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Procedure : 2016/2140(INI)
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Document selected : A8-0080/2017

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PV 26/04/2017 - 21
CRE 26/04/2017 - 21

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PV 27/04/2017 - 5.65
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Texts adopted
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Thursday, 27 April 2017 - Brussels
EU flagship initiative on the garment sector

European Parliament resolution of 27 April 2017 on the EU flagship initiative on the garment sector (2016/2140(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3, 6 and 21 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 153, 191, 207, 208 and 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 12, 21, 28, 29, 31 and 32 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the General Comment No 16 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the fundamental Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on child labour, forced labour, discrimination, and freedom of association and collective bargaining,

–  having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights(1),

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Council resolution 26/9(2), whereby it decided ‘to establish an open-ended intergovernmental working group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, whose mandate shall be to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises’,

–  having regard to the UN General Assembly resolution 70/1 of 25 September 2015 ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’(3),

–  having regard to the programmes funded by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women focused on addressing harassment and violence against women in the garment industry(4),

–  having regard to the UNCTAD Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development (2015)(5),

–  having regard to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises(6),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014 amending Directive 2013/34/EU as regards disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by certain large undertakings and groups(7),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication of 14 October 2015 entitled ‘Trade for all: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy’ (COM(2015)0497),

–  having regard to the 2015 Commission Guidelines on the analysis of human rights impacts in impact assessments for trade-related policy initiatives(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 November 2010 on corporate social responsibility in international trade agreements(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 29 April 2015 on the second anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse and progress of the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 April 2016 on the private sector and development(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 5 July 2016 on implementation of the 2010 recommendations of Parliament on social and environmental standards, human rights and corporate responsibility(12),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 September 2016 on implementation of the thematic objective ‘enhancing the competitiveness of SMEs’ – Article 9(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation(13),

–  having regard to its resolution of 25 October 2016 on corporate liability for serious human rights abuses in third countries(14),

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 December 2016 on the Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter 2015(15),

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘Human Rights and Democracy Clauses in the EU’s International Agreements’ published in 2005 by the European Parliament’s Policy Department of the Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union(16),

–  having regard to the study entitled ‘The EU’s Trade Policy: from gender-blind to gender-sensitive?’ by the Policy Department of the Directorate-General for External Policies of the European Parliament(17),

–  having regard to its non-legislative resolution of 14 December 2016 on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Uzbekistan, of the other part, amending the Agreement in order to extend the provisions of the Agreement to bilateral trade in textiles, taking account of the expiry of the bilateral textiles Agreement(18),

–  having regard to the 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 ILO Programme on Improving Working Conditions in the Ready-Made Garment Sector in Bangladesh(19),

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

–  having regard to the cooperation agreement signed on 25 April 2016 by the President of Inditex, Pablo Isla, and the Secretary-General of IndustriALL Global Union, Jyrki Raina, on responsible management of the supply chain in the garment sector,

–  having regard to the High-Level Conference on Responsible Management of the Supply Chain in the Garment Sector, held in Brussels on 25 April 2016,

–  having regard to the EU’s GSP+ scheme(20),

–  having regard to Directive 2014/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC(21),

–  having regard to the ‘Vision Zero Fund’, initiated in 2015 by the G7 in cooperation with the ILO to foster occupational safety and health in production countries,

–  having regard to the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles(22), and to the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile(23),

–  having regard to Rule 52 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Development and the opinions of the Committee on International Trade and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0080/2017),

A.  whereas economic development should go hand-in-hand with social justice and good governance policy; whereas the complexity and fragmentation of global value chains (GVCs) require complementary policies to bring about a process of continuous improvement to make GVCs and production chains sustainable and to create value in supply chains, as well as studies into the impact of organisational structures in the sector, the coordination system and the bargaining power of network members on the development of these processes; whereas complementary flanking measures are required to guard against the potential adverse impact of those chains; whereas the victims of human rights violations should be guaranteed effective access to remedy;

