EU and Slave Labor: “Good Work Worldwide” High on Development Agenda

Written by | Friday, April 3rd, 2015

The EU intends to promote global standards against slave labor and exploitation in order to put an end to such practices. In the wake of the upcoming two-year anniversary of the collapse of the textile factory Rana Plaza in the Bangladeshi city of Savar, Brussels has committed itself to promoting “good work worldwide” as one of its top priorities in the European Year of Development.

The 2013 catastrophe on the outskirts of Dhaka claimed the lives of 1,129 workers and injured more than 2,500. The eight-story building contained clothing factories, shops, apartments, and a bank. The bank and the shops on the lower floors closed immediately when cracks were discovered in the building but garment workers were ordered to return to work. The building collapsed during the morning rush hour, a day after the authorities had ignored the warnings. Rana Plaza housed a number of clothing factories employing around 5,000 people and manufacturing apparel for brands such as Accessorize, Mango, Walmart, Mansoon, Bonmarche, Benetton or Matalan.

The efforts to fight modern slavery have been triggered by EU Development Commissioner, Neven Mimica, and the German government. Thomas Oppermann of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) commented that the practices like 19th century-style slave labor and exploitation must end worldwide while speaking on the sidelines of the discussion on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Berlin. Commissioner Mimica added that “European companies play a key role in making the world a fairer place and achieving humane working conditions along supply chains”.

Another SPD MEP, Arne Lietz, hinted that a Europe-wide design for laws and standards is unavoidable. In his opinion, planned free trade deals can be a major opportunity to push similar legislation in other countries as well. Jörg Asmussen, State Secretary in the German Labor Ministry, added that labor safety, fair wages, and social security worldwide, are on the top of the agenda for Germany’s G7 presidency this year.

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