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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP call for greater role for trade unions after factory collapse kills 290 in Bangladesh

London’s Green MEP Jean Lambert has backed EU calls for a stronger role for trade unions in Bangladesh following the collapse of a building which is thought to have killed at least 290 people, many while making clothes destined for the British High Street.

Ms Lambert, chair of the EU Delegation to South Asia, said the Bangladeshi government must speed up efforts to meet its stated commitments to implement international health and safety agreements throughout the country.

She said: “This latest factory collapse is a tragedy – and my thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who were killed or injured – but it is, alas, just the latest of many.

“Enough is enough. The Bangladeshi government has undertaken to improve health and safety rules designed to protect workers – and the public – from unscrupulous building owners, and this incident underlines the urgency of its work to do this.”

In January the European Parliament called on Bangladesh to speed up efforts to improve health and safety, to ensure a stronger role for trade unions, to enact all relevant International Labour Organisation (ILO) agreements, and to put an end to restrictions on trade union activities and collective bargaining.

MEPs also called for clothes retailers to let their customers know if their goods had been produced in ‘union-friendly’ workplaces, and for EU trade officials to be given training in human rights and corporate social responsibility issues.

Ms Lambert, who raised the issue at a Geneva meeting with ILO officials last year, added:

“All stakeholders have signed up to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement, and now we must see them all step up efforts to implement it in full.

“Customers don’t want blood on their hands, and it is essential that international labour and health and safety standards are met.”