Ploumen: action plan for textile industry is important step

The trade associations representing Dutch textile companies have presented an action plan to tackle problems in the clothing industry. Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, sees the plan as an important step towards improving working conditions for textile workers in countries like Bangladesh.

Active involvement

I’m pleased to see the action plan on the table,’ said Ms Ploumen. ‘It sets out clear goals with an ambitious schedule. Now we have to set the wheels in motion and make sure things really change for the workers on the shop floor. I’ll be actively involved in the plan’s execution.’ The Minister is calling on all textile companies to endorse the plan.

Clear agreements
Ms Ploumen notes that the plan still has to be fleshed out. ‘The next step is to establish clear agreements on the roles and responsibilities of all those involved, both in the Netherlands and abroad.’ The industry is keen to discuss the matter with the government and civil society organisations and embrace a voluntary corporate social responsibility agreement.

Sharing information
The textile industry aims to offer consumers transparency as regards problems in the supply chain and how companies are addressing them. It is also important for companies to share more information with each other in order to identify problems before they escalate. The action plan also tackles such issues as a living wage, child labour, workplace health and safety, the freedom to form and join trade unions and environmentally sound use of water, chemicals and raw materials. The textile industry’s trade associations are going to help companies identify and minimise risks in the supply chain.

The industry will also investigate the harmful effects of certain procurement practices, like rapidly relocating production and spreading production over an extensive number of suppliers. The Dutch textile sector is going to actively inform European and global trade associations of its plan and ask them to help achieve its goals.

Ms Ploumen paid a visit to Bangladesh this week. As co-chair of a group of donor countries, the Minister led the first donor coordination meeting on improving working conditions in the clothing industry. She did so together with Bangladeshi trade minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader. In the margins of the meeting, Ms Ploumen spoke to women textile workers and representatives of employers’ associations, trade unions and textile companies. She also visited several textile factories, including the site of the Rana Plaza collapse, and met survivors of the disaster.