B.  whereas 60 million people worldwide work in the textile and clothing sector, which creates many jobs, particularly in developing countries;

C.  whereas textile manufacturers in developing countries are constantly exposed to aggressive purchasing practices by the international wholesale and retail trade, which is also due to fierce global competition;

D.  whereas the victims of the three most deadly incidents in the garment sectors (Rana Plaza, Tazreen and Ali Enterprises) have received or are in the process of receiving compensation for the loss of income; whereas the granting of compensation in this case is in line with ILO Convention 121 and is the result of unprecedented cooperation between brands, trade unions, civil society, governments and the ILO; whereas given the widespread violation of key human rights, actual remedy remains rare;

E.  whereas the victims of human rights abuses involving European companies face multiple obstacles to access judicial remedies, including procedural obstacles on admissibility and the disclosure of evidence, litigation costs that are often prohibitive, an absence of clear liability standards for corporate involvement in human rights abuses and a lack of clarity on the application of EU rules on private international law in transnational civil litigation;

F.  whereas Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) strongly requires that the EU’s trade policy be built on the EU’s external policies and objectives, concretely those of development cooperation stated in Article 208 TFEU; whereas Article 21 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) reaffirms that the EU’s external actions will be guided by the principles of democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and compliance with the UN Charter and international law;

G.  whereas the EU is the world’s second largest exporter of textile and apparel products after China, thanks to approximately 174 000 textile and apparel companies, 99 % of which are SMEs and which provide jobs to around 1,7 million people; whereas, furthermore, more than one third (34,3 %, representing a total value of EUR 42,29 billion) of the clothing destined for use in Europe is produced by EU companies;

H.  whereas the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work commits Member States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, regardless of whether they have ratified the relevant Conventions, namely: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation; the elimination of forced or compulsory labour; the abolition of child labour;

I.  whereas collective bargaining is one means of ensuring that wage and productivity growth go hand-in-hand; whereas, however, the use in the global supply chain of non-standard forms of employment, including subcontracting and informal work, has weakened collective agreements; whereas many workers in the garment sector do not earn a living wage;

J.  whereas many Member States, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and France, have promoted national programmes;

K.  whereas the ‘Realising Long-term Value for Companies and Investors’ project being undertaken as part of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and the UN Global Compact demonstrate that the economy is compatible with, and mutually reinforcing to, the principles of social justice, environmental sustainability and respect for human rights;

L.  whereas the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights apply to all states and to all business enterprises, both transnational and others, regardless of their size, location, ownership and structure;

M.  whereas the EU is a key player as investor, buyer, retailer and consumer in the garment industry and trade, and is therefore most suited to bundle multiple initiatives worldwide to improve substantially the infrahuman situation endured by tens of millions of workers in this sector and create a level playing field for all those involved;

N.  whereas responsible management of GVCs is particularly relevant from a development perspective, as very serious violations of human and labour rights and environmental pollution frequently occur in the producer countries that often face significant challenges in terms of sustainable development and growth, affecting the most vulnerable;

O.  whereas the strong performance of garment exports, especially in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Cambodia is set to continue;

P.  whereas most human rights violations in the garment sector concern various aspects of labour rights, such as the denial of workers’ fundamental right to join or form a union of their choosing and bargain collectively in good faith, making it difficult to guarantee that workers can enjoy their fundamental rights in the workplace; whereas this state of affairs has led to widespread labour rights violations, including: poverty wages, wage theft, forced labour and child labour, arbitrary dismissals, unsafe workplaces and unhealthy working conditions, violence against women, physical and sexual harassment, and precarious work and work conditions; whereas despite the widespread violation of human rights, actual remedial actions generally remain rare; whereas these decent work deficits are particularly acute in export processing zones (EPZs) linked to global supply chains, which are often characterised by exemptions from labour laws and taxes, and restrictions on trade union activities and collective bargaining;

