This was in the news on-line, today, 15 may 2012


* Betraying human rights, Asean style:

This past week in Bangkok, the Asean Inter-government Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) discussed one of the most important documents drafted by Asean since the regional grouping adopted the Asean Charter five years ago. The Asean Human Rights Declaration is supposed to serve as the “roadmap for regional human rights development” in Asean for years to come – according to Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan.

Has Asean finally transformed itself from the so-called “club of dictators” famous for its closed-door meetings to a rights-respecting grouping? Shouldn’t this be cause for a celebration?  read more.

* Transparency key to ASEAN Human Rights Declaration:

Transparency and consultation with civil society will give the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration the status and respect it needs to make a difference in the region, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Friday.

The AHRD will be presented to foreign ministers in July after scheduled consultation with NGOs, but after years of secrecy and silence on the drafting of the text, rights groups have been wary it could fall short.

“Regional human rights instruments should complement and reinforce international human rights standards,” Pillay said. “But my hope is that that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will go further by setting the bar higher for governments to ensure full protection and promotion of human rights through their policies, legislation and practices.”  read more.

* Migrant workers face factory exploitation:

Migrant garment workers in factories in Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia making clothes for western fashion brands are facing state oppression and exploitation by their employers, according to claims in a new report released today (14 May).

Zara, H&M, Gap, Marks & Spencer, Levi Strauss, Timberland and Benetton, Nike, Puma and Reebok are among firms sourcing from the south-east Asian factories
according to the ‘Restricted Rights’ report from charity War on Want.

It notes that Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia have focused on developing export-oriented manufacturing industries that rely heavily on migrant labour. And as part of efforts to become globally competitive, governments in these countries have created policies that concentrate these industries in areas set apart from mainstream society.

This makes it difficult for workers to get protection or support when they try to exercise their rights against exploitation, War Against Want says.

Rural women from Cambodia have migrated to work in these areas, while in Malaysia and Thailand, migrants from nearby countries have travelled there in seek of jobs.

According to War on Want, young women migrants from rural areas represent almost 90% of garment workers in Cambodia, with 10-hour shifts earning just 20p an hour, or GBP50-55 per month.

Nine out of ten Cambodian women interviewed for the report said that despite sharing a room with four or five others, they needed to cut back on essential food in order to send any money home to their families.

Meanwhile, Burmese migrant workers in Thailand receive just GBP1.40 for 10-11 hours work, less than half the minimum wage. Around half the employees interviewed in Thailand lived in dormitories in the factory grounds, where conditions were often overcrowded and unsanitary.

“Western brands promote themselves as ethical and responsible towards the people who make their goods,” said Laia Blanch, international programmes officer at War on Want. “But they maximise their profits and minimise costs by exploiting migrant women workers as cheap labour. It is high time the British government stopped this abuse.”

The charity is calling on the UK justice secretary Kenneth Clarke to establish a business, human rights and environment commission to protect rights for workers in British retailers’ supply chains. read more  read more.


* Israel allows export of Gaza-made garments first time in 6 years: official

Israel on Monday allowed the export of Gaza-made garments to abroad markets for the first time since Israel imposed a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2006, a Palestinian official said.

Raed Fattouh, Palestinian coordinator for commercial movement in the Gaza Strip, said a truck loaded with Gaza-made clothes has been exported through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalon Crossing on the borders with Gaza.

“The load of clothes, which were weaved by Gazan dressmakers, was exported through Kerem Shalom to the Israeli Seaport of Ashdod, then will be transferred to the British Clothing Company GB Williams,” said Fattouh.  read more.

15:49:57 local time map of philippines PHILIPPINES

* Walk down heritage looms:

Today, Philippine ethnic textiles have become synonymous with souvenirs. One goes to Baguio for Ifugao table runners, to Ilocos for an inabel quilt, to Mindanao for a South Cotabato tubaw scarf, or to Iloilo for a hablon shawl. Unknown to many, these fabrics are not just market finds. Every symbol in the fabrics is not just a random stick figure doodled by some bored tribesman.

Design Origins & Translations, Yuchengco Museum’s first design-focused exhibit for this year, recently decoded the rich meanings and stories behind every hieroglyph, color and line in Filipino ethnic designs. The exhibit became a one-stop shop for appreciating and understanding the beauty and drama behind indigenously-woven materials from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  read more.

