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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Wal-Mart criticised as MEPs back Green calls for justice for Asian textile factory workers

MEPs have backed Green calls to strengthen access to justice for the thousands working in textile factories in Bangladesh and Pakistan to satisfy European shoppers’ demand for cheap clothes.

Responding to fires last year which killed more than 400 garment workers in Bangladesh and Pakistan, the European Parliament called on Bangladesh and Pakistan to enforce all Health and Safety rules, on retailers to set up a labelling scheme to ensure European consumers know when clothes have been made in factories abiding by International Labor Organisation (ILO) standards, and on all EU trade officials to receive training in Human Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility issues.

London’s Green MEP Jean Lambert, chair of the EU delegation to South Asia, told the parliament: “Squeezed profit margins can not only lead to pressure on wages but also to shortcuts in safety.”

“Recent fires in garment factories are a tragedy – and we express deep condolence for all the families and friends of those killed and injured – but it’s time to say enough is enough.

“European consumers don’t want blood on their hands, and it is essential that international labour and health and safety standards are met – and that the EU does everything it can to help bring that about.

“We hope the suffering caused by these horrendous fires leads to an improvement in standards across sectors and across borders.”

The resolution adopted by MEPs also called for a stronger role for trade unions in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and called on both governments to stop restrictions on trade union activities and collective bargaining.

Ms Lambert, who is also a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and raised the issue of standards in Bangldeshi and Pakistani textile factories during a November 2012 meeting with ILO officials in Geneva, added:

“Those who place contracts also have a crucial role in improving standards and contributing to their improvement and I regret the reluctance of some companies such as Wal-Mart who are reported as being less than enthusiastic.

“As consumers, we should be confident that the clothes we are wearing have not put someone’s life at risk, wherever they work.”