Procedure : 2013/2638(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B7-0231/2013

Texts tabled :


Debates :

Votes :

PV 23/05/2013 - 13.14
CRE 23/05/2013 - 13.14

Texts adopted :


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See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B7-0223/2013

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Commission

pursuant to Rule 110(2) of the Rules of Procedure

on labour conditions and health and safety standards following the recent factory fires and building collapse in Bangladesh (2013/2638(RSP))

Helmut Scholz, Paul Murphy, Thomas Händel, Willy Meyer, Marie-Christine Vergiat, Alda Sousa, Nikolaos Chountis, Patrick Le Hyaric, Marisa Matias on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group

European Parliament resolution on labour conditions and health and safety standards following the recent factory fires and building collapse in Bangladesh (2013/2638(RSP))  

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on Bangladesh, in particular those of 17 January 2013(1), 6 September 2007(2) and 10 July 2008(3),

–   having regard to its resolutions of 25 November 2010 on human rights and social and environmental standards in international trade agreements(4) and on corporate social responsibility in international trade agreements(5),

–   having regard to the Cooperation Agreement between the European Community and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on Partnership and Development(6),

–   having regard to the ILO Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health (2006, C-187) and the Occupational Safety and Health Convention (1981, C-155), which have not been ratified by Bangladesh and Pakistan, and their respective recommendations (R-197); having regard also to the Labour Inspection Convention (1947, C-081), to which Bangladesh is a signatory, and its recommendations (R-164),

–   having regard to the Commission communication entitled ‘A renewed EU strategy 2011 2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility’ (COM(2011)0681),

–   having regard to its resolutions of 6 February 2013 on ‘corporate social responsibility: accountable, transparent and responsible business behaviour and sustainable growth’(7) and on ‘corporate social responsibility: promoting society’s interests and a route to sustainable and inclusive recovery’(8),

–   having regard to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which set a framework for both governments and companies to protect and respect human rights, as endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2011,

–   having regard to Rule 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest clothing exporter, with trade totalling USD 19 billion in 2011; whereas it is also, after China and Vietnam, the EU’s third-largest supplier of textile clothing; whereas this sector accounts for 13 % of Bangladesh’s GDP and 80 % of its exports;

B.  whereas the overwhelming majority of Bangladesh’s cotton imports are used for export-oriented textile and apparel manufacturing, accounting for 80 % of all manufacturing exports, and whereas most of the textiles and apparel it produces are exported to developed countries, in particular EU Member States, Canada and the USA;

C. whereas the practice of sandblasting denim jeans and other textiles is particularly widespread in Bangladesh, with an estimated half of the 200 million pairs of jeans exported from Bangladesh being sandblasted, and whereas this practice exposes workers to extreme health hazards, with silica particles entering the body and causing deadly diseases such as silicosis;

D. whereas in the Bangladesh garment industry the cost of labour makes up about 5 % of the cost of the final product; whereas an increase in the monthly pay of Bangladeshi textile workers from its current level of around EUR 30 to a level of EUR 80 would lead to an estimated increase in textile product prices for German retailers of about 28 cents per product if major retailers’ profit rates were to remain unchanged;

E.  whereas capitalist globalisation and the desire on the part of multinational corporations in particular to move production to low-wage countries such as Bangladesh has resulted in the textile industries relocating away from developed countries, including EU Member States, leaving a trail of unemployment and serious socio-economic crises;

F.  whereas 40 % of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line (i.e. on less than USD 1.25 per day), meaning that Bangladesh is down in 146th position among the 182 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI);

G. whereas, in Savar, outside Dhaka, on 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building housing several garment factories collapsed, killing over 1 000 people and leaving more than 2 500 people injured;

H. whereas the building that collapsed was constructed illegally and did not meet safety standards, and whereas the factory owners had insisted that the workers go back to work despite the fact that cracks had been discovered the previous day, and despite warnings from an engineering consultant that the building should remain evacuated;

I.   whereas this disaster was preceded by a factory fire at Tazreen Fashion in Ashulia in November 2012, killing well over 100 workers and injuring many more, and whereas, on 8 May (a few days after the Savar disaster), eight people were killed in a fire in the Tung Hai garment factory in the Mirpur district of Dhaka;

J.   whereas a government committee of inquiry formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Labour and Employment came to the conclusion that criminal charges for unpardonable negligence should be brought against the owner of the Tazreen factory, but whereas he was never arrested; whereas a petition was filed at the Bangladesh High Court on 28 April seeking his arrest and accusing the authorities of inactivity;

