EU trade official warns retailers on supply chain
European companies must take responsibility for their supply chains, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said yesterday.
He was speaking in the European parliament in Strasbourg, France, five days ahead of his meeting with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni scheduled for May 28 in Brussels, reports Bloomberg.
The meeting will discuss the safety accord signed by European retailers for the garment industry in Bangladesh in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed at least 1,127 people, mostly garment workers.
The accord calls for independent, rigorous factory safety inspection with the reports made public and mandatory repairs and renovations underwritten by Western retailers.
It also calls for retailers to stop doing business with any factory that refuses to make necessary safety improvements, and workers and their unions to have a substantial voice in factory safety.
During his yesterday's speech, Gucht said, "We have given a clear signal that the problem is serious and that it should be addressed urgently."
According to him, sustained and progressive improvement of working conditions should be ensured.
"We must not underestimate the scale of the problem and the fact that it is not restricted to Bangladesh or to the textile sector," said Gucht, adding that the goal should be that the working conditions got better in Bangladesh.
"I will be very strict on this. If things do not go better, I will ask to launch an investigation," he said.
So far 39 retailers, mostly European, including Hennes & Mauritz, Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Loblaw and Associated British Foods' Primark, each pledged to contribute $2.5 million over five years ($500,000 a year) under the agreement announced by IndustriALL, a global union.
The contribution will help improve work condition and ensure workers' rights at around 2,000 readymade garment factories in the country.
Global giants like Wal-Mart and Gap, however, have not signed the safety accord yet.