Q.  whereas voluntary initiatives led by the private sector over the last 20 years, such as codes of conduct, labels, self-assessments and social audits, while having provided relevant frameworks for cooperation on issues such as health and safety at work, have not proven to be effective enough in bringing about a real improvement in workers’ rights, especially in terms of respect for human rights and gender equality, increasing the number of workers’ rights, consumer awareness, as well as environmental standards and safety and sustainability in the garment supply chain;

R.  whereas multistakeholder initiatives like the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles or the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile are bringing stakeholders like the industry, the trade unions, the government and the NGOs to one table; whereas the standards established by these initiatives also encompass environmental issues; whereas these initiatives have not yet entered the implementation phase, so concrete results are still not forthcoming; whereas such national initiatives are necessary due to a lack of an EU legislative initiative; whereas, however, the majority of Member States have not established such initiatives;

S.  whereas the efforts of corporations to promote workplace compliance can support, but not replace, the effectiveness and efficiency of public governance systems, namely each state’s duty to promote compliance and enforce national labour laws and regulations, including labour administration and inspection functions, dispute resolution and the prosecution of violators, and to ratify and implement international labour standards;

T.  whereas the trends of the garment industry are still moving towards fast fashion, which poses an enormous threat to and puts enormous pressure on garment workers in the producing countries;

U.  whereas the German Ministry for Development Cooperation has set a target that by 2020 50 % of all German textile imports will have to meet ecological and social criteria;

V.  whereas in order to improve the governance of GVCs, the various instruments and initiatives of policy areas such as trade and investment, private sector support and development cooperation must be harnessed to contribute to the sustainability and responsible management of GVCs as part of delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognises the crucial impact of trade policies in implementing its goals by covering a number of policy areas such as rules of origin, commodity markets, labour rights and gender equality;

W.  whereas the specific characteristics of the garment sector value chains, such as geographically dispersed stages of the production process, different types of garment workers, purchasing policy, low prices, high volumes, short lead times, subcontracting and short-term buyer-supplier relationships, are conducive to reducing the visibility, traceability and transparency of an enterprise’s supply chain and to increasing the risks of human rights and labour abuses, environmental damage and inadequate animal welfare as early as the raw-material production stage; whereas transparency and traceability are prerequisites for a company’s accountability and responsible consumption; whereas the consumer has the right to know where a piece of clothing was produced and under what social and environmental conditions; whereas guaranteeing consumers the right to reliable, transparent and relevant information on the sustainability of production will help to bring about lasting change in supply chain traceability and transparency in the garment sector;

X.  whereas women’s rights are a constitutive part of human rights; whereas gender equality falls within the scope of the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in trade agreements; whereas the specific impact of trade and investment agreements affects women and men differently on account of structural gender inequalities; whereas in order to enhance gender equality and women’s rights, the gender dimension should therefore be covered in all trade agreements;

Y.  whereas the employment of women in the garment sector in developing countries contributes significantly to household incomes and poverty reduction;

Z.  whereas children’s rights are an integral part of human rights and ending child labour should remain an imperative; whereas the work of children requires specific regulations governing age, working time and types of work;

AA.  whereas in December 2016 many trade union activists were arrested in Bangladesh, an event that gave rise to a protest for a living wage and better working conditions; whereas several hundreds of garment workers were dismissed from their jobs following the protests; whereas the right of association is still not respected in the producing countries;

AB.  whereas an estimated 70-80 %(24) of employees in the ready-made garment sector in production countries are low-skilled female workers and frequently minors; whereas low wages, coupled with low or non-existent social protection make these women and children particularly vulnerable to exploitation; whereas a gender perspective and specific measures on women’s empowerment are largely missing in the ongoing sustainability initiatives;

AC.  whereas the private sector plays an essential role in fostering sustainable and inclusive economic growth in developing countries; whereas the economies of some developing countries depend on the garment industry; whereas the expansion of this industry has allowed many workers to move from the informal economy to the formal sector;

AD.  whereas the garment sector is the sector with the most sustainability initiatives in progress; whereas some existing initiatives have helped to improve the situation in the garment sector and efforts should therefore also be continued at European level;