K. whereas on 16 May the roof of a shoe factory collapsed in Kampong Speu province, Cambodia, leaving at least two people dead;

L.  whereas the high number of casualties in all these cases has for the most part been blamed on the absence of minimal safety measures, illegal and dysfunctional building construction and the lack of workers’ rights to defend their own interests;

M. whereas according to Bangladeshi newspaper reports, Bangladesh has only 51 inspectors to monitor over 200 000 factories;

N. whereas, according to information published by the International Labour Rights Forum, more than 600 garment workers have died in factory fires in Bangladesh since 2005, while according to reports by human rights organisations none of the factory owners or managers have ever been brought to trial;

O. whereas there is a joint responsibility on the part of final consumers in Europe, the retailers, the factory management and governments at all levels of the production and supply chain to take action to improve the work and safety standards in the garment sector to the benefit of the workers;

P.  whereas although some Western businesses claim to employ ‘codes of good conduct’, working conditions – particularly with regard to working hours, salaries, child labour and worker safety – are still deplorable;

Q. whereas competition in the globalised economy – with ever shorter cycles, higher production output and higher levels of consumption in the apparel and footwear sector – leads to unsustainable pressure on production and labour costs and takes an unacceptable toll on the safety and health of the workers;

R.  whereas textile and clothing is now the world’s second-largest economic activity in terms of intensity of trade and whereas the textile industry is considered one of the most polluting industrial sectors; whereas spinning, weaving and production of industrial fibres undermine air quality, dyeing and printing consume vast amounts of water and chemicals, and release numerous volatile agents into the atmosphere that are particularly harmful to workers, consumers and the environment;

S.  whereas inhumane working conditions, exploitation of workers and environmental devastation are not confined to certain regions of the world or to certain industrial sectors but have to be combated worldwide, including within the EU;

T.  whereas information provided by the Bangladeshi Government shows that the costs of clothing in the UK have fallen by 20 % since 2005, and whereas, according to the Bangladeshi Worker Rights Consortium, bringing Bangladesh’s 5 000 garment factories into line with Western safety standards within 5 years would add less than 10 cents to the factory price of each of the 7 billion garments that Bangladesh sells to Western brands each year;

1.  Expresses its grave sadness at the many lives lost and the many injuries caused in the Rana Plaza tragedy, one of the most devastating industrial disasters ever, and extends its condolences to those injured or mutilated, as well to the bereaved families;

2.  Calls on all European retailers whose orders were being processed at the time of the collapse to support the local authorities and management and labour organisations involved in setting up an appropriate and transparent compensation scheme for the victims and their families as well as to contribute to such a scheme; points out that such a system should cover the loss of income and damages for the injured and families of the dead, as well as free medical rehabilitation for the injured and care and education for deceased workers’ dependent family members;

3.  Expresses its indignation at the horrific working conditions in the textile and apparel industry in LDCs and developing countries and condemns those who are responsible for this situation; stresses that European-based multinational retailers, often through subcontractors, are among the main beneficiaries of cheap labour and violations of workers’ rights and health and safety standards in LDCs and developing countries; is convinced that the tragic events in Bangladesh have illustrated the failed concept of a voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) scheme, and points out that a legally binding and thus enforceable CSR scheme is a necessary step towards ending this gross exploitation;

4.  Expresses its sympathies and solidarity with the workers’ protests in Bangladesh and particularly the protests that followed the most recent fires; emphasises that social and workers’ rights are basic human rights which have to be respected and protected worldwide; deeply deplores the fact that this is too often neglected in the EU’s human rights policy;

5.  Defends the rights of workers in Bangladesh to form, register and join independent trade unions without fear of harassment; 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, including higher wages; calls on the government of Bangladesh to guarantee these fundamental rights;

6.  Supports the European Trade Union Confederation’s call that all multinationals operating in Europe should commit to upholding the ILO declaration on tripartite principles concerning multinational enterprises and social policy;

7.  Supports the call by the International Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation for a global ban on apparel sandblasting throughout the supply chain; invites the Commission to come forward with a proposal to implement an import ban on textile and apparel products produced using the practice of sandblasting, which endangers workers’ health and undermines their right to a safe working environment;

