The European Commission has been challenged by Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion to spell out what the EU will do to stop American or multinational companies trying to dodge tougher factory safety laws in Bangladesh.
Dr Bennion was co-sponsor of a second resolution on action after the Rana Plaza fire disaster debated at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Thursday May 23rd. He negotiated on behalf of the ALDE group of MEPs on the compromise text which was later voted on by MEPs.
In his speech to MEPs and the Commissioner, Phil Bennion deplored the fact that some American or other multinational clothing companies have refused to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety to transform standards.
Phil Bennion MEP said: "This horrendous loss of life could have been prevented if only proper safety standards had been met and if the voices of workers had been heard.
"The Bangladesh government has initiated reforms on labour law, minimum wage and inspections. It is crucial that these are not only adopted but also implemented.
"I also strongly welcome the fact that some European clothing retailers have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety. But I am deeply concerned that some American companies have refused to sign it and are looking at adopting a weaker agreement.
"We need to remember that multinationals' outsourced manufacturing often takes place in the same factory.
"Mr Commissioner, what can we do as the EU to get a coherent approach with our American partners on international trade in Bangladesh? And what is the European Commission prepared to do if progress is not made and new laws are not implemented in Bangladesh?
"We need to act now. Far too many people have already died in Bangladesh in tragedies which could have been prevented. They must not die in vain."
The resolution was later passed by an overwhelming majority of MEPs.
Phil added: "We needed this second resolution passed to make sure the momentum to build safety into clothing retailing is not lost. These fire disasters are preventable and we need to help the Bangladeshi government enforce tougher laws and help them take action so multinational companies do not dodge their responsibilities. Working together, the EU has real influence, we must use it."
Note: The text of the compromise resolution as debated (unamended) is at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=P7-RC-2013-0223&language=EN