in the news on-line, 17 September 2012

00:12:09 local time map of china CHINA

* Garment makers over-stocked:

Unsold inventories are hitting the bottom line, threatening business

Shenzhen-listed China Garments Co released its financial report two months ago, revealing it had a net loss of nearly 19 million yuan ($7.8 million) for the first six months. It was once a profitable company, recording 2 billion yuan in annual sales in 1999.

It is just one example of how bad business is for China’s entire garment industry.
Amid factory closedowns and the relocation of investors to less costly countries such as Vietnam, the stockpiling of unsold inventory has risen to a critical height, due partly to the sluggish demand in the domestic consumer market.

In fact, the stockpile has been so huge that, according to the China National Garment Association on its official website, it will be enough to sell for three years even if all the garment factories are shut down.
CNGA reported that the majority of Chinese garment makers are approaching the inventory alarm line, including Chinese brand names such as Li Ning Co, Meters/bonwe and Xtep (China) Co. read more.

* Commentary: All that nonsense about outsourcing:

Last week at the Democratic National Convention, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, a woman peddling bumper stickers outside the event’s venue shouted to passers-by: “Not Made in China”.

I turned back and gave her a questioning look. I asked myself: Should I try to debate her?
At the convention itself, various speakers talked of “stopping the outsourcing of jobs to China”. US President Barack Obama, in his speech, proposed giving tax breaks to US companies that bring jobs back to the country.

At a time when the US unemployment rate hovers above 8 percent, “outsourcing” has become even more of a dirty word in the United States than in other industrialized nations.
These days, one gets an extremely strong sense that Americans are desperate to keep all of the jobs they can. What’s more, they want to take back jobs lost in the past, not only from China, but also from India and Mexico. Americans are willing to do almost anything – assemble cars, stitch together clothing, even make toys.

In China, meanwhile, increases in production costs are causing certain labor-intensive jobs to leave Shanghai and other big Chinese cities and go to countries where labor costs are lower.
One important thing to keep in mind here is that if the US citizens who want these jobs insist on being paid their country’s minimum wage, which amounts to about $7.25 an hour, their employers won’t be able to compete successfully in the global market. They’ll just go bust, causing more US jobs to be lost. read more.

* Romney playing protectionism in China-bashing ad:

The Wall Street Journal yesterday criticized Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for playing protectionism in a latest campaign ad that slams President Barack Obama for failing to stop the so-called “China’s cheating.”

“Yet a bona fide protectionist hasn’t won the White House since the 1920s. The reason is because voters instinctively want a President who knows how to make America more competitive, not one who campaigns as if other countries are more formidable,” wrote an editorial published by the paper.

In the Romney’s campaign ad, titled “Failing American Workers,” the US flag is shown to begin to shrink while the Chinese flag grows, signaling that 582,000 US manufacturing jobs have been lost to China since Obama became President. It claimed that, for the first time, “China is beating us” as the world’s leading manufacturing country. read more.

00:12:09 local time map of philippines PHILIPPINES

* Wage boards in 11 regions grant 2-tiered pay adjustments:

Minimum wage earners in 11 regions are now benefiting from a two-tier wage hike following the issuance of new wage orders by the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Boards concerned, the Department of Labor and Employment said Friday.

 DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the two-tiered wage system provides a minimum wage and a negotiable “extra” amount based on the worker’s productivity.
 “As of today, 11 RTWPBs issued new wage orders granting increases to minimum wage earners either in the form of basic pay or cost of living allowance (COLA),” said Baldoz, citing an update of the National Wages and Productivity Commission.
read more.

* Millions of Filipino minimum wage earners get pay hike this year:

Millions of Filipino minimum daily wage earners in 11 regions of the country will get an increased minimum daily wage pay this year, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz announced Friday.

Baldoz said the 11 Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) have already approved their respective new wage orders granting to minimum wage earners either in the form of basic pay or cost of living allowance (COLA).
read more.

23:12:09 local time map of viet_nam VIET NAM

* New Balance presses U.S. to keep Vietnam shoe tariffs to protect jobs:

U.S. athletic footwear manufacturer New Balance said on Thursday that it pressed the top U.S. trade official during a visit to its Norridgewock, Maine, factory to maintain tariffs on shoes from Vietnam in a proposed free-trade deal.

Only 3,000 workers still make footwear in the United States, with about 1,350 of them employed by New Balance, headquartered in Boston, company spokesman Matt LeBretton told Reuters by phone after the meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact between the United States, Vietnam and nine other countries in the region threatens these manufacturing jobs by potentially eliminating tariffs ranging from 8 percent to 37.5 percent on Vietnamese shoes, LeBretton said.

