor;

14.    Expresses its disappointment with the fact that the GoB has not only failed to meet the agreed deadline of recruiting 200 additional inspectors by the end of 2013 but has still not managed to meet this objective; notes that there are severe shortcomings in the reporting and regular follow-up inspections, which are crucial in order to obtain progress and prevent future disasters; echoes the point of view of international trade unions which stress that additional recruitment, training and guaranteeing the independence and non-partisanship of the labour inspectors are vital; calls therefore on the GoB to do what is necessary to meet those objectives;

15.    Recognises and welcomes the increased number of trade unions that have been recognised in the RMG sector (275 since 2013) but points out that these only represent a tiny fraction of a workforce of over 4 million, largely female, workers spread across over 5 000 garment and apparel factories and that most of those trade unions are denied the right to collective bargaining; also points out that in 2014 the recognition process has slowed down and that 26 % of all applications filed were rejected for seemingly arbitrary reasons;

16.    Urgently calls on the BGMEA to comply with and pay at least the agreed minimum wage in the sector; is of the strong opinion that the agreed minimum wage still falls short of covering the basic needs of the workers employed in the sector and needs to be raised further in accordance with trade union demands; calls on the GoB to ensure that employers in the garment sector pay all due wages without delay;

17.    Is appalled by the widespread anti-unionism and union-busting which prevails in Bangladesh, underlined by well-documented acts of retaliation against unionised workers and acts of physical violence against trade union leaders and activists, including the murder of trade union leader Aminul Islam; defends the rights of workers in Bangladesh to form, register and join independent trade unions, including in EPZs, without fear of harassment; calls on the GoB to guarantee these fundamental rights and to bring the perpetrators of the murder of Aminul Islam to justice;

18.    Underlines that the continuous disregard for workers’ and trade union rights in Bangladesh is reflective of the ongoing and increasing evaporation of basic and democratic rights under the current GoB, led by Sheikh Hasina; reiterates its condemnation of the government’s continuous crackdown against members of the political opposition, trade unionists, human rights defenders and journalists; insists that basic democratic rights, such as the right of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech must be respected at all times;

19.    Considers the existence of democratic trade union structures to be a vital instrument in the struggle for better health and safety standards and working conditions globally, including in the struggle for higher wages; regards the agreements made as fundamentally important steps towards avoiding the creation of new Rana Plazas and their implications; insists that this is not only true for Bangladesh but for other countries as well that face similarly precarious situations, particularly in the RMG sector;

20.    Concludes that the current way of production and the dominance of multinational retailers and brands in the RMG sector in Bangladesh and in other countries raises serious questions about the sustainability and justifiability of an economic system that is based on blatant disrespect for workers’ and trade union rights, low wages and exploitation to achieve the necessary turnover to achieve the profits needed to survive in a globalised capitalist economy; points out that global solutions are needed in the RMG sector in order to prevent workers from being played off against each other;

21.    Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government and Parliament of Bangladesh, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director-General of the ILO.


Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0026.


Text adopted, P7_TA(2013)0100.


Text adopted, P7_TA(2013)0516.


Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0045.


Texts adopted, P8_TA(2014)0024.

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