in the news on-line, 21 august 2012

 20:13:46 local time map of china CHINA

* Wake-up call for industry:

China has to change its manufacturing strategy to be more innovative in technology and compete with a ‘reviving’ US

China is expected to face fiercer-than-ever competition from the United States in the manufacturing sector, making it all the more urgent for Beijing to expedite its industrial upgrade.
The US’ “re-industrialization” strategy and its accelerated efforts to “return” to manufacturing in the wake of the global financial crisis are re-forging the world’s manufacturing landscape.

The “Buy America” movement launched by the Barack Obama administration, the Manufacturing Enhancement Act it has passed, the plan to double US exports within 5 years and the measures to increase employment, all aimed at helping the US revive its declining manufacturing sector, have produced and are producing some positive results.
Statistics show that an additional 237,000 jobs were created in the US’ manufacturing sector alone in 2011, and this momentum has gained steam. The US’ manufacturing output is estimated to grow by 4 percent this year and 3.5 percent the next, both higher than its expected GDP growth during the same period.read more.

* Many workers face extended probation period:

New employees illegally kept on tender hooks by companies

Liu Yaling has a job opportunity that requires a six-month probation during which she will earn 1,500 yuan ($235) a month.
After the probation, the employer, a textile trade company in Chongqing, will pay her 2,500 yuan a month.

“I’m not sure if I will sign the two-year contract because I think the probation period is too long,” she said.
“But I desperately need a job because I just quit my last one and I need money now,” said the 23-year-old, who graduated from a university in Chongqing in June.
Liu is not the only job seeker who faces a prolonged probation period with low pay.
read more.

19:13:46 local time map of thailand THAILAND

* WTO boosts garment trade:

Garment exports have grown at an annual rate of 21.7 per cent in the five years since the country joined the World Trade Organisation, the Vietmam Textile and Apparel Association said.

Le Tien Truong, its deputy chairman, said exports, which had been worth only US$5.9 billion (Bt186 billion) in 2006, rose to $15.8 billion last year.
Vietnam has become the second largest garment exporter to the US, third largest to Japan, and fifth largest to the European Union, he said.
The industry accounts for 15-16 per cent of the country’s total exports, he said, and employs 2.5 million workers. to read.

20:13:46 local time map of brunei BRUNEI

* Brunei garment sector hit by competition:

Domestic garment manufacturers are facing an uphill task in penetrating regional markets in the face of stiff competition from low-wage foreign competitors.

Garment manufacturers in countries such as Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia are able to offer more competitive prices due to lower labour costs.
“It is highly competitive because the cost of labour wages in Vietnam and in Brunei is different and most of the garment manufacturers have moved there because it is much cheaper,” said Mark Leong, the owner of MLWK Enterprise.

Brunei used to have a bustling garment industry, but investors from Taiwan began moving operations to Myanmar and Vietnam due to lower costs of labour, he said.
Aewon Garment and Embroi-dery sales manager Kevin Lau said prices can be driven down by employing staff from Vietnam or Myanmar.
“Only by employing staff from Myanmar or Vietnam can the pricing be competitive because of the minimum wage they get,” he said.
Bajoo Boutique general manager Jacqueline Cheong said that operational costs in Cambodia and Vietnam are also much cheaper than in Brunei.
Most of the garment businesses in Brunei prefer to target local customers only, with their nearest foreign competitors mostly in neighbouring Miri, Sarawak. read more.

19:13:46 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* Factory workers allege sexual harassment:

Thousands of angry garment factory workers, en route yesterday to the Ministry of Social Affairs in a protest over alleged sexual harassment, were stopped in their tracks by about 100 armed police and ordered back to the workplace.

More than 2,500 workers from Phnom Penh’s Ocean Garment factory, which manufactures clothing and footwear for retail giant Gap, made it barely 100 metres from the Dangkor-district site before police, bearing batons, intervened.

