GENERAL & ASIA
* The rise (and fall?) of Adidas:
Multinational apparel company Adidas has turned itself into a global branding juggernaut whilst simultaneously avoiding any public scrutiny over the working conditions of its factory workers. Ashok Kumar explores the development of the global anti-sweatshop movement and shows how two decades of activism have culminated in a new multi-nation campaign against the company.
A grassroots movement of activists and workers is helping increasingly assertive workers get their due (photo: Mark leong)
In September of 2000, as activists laid siege to the IMF and World Bank summit in Prague, South African finance minister Trevor Manual pondered the relevance of protesting a system that felt so inevitable, “I know what they are against but have no sense of what they are for.”
Unlike the perceived ambiguity of much of the anti-capitalist movement at the time, the anti-sweatshop movement has always remained steadfast in its demands. Issues such as dignity at work, freedom of association and livable wages remained at the forefront. The problem wasn’t that workers and activists didn’t know what they were for – it was how to get it.
The rise of Adidas
One of the more pressing issues of subcontracted labour is the non-payment of a legally mandated terminal compensation (‘severance’). In 2011, the PT Kizone factory in Indonesia was forced to close and 2,700 workers were left immediately without jobs. The factory produced for Nike, Adidas and the Dallas Cowboys. As indicated in a report by the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), Nike and the Cowboys immediately agreed to pay their share of what was owed, £1m and £33k respectively.
However, Adidas, which owes £1.2m, continues to refuse, claiming ‘no business relationship at the time of closure’, a fact that the WRC report states is “without any basis”, since Adidas continued orders a full two months after the violations began. Adidas recently offered a £20 food voucher to Alfamart, the retail price of an Adidas football, as a substitute for what is owed. The workers flatly rejected the offer. Adidas’ position is consistent with their well-documented record on workers’ rights abuse. read more. (edit.:Well worth a read & Recommended! )
09:28:56 local time CHINA
* Minimum wages see slower growth this year:
More than 60 percent of the 16 places in China that adjusted their minimum wages in 2012 saw those wages increase less this year than they had last.
Data showed that the minimum wages paid in Beijing, Tianjin, Shenzhen and other places increased less than they had in 2011, Beijing Business News reported.
The minimum wage in Tianjin increased the least among the 16 cities and provinces that made adjustments to the payment standards, going from 1,160 yuan ($181.9) in 2011 to 1,310 yuan this year, up 12.9 percent year-on-year. The year before, the city’s minimum wage had gone up by 26 percent year-on-year. read more.
* June strikes show collective bargaining gaining traction in China:
Nearly half the strikes and worker protests recorded by China Labour Bulletin in June ended up in some form of collective bargaining between management and workers, a sign that both labour and management are increasingly willing to use collective bargaining as a means of resolving labour disputes.
Of the 24 strikes recorded in June, ten led to collective bargaining, compared with only three such cases last month. For example, a strike on 14 June, involving around 1,000 production line workers at a Japanese-owned factory in Guangzhou demanding higher pay and better treatment by management etc. continued for three days until both sides entered into formal negotiations. read more.
* Market ready to embrace overseas hedge funds:
It was recently reported that China may soon allow foreign hedge funds to raise money in the domestic capital market.
Many have come out against this idea because of the high risks these aggressively managed funds might pose for the country’s financial market. Yet, I think this is encouraging news that should be welcomed by domestic investors and those concerned about the future development of China’s economy as a whole.
The most obvious benefit foreign hedge funds could offer local capital holders is a much-needed new investment channel. Currently, Chinese investors with their sights on overseas markets are only allowed to place their money into a limited number of fixed-income and equity products, which are largely useless now with stock markets around the world weighed down by weakness in the global economy. However, with access to hedge funds, local investors could still see returns from shorting the market when stock prices fall. read more.
* Shanghai trade volume dips in H1:
Shanghai’s trade volume declined 2.4 percent in the first half from a year earlier due to weak overseas demand and a decrease in the number of textile companies.
The city’s exports and imports totaled US$391.9 billion in the first six months, Shanghai Customs said yesterday. China’s trade increased 8 percent in the period, China Customs said last week. Economists told Shanghai TV News the drop was mainly due to a grim economy in Europe and the US, and clothing and textile companies relocating to inland cities. to read.
