Labour conditions and health and safety standards in Bangladesh
Delivered in Plenary - 23rd May 2013
All of us in this House would wish to send our condolences to the people of Bangladesh following the horrendous disaster at the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka. In my London constituency there are more than 150 000 British Bangladeshis, some of whom will have lost loved ones in the disaster. As the Government of Bangladesh knows only too well, this tragedy could easily have been prevented if the building’s negligent owners had adhered to the standards already present within Bangladeshi law. Nevertheless, we have seen a rash of resolutions about Bangladesh in recent months, and there is now a risk that this country could come to feel singled out, when in fact many other nations in the region suffer from similar problems.
Bangladesh, which is a country I respect, is a stable, secular democracy which deserves our support. Certainly there are systemic issues in the garment industry which need to be addressed by retailers, manufacturers and governments alike, but a punitive or hectoring approach by the European Union will achieve nothing. Threatening trade restrictions through the EU GSP – as some have suggested – is an incredibly retrograde step and would further impoverish the millions of people who depend on the garment industry for their livelihoods. Rather, the European Union must now aim to work with the Bangladeshi governmental authorities constructively, as partners, to ensure that labour conditions are improved and that this kind of tragedy can never happen again. The EU retailers and importers must also monitor their supply chains more closely and ensure better adherence to ILO and health and safety standards.