On strike for more than a week, the workers have demanded the company’s director dismiss a manager who allegedly sexually harassed four female workers.
None of the women have thus far made criminal complaints.
Ocean Garment worker representative Keo Kim Heang said a slew of staff had faced unfair treatment from the manager, and would continue to strike until he was sacked. read more.

* Minister asks garment factory to recall 37 workers:

The Minister of Social Aff-airs has sent a letter to the management of the Tai Yang and Camwell garment factories, suppliers to Levi’s and Gap, requesting it reinstate 37 workers involved in a strike that has dragged on for almost two months.

“In order to ensure security and public order and to end this persistent striking, I ask the director of Tai Yang Enterprises to reinstate all workers,” the letter from Ith Sam Heng, dated August 17 and obtained by the Post yesterday, states.

Unions and the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS) have been calling for the letter since August 3, when ACILS and the ministry met to discuss the fate of the remaining 37 strikers, whom the comp-any claimed to have sacked.
ACILS country director Dave Welsh, whose organis-ation has been backing the workers, hopes the issue is now resolved.

“It’s very positive,” Welsh said last night. “The only other time something like this has happened was during the general strike of 2010. That was the Prime Minister [Hun Sen] giving the order . . . and this is a much smaller issue, but it’s an important issue.”
But according to GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo, the letter changed nothing.
read more.

* Cambodia Attracts 51 Projects of Garment Investment:

 In the first semester of 2012, Cambodia has attracted 51 new projects worth US$327 million in the garment sector, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

Of the 51 projects, there were 40 garment factories, 8 shoes factories, 2 socks factories and 1 textile factory, said the CDC, indicating that 16 projects were owned by Chinese investors, 12 by South Korean investors, 11 by Taiwanese investors, and the rest by those from Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, India and Japan.

“Garment industry is the main source of Cambodia’s export. The industrial products are accounted for 75 percent of Cambodia’s total exported products,” said H.E. Mao Thora, Secretary of State for Commerce at the opening ceremony of the four-day Cambodia International Machinery Industrial Fair held on Aug. 17 at Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Center.

Cambodia has approximately 300 garment factories, generating jobs for around 335,000 Cambodian people, of them 91 percent are women.
For the first semester of this year, Cambodia exported some US$2.1 billion worth of industrial products, roughly 9 percent increased, compared with the same period in 2011. to read.

* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:

1. Kingdom gains 53 factories this year.read more.
2. Minister asks Tai Yang to reinstate 37 strikers.read more.
3. Strikers claim sexual harassment.read more.

* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:

4. Workers protested job cuts at garment factory.read more.
5. Garment workers demonstrate to oust their foreign manager.read more.

20:13:46 local time map of indonesia INDONESIA

* Indonesia’s footwear, garment industries record slight growth in 6 months:

Indonesia’s Industry Minister MS Hidayat said on Monday the country’s footwear, textile and garment (TPT) and leather goods saw a slight 2.86 percent growth in the first half this year, far lower than 9.45 percent in the same period last year.

“Export declining on TPT, footwear and leather goods in the first half this year was due to 6.16 percent export reduction in the period,” the minister said here.

He added that the government has implemented several anticipating moves to respond industry growth reduction in the sector, among other by providing fiscal incentive policy.

“Besides fiscal incentive, government will improve import control efforts by implementing non-tariff barrier policies, among others through national standard (SNI) obligation, limiting entrance ports for certain commodities, import administration policy and optimizing the anti-dumping and safeguarding measures,” he added. read more.

* Media updates from BetterWorks Indonesia:

1. Indonesian President Warns on Growth. read more.
2. Indonesia’s footwear, garment industries record slight growth in 6 months.
read more.
3. Indonesia’s Economy Expected to Grow By 7% in 2013: Finance Minister.
read more.
4. Indonesian batik maker partners with Disney. read more.
5. Apindo expects domestic industry to grow by 7.1 pct this year. read more.
6. Indonesia’s economy experiencing rapid progress, to be among 10th largest.
read more.
7. BI holds rate, cautious on trade deficit. read more.

