Certificates attesting to safety and working conditions in the textile industry are good for a corporation’s image but are of little use to workers in the global production and supply chains. This was made all too clear by the collapse on 24 April 2013 of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka (Bangladesh) which killed more than 1,130 people and left more than 2,500 injured. To date none of the companies involved have taken legal responsibility for the deaths and injuries. Instead producers, buyers and retailers have been relying on certificates of safety and labor standards to avoid any legal liability.
A few months before the catastrophe, TÜV Rheinland audited the production facilities at textile producer Phantom Apparel Ltd – in the Rana Plaza complex – as part of a "social audit." ECCHR argues that TÜV Rheinland ignored professional auditing standards. The audit report failed to note grave human rights violations such as child labor, discrimination against women, the absence of trade unions and forced overtime. Even if TÜV was not tasked with the job of assessing the structural integrity of the factory, the question arises as to why the construction quality of the building is described in the report as being good. TÜV Rheinland was commissioned to undertake the audit by a member of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI). This corporate platform is based on the standards of the International Labour Organization and aims to monitor and improve safety and working conditions in production countries.
On 2 May 2016, ECCHR together with those affected by the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka and the organizations FEMNET and medico international as well as the trade unions Garment Workers Unity Forum and Comrade Rubel Memorial Center from Bangladesh submitted an OECD complaint against the German certification company TÜV Rheinland. The complaint was submitted to the OECD National Contact Point at the Federal Ministry for Economics in Berlin. The organizations argue that TÜV Rheinland, through its report, has contributed to violations of the human rights of workers in Rana Plaza and thus violated the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Those bringing the complaints call on TÜV Rheinland to work with the BSCI to bring about industry-wide and fundamental changes to factory monitoring. The aim must be to develop certifications that are supported by trade unions, that are published and that provide for compensation claims for those affected in the case of accidents arising from deficient audit reports.
Q&A: BSCI complaint on TÜV Rheinland audit report.