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European Commission - Press release

EU announces support to improve workplace safety and labour practices in producing countries

Brussels, 12 October 2015

EU announces support for the G7's 'Vision Zero Fund', to improve working conditions and labour standards, and establish sustainable business practices in producing countries.

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, in charge of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, will today announce an EU contribution for the G7's 'Vision Zero Fund'. This Fund will support joint activities of governments, businesses, social partners and NGOs in the low income countries where goods are made, to reduce and prevent workplace related deaths, improve labour inspections, ensure fair production and help workers to exercise their rights.

Ahead of the G7 Employment and Development Ministerial Meeting in Berlin on 12-13 October, Commissioner Thyssen underlined: "Every year, 2.3 million people die from work related accidents or diseases around the world. This is 6300 people every day. The Commission is strongly committed to preventing workplace accidents, promoting fundamental labour rights and enhancing the level playing field for companies. We are committed to upholding the highest standards, and we are working every day to prevent human suffering and economic costs linked to unsafe workplaces across Europe and abroad. The G7's Vision Zero Fund will contribute to improving working conditions and reduce the health and safety risks for the hundreds of millions of people employed in global supply chains."

Commissioner Mimica also said: "Global supply chains are key generators of economic growth and decent work. However, all too often they include unregulated or unsafe work environments, poor industrial relations and compromised workers` rights. The European Commission is determined to play its part in fighting this. That's why we're proud to support the G7's initiative with a €3 million contribution – we want to do all we can to turn this situation around and ensure a fair, level playing field for our businesses and the people who work in them."

The Vision Zero Fund builds on the commitment made at the G7 Summit in Elmau in June 2015 to foster sustainable global supply chains and to agree on concrete actions for implementation and follow-up. It will get its funding from both public and private contributions and will be managed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Its first pilot activities will start in 2016, focusing on the ready-made garment sectors of selected producing countries.

Background

The European Commission is working to ensure that social considerations are appropriately taken into account both in internal and external policies of the EU, including in global issues such as supply chains sustainability and decent work.

Following the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in April 2013, which resulted in over 1,200 deaths, the European Commission launched the EU Sustainability Compact in July 2013, together with the ILO, Bangladesh authorities and the United States, to promote better labour rights and more responsible supply chain management.

The EU also announced in May 2015 that it is joining the Initiative to "Promote Fundamental Labor Rights and Practices in Myanmar/Burma" launched by the Governments of Myanmar/Burma, the United States of America, Japan, Denmark and the International Labour Organisation in November 2014, focusing on labour law reform and institutional capacity building.

The EU seeks to ensure that its trading partners comply with core ILO labour standards and international environmental standards. In addition, several EU laws recently adopted or in preparation set out due diligence requirements in specific supply chains, such as timber or conflict minerals.

The EU also encourages private sector initiatives for responsible supply chain management. This includes platforms for Corporate Sector Responsibility, and helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The EU encourages companies to adopt responsible business practices wherever they operate and to adhere to internationally recognised guidelines and principles on Corporate Social Responsibility.

At their last Summit in Elmau (Germany) on 7 – 8 June 2015, G7 Leaders committed to strive for the better application of internationally recognised labour, social and environmental standards, principles and commitments in global supply chains.

G7 Employment and Development Ministers are expected to adopt a Communiqué entitled "Action for Fair Production" during the ministerial meeting. This will contain six sets of actions to translate G7 Leaders` commitment to promote labour rights, decent working conditions and environmental protection in global supply chains.

IP/15/5823

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