Vietnam is a major clothing and shoe exporter and is looking to increase sales in the United States as a result of the pact. read more.

23:12:09 local time map of thailand THAILAND

* Pricing exploitation:

A new book delves into the lives of the women migrants who toil 15 hours a day in garment factories on the Thai-Myanmar border

Would you buy knowingly buy sportswear from global brands or clothes manufactured at garment factories that exploit largely underpaid young women migrant workers from Myanmar? Probably not, yet finished goods like trainers, sportswear, mosquito nets and other garments are transported by truck day and night to Bangkok from garment and textile factories in and around Mae Sot on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Kyoko Kusakabe, co-author of “Thailand’s Hidden Workforce” (Zed Books, 2012), would love to be able to tell you which brands to avoid but admits that because of the long chain of subcontracts, it’s hard, sometimes impossible, to pin down the brands of the goods manufactured in border areas.

“Owners of brand names don’t manufacture their products themselves. They subcontract production to factories. These factories further subcontract to smaller plant in border areas. These factories do not put the label so it’s hard to tell for which brands these goods are being made. The labour unions are trying to follow these commodities though,” she says. read more.

23:12:09 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* Behind the scenes of the garment industry:

The strangest nickname I’ve ever had came from university when my roommates started calling me No Logo. It’s a book by Naomi Klein about corporate brands like Nike and the Gap; how their products and logos have invaded our public space, and how so much of the stuff is made halfway around the world in sweatshop conditions. I was never really vocal about it, but yeah, I preferred my clothes not to look like a billboard ad – especially one that had been sewn together in a factory full of kids.

But just last year I was packing for Cambodia, and without even thinking, I went out to H&M and bought a stack of plain, 10 dollar T-shirts.

Then I arrived in Phnom Penh, only to find out that hundreds of female workers had just fainted at a local factory that makes clothes for H&M.

It wasn’t the only case. The same thing was happening in factories all over the country; factories that supplied brands like Wal-Mart, Levis, Puma– the list goes on and on. The workers in these factories make a base wage of US$61 per month. It would take them days of work to afford even one of those 10 dollar shirts.

There are more than 400,000 garment workers in Cambodia, and more than 90 percent of them are women. In 2011 alone, mass fainting affected at least 2,000 of them. This year, it shows no sign of stopping. So what’s going on? read more.

* Bandith trial to begin soon:

The long-awaited trial of former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith – accused of shooting three garment workers at a protest in February – could begin within the next week, a Svay Rieng Provincial Court official said yesterday.

Investigating judge Pich Chhert said the inquiry into the shooting, which rights groups have decried for its slow-moving nature, was complete and would be processed by the prosecution before being sent to the presiding judge, who will set a date for the trial.

“We have finished our investigation, and now the case is under the process of the provincial prosecutor to make a conclusion,” Chhert said.
“However, the hearing will be opened within a week.”

Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor Hing Bunchea said he would go so far as to examine the results of the investigation on his days off in order to send the case to the presiding judge as soon as possible.read more.

22:12:09 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLA DESH

* 50 hurt as workers, cops clash in N’ganj:

At least 50 people including five policemen were injured in a clash with ready-made garment workers centering death rumour in Siddhirganj upazila of Narayanganj on Sunday.

The angry workers also torched a police pick-up van, four motorcycles and a police box during a chase and counter-chase that halted the vehicular movements on Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet highways for about three and a half hours.

Later, law enforcers fired several rounds of blank shots and a number of teargas canisters to disperse the RMG workers, our Narayanganj correspondent reports quoting Sheikh Nazmul Alam, superintendent of police in Narayanganj.
read more.
  & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
        


RMG workers staged a demonstration at Adamjee EPZ area and blocked Dhaka-Chittagong highway on Sunday to protest the killing of their fellow worker by miscreants engaged in mugging. At one stage they locked in clashes with police. NN photo:

* Police fire tear gas as RMG workers riot:

Police on Sunday fired rubber bullets and tear gas at tens of thousands of garment workers as they rioted in a key industrial area outside Dhaka, demanding a reduction in working hours. The workers left their factories and joined the protest, torching a police post and four police vehicles at Narayanganj, 20 kilometres south of the capital, authorities said.

“There were more than 100,000 workers. They were peaceful initially, but suddenly they stormed a police post at Shimrail and set it on fire,” Narayanganj police chief Sheikh Nazmul Alam said.

