According to the complaint, the European Commission failed to uphold fundamental human rights in its trade policy
A number of international labour rights organizations have filed a formal complaint against the European Commission for not taking into account its human rights obligations regarding trade policies towards Bangladesh.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), and HEC-NYU EU Public Interest Clinic filed the complaint with the European Ombudsman on Monday, said a press release.
Bangladesh benefits from preferential tariffs on its exports to Europe under the European Union’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), which was enacted to encourage sustainable development in beneficiary countries.
The GSP requires the beneficiary countries to maintain certain labour standards and to respect human rights.
The readymade garment industry accounts for a large majority of Bangladesh’s exports and employs four million workers. However, there have been allegations of fundamental workers’ rights violations in the country.
Conditions are unsafe for millions of workers and labour laws create significant obstacles to the exercise of the right to freedom of association, to organize and to bargain collectively.
The European Commission has urged Bangladesh to improve working conditions, but has not launched a formal investigation concerning Bangladesh's GSP status.
“The government of Bangladesh needs to stand up for working people, and not simply bow to the demands of powerful factory owners, many of whom are responsible for egregious exploitation. This complaint is aimed at getting the European Union to send a very clear message to Bangladesh, in line with the commitments the EU itself has made,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow as quoted in the press release.
Meanwhile, HEC-NYU EU Public Interest Clinic Executive Director Paige Morrow said: “As Bangladesh’s largest trade partner, the EU has a responsibility to ensure that the workers who make European’s clothing are operating in safe factory conditions. Launching an investigation will not lead to an automatic cut-off of Bangladesh’s trade privileges – instead, it shows that Europe is committed to upholding labour standards fairly and consistently.”