Dutch clothing firms commit to better wages in poor countries

The Dutch clothing sector is taking up the fight against child labor, poor working conditions and low wages in developing countries such as Bangladesh. On Wednesday the government is closing a textile covenant with three trade associations, two trade unions and five social organizations to address these issues and make sure Dutch consumers can rest assured that their clothing was made responsibly, AD reports.

The covenant addresses issues like child labor, forced labor, a livable wage, safe working conditions and animal welfare. From now on stores will follow their T-shirts all through the process - from cotton picking till shelf - to make sure that none of the above mentioned violations are involved. If there are any violations, the companies have to intervene to improve conditions, according to the covenant.

According to Minister Lilianne Ploumen of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, everyone wants to do the right thing when buying clothes "But I understand very well that it is quite complicated for people to be in the know. If a company such as C&A - I really hope that they are one of the first signatories - soon joins the covenant, then you can know that you can buy clothes there with peace of mind."

This agreement follows a building collapse at garment factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013. More than a thousand workers were killed. Previous agreements were made to improve the situation, but the general feeling was that they were not going far enough. This covenant has been in the making since September 2015 and was drawn up at the insistence of the PvdA, GroenLinks and ChristenUnie. "My activist heart is happy with this result", Ploumen said. According to her, the covenant is the first of its kind in the world.

The covenant can still fall through if not enough clothing companies sign it - 80 percent of companies by 2020 - or if there is no funding for a secretariat. Ploumen will carry the initial funding, but only if it is clear who will pick up the bill after that.