AE.  whereas trade agreements are an important tool to promote decent work in global supply chains in combination with social dialogue and firm-level monitoring;

AF.  whereas in October 2015 the Commission released its new trade strategy ‘Trade for All’, in which it sets out its aim to use trade agreements and preference programmes as levers to promote sustainable development, human rights and fair and ethical trade around the world and to improve the responsibility of the supply chains as a means of strengthening sustainable development, human rights, the fight against corruption, and good governance in third countries;

1.  Welcomes the increasing attention given to the promotion of decent working conditions through global supply chains following the Rana Plaza factory collapse, the introduction of the draft French law on mandatory due diligence, the UK anti-slavery bill, the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile, the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, and the statement made by President Juncker at the G7 Summit in favour of ‘urgent action’ to improve responsibility in global supply chains, in which increased attention is being paid to the promotion of sustainability, transparency and traceability for the value and production chains; acknowledges the Commission’s commitment towards responsible management of supply chains, including in the garment sector, as outlined in the Communication entitled ‘Trade for All’; welcomes the green card initiative in which eight Member States have called for a duty of care by EU-based companies towards individuals and communities whose human rights and local environment are affected by the activities of those companies; welcomes the holistic approach of the Higg Index in measuring enterprises’ environmental, social and labour impacts; stresses the need to continue improvements to the Higg Index and to improve its transparency;

2.  Welcomes the individual global framework agreements concluded between trade unions and brands on improving supply chain management in the garment sector; emphasises that the future of the garment sector will depend on improving sustainable productivity and traceability so as to ensure the effective identification of the processes taking place throughout the value chain, which will make it possible to identify and introduce improvements;

3.  Welcomes the approach of the legally binding Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety as well as the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact launched by the Commission together with Bangladesh and the ILO following the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, as it includes provisions for trade unions and the remediation of inspected factories, and calls for its deadline to be extended; stresses the importance of continuing to monitor the compact’s objectives in order to improve workers’ rights, as well as the need for more responsible management of supply chains globally; asks the Commission to conduct a thorough evaluation into the compact, outlining any progress or lack thereof, including eventual modifications to the trade regime if needed, especially in light of the reports of the ILO supervisory mechanisms; calls on the Commission to pursue similar programmes and measures with other garment-producing EU trade partners such as Sri Lanka, India or Pakistan;

4.  Supports the Commission’s examination of a possible EU-wide initiative on the garment sector; notes, in addition, that the current accumulation of existing initiatives could result in an unpredictable environment for companies; believes that a new proposal should address human rights-related issues, promote the sustainability, traceability and transparency of value chains, enhance conscious consumption and target labour rights and gender equality in particular; believes that EU consumers have the right to be informed on the sustainability and compliance with human rights and the environment of garment industry products; believes, in this regard, that EU legislative efforts and initiatives on garments should be made visible on the final product;

5.  Notes with concern how the existing voluntary initiatives for the sustainability of the garment sector’s global supply chain have fallen short of effectively addressing human rights and labour rights-related issues in the sector; calls on the Commission, therefore, to go beyond the presentation of a Staff Working Document and to propose binding legislation on due diligence obligations for supply chains in the garment sector; stresses that this legislative proposal must be aligned with the new OECD due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains in the garment and footwear sector in line with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which are importing into the European Union, the ILO resolution on decent work in supply chains and internationally agreed human rights, social and environmental standards;

6.  Emphasises that the new OECD due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains in the garment and footwear sector in line with the OECD Guidelines should be the leading principle in the Commission legislative proposal; stresses that this legislative proposal should include core standards, such as occupational health and safety, health standards, a living wage, freedom of association and collective bargaining, the prevention of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace and the elimination of forced and child labour; calls on the Commission to further address the following matters: key criteria for sustainable production, transparency and traceability, including the transparent collection of data and tools for consumer information, due diligence checks and auditing, access to remedy, gender equality, children’s rights, supply-chain due diligence reporting, the responsibility of companies in the event of man-made disasters and awareness raising in the European Union; encourages the Commission to acknowledge other national legislative proposals and initiatives that have the same goal as the legislation, once those proposals and initiatives have been audited and shown to meet the requirements of the European legislation;