Overview Betterworks.

18:43:46 local time map of myanmar BURMA/MYANMAR

* US ambassador expresses concern over Foreign Investment Law:

The new US ambassador to Burma, Derek Mitchell, has praised the country’s leaders in his first in-depth interview, but he expressed concern about the fragility of the reform effort.

He said U.S. officials continue to receive credible reports of human-rights abuses in ethnic-minority areas, and Burmese officials haven’t yet put to rest long-standing worries about possible ties between the Burmese military and North Korea.

“We still feel there is a working majority of people in the country and in the government who are committed to progress,” including more openness and wider civil liberties, he told The Wall Street Journal in an article published on Monday. “But I don’t think anyone has any illusions that there are going to be lots of bumps, lots of setbacks, and not a clear path forward.”

High on his list of his concerns was the often-postponed, foreign investment law under consideration in Parliament now. Its passage has been delayed because of local business people’s concerns about being displaced by multinational companies, he said. read more.

* US trade delegation visits:

A heavyweight delegation of US companies visited Myanmar for a five-day tour to explore investment opportunities last week following the easing of sanctions on July 11.

The American Chamber of Commerce (Am-Cham) in Singapore delegation was hosted by US ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell and ambassador to Singapore David Adelman and included representatives of 20 companies, including Caterpillar, Citibank, Kraft Foods, GE Energy, Ford Motor Company, Bell Helicopter, Hewlett-Packard Corporation and Arrow Technology.
The delegation met senior government officials, including Vice President Sai Mauk Kham and other ministers during its August 12-16 visit. A previous US delegation visited Myanmar in late July.

Transparency was a key subject of discussion with officials, Mr Mitchell told a press conference at Parkroyal Hotel on August 15.
He also spoke of the importance of lasting stability and peace in ethnic areas, particularly in light of the conflicts in Kachin and Rakhine states, to reassure American businesses of long-term investments in Myanmar. read more.

17:58:46 local time map of nepal NEPAL

* Govt plans only one trade union in industries:

There will be only one trade union in industries in the future. The government has decided to hold elections among existing trade unions to build ground for only one trade union in industries in the near future.

The second meeting of Nepal Business Forum (NBF) held today under the chairmanship  of prime minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai has taken the move for allowing only one authorised trade union with a view to give momentum to industrial growth in the country. Currently, there are up to five trade unions in industries.

The private sector has been demanding representation of only one trade union in an industry. According to them, labour disputes exist in all industries including multinationals due to different trade unions with differing political ideologies within one organisation. “Having only one trade union will help solve most of the industrial disputes,” said chief secretary Leela Mani Paudyal.

Trade Union Act and Labour Act have a provision of only one trade union in an industry or business enterprise. NBF meeting has proposed to hold elections within July 2013, according to the existing laws.  read more.

17:43:46 local time map of india INDIA

* Minimum wages hiked slightly:

Minimum salary for unskilled labour in Haryana has been hiked by Rs120 per month, after the bi-annual wage revision by the labour ministry. According to the official notification, the wage hikes, which are subject to inflation, are to be effective retroactively from July 1 2012.

Wages for the unskilled category have been upgraded to Rs4,967 a month, while the skilled segment will now be getting Rs 5,617 a month at the minimum. “In Haryana, minimum wages are increased by Rs2.31 for every unit increased in the consumer price index,” said an official.

The labour unions, however, are not impressed by the wage revision. Union representatives have demanded that the state sets the bar at Rs15,000 monthly for the unskilled category. “The state government hasn’t hiked the wages for years. This is the usual wage revision that they have to do according to the CPI,” said Satbir Singh, state president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

Unions are also pressing for a minimum wage advisory board within the labour department. “Minimum wages should be decided after consultations with workers, unions and the managements. Today, a worker in Gurgaon has to pay Rs4,000 every month as room rent. So these minimum wages are ridiculous,” added Singh.
read more.