* Swedish fashion brand to tap Chinese market:
Swedish clothing company J Lindeberg is planning to open 50 stores in China in 2012 and 2013, local media reported on Tuesday.
Half of the company’s total turnover would come from China by 2014 or 2015, J Lindeberg’s chief exclusive officer Stefan Engstrom was quoted as saying by the Swedish business daily Dagens Industri (DI).
J Lindeberg reported a turnover of 300 million Swedish kronor (about 43 million U.S. dollars) in 2011, up from 260 million Swedish krono in the previous year.
According to Engstrom, the company is expecting to see a turnover of 400 million kronor in 2012 while maintaining profitability.
J Lindeberg was founded in 1996 by fashion designer Johan Lindeberg.to read.
* Company puts unwanted clothes to good use:
Are your out-of-fashion dresses, shirts and pants still in the back of your wardrobe or in the garbage can?
In Shanghai, though old clothes have a future after all, now that 520 clothing recycling bins have been distributed throughout neighborhoods in the city.
Rather than simply being recycled, some of the donated sweaters will be unknit and remade into child-size ones, which will go to poor pupils in Guizhou, Shandong and Yunnan provinces before October, said Yang Yinghong, head of the recycling company, Shanghai Yuanyuan Industrial Co. read more.
* Ever-Glory predicts weaker-than-expected sales in Q2:
Ever-Glory International Group Inc. a leading apparel supply chain manager and retailer in China provided an update regarding its financial results for the second quarter ended June 30, 2012.
The total net sales in the second quarter of 2012 are anticipated in the range of $46 to $49 million versus prior guidance of $50 to $60 million, primarily because of the weaker-than-expected sales in the Company’s retail segment. Accordingly, the Company expects full-year 2012 sales in the range of $210 to 250 million versus prior guidance of $225 to $260 million. read more.
* US uniforms, China’s pride:
THE OUTCRY of American lawmakers about the decision of the US Olympic Committee to source the uniforms of the country’s Olympic athletes from China has given a new spin to US-China relations.
While China is yet to respond to the outcry, and rightly so, the debate that’s brewing in US on whether it was right to give Chinese firms the order to manufacture the uniforms presents another side of the globalisation narrative that America has always flaunted.
For the US lawmakers, the fact that Chinese textile units are providing the uniforms is a severe grouse for the simple reason that many textile units in the country are going through a prolonged period of crisis with some having gone belly up and facing bankruptcy. Americans are are losing their jobs, and here is China, stepping in to manufacture uniforms when these surviving units could very well have made them, the lawmakers contend.
It is only logical to think what America’s reaction would be to the very fact that most athletes in other countries use sports gear that is made by American companies or patented to them. In an increasingly globalised world such give-and-take is only natural.
After all, in its quest to be the global power, America has put a finger in every global pie — from politics to economy. China’s rise might be worrying for the US, especially on the economic front, but there’s no choice but to live with the fact that the world has changed. read more.
* Taking pot shots at public enemy No. 1:
Astorm is brewing in Washington about the fact that the red, white and blue uniforms of the United States Olympic team were made in China.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went so far as to say they should be burned.
Despite the inescapable interconnectivity of China and the world, China is sometimes treated like the ultimate other, especially by the US which has a habit of defining itself by rivalry; whether it was the space race with Russia or the economic battle with Japan, and now China.
Being targeted as such does not go unnoticed by those being targeted, especially in this computer age, and incidents of China-bashing can provoke like-minded incidents in return.
US-bashing is not unknown in China; the temptation to point the finger at others and find blame far from home is common human behaviour.
Whether it be the State press, or more likely the lively Internet, with Chinese netizens venting volatile feelings online in the form of anti-US, and more generally, anti-foreign rants, what goes around comes around. This suggests common anxieties of some sort, with the attendant risk of things spiralling out of control.
The angst of some US politicians and pundits in this time of transition is understandable, but they should think before reflexively pointing a finger at China.
(editor’s note:It’s amazing how little support and solidarity there is for and with the Chinese garment workers.)