7.  Reiterates its call for the Commission to extend corporate social responsibility through binding legislation on due diligence for the garment sector so as to ensure that the EU and its trading partners and operators fulfil their obligation to respect both human rights and the highest social and environmental standards; emphasises that the garment industry in the European Union shall also comply with ILO standards, such as a living wage or decent working conditions; urges the Commission to pay attention to remuneration and the working conditions in the garment sector in the Member States; urges the Member States to implement the ILO standards in the garment sector;

8.  Calls on the Commission to promote actively the use of ecological and sustainably managed raw materials such as cotton and to promote the re-use and recycling of garments and textiles within the European Union through the specific provisions in the legislative proposal on the garment sector; calls for the EU, its Member States and businesses to increase funding for research and development, including in the field of clothes recycling, with a view to ensuring a sustainable, alternative sourcing of raw materials for the EU garment sector; welcomes initiatives designed to implement the highest and strictest animal welfare standards available (such as the Responsible Down Standard and the Responsible Wool Standard) and urges the Commission to use them as guidelines to introduce specific provisions in its legislative proposal; calls on the Commission to put in place additional resources in institutions in order to follow up on the flagship initiative;

9.  Emphasises the need to enhance codes of conduct, excellence labels and fair trade schemes, by ensuring alignment with international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN Global Compact, the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy (MNE Declaration), the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the OECD due diligence guidance for the garment and footwear sector and the Children’s Rights and Business Principles developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children; stresses equally the need to scale up cross-border social dialogue through the conclusion of international framework agreements (IFAs) to promote workers’ rights in the supply chains of MNEs;

10.  Stresses the importance of implementation, enforcement or transposition of existing legislation at regional, national and international levels;

11.  Urges the Commission to deliver on its objective to foster improvements in the ready-made garment sector, including through strong gender and child mainstreaming; calls on the Commission to make gender equality, women’s empowerment and children’s rights a central focus of its legislative proposal; believes that this initiative should promote non-discrimination and address the issue of harassment in the workplace, as already envisaged by European and international commitments;

12.  Reiterates its commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment; underlines the need to promote women’s access to leadership positions by supporting the training of female workers about their rights, labour legislation and safety and health issues, as well as the training of male managers on gender equality and discrimination;

13.  Calls on the Commission to present a comprehensive strategy on how development, aid for trade and public procurement policies can support a fairer and more sustainable garment supply chain and local micro-enterprises, by promoting best practices and providing incentives to private sector actors that invest in the sustainability and fairness of their supply chains, from the fibre farmer to the final consumer;

14.  Believes that informing consumers plays a key role in assuring decent working conditions, a need highlighted by the Rana Plaza collapse; calls for consumers to be provided with clear, trustworthy information about sustainability in the garment sector, where products originate from and the extent to which workers’ rights have been respected; recommends that information gathered as a result of EU action should be publicly available, and asks the Commission and the Member States to look into setting up a public online database of all relevant information regarding all actors along the supply chain;

15.  Calls for more awareness-raising among European consumers regarding the production of textile products; proposes, to this end, the development of EU-wide labelling standards for ‘fair clothing’, accessible to both multinational companies and SMEs, to indicate that fair working conditions have been respected and to assist customers in their purchasing decisions with better information;

16.  Stresses the need for collecting and publishing comprehensive data on corporate sustainability performance; calls, in this context, for the elaboration of common definitions and standards in a harmonised manner for the collection and collation of statistical data, notably on general imports but also individual production locations; requests that the Commission launch an initiative for the mandatory disclosure of production locations;

