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Brussels, 24 April 2014
Statement by László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, on first anniversary of Rana Plaza garment factory disaster
One year ago, the world was shocked by the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh. More than 1100 people lost their lives in this terrible accident and thousands more were injured. One year later, many victims are still struggling with long-term injuries and waiting for compensation from the trust fund established to support them. This tragedy highlighted the appalling working conditions that many workers suffered in Bangladesh, the difficulties workers face to make their concerns heard and the need to ensure decent working conditions around the world.
In the last year, a number of initiatives have been launched to address this issue. The European Union, in cooperation with the International Labour Organization, the US and the Government of Bangladesh, adopted the "Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh". The compact aims to improve respect for labour standards, such as freedom of association and working standards, as well as building safety. It has led all important stakeholders to join forces and make decisive steps to improve occupational safety and health and working conditions in the garment sector. Private initiatives are also important, like the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh initiated by international trade unions and until now signed up to by over 120 - mainly European -leading international companies.
However, more has to be done. The Commission is fully committed to continue to work to make workplaces safer and to increase respect for rights at work. Together with our G20 partners, we will increase our efforts to significantly reduce the number of workers who die and suffer serious injuries each day worldwide, as well as to improve working conditions in global supply chains. We are also stepping up our cooperation with ILO in this regard.
On the 28 April, the Commission's conference on working conditions in Brussels will be an opportunity to discuss how the EU promotes decent working conditions at global level in its relations with partner countries and regions, including rights at work and other international labour standards.
We all need to pursue our efforts to ensure that all workers, no matter where they are, have the right to work in a safe environment and the possibility to uphold this right in practice in particular by exercising their rights to collective representation, so as to help to prevent tragic accidents such as the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh ever happening again.