08:28:56 local time VIET NAM
* Footwear sector: low-cost labour no longer advantage:
Researchers have warned that low-cost labour will not be a competitive advantage for Vietnam’s footwear sector by 2030.
More than 700,000 people are currently working in the sector and most of them are not well trained. As a key export earner, the sector contributes to bringing in a large amount of foreign currency.
Nguyen Duc Thuan, Chairman of the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association, says in the first six months of this year the sector earned as much as US$3.8 billion from exports, up 25 percent against the same period last year.
He is confident that the sector will be able to meet the yearly target of US$7-7.3 billion.
He also says the sector’s surplus increased sharply from 38-40 percent in 2011 to 40-45 percent in the first half of 2012.
Some businesses even enjoyed a surplus of 50 percent.
This indicates that the sector’s strategy to increase its value is on the right track, Thuan stressed.
However, he points out a number of difficulties facing the sector such as a recent reduction in orders and the failure of enterprises to sign enough orders for production from now until the end of the year.
read more in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 18/7 (-4th item).
08:28:56 local time THAILAND
* Thai migrants take recruiters to court:
Thai workers often pay large sums to get a job abroad that at times falls well short of what the recruiters’ promised. An ILO initiative has helped former migrants win financial redress.
Auto mechanic Pirom Boonyorat, 35, frowns as he recalls how his last stint as a migrant ended up in financial disaster.
He had paid Thai recruiters 580,000 Baht (17,000 Euros at the time) to make employment and travel arrangements for a job in Spain. The recruitment agency told him he’d be paid 1,500 Euros a month and work for five years.
His salary turned out to be half that much, and after one year there was no more work.
Broke and with no prospects in Spain, Mr. Boonyorat returned to Thailand, furious with the recruiter.
“I felt the company only wanted our money. They took no responsibility for their promises. They should have tried their best to find new jobs for us,” he said.
Stories like this are not uncommon in Thailand, where recruiters, working on commission, often embellish the conditions of the jobs they arrange.
But Mr. Boonyorat and others have now obtained compensation from the recruitment agency, thanks to an ILO project backed by the European Commission, which helped them take their cases to a Thai Labour Court.
The project, “Going back – Moving on” aims at helping returning migrants in their economic and social reintegration. It also works with Thai lawyers to help migrants seek fair compensation if they feel they have been wronged.
A breakthrough in migrant workers’ rights
The financial redress marked a breakthrough in the way Thai courts view the rights of Thai migrant workers and the obligations of the recruitment companies that send them abroad. read more.
* Protectionism rising because of slowdown:
The Commerce Ministry has urged Thai enterprises to prepare to battle rising numbers of trade barriers imposed by many countries amid the global economic slowdown, which has encouraged many countries to protect their markets.
Surasak Riangkrua, deputy director-general of the Foreign Trade Department, said the euro financial crunch and the slowing recovery in the United States had caused a rise in the number of non-tariff barriers (NTBs).
The European countries and the United States have imposed many new NTBs amid slowing economic growth this year. The EU recently announced new regulations on food safety by requiring manufacturers to carry the letter “L” on each lot to facilitate the tracing process if any dispute or harm to consumers arises. The EU also requires garment manufacturers to issue a clear code for raw materials from third countries in order to clarify source of origin clearly for consumers. read more.
08:28:56 local time CAMBODIA
* Labour hero’s statue to go up in capital:
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall has granted its final approval, and construction will finally move forward on the long-proposed statue of slain labour rights crusader Chea Vichea, union officials said yesterday.
“According to Mann Senghak, an adviser to the Free Trade Union, which Vichea founded, the FTU will contribute US$8,000 to the effort and will begin construction as soon as possible.
The city, he said, pledged $5,000 towards building the 1.68-metre sandstone statue, which will be located in a park near Wat Lanka, just a short distance from where the activist was gunned down in 2004. read more.
09:28:56 local time MALAYSIA
* Minimum wage gazetted, takes effect on Jan 1:
The Minimum Wage Order 2012, which was gazetted today, will take effect on Jan 1 for employers who employ six workers or more.
For employers, who employ five workers or less, the date of enforcement will be on July 1 next year, said a statement from the Human Resource Ministry.