* Nimble fingers, desolate lives:


In dire straits: Hard times for weavers. Photo: A. Muralitharan

Handloom textiles are sought after in the domestic and foreign market, but both Centre and states have done precious little to improve the living conditions of traditional weavers

The Textile Ministry is convening a conclave today in Delhi to enlist the support of India Inc. to source products from domestic handlooms and handicrafts for corporate gifting. The exhibition christened Hastkala Conclave is seen to be a launching pad and platform so that industry is sensitized to the need for bolstering traditional products from the land. This move is only one facet as the Development Commissioner Mr.S.S.Gupta was on record that “the workers and their families can be provided support for improving their living conditions” by Indian firms. read more.

* Call to scrap ‘antiquated’ Handloom Reservation Act:

The Southern India Mills’ Association (SIMA) has appealed to the Union Government to scrap the ‘antiquated’ Hank Yarn Obligation and Handloom Reservation Act and announce a new handloom policy that would showcase the Indian handloom industry’s rich cultural heritage and transform handloom weavers as “respected and highly paid artisans.”

In a statement, S. Dinakaran, chairman, SIMA, said that the Handloom (Reservation of Articles and Production) Act, 1985, covered 11 textile items under the handloom reservation order, many of which were umbrella items. He argued that the reservation policy had lost its meaning and relevance in a liberalised and globalised scenario and most of the (reserved) items were manufactured only on powerlooms in a “cost-effective manner.”

He pointed out that the Sathyam Committee had recommended the scrapping of the Handloom Reservation Act and the order issued on it as it had “far outlived its utility” and was an “artificial support” for the handloom sector that required reconstruction in the fast changing economic and global trade scenario. The SIMA chairman said that the Sathyam Committee had observed that the “unrealistic” Handloom Reservation Act had been curtailing the growth of the weaving and decentralised powerloom sector, making clothing expensive for rural India and limiting the standard of living of handloom weavers. read more.

* Woven into Madras:

Arundhati Menon, a reviver of handloom textiles, and synonymous with the boutique ‘Shilpi’, now creates and designs at a leisurely pace with individual carftspersons

Madras, nalla Madras,” was one of my favourite songs when I moved to Chennai way back in 1967. A Bengali raised in Delhi, I arrived into this city with my family, harbouring a lot of reservations. While pursuing my Masters in Social Work at Stella Maris, I decided to start an “earn while you learn” programme, where talented students of the college would craft things and sell them to Shanti Bhavan, a social welfare centre under the college administration that assisted the underprivileged from surrounding areas.

In the 60s, many women were into Nylex saris, some of which were pretty. I, however, was always a handloom person. I was also interested in crafts and needlework, and stitched my own clothes, thanks to my mother. My Bengal cottons would cause a stir in Madras, and at that time, a good Dhonekali or Tangail sari cost a mere Rs. 14! They were so much in demand among my friends’ circle that I would get a suitcase full of saris after every visit to Calcutta. That’s how it all started. I also fell in love with the south Indian cottons – the Kancheepuram weaves were so exquisite. Despite the heat and humidity, the bright colours made you feel wonderful. Then, there were the gorgeous Kalakshetra saris that Rukmini Devi Arundale inspired.  read more.

17:43:46 local time map of sri_lanka SRI LANKA

* Apparel industry given a boost, 100 factories to be established:

The apparel industry has been given a boost following a US$1 billion government initiative to establish 100 factories together with the Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF).With most factories tipped to find their way to the North and East of the country, JAAF Deputy Chairman and Orit Apparels MD Channa Palansuriya told the Business Times, that one of the main aims behind this is to reverse orders going to Bangladesh.