“We fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the rioters,” he said, adding two policemen were critically injured during the clashes. He could not say whether or how many workers were hurt.

Alam said a rumour over a killing of a worker at a factory at Adamjee Export Processing Zone, where plants sew clothing for leading international chains, sparked the protest, forcing the zone’s scores of factories to draw shutters.

It later became a full-blown riot — the worst since June when hundreds of factories closed their shops for more than a week — as labourers demanded shorter work hours, workplace security and other benefits, he added.

Tens of thousands of workers also blocked a major highway, halting transport movement between Dhaka and the port city of Chittagong for more than four hours.
read more.

* Two more polytechnic instts for females soon:

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid has said the government will establish two more polytechnic institutes — one in Sylhet and one in Barisal — for females in the country soon.

With the new polytechnic institutes, the number of the institutes for females will be increased to 6 from 4 in the country.
Nurul Islam was addressing a views exchange meeting on ‘the demand for skilled manpower and employment’ organised by Technical Education Board at a hotel in Sylhet on Friday night.
The number of seats in the government polytechnic institutes has been increased to 25,000 from 12,000 to create skilled manpower in the country, he said.
Due to lack of skilled manpower, around 19,000 foreigners work in the country’s garment sector, he added. read more.

* Garment makers urge Muhith to ease bill purchase conditions:

Garment makers urged Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Friday to ease conditions for inland bill purchase (IBP) at a time when the country’s largest state bank, Sonali Bank, is tainted with a loan scam.

IBP is essentially a credit facility that takes place when a bank gives guarantee to its client for purchase of goods and services from the local market.
Bangladesh Bank in a circular on July 11 reduced the power of purchasing IBP by the branches of banks as the banking regulator detected irregularities in disbursement of loans against opening of letters of credit. read more.

21:42:09 local time map of india INDIA

* For them, job security is a dream:

Close to half of the employees working at garment factories in the city don’t have drinking water connections at home while most are employed on a temporary basis, according to a survey conducted by Sri Alampalli Venkatram Chair on Labour Research (SAVCLR) attached to Bangalore University (BU).

According to the survey, spearheaded by SAVCLR director Dr Y Narayana Chetty, the results of which were released on Friday, garment units employ 1,95,943 people, including 64,045 men and 1,31898 women.

Close to 50% of these employees do not have drinking water connections at home. While 67. 6% are temporary workers, 2.5% are contract workers and less than 1% are casual workers. Only 29.1% have some sense of job stability. Majority of the workers in the garment industry are women—72.8% are women while 27.2% are men. Of the 2,000 employees participated in the survey, 1,859 are from Karnataka—31.2% have come from Bangalore rural district while 35.4% have come from Hassan, Mandya and Mysore.

“The average wage is `200-250 a day which is also the minimum wage. It is much higher in other states,” Chetty said. Labour minister BN Bache Gowda said the gap between the organised sector and the unorganised sector must reduce. “Labour laws must be simplified,” he said. to read.

* Diwali will be good for textiles this year- Sanjay Lalbhai:

Sanjay Lalbhai, chairman and managing director of Arvind Ltd, is optimistic that at least the textile industry will do well this Diwali, despite the inflation. Himansh Dhomse of DNA interviewed the textile baron about the prospects for the textile industry after the delayed monsoon, the reasons for the recent workers’ strike at his company and his plans for the future. Excerpts:

On the impact of delayed monsoon on the output of cotton
and its prices.

Cotton output in India may decline but its prices are likely to remain stable as there has been a bumper cotton crop globally. Moreover, China has drastically reduced cotton imports from India; it is now more interested in yarn from our country. Hence the demand for cotton in the domestic market will be higher this year. If demand exceeds supply, we can import cotton and that too at lower rates.

On imported cotton being cheaper than the domestic
variety.

Currently, domestic cotton costs Rs38,000 per candy (356 kg) while imported cotton comes for Rs35,000 per candy. The bumper cotton crop globally will ensure that its prices in the domestic market remain at similar levels even after the domestic crop arrives in the market.

The impact of inflation and slowdown on demand for garments this year.

The slowdown has lasted longer than expected. The excise duty levied last year pushed up cotton prices by almost 100%. As a result, garments are already expensive by around 20% this year. The growth of the textile industry has also slowed. But we are optimistic about Diwali. For a long time, the consumer has held back on spending. Hence, we expect good
demand during the festive season. Diwali will be better this year.
(…)

The reasons for the labour strike at Arvind three months back.
High inflation was the reason for the strike. A hike in wages was due and negotiations were already going on but the talks took slightly longer and the workers could not wait. We realized that with salaries of Rs8,000 per month, they had every reason to go on strike. Hence, we have decided to take steps for workers’ welfare after giving them a hike.

