Some of the members of our team, Jose A. Martínez and Manuel Ruiz, participated on April 26 at an event in the European Parliament prior to the vote on a report on violation of Human Rights in the textile sector. Our project, “Stars for Workers”, was one of those selected to show the initiatives that are being undertaken in the sector to make it more sustainable, humane and fair.
The session was attended by Arne Lietz (European Parliament’s Development Committee), Linda McAvan (President of the European Parliament’s Development Committee), Nevem Mimica (European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development), Lola Sánchez Caldentey (Member of the Development Committee), Guy Stuart (Harvard University, Garment Workers Diaries), Sarah Ditty (Fashion Revolution Coordinator), Helmut Fisher (Ministry of Development and Cooperation), Amit Narje , Amirul Haque Amin (President of the National Textile Workers’ Federation of Dhaka, Bangladesh) and Shahdat Hossain (Ambassador of Bangladesh to Belgium).
The Spanish MEP, Lola Sánchez, who has led the “EU flagship initiative on the garment sector”, once again strongly outlined the need to establish a regulatory framework in the European Union with a view to increasing the transparency in the supply chain, change product labeling to inform the consumer of who produces the clothing and under what working conditions, reward tariffs with sustainable production, and prevent human rights being violated, with special emphasis on the case women.
The clothing sector employs more than 60 million people worldwide, but despite many initiatives that have been taken in recent years to improve working conditions, none of them is part of a common regulatory framework, and are based mainly on voluntary codes of conduct and Corporate Social Responsibility actions, which have proved incapable of protecting workers’ basic rights: access to a living wage, elimination of forced and child labor, elimination of physical and verbal discrimination, elimination of discrimination against women, guarantees of a healthy work environment, and freedom of association.
Of particular importance was also the intervention of Amirul Haque Amin, President of the National Federation of Textile Workers of Dhaka, who pointed out that voluntary actions and the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility were not enough for hundreds of thousands of workers in Bangladesh to be able to live worthily. His emotional speech culminated in the hope that this time, a binding agreement will actually contribute to the respect of the Human Rights of employees in the factories of his country.
The session was a time of tension when the Bangladeshi ambassador had to answer questions about the imprisonment of trade unionists who have been staging protests in the country since December 2016, leading thousands of workers demanding a living wage and better working conditions.
Professors Martínez and Ruiz had the opportunity to explain in the final act of the session the objectives of our project, which aims to increase people awareness of labor exploitation in the textile industry through the involvement of celebrities who sign contracts of sponsorship with the big brands of the sector.
Finally, one day later, on 27 April, the European Parliament adopted the report with a strong majority, with 505 votes in favor, 57 abstentions and 49 votes against.
Now the next step is for the European Commission to draw up a draft law (Regulation or Directive) which will have to be discussed again by the social partners and endorsed by Parliament and the Council of the European Union.