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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

On 2nd anniversary of deadly Rana Plaza factory collapse, we still call for sector change

Garment worker Laboni, stands with her husband, she lost her left hand at Rana Plaza collapse.

24/04/2015

 

  • 2 years on, funding gap still exists
  • MEP calls on companies to show compassion, not admit liability
  • 60% of clothes made in Bangladesh are for the EU

 

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where over 1100 people died and more than 2500 were injured. London Green MEP Jean Lambert has again urged the remaining retailers and fashion brands who have yet to contribute to the compensation fund for victims to do so without further delay. There remains an USD6million gap in the funding needed to compensate each of the over 5,000 individuals with eligible claims.

To mark the anniversary, this week in the European Parliament Jean Lambert has hosted an exhibition that showcases reportage images taken at the site of the collapse as well as follow-up portraits of survivors. You can see the entire gallery here

In addition, Jean chaired a conference ( you can watch it here) on Wednesday the 22nd*  that brought together the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, with experts and campaigners on the global fashion supply chain industry. Both events are to mark the 2nd anniversary of the disaster and to emphasise the need for the fashion industry to take more responsibility for the safety and working conditions of those that supply them.

As Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with South Asia, including Bangladesh, Jean has written to those companies who have not yet paid, urging that they make a contribution to the fund. Jean visited Dhaka in December, 2014, to see how working conditions and factory safety have improved since the deadly day two years ago.

Jean said:

‘When I was last in Bangladesh, manufacturers were keen to point out two things: “Bangladesh is not Rana Plaza – do not judge us by that alone” and that “We have to change our mentality – what was ok when we were starting our garment industry is not ok now, standards are different.” There is an opportunity for real change and we cannot let that wither away. Investing in the quality of the industry is a real investment in the empowerment of women who make up the majority of the workforce.

‘The second anniversary of a disaster is less visible but is crucially important if we want to see if things are really changing after that first rush of activity to put things right.

‘It is unacceptable that the compensation fund is still underfunded. It should not go unnoticed that a number of brands, linked to manufacturing at Rana Plaza itself, have not yet contributed to the fund or made the level of their contribution transparent. Paying into the fund means showing compassion, not admitting liability. Building owners and manufacturers bear the primary responsibility.

‘We should be clear that just-in-time fashion and the demand for low prices has been squeezing profit margins. Brands need to pay fair prices, which must translate into fair pay for workers in the industry, not simply additional profit for the owners. Shoppers should also be prepared to pay fair prices and demand supply-chain responsibility. This is about transforming the sector for all workers – not creating niche products.’

Jean concluded:

‘Effective trade unions are essential to ensure fair pay and worker safety, whether in Bangladesh, Myanmar or Manchester: that’s why the Sustainability Compact between the EU and Bangladeshi Government, backed by the ILO, is so important.’

Campaigners have worked for almost two years to secure tens of millions of dollars in compensation from a global industry that turns over tens of billions in profit.

The Rana Plaza factory collapse showed Europe the price paid by others for our clothes, with Bangladesh the 2nd largest exporter of garments in the world; 60% destined for the EU.

*Attendees include EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, Deputy Director General of the ILO, Sandra Polaski, Members of the European Parliament, Ambassadors and Embassy officials, NGOs, European brands, and trade unions.