It said the commencement date also applied to employers who were carrying out professional activities classified under the Malaysian Standard Classification of Occupations (MASCO) regardless of the number of employees.
The Minimum Wage Order 2012 was gazetted in accordance with Subsection 23 (1) of National Wage Consultation Council 2011.
Further information on the gazette entitled the ‘Minimum Wage Order 2012 P.U. (A) 214/2012 can be referred to at www.federalgazette.agc.gov.my.
According to the gazette, the minimum wage rate was fixed at RM900 per month or RM4.33 per hour for the peninsular and RM800 per month or RM3.85 per hour for Sabah and Sarawak. to read.
* Hing Yiap’s fashion statement:
Market responds well to garments manufacturer’s plan to expand and add brands such as Anakku
It would appear that the market is positively pricing in Hing Yiap Group Bhd’s proposed acquisition of a variety of brands, which include Anakku, Audrey and Mickey Junior.
Since its announcement on July 11, Hing Yiap’s share price had jumped more than 50 sen to RM2.10 as of Friday.
Garments manufacturer Hing Yiap has proposed to acquire six subsidiaries of Asia Brands Corp Bhd (ABCB) for RM245mil in cash and shares. The subsidiaries are involved in clothing for babies, children and women. read more.
09:28:56 local time INDONESIA
* Adidas and Nike told to meaningfully engage in Indonesia:
The international Play Fair Alliance has today called on international sportswear brands and their suppliers to participate meaningfully in discussions to advance an important agreement on freedom of association in Indonesia.
The protocol on freedom of association was signed last year in Jakarta by textile, garment and footwear unions, sportswear MNCs and key manufacturers. The protocol contains a number of provisions, all with the aim of creating time and space for trade union activities and promoting better industrial relations in sportswear producing factories. To date adidas, Nike, Puma, New Balance, Pentland and Asics, as well as a number of their Indonesian suppliers, have committed to abide by the agreement. read more.
07:28:56 local time BANGLA DESH
* Good news for RMG as buyers increase orders:
Things are looking up for the readymade garment sector despite the precarious state of the global economy, as international buyers have considerably increased their orders from Bangladesh this year.
“The confidence of international buyers in Bangladeshi products is increasing,” said a German buyer who preferred not to be named.
Thanks to price competitiveness, improvement in labour laws and skills and upgraded production facilities, many clothing retailers have increased their order volumes from Bangladesh by 15 percent to 25 percent.
“The orders from the European buyers are increasing and it will be higher once the Eurozone financial crisis looks to be under control,” said David Hasanat, chairman and managing director of Viyellatex Group. read more.
* No respite from soaring inflation:
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics website, the average inflation stood at 10.62 per cent at the end of the last fiscal in June 2012.
But the average annual inflation was 8.8 per cent in the previous fiscal (2010-11). The government had targeted to bring the rate down to 7.5 per cent. No wonder the common and middle-income groups of people are gasping in such a tight economic situation.
Life has become real hard for common people and to add insult to injury the unscrupulous traders are hiking prices of commodities everyday as Ramadan is approaching.
It was thoughtful of the Prime Minister to direct officials concerned to supply garments workers with rice at a low price. If the order is materialised then the RMG workers will get at least some respite from the burden of soaring prices.read more.
* Trade concession boosts RMG export to India:
Apparel shipments to India have increased sharply in the just concluded fiscal (2011-12) as against those in the previous year, although total export to India declined marginally.
Garment manufacturers attributed the causes mainly to the duty waiver facilities offered by the Indian government and the escalating demand for basic garment items among the expanding middle class consumers of India.
In last fiscal (2011-12), Bangladesh exported garment products worth about US$ 55.02 million to India as against $ 35.94 in the previous fiscal registering a growth of 53 per cent.
The apparel exports to India have increased significantly at a time when the country’s garments export to its major markets in the developed countries like the USA and the EU are on the decline because of the global economic meltdown.
Bangladesh garment manufacturers started receiving export orders from the neighbouring India since it granted duty-free and quota-free access of Bangladeshi ready-made garment (RMG) products to its market in early September, last year.