He noted that JAAF together with the support of the Treasury would be negotiating with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for funds for the project to be provided to selected small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs).In this regard the apparel industry has submitted their proposals to the ADB and the Treasury with the former looking towards a technical session on the project.
The project is expected to create 25,000 jobs with factories established in locations likely to generate the required employment. read more.

* Retrenched garment workers speak with SEP campaigners:

Socialist Equality Party (SEP) members in Sri Lanka last weekend took the party’s provincial council election campaign to Yatiyanthota, in the Kegalla district of Sabaragamuwa Province. The SEP, which has a slate of 21 candidates, led by Political Committee member Ananda Daulagala, in the Kegalla district, is holding an election meeting in Yatiyanthota tomorrow afternoon.

SEP campaigners spoke to female workers who lost their jobs when the Ranmalu Fashions garment factory at Yatiyanthota closed down last November, retrenching about 1,000 employees without any compensation. Workers have not even received their entitlements from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) pension scheme, to which they contributed.

A woman who had worked there for 19 years explained the oppressive conditions they had faced in the factory. “When we were recruited, the management told us we could not form any trade union. Management didn’t recruit any male workers, thinking that they made trouble. Finally, we were simply expelled from our jobs.”
read more.

* Brandix to roll-out Gap Inc.’s PACE programme:

The Brandix Group has announced plans to extend the Gap Inc. Personal and Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) programme for female garment workers to the Group’s facilities in Sri Lanka.

The Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. programme is a life and work skills education programme designed to positively impact female garment workers in factories that make Gap Inc. product. The programme provides workers with foundational skills, technical training and support to help them advance in the workplace and in their personal lives. Female garment workers participating in the programme take part in eight modules of life skills education including communication skills, problem-solving, time and stress management, health and nutrition, financial literacy and gender equality. Programme participants also receive enhanced technical skills training. Research shows that Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. graduates are more productive, have lower rates of absenteeism and are promoted faster than factory workers who do not participate in the program.

“Brandix is happy to undertake the implementation of this valuable empowerment programme,” said Anusha Alles, Head of CSR for the Group. “Implementing the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. programme and integrating it into our internal learning curriculum reinforces Brandix’s commitment to bettering the lives of our associates.”
read more.

map of Asia

CHINA
* Wake-up call for industry
* Many workers face extended probation period

THAILAND
* WTO boosts garment trade

BRUNEI
* Brunei garment sector hit by competition

CAMBODIA
* Factory workers allege sexual harassment
* Minister asks garment factory to recall 37 workers
* Cambodia Attracts 51 Projects of Garment Investment
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
1. Kingdom gains 53 factories this year
2. Minister asks Tai Yang to reinstate 37 strikers
3. Strikers claim sexual harassment
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
4. Workers protested job cuts at garment factory
5. Garment workers demonstrate to oust their foreign manager

INDONESIA
* Indonesia’s footwear, garment industries record slight growth in 6 months
* Media updates from BetterWorks Indonesia:
1. Indonesian President Warns on Growth
2. Indonesia’s footwear, garment industries record slight growth in 6 months
3. Indonesia’s Economy Expected to Grow By 7% in 2013
4. Indonesian batik maker partners with Disney
5. Apindo expects domestic industry to grow by 7.1 pct this year
6. Indonesia’s economy experiencing rapid progress, to be among 10th largest.
7. BI holds rate, cautious on trade deficit

BURMA/MYANMAR
* US ambassador expresses concern over Foreign Investment Law
* US trade delegation visits

NEPAL
* Govt plans only one trade union in industries

INDIA
* Minimum wages hiked slightly
* Nimble fingers, desolate lives
* Call to scrap ‘antiquated’ Handloom Reservation Act
* Woven into Madras

SRI LANKA
* Apparel industry given a boost, 100 factories to be established
* Retrenched garment workers speak with SEP campaigners
* Brandix to roll-out Gap Inc.’s PACE programme

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

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