The European Parliament has backed a call by Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion for the EU to encourage tougher safety laws and proper inspections in Bangladesh and Pakistan, after huge loss of life in recent fires in clothing factories in Dhaka and Karachi.
Dr Bennion, a member of the Parliament's South Asia Delegation, was co-sponsor of a resolution on the tragedies debated at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week.
|Phil Bennion MEP has worked closely with Bangladesh ambassador to the EU Ismat Jahan (left) on issues of concern to the EP South Asia Delegation.
He negotiated on behalf of the ALDE group of MEPs on the compromise text for the resolution and discussed the proposals with Bangladesh's ambassador to the EU, Ismat Jahan, at a meeting in the Parliament.
In his speech, Phil Bennion welcomed a recent tripartite statement from government, employers and workers in Bangladesh and called for the Pakistan government to take similar action.
He said: “Having asked since November for a resolution on these terrible factory fires in Dhaka and Karachi, I am very happy it was included in the agenda.
“Hundreds of people could have been saved if only basic fire safety standards had been in place.
“I certainly welcome recent efforts in Bangladesh to improve basic standards in factories and for instance the tripartite fire safety statement of Commitment signed this week by the government, employers and workers. I urge the Pakistani government to take similar actions.
“We should not allow such disasters, where doors are locked and fire exits do not exist, to ever happen again. Basic safety and health standards must be respected and more needs to be done in this respect.
“More also needs to be done to fight the endemic corruption of the inspection system in these countries, including the auditing pursued by Western brands.
“However, I would like to be clear. Contrary to some in this Chamber, I am firmly opposed to depicting multinationals or any other company involved in global trade, as evil entities."
Phil said that Labour, the Greens and their allies on the left had tried to use the resolution as an opportunity to criticise companies' subcontracting, restructuring plans and consultation mechanisms with trade unions here in Europe, rather than deal with the key problems on the ground.
"They were suggesting that we should enforce European standards on companies in Bangladesh. Such an approach would damage both trade and the Bangladeshi economy."
“On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I pushed for the final text to include the important role that consumers can play in improving health and safety. Consumers can encourage companies to use their corporate social responsibility policies to ensure products are manufactured to core ILO Labour Standards. Consumer power is increasingly effective.
“I call on both the European Commission to continue to support factory safety in Bangladesh, and on the European External Action Service, through its dialogue with the Bangladeshi authorities, to support European Companies willing to develop initiatives tackling the very serious issue of basic fire safety standards."
MEPs overwhelmingly backed the resolution in a vote on January 17th.