06:58:56 local time INDIA
* Anand Sharma proposes Rs 35,000 cr package for textile industry:
Highlighting the grim situation of the textile sector, commerce minister Anand Sharma has proposed a package worth Rs 35,000 crore.
Sharma said that India’s textile sector is yet to fully capitalise its resources and make a mark in the international arena. read en see/hear more-VIDEO. (1 Indian crore = 10 million)
* Tougher days ahead for apparel industry:
Textile industry is keeping its fingers crossed as the cotton prices have once again started scaling high and poised to go even higher as cotton output looks to fall short of the estimates in the coming season due to weak monsoon.
The prices of cotton soared to Rs. 38,200 a candy (one candy is 355.54 kg) for Shankar-6 variety, one of the most common variety used in garment clusters such as Tirupur on July 16, an increase of about Rs. 6,000 a candy within a fortnight.
“This price rise is mainly speculative in nature as sowing for the coming season (from October 2012 to September 2013) has been hit in many of the cotton belts such as Maharastra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh due to weak/delayed monsoon.
“It means that the arrival for the forthcoming season could get delayed at least by a month (only by November end) leading to the present situation where the textile entrepreneurs are depending on the procurement from among whatever existing stocks available to run the business till November,” Raja M. Shanmugam, member of Cotton Advisory Board, told The Hindu . read more.
* Indian apparel exports show positive signs:
* Monitoring of companies under Sumangali scheme demanded:
Calling for regulation of Sumangali or camp labour scheme that provides work for young women in spinning and garment factories, a regional consultation of NGOs and civil societies working in the field, has appealed for monitoring committee by the labour department to periodically visit companies to ensure compliance with standards of International Labour Organisation.
The scheme has come under the scanner with allegations of poor living conditions, excessive work hours, less wages, and sexual harassment of young girls linked with the scheme, said Antony Stephen, spokesperson for READ Foundation, Pudukottai, that organised a consultation with 35 participants from Pudukottai, Sivagangai, Ramanathapuram, and Thanjavur representing NGOs, trade unions, and academic representatives.
The discussion apprised the organisations on how to provide a fair picture of the working conditions and ensure that girls are equipped to handle issues at the workplace. Young girls, particularly dropouts and members of Dalit communities are targeted by the agents who recruit them for commission from companies, said Ramadoss, director, READ Foundation, in his introductory remark. Regular medical check up and insurance scheme for the young girls should be initiated by the social welfare department, he felt. read more.
* Applications invited for fashion course at JD Institute of Fashion Technology:
JD Institute of Fashion Technology is inviting applications for MSc in fashion communication and textile technology.
The post graduate programme that allows students from diverse backgrounds to gain basic concepts and knowledge in core subjects related to the fashion industry, textile industry and fashion communication. It emphasises on intensive theoretical and applied training in core areas of fashion communication, textile technology, visual merchandising, trend forecasting, and fashion photography. read more.
* Textile processing units close on costs:
In the last one and a half months, as many as 10 textile processing units have closed down in Surat as they failed to cope with the rising prices of gas and raw materials like colour and chemicals.
Three of these 10 processing houses — Bhagwati Dyeing and Printing Mills, Rajlaxmi Mills, and Silver Dyeing House, all at the Pandesara GIDC — downed their shutters in the last few days, taking the number of closed gas-based units in the last six months to 30.
Besides rising prices of gas and raw materials, experts say, shortage of manpower has also led to the closure of these units.
They say that a majority of the workforce belongs to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa and that many of them have gone back to their respective states probably to work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
* Grasim to set up $500 mn textile raw material plant in Turkey:
Aditya Birla Group company Grasim Industries is working on setting up a USD 500 million (Rs 2,764 crore) plant in Turkey for producing VSF, a raw material used for making apparels and home textiles.
“A 180,000 tonnes per annum greenfield plant in Turkey is in planning stage,” Grasim Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said in the company’s annual report for 2011-12.
“A detailed study and obtaining the requisite approvals to get this project going, are underway. As a country, Turkey offers enormous potential, given its pre-eminence as a major textile hub,” he said.
Grasim would invest USD 500 million over the next five years to set up the facility along with a captive power plant and Sulphuric Acid plant. It woudld come up in two phases. read more.