* Minimum Wage Earners May Pay Tax If Granted Salary Hike:

Philippines – Salaries of minimum wage earners in Metro Manila and elsewhere are subject to income tax if their employers grant them even a minimal pay raise.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) issued the clarification yesterday following complaints from security guards, janitors and other laborers.

Ordinary workers said tax collectors placed their annual salaries under tax coverage due to a small additional pay.

Under Section 22 of the Tax Code, minimum wage earners are exempted from paying income tax, which privilege is extended to cover holiday, overtime, hazard and night shift differential pays.  read more.

14:49:57 local time map of viet_nam VIET NAM

* Garment, textile sector urged to restructure:

Viet Nam’s garment and textile sector faces problems with its structure and production methods, said Nguyen Van Tuan, deputy general secretary of Viet Nam Garment and Textile Association.

Tuan said the country needed 400,000 tonnes of cotton per year, but domestic production could meet a tiny 0.75 per cent of the demand. The industry also supplied only 30 per cent of a yearly demand of 400,000 tonnes of man-made fibre.

He said the sector continues to import 100 per cent of its spare parts and 70 per cent of the materials, which, combined with a low production capacity, makes Viet Nam less competitive than other countries. read more.

* Vietnamese workers in Russia return home:

Of the 39 Vietnamese workers who complained of maltreatment in Russia, 11 returned to Viet Nam on Sunday. 12 others are having their repatriation procedures completed for a flight home scheduled on May 26. However, the rest wished to continue to work in Russia.

Relevant authorities were making efforts to take the workers home and to protect their rights.The workers from the northern provinces of Ha Nam, Hung Yen and Bac Giang were taken to Russia in January by a labour broker to work at a leather garments factory. They said they had been badly exploited and forced to work long hours in poor conditions without being paid. — VNS  read more.

14:49:57 local time map of laos LAOS

* Workplace inspections loom for underpaying employers:

With many payment-related disputes erupting, officials in charge have announced they will inspect businesses where there is the potential for disputes to arise, a senior workers’ representative has announced.

The government issued an announcement which came into force on January 1 to increase the minimum wage paid to unskilled workers from 348,000 kip to 626,000 kip per month, while maintaining existing supportive allowances.

But many businesses have failed to comply and have cut supportive allowances, despite increasing the wage. The allowances that employers are supposed to give include money for meals, good performance and social welfare protection.  read more.

14:49:57 local time map of thailand THAILAND

* September verdict for jailed Somyot?:

Hearings ended on 3 May in the trial of Thai journalist and labour organiser Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. Already held for over a year on remand, he could face up to 30 years’ jail for the publication of two articles that allegedly breach Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law. At the time, he was the acting editor-in-chief of the magazine in which the articles appeared. He did not write them, and neither of them even mentions the King of Thailand. Lawyers for the defence have asked the Thai Constitutional Court to determine whether the lèse majesté law is constitutional and meets international standards.  read more.

* Thai employees ‘restless’ : survey

Many employees in Thailand have become restless in their work, with almost half saying they frequently think about quitting, according to the latest survey results from global workforce solutions leader, Kelly Services.

Many employees in Thailand are restless in their work, with almost half saying they frequently think about quitting, according to the latest survey by global workforce solutions leader, Kelly Services. read more.

14:49:57 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

 * Bavet town shooting  victims summonsed again:

For the second time, court officials want to question three female workers who say they were shot and wounded by former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith at a labour protest earlier this year.

The second summons, which has outraged the women, stems from a complaint that they filed against Chhouk Bandith.

Each of them is demanding $45,000 in compensation for their injuries.

Svay Rieng provincial court investigating Judge Pech Chhoeut said yesterday the point of the May 18 summons was to “investigate their complaint and the case happening to them”. read more.

* Progress on Chea Vichea statue made:

A long-sought statue honouring slain former Free Trade Union leader Chea Vichea has moved a step closer to realisation with the formal establishment of a Phnom Penh municipal working group for the project.

Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema announced in March the working group would be established following approval for the project from Prime Minister Hun Sen in January.  read more.

14:19:57 local time map of myanmar MYANMAR

* Wig factory workers win big wage rise:

Workers at a South Korean-owned wig factory in Hlaing Tharyar have secured a significant pay increase following a two-day strike.