17.  Calls on the Commission to develop a wide variety of monitoring systems in the EU garment sector using key performance indicators – encompassing data collection using surveys, audits and data analysis techniques that can effectively measure performance and address the impact of the garment sector on development, labour rights and human rights in the entire garment supply chain;

18.  Believes that it is crucial to ensure increased access to information on the conduct of enterprises; considers it fundamental to introduce an effective and compulsory reporting system and due diligence for garment products entering the EU market; believes that responsibility should be incumbent upon all actors in the entire supply chain, including sub-contractors in the formal and informal economy (including in Export processing zones), and commends existing efforts to this effect; believes that the EU is best placed to develop a common framework through legislation on transnational due diligence obligations, remediation for victims and supply chain transparency and traceability, while also paying attention to the protection of whistle-blowers; recommends that trustworthy, clear and meaningful information on sustainability be made available to consumers;

19.  Points out that coordination, information sharing and the exchange of best practices may contribute to making private and public value chain initiatives more efficient and to achieving positive results in the field of sustainable development;

20.  Calls for national and European initiatives to encourage consumers to buy products made locally;

21.  Notes that price is still a determining factor in the buying practices of brands and retailers, often at the expense of workers’ welfare and wages; calls for the EU to work with all relevant stakeholders to promote a successful social partnership and to support stakeholders in the development and implementation of wage-setting mechanisms in accordance with relevant ILO conventions, especially in countries where there is a lack of adequate legislation; stresses the need for workers to be guaranteed the regular payment of an adequate wage that permits them and their families to meet their basic needs without having to put in regular overtime; stresses the need for collective bargaining agreements to prevent negative wage-cost competition and the need to raise consumer awareness of the potential consequences of a demand for ever-lower prices;

22.  Emphasises that the governments of producer countries must be able to implement international standards and norms, including drawing up, implementing and enforcing appropriate legislation, particularly in relation to establishing the rule of law and combating corruption; calls on the Commission to support producer countries in this area under the EU’s development policy;

23.  Acknowledges that, while each state is responsible for enforcing its own labour laws, developing countries may have limited capacity and resources to effectively monitor and enforce compliance with laws and regulations; calls on the EU, within the remit of its development cooperation programmes and with a view to closing the governance gap, to strengthen capacity-building and to provide the governments of developing countries with technical assistance on labour administration and inspection systems, including in the subcontracting of factories and facilitating access to appropriate and effective remedy and complaint mechanisms, including in EPZs, where long working hours, forced overtime and pay discrimination are common practice;

24.  Emphasises the importance of labour inspections and social audits in the clothing and footwear supply chain; takes the view that too often these only reflect the situation at the time the inspections are conducted; recommends that further action be taken to improve inspections and audits, including training for inspectors and the convergence of inspection standards and methods via cooperation with the garment industry and producer countries;

25.  Emphasises the importance of independent labour inspections in early warning and prevention, as well as in enforcement of national rules and regulations on health and safety at the workplace, yet notes that factors such as audit fatigue can undermine their effectiveness and that audits reflect only the state of affairs at the time they are conducted; believes that the ratification and implementation of ILO convention 81 is important to detecting abuse; recommends further research on ways of improving audits and inspections, such as converging audit standards and methods and sending different labour inspectors each time, which can lead to more stringent standards, especially in countries with corruption issues; notes the importance of adequate recruitment of labour inspectors and ongoing training for new and existing inspectors alike on international conventions and standards, local labour laws and appropriate inspection techniques; calls for the EU to continue to support, both financially and technically, the development of labour inspectorates in developing countries in line with relevant ILO standards, in particular in the context of its development funds;

26.  Notes that the garment industry creates jobs for a wide range of skillsets, from low-skilled workers to highly specialised roles;

27.  Believes that health and safety protection for all workers should be ensured through international standards, national law implementation and collective bargaining, at all levels (factory, local, national and international), and through factory-level occupational health and safety policies such as action plans drawn up in writing, implemented and monitored with the involvement of workers and their representatives;