8.  Notes the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement between the trade unions, NGOs and around 1 000 multinational textile retailers, which was finalised on 15 May 2013 and which aims to improve safety standards at production sites (and covers the arrangements for paying for such measures), notably by establishing an independent inspection system, including public reports and mandatory repairs and renovations, and by actively supporting the creation of health and safety committees involving workers’ representatives in each factory; calls on all relevant textile brands to support this effort, including textile retailers Walmart and Gap who continue to reject any binding agreement;

9.  Notes the action plan decided between the government, employers, workers and the ILO on 4 May 2013, in which the parties make commitments, in particular, to reform the labour laws, allowing workers to form trade unions and to collectively bargain, to assess the safety of all active export-oriented ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh by the end of 2013, to relocate unsafe factories and to recruit hundreds of additional inspectors;

10. Hopes that the action plan will be implemented in full;

11. Notes the Bangladeshi Government’s decision to raise the minimum wage in the coming weeks, points out that this will affect some four million, mostly female, workers and urges the Bangladeshi Government to sanction companies that are undercutting this wage; expects employers’ associations to honour their commitment to redeploy the workers that lost their jobs as a result of the accidents, as well as rehabilitated workers, and calls on the government, in addition, to pass legislation in order to protect trade union members from being sacked by their employers;

12. Calls on the Commission to come forward with a proposal for a major ban on textile and apparel products manufactured and produced in countries such as Bangladesh that do not comply with the basic ILO Conventions on health and safety standards, freedom of association and collective bargaining;

13. Notes the steps which have been taken by the Bangladeshi Government to support the victims and their families and to bring those responsible for the high number of casualties to justice; calls on the authorities to oblige the management to publish the names of all the workers who have been affected by the disasters and to guarantee full access to the justice system for all victims, in order to enable them to claim compensation;

14. Condemns the failure by EU businesses, despite the ‘codes of good conduct’ they have adopted, to uphold workers’ rights and safety standards; urges the relevant authorities in the EU and in the Member States to refer to existing inquiries and to conduct, in collaboration with relevant international organisations, an impartial inquiry into these practices in order to take the steps needed to be sure that these businesses are not guilty of human rights violations in countries outside the EU;

15. Calls on all businesses, notably garment brands, that contract or subcontract to factories in Bangladesh and other countries to fully adhere to internationally recognised CSR practices and to check their supply chains carefully in order to ensure that their goods are produced exclusively in factories that fully adhere to safety standards and uphold labour rights;

16. Calls on the Bangladeshi Government to enforce compliance by all manufacturers with the Labour Act (2006);

17. Calls for negotiations on an international minimum wage for the garment industry worldwide; fully supports proposals by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus to increase the production price by a small fraction in order to create a garment workers’ welfare trust;

18. Calls on the Council and the Commission to include a binding CSR clause in all bilateral trade and investment agreements signed by the EU, on the basis of CSR principles as defined at international level, including the 2010 update of the OECD Guidelines, standards defined by the UN (notably the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights), the ILO and the EU; suggests that this clause should harmonise the existing standards and concepts in order to ensure comparability and fairness and that it should contain monitoring measures to ensure that these principles are effectively implemented at EU level;

19. Calls on the Council and the Commission to introduce legislation obliging companies that wish to operate on the European market under EU law to provide information about the entire supply chain of their products in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights;

20. Notes the Commission’s intention to help Bangladesh improve occupational safety and health and cooperate social responsibility;

21. Requests that, in future EU trade agreements with third countries, occupational safety and health be afforded a more prominent place as part of the decent work agenda and that the EU provide technical support for the implementation of these provisions;

22. Calls for a system of transnational legal cooperation to be set up between the EU and third-country signatories to bilateral trade agreements in order to ensure that victims of breaches of social or environmental legislation, or of failures to honour CSR undertakings or fair exchange practices, by multinationals and their immediate subsidiaries have effective access to justice in the country where the breach took place, and in support of the establishment of international judicial procedures to ensure, where necessary, that breaches of the law by companies are punished;

23. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the VP/HR, and the Government and Parliament of Bangladesh.


Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0027.


OJ C 187 E, 24.7.2008, p. 240.


OJ C 294 E, 3.12.2009, p. 77.


OJ C 99 E, 3.4.2012, p. 31.


OJ C 99 E, 3.4.2012, p. 101.


OJ L 118, 27.4.2001, p. 48.


Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0049.


Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0050.

Last updated: 21 May 2013Legal notice