More than 1000 employees from the Hi-Mo factory, which is owned by a company called High-Art, staged a sit-in protest at the Labour Exchange Office in Mayangone township on May 9 and 10, refusing to return to work until 78 grievances had been addressed. At 2pm on May 10, the factory owner acquiesced to their demands, a lawyer for the workers said.

The factory employs 18,000 workers and exports wigs to China, South Korea and Japan. read more.

13:49:57 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLA DESH

* The mysterious murder of a Bangladeshi labor activist:

The body turned up in the northern district of Ghatail, dumped by the roadside near a police station. The victim’s toes were smashed, his ankles crushed. A hole had been drilled below one of his knees.

Last seen breathing on April 4 near his office in the outskirts of Dhaka, Aminul Islam was a labor activist and a thorn in the side of the powerful garment industry of Bangladesh, the second largest exporter of clothing in the world. The United States receives 80 percent of these exports, the largest beneficiary of what labor advocates have called the “race to the bottom” in terms of wages, benefits and job security.

read more.

* 3-day workshop on compliance for leather industry begins:

A three-day training workshop on ‘Compliance Standard of Lather Goods and Footwear and Industry’ began at Novo Convention Centre here today. Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) in cooperation with Bangladesh Economic Growth Program (BEGP) arranged the workshop, said a press release.
Chief Technical Adviser of International Labour Organization (ILO) Arthur Earl Shears addressed the function as the chief guest while LFMEAB president Syed Nasim Manzur gave the welcome address.  read more.

* Violence again in Ashulia: 100 injured:

Over 100 got injured and dozens of vehicles were vandalised on the second day of labour unrest at Ashulia, the country’s one of the garment hubs in the outskirt of the capital. Thousands of workers from different garments factories locked in clash with police for the second day at Ashulia industrial area on Sunday morning. The agitated garments workers took over the Dhaka-Tangail highway around 9 am and vandalised over 20 vehicles.
Members of the law enforcing agencies fired rubber bullets, tear gas and used water canons to disperse the angry workers to bring the situation under control.
Earlier on Saturday, a female worker was killed and more than one hundred were injured in a clash with police at the area.  read more.

* Vandalism concerns apparel manufacturers:

Apparel manufacturers Sunday decided to resume productions at their Ashulia industrial belt where workers had vandalised several factories and forced entrepreneurs to shut their industries.
The decision came as Home Minister Sahara Khatun discussed the situations with law enforcing agency, apparel stakeholders and labour organisations and reviewed thoroughly the situations in Ashulia. “The Home Minister assured us that there would be no such untoward incidents in future,” said Shafiul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).  read more.

* Over 100 RM Garment units suspend production:

Over 100 garment factories in Ashulia apparel area suspended production Sunday as violent protests by thousands of garment workers stretched into the second straight day.

At least 100 people, including workers and law enforcers were injured as several thousand garment workers fought pitched battles with police in the highly sensitive industrial zone near the capital that lasted for more than three hours from 8:30am.

read more.

* RMG units resume operation Monday:

Following a two-day halt due to unrest among workers, garments factory owners have decided to resume operation from Monday.

Leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) took the decision at a meeting on Sunday evening.

The meeting followed discussions with Home Minister Shahara Khatun and law enforcing agencies. read more.

* Worker’s death triggers Tongi protest:

Readymade garment workers on Monday demonstrated for nearly three hours in Tongi BISIC area after a fellow worker was run over and killed by a bus in Gazipur.

The agitated workers set the bus ablaze and smashed several other vehicles.

Sub-Inspector of Tongi Police Station Monowar Hossain told that Texzone Knitware Limited worker Asma Begum, 19, was run over by a staff bus of Hamid Group around 8am on her way to the factory.  read more.

* Govt to set up textile village on lands of closed cotton mill:

The government has decided to set up a “textile village” on 33 acres land of a state owned cotton mill, which has been closed for 15 years.

A cabinet committee on economic affairs yesterday took the decision to set up the textile village on the lands of Chittaranjan Cotton Mills Ltd at Godnail in Narayanganj.

The new entity will be named Chittaranjan Textile Palli.

The textile and jute ministry in a proposal said 22 industrial plots will be created on the lands, of which 11 will be for spinning, knitting and readymade garments. read more.

