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BERLIN – Germany’s Ministry of Economic Affairs has called for reform of textile factory audits, including greater transparency of audit reports and stronger worker involvement. The Ministry also recommends a dialogue with audit companies, standard setting organisations, brands, factories and trade unions.

The comments were made in a statement by the Ministry’s German National Contact Point (NCP) on the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises in respect of the Rana Plaza proceeding against the auditing company TÜV Rheinland.

German technical inspection company TÜV Rheinland audited the Phantom Apparel Ltd production facilities just a few months before the Rana Plaza catastrophe at which the business was based. It has been claimed the German certification company failed to address building safety and construction flaws and that a number of other problems were not inspected adequately. TÜV Rheinland was appointed as auditor by a member of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI).

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and its partners, the Bangladeshi Garment Workers Unity Forum, the Comrade Rubel Memorial Center, the Rana Plaza Survivor Group as well as FEMNET and medico international from Germany have welcomed the statement by the German Ministry.

“Social audits are part of the problem rather than a solution, providing minor remedies while legitimising worker exploitation in global supply chains,” said Moniruzzaman Masum of the Comrade Rubel Memorial Center in Bangladesh.

“Auditing firms should publicly recognise that they have their own responsibility towards stakeholders along their business operations,” added Carolijn Terwindt, senior legal advisor for ECCHR. “Workers should have access to an adequate remedy against negligent auditing companies.”

Gisela Burckhardt, chairperson of FEMNET added: “Auditors should conduct off-site worker interviews and audit results should be made accessible to the public or at least trade unions and workers.”

The German National Contact Point NCP is based at the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. In addition to offering a forum for mediation, the NCP provides information participates in relevant events and discussions, and answers specific inquiries from citizens and scholars related to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

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