( Grasim Industries Limited is an Indian global building materials manufacturing company based in Madhya Pradesh, India. It was in 1948 and which started as a textile manufacturer. Since then Grasim has successfully diversified into Viscose Staple Fiber (VSF), cement, sponge iron and chemicals– read more at wikipedia.)
* Nike launches training apparel for Team India:
It’s light, it’s breezy and it’s got technology sewn in. Nike’s new training apparel for Team India scores high, say Zaheer Khan and R. Ashwin. Coach Duncan Fletcher’s all praise for technology in training. Video: V. Ganesan
* Indian Textile Ministry issues draft of cotton trade bill:
In a bid to regulate the Indian cotton ginning and pressing industry and also establish a proper system of collecting statistical data pertaining to production and sales of the white gold, the Ministry of Textiles has formulated the draft of the Cotton Trade (Development & Regulation) bill.
As per the draft available with fibre2fashion, every cotton ginning and pressing and processing factory or trader engaged in trade of cotton and manufacture of cotton yarn shall be required to register himself in a prescribed form with the Textile Commissioner within a period of three months of enactment of rules issued for inviting registration.
Failure to register will be punishable with a fine equivalent to Rs. 10,000/- per day for the period of processing trade or manufacture without registration or with imprisonment up to 2 years or both. read more.
* India’s area under jute declines; output to fall:
* Textile town struggles to survive:
Only 60% of Tirupur’s units are still in business
Two years ago, the narrow roads from the railway station to the Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA) office in Tirupur would take around 40 minutes to navigate. Today, devoid of traffic, it takes just 15 minutes. Back then, an occasional BMW, or a Mercedes, would whiz by. Today, none can be seen; what dots the roads instead is a plethora of godowns with rental signs.
Tirupur’s loss has been someone else’s gain. “Ever since dyeing units were closed, we could not process the products, and the production houses were not able to execute orders. This gave rise to credibility issues, and customers have started moving to other countries,” says P Vidhya Prakash, managing director, Styleman Textiles. Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Tirupur’s traditional competitors, China and Bangladesh, have welcomed customers fleeing Tirupur. Thanks to the rupee’s devaluation, a boon for exporters, the industry’s growth has remained flat in terms of value, despite recording a 15 per cent drop in volume so far. read more.
* Kaanwar garments weaved with threads of communal harmony:
Situated on the banks of the River Ganges, Varanasi, which is also known as Benares, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, is famous for its beautiful ghats.
This city of temples is also known for its Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, or the culture of religious harmony, which has been sustained by people of different faiths residing here. This is particularly visible at the time of annual Kaanwar Yatra, a pilgrimage dedicated to Lord Shiva, where devotees known as Kanwarias fetch holy Ganges water to offer it to Lord Shiva. see & hear more -VIDEO.
06:28:56 local time PAKISTAN
* APTMA seeks exemption from load shedding:
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) has sought from the government exemption from load shedding to the mills on independent feeders and save workers from redundancy and industry’s viability from erosion.
He said the productivity, viability and sustainability of textile industry can only be ensured if it operates for 365 days a year. However, achieving this ideal situation is becoming difficult due to energy shortage, particularly with the withdrawal of exemption from load shedding to textile mills on independent feeders.
The textile mills on independent feeders are facing with six hours a day load shedding, ultimately closing down one shift production and lay off workers.
* Prices touch season’s high at Rs 6,400 on cotton market:
Prices hit season’s high at Rs 6,400 on the cotton market on Monday as picking operations stopped with monsoon rains, dealers said.
The official spot was unchanged at Rs 6,100, they said. Recent monsoon rains in cotton belt, caused a fresh increase in the rates at Rs 6,400 in the ready business, over 4,500 bales of cotton changed hands between Rs 6200-6400, they said.
The prices of seedscotton in Sindh were at Rs 2725-2750, and in Punjab rates moved higher as low type gained Rs 25 to Rs 2855 and best quality was unchanged at Rs 2950, they added. Commenting on the fresh rise in the rates of cotton some brokers said that after recent rains stopped picking operations by stagnant water in the fields. The monsoon rain is being considered beneficial for the crop. read more.