* Exports fall further on EU debt crisis:

Exports fell by 4.60 percent to $1.90 billion in April compared to a month ago due to the ongoing debt crisis in the EU and readjustment of prices of finished goods by international buyers.(…)

Bangladesh’s knitwear exports rose by 2.99 percent to $7.70 billion and woven by 16.90 percent to $7.83 billion in July-April this year compared to the same period a year ago.

Such rises are lower compared to the growth in July-March when knitwear exports increased by 5.92 percent to $7 billion and woven by 19.24 percent to $7.10 billion.

“The decline is absolutely due to the global financial turmoil,” said Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, a platform of the garment makers and exporters.  read more.

13:19:57 local time map of india INDIA

* Tell the Indian Government to stop companies stealing from workers’ wages!

Have you ever looked beyond the brand name label on your clothes to consider the conditions in which they were made?

You’ve probably heard that garment workers in India are paid very low wages but did you ever imagine that the companies they work for would steal from these already low wages?! This is what is happening to garment workers in Gurgaon.

Workers have told us that they are not paid at the correct grade for the work they do, they are paid the single instead of double rate for the 50-60 hours of compulsory overtime they do each month, women are paid less than men for the same work and the money workers pay into social security funds disappears, leaving them unable to benefit from it. These are some of the ways in which wage theft takes place. Wage theft, on top of already low wages means that workers cannot survive on what they earn and go into debt in situations such as illness in their family or education for their children. We need your help to put an end to these illegal practices.  read more & please sign.

* Cotton futures to witness pressure in short term:

There is a downside pressure on futures contract of kapas (cotton seed). Concerns over global economic growth and the recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report that pointed to a record-high inventory in cotton for 2012-13 are weighing on sentiments.  read more.

* Textile sector’s plight to be brought before inter-ministerial panel soon:

BOB Capital Markets would make a presentation to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the textile industry’s plight and its demand for a debt restructuring package on May 18, Textile Secretary Ms Kiran Dhingra said.

After visiting Tirupur and the textile weaving park at Palladam near here over the last two days, Ms Dhingra, while conceding that the industry was in dire need of financial support, told industry captains that she could not assure much at the present juncture, except to say that her team would present the facts to the Finance Ministry.

read more.

* Indian cotton yield up 5.14% in 2012 from 2008:

Shri Harish Rawat, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries has informed that the area under cotton cultivation as well as total cotton production in the country has been showing an increasing trend for the past few years.

The percentage share of Bt. cotton in the overall area coverage is on the rise and since the total production of cotton is also showing an increasing trend, the production of Bt. cotton cannot be estimated to be low. read more.

* India’s denim capacity to surpass 1.2bn m by 2015:

The combined capacity of denim fabric production by various mills in India is set to cross the 1.2 billion metres per annum by 2015 as several companies are going in for their capacity expansion. read more

map of Asia

* Betraying human rights, Asean style
* Transparency key to ASEAN Human Rights Declaration
* Migrant workers face factory exploitation
* Israel allows export of Gaza-made garments first time in 6 years

* Walk down heritage looms
* Minimum Wage Earners May Pay Tax If Granted Salary Hike

* Garment, textile sector urged to restructure
* Vietnamese workers in Russia return home

* Workplace inspections loom for underpaying employers

* September verdict for jailed Somyot?
* Thai employees ‘restless’ : survey

* Bavet town shooting victims summonsed again
* Progress on Chea Vichea statue made

* Wig factory workers win big wage rise

* The mysterious murder of a Bangladeshi labor activist
* 3-day workshop on compliance for leather industry begins
* Violence again in Ashulia: 100 injured
* Vandalism concerns apparel manufacturers
* Over 100 RM Garment units suspend production
* RMG units resume operation Monday
* Worker’s death triggers Tongi protest
* Govt to set up textile village on lands of closed cotton mill
* Exports fall further on EU debt crisis

* Tell the Indian Government to stop companies stealing from workers’ wages!
* Cotton futures to witness pressure in short term
* Textile sector’s plight to be brought before inter-ministerial panel soon
* Indian cotton yield up 5.14% in 2012 from 2008
* India’s denim capacity to surpass 1.2bn m by 2015

latest tweets (& news)

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand

What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
    David Crosby

I wonder who they are
The people who are buying these clothes
I'd like to know what they've paid for it
How much the makers have paid for this
Fairer income is not an awful lot to ask
Better working conditions is not an awful lot to ask
    A. Searcher

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2