28.  Stresses that EU trade and investment policies are interlinked with social protection, gender equality, tax justice, development, human rights, environmental policies and the promotion of SMEs; reiterates its call for the Commission and the Member States to guarantee policy coherence for the development of business and human rights at all levels, in particular in relation to the Union’s trade and investment and foreign policies, which implies that the social conditionality in bilateral and regional agreements should be made more effective through a greater involvement of and consultation with social partners and civil society during negotiations, the implementation of labour provisions, and a systematic use of comprehensive ex ante and ex post trade sustainability impact assessments;

29.  Calls on the Commission to be committed to human rights, including children’s rights, and to promoting good governance and binding human rights and social and environmental clauses in the negotiation of international and bilateral agreements; regrets that current human rights clauses in free trade agreements and other economic partnership agreements are not always fully respected by the signatory states; reiterates, in this regard, the need to reinforce all instruments to guarantee legal certainty;

30.  Encourages the EU and the Member States to promote, through the garment initiative and other trade policy instruments, the effective implementation of the ILO standards on wages and working hours, also with partner countries in the garment sector; calls for the EU, in addition, to provide guidance and support on how to enhance respect for these standards while helping to build sustainable enterprises and improve sustainable employment prospects;

31.  Encourages the EU and its Member States to promote, through policy dialogue and capacity-building, the take-up and effective enforcement of international labour standards and human rights by partner countries based on ILO Conventions, including child labour rights and standards such as Conventions 138 and 182, and recommendations; stresses in this context that respecting the right to join and form a union and engage in collective bargaining is a key criterion for business accountability; deplores that freedom of association is often violated in many production workplaces and encourages states to strengthen labour laws; calls, in this regard, for the EU to encourage the governments of developing countries to strengthen the role of labour unions and to actively promote social dialogue and fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining for all workers, regardless of their employment status;

32.  Highlights the important role of the garment sector as a driver of labour-intensive development for emerging economies, especially Asia’s emerging markets;

33.  Calls on development finance institutions to strengthen labour conditionalities in their performance standards as a contractual condition of financing;

34.  Notes that the ‘hot spot’ countries covered by the flagship initiative have preferential access to the EU market; calls on the Commission to continue to include the ratification of core ILO standards, health and safety inspection, and freedom of association in discussions on continued preferential trade with countries linked to the global supply chain for the garment sector, and to strengthen human rights, labour and environmental conventions under the Generalised System of Preferences;

35.  Reiterates its strong call for the systematic introduction of binding human rights clauses in all international agreements, including trade and investment agreements that have already been or will be concluded between the EU and third countries; highlights the need, moreover, for ex ante monitoring mechanisms before any framework agreement is concluded, and on which such conclusion is made conditional as a fundamental part of the agreement; highlights the need for ex post monitoring mechanisms that enable tangible action to be taken in response to infringements of these clauses, such as appropriate sanctions as stipulated in the human rights clauses of the agreement, including the suspension of the agreement;

36.  Considers that sustainable development chapters of EU trade agreements should be mandatory and enforceable, so as to effectively improve the lives of people, and stresses that a clause promoting the ratification and implementation of ILO conventions and the Decent Work Agenda must be included in both bilateral and multilateral trade agreements; recalls that the establishment of schemes such as the EU Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+), by means of the requirement to ratify and implement the 27 conventions, could help to improve the situation with regard to workers’ rights, the promotion of gender equality and the abolition of child labour and forced labour; stresses, with this in mind, the need to monitor carefully the implementation of GSP+ and respect for the conventions by the countries concerned; calls for the EU to ensure that human rights conditions linked to unilateral trade preferences such as GSP or GSP+ are effectively implemented and monitored; calls on the Commission to introduce tariff preferences for demonstrably proven sustainably produced textiles in the forthcoming reform of the GSP / GSP + rules; urges the Commission to recognise established sustainability criteria and minimum requirements for detection and certification systems on the basis of international conventions, such as the core ILO labour standards or biodiversity protection standards; calls on the Commission to promote the production of Fair Trade products through this instrument of tariff preferences, and to give more weight to ILO reports and the findings of its supervisory bodies in its monitoring and evaluation activities and to better liaise with local agencies of the ILO and the United Nations in the beneficiary country, so as to fully take into account their views and their experience;