Steps taken by Arvind for workers welfare.
We did research on their lifestyle and living conditions. We found that most of their spending was on healthcare and education. We have decided that the lives of the 7000 workers who live in the 7 areas around the mills need improvement. We will try to help them in improving education, healthcare, water, medical and other basic necessities in those seven areas. It may take a few years but there will definitely be a change. We will first implement our decision for Naroda workers and then for Santej workers. read more.

* Spinning mills association against diesel price hike:

Diesel price hike would have an additional implication of Rs four to Rs 17 per kg in the cost of production of yarn, causing unrest in handloom and powerloom segments of textile industry, Southern India Spinning Mills Association (SIMA) said today.

Reacting to the increase in diesel prices by Rs 5 a litre price, SIMA Chairman S. Dinakaran said in a release that besides diesel power generation costs, there would also be a substantial increase in indirect costs like transportation.
He said the escalation in costs would have serious cascading effect down the value chain in the textile industry.
Tamil Nadu accounts for one-third of textile business in the country giving direct employment to 50 lakh people, fetching Rs 50,000 crore forex earnings and accounting for 47 per cent of yarn production. read more.

* Diesel hike dampens Surat textile industry’s festive hopes:

The recent diesel price hike by the central government has dampened the festive hopes of Surat-based synthetic textile industry that ships over 7,000 tonnes of sarees, dress materials and other fabric to different parts of the country.

While retail demand has already slackened business for the synthetic industry by 30%, a 10-15% rise in prices in textile products is feared to reduce demand during the upcoming festive season. read more.

* China, Bangladesh Cut Holes In Indian Garment Export:

Competition from China and Bangladesh has once again cut a hole in the Indian garment exports. Readymade garment exports from the country, during the period April-August 2002, have dropped by about 5.57 per cent in terms of quantity and 3.24 per cent in terms of value.
Apparel exports stood at 494.7 million pieces valued at $1,845 million as against 523.9 million pieces amounting to $1,906.8 million during the same period previous year.

As per the latest figures released by the Apparel Export Promotion Council (APEC), exports to the US, one of the major importing countries has improved significantly both in terms of quantity and value. Exports have gone up to 176.2 million pieces during the period as against 124.5 million pieces in the same period previous year, registering a growth of 41.53 per cent. read more.

21:42:09 local time map of sri_lanka SRI LANKA

* Too Small To Supply Int’l Brands:

Selling and branding handloom fabrics consonant with international brands, similar to what the local garment industry is doing, is however not a handloom manufacturer’s  kettle of fish.
Ms. Jane Conrad, Design Coordinator of Barbara Sansoni,  a handloom fabrics manufacturer,   gave reporters several reasons on Tuesday (September 11)  as to why it was not possible for them to emulate the apparel industry.
“For one thing we are small,” she said.  “And another is that the ethos of our founder Ms. Barbara Sansoni is for Barefoot (ie how their products are branded)  to be identified as being creative and not as a manufactury.”
Conrad however said that Sansoni, if she takes a look around now, will realise that today’s garment factories are not what it might have had been in the past, with the terrific improvements that have gone into such, including the uplift of the worker environment. read more.

21:12:09 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* ‘Several garment factories not adhering to social compliance rules’:

As only exporters of well-known foreign brands follow safety and compliance rules under the supervision of their buyers, several garment factories are not adhering to social compliance rules remain vulnerable to fire tragedies, such as the one that took the lives of 300 workers in Karachi, sources said on Thursday.

The accident has negated the impression that most of Pakistani exporters are fully social compliant. Though details of the export destination of the ill-fated manufacturers are still unknown, one thing is certain, that it was not producing any famous brand.

Exporters of renowned global apparel brands, when contacted, said that fire incidents can occur anywhere in the world. However, if the garment factory in Karachi had fulfilled the safety requirements under the standard operating procedures (SOPs), the damage would have been limited.

Leading apparel exporter, M I Khurram, said that the SOPs by leading global buyers make it mandatory for the manufacturer to keep wide corridors that lead to emergency exists on both sides of each manufacturing floor. “The red arrows show the path to emergency exits, which are always open,” explained Khurram.
read more.

* FPCCI denounces opposition to EU concessions package:

The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has taken notice of the recent request made by the European Apparel and Textile Confederation (EURATEX) to the