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MEPs call for EU rules on textile imports to curb worker exploitation

MEPs call for EU rules on textile imports to curb worker exploitation

Textile workers, Bangladesh - Photo by NaZemi

(BRUSSELS) - EU rules are needed to force textile and clothing suppliers to respect the rights of workers around the world, who often suffer long working hours, low wages and hazardous conditions,' MEPs said on Thursday.

Textile workers, often young women and children in Asian countries, can also suffer uncertainty and violence. These practices also harm the EU industry, as they result in social dumping, MEPs note in a non-binding resolution.

In an effort to push the initiative which is aimed at preventing tragedies like the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, MEPs suggest a series of measures:

  • due diligence obligations: the EU Commission should table a binding legislative proposal for a due diligence system, based on OECD guidelines and similar to those for the so-called blood minerals, that covers the whole supply chain,
  • conditional trade preferences: the EU should ensure that textile exporting countries with preferential access to the EU market comply with obligations and produce sustainable textiles, while member states should promote workers' rights in their relations with partner countries,
  • clothing labels: making the "social impact of production" visible on clothes can help to bring about lasting change, and
  • role models: EU institutions should set a good example in their public procurement of textiles.

"We cannot turn a blind eye, if our clothes are made at the cost of vast human suffering," said the Parliament's rapporteur Lola Sanchez Caldentey MEP: "Only binding rules could guarantee that products sold on European markets do not violate the dignity and the rights of millions of workers."

According to the World Trade Organisation, more than 70% of EU textiles and clothing imports come from Asia, with China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia as the largest producers. Most buyers are global brands looking for low prices and tight production timeframes and the consequences usually fall upon factory workers.

Following the Rana Plaza tragedy, in which over 1,100 people died when a factory building collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Commission said it would bring forward an EU wide flagship initiative.

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text (2016/2140(INI)) will soon be available here (27.04.2017)

Procedure file

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