The European Parliament has adopted a resolution on recent casualties in garment factory fires, notably in Bangladesh. The resolution said hundreds of workers are killed every year in fire accidents all over South Asia, with an estimated 600 garment workers having died since 2005 in factory fires in Bangladesh alone, many of which could have been prevented.
In view of the recent Tazreen factory fire, in the Ashulia district of Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which at least 112 people died in November 2012, and the September 2012 blaze in Karachi that killed 289 people, the resolution calls on the Governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan to continue with thorough investigations into the recent events and to put in place measures to prevent a recurrence of the tragedies, including full compliance by all manufacturers with health and safety legislation (notably the Labour Act (2006) in Bangladesh) and the establishment of an effective and independent system of labour inspections and inspections of industrial buildings.
The resolution says the Members of European Parliament (MEPs) expect that those responsible for criminal negligence and other criminal activity in relation to the fires are brought to justice, and welcome the steps which have already been taken by the Bangladeshi and Pakistani Governments to support the victims and their families.
Welcoming the actions of those European retailers which have already contributed to compensation schemes for the victims and their families and the resolution says MEPS are encouraging other companies to follow their example.
The resolution calls major international garment brands to critically investigate their supply chains and to cooperate with their subcontractors to improve occupational health and safety standards. It calls on retailers, NGOs and all the other actors involved, including as appropriate the Commission, to work together to look at developing a voluntary labelling standard certifying that a product was manufactured in accordance with the ILO's core labour standards.
For EU companies operating abroad, the resolution calls on the Commission to actively promote mandatory responsible business conduct, with a special focus on ensuring strict compliance with all their legal obligations, in particular international standards and rules in the areas of human rights, labour and the environment.
There are more than 5,000 apparel factories in Bangladesh, employing approximately 3.5 million people, and the South Asian country is the world's second-largest exporter of readymade clothes, next only to China. On the other hand, the European market is the largest export destination for Bangladeshi apparel and textile products, with prominent Western companies admitting they had contracts with the owners of the devastated Tazreen factory for the supply of garments.