37.  Reiterates its request for sustainable impact assessments to be carried out for every newly negotiated agreement and calls for the gender-disaggregated collection of data;

38.  Recalls that taxation is an important tool for the promotion of decent work; deems, with a view to ensuring that all companies, including multinationals, pay taxes to the governments of countries where economic activity occurs and value is created, that tax incentives such as tax exemptions in EPZs should be reconsidered alongside exemptions from national labour law and regulations;

39.  Warmly welcomes the work initiated in the preparation of a binding UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights which it is believed will enhance social corporate responsibility, including in the garment sector; regrets any obstructive behaviour in relation to this process, and calls for the EU and its Member States to engage constructively in these negotiations;

40.  Recalls the negative effects of social dumping, including human rights violations and non-compliance with labour standards, on European garment industries; trusts in the EU’s capacity, in view of its critical mass, to be a global champion and a driver for change; encourages the Commission, therefore, to engage with international partners at the next World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting to launch a global initiative; calls on the Commission to put in place mandatory measures to ensure that companies importing to the European Union comply with the level playing field established by the requested legislative proposal; recognises, in this regard, the special needs of European SMEs and the fact that the nature and extent of due diligence, such as the specific steps to be taken by a company, are affected by its size, the context of its operations and the severity of its potentially adverse impact; calls, therefore, for appropriate consideration of the SMEs which dominate the European manufacturing garment industry; considers that the European SMEs and micro-enterprises which are involved in establishing the initiative should also receive European financial support via the COSME programme;

41.  Calls on the Commission to put in place specific measures so that European SMEs may gain access to financial and policy tools, with a special focus on the capacity of those SMEs to deliver on traceability and transparency so that new requirements do not impose a disproportionate burden, and to help them to connect with responsible manufacturers;

42.  Stresses that working conditions in the garment industry within some EU Member States have also repeatedly been found to be precarious on issues such as health and safety, wages, social security and working time; calls therefore for the development of efficient and well-targeted intra-EU initiatives which will improve the situation in the garment sector and boost employment in the Member States;

43.  Recalls that the inclusion of social provisions in public procurement processes can have a strong effect on workers’ rights and working conditions along global supply chains; regrets, however, that according to ILO studies(25), most social provisions limit the responsibilities to the first-tier contractor, while subcontracting and outsourcing provisions are included in public procurement contracts on an ad hoc basis; calls for the EU to provide assistance to developing countries to enable public procurement policy to be a tool to promote fundamental principles and rights at work;

44.  Is convinced that public procurement is a useful tool for the promotion of a responsible garment industry; urges the Commission and the European Institutions to act as role models when it comes to public procurement of textiles used in the institutions; calls, in this regard, on the European institutions, including Parliament, to ensure that all their public procurement, including merchandising of the institutions and of political groups in the case of Parliament, promote recycling and a fair and sustainable garment supply chain; calls on the Commission, moreover, to create guidance for local authorities on social criteria in purchasing textiles following the 2014 Directive on Public Procurement and to motivate them accordingly; encourages the Commission to use the legislation to further implement and promote the SDGs, and to propose a plan so that the majority of public procurement of garments in the EU by 2030 comes from sustainable sources;

45.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service.

(2) A/HRC/RES/26/9 (
(3) A/RES/70/1 (
(7) OJ L 330, 15.11.2014, p. 1.
(9) OJ C 99 E, 3.4.2012, p. 101.
(10) OJ C 346, 21.9.2016, p. 39.
(11) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0137.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0298.
(13) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0335.
(14) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0405.
(15) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0502.
(18) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2016)0490.
(21) OJ L 94, 28.3.2014, p. 65.
(25) Report IV of ILO, 105th Session, 2016 (p. 45).

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