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Garment buyers under fire over Bangladesh case
Publication Date : 17-01-2013
Some members of European Parliament on Wednesday discussed what action the EU should take following a tragic fire in a Bangladeshi textile factory in November last year.
Paul Murphy, a member of the parliamentary group, known as GUE/NGL, condemned the failure of European big business to keep to its own "moral but useless" code of conduct, according to a statement posted on the group's website.
Speaking at the debate in the European Parliament, Murphy said: "I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families of the 112 workers who needlessly lost their lives in the fire at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory and to the families of all the estimated 700 other garment workers who have lost their lives in industrial fires in Bangladesh since 2006."
He highlighted that responsibility for the deaths lies with both the owners of these "death trap factories" as well as with European big business.
"Bangladesh is the world’s second largest clothing exporter. Its clothing trade was worth US$19 billion in 2011 alone, with its factories producing for major brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Calvin Klein, H&M and Walmart. Yet 40 per cent of the population live under the poverty line of $1.25 a day. The workers, 85 per cent of whom are women, have a minimum wage of $37 a month and are often forcibly prevented from forming trade unions," he added.
Murphy also drew attention to denim jeans sandblasting, a commonplace industry practice in Bangladesh that puts workers at risk of contracting silicosis and lung cancer due to the silica particles they are forced to inhale.
"The Bangladeshi government should ban all forms of sandblasting, but also implement a public programme to provide social and medical assistance for workers affected by silicosis," added the Irish MEP.
"The EU must implement an import ban on sandblasted jeans if it is serious about protecting the health of workers in the most exploitative industries."
A draft motion for a resolution that calls on the Bangladeshi government to put in place measures that ensure full compliance with health and safety legislation will be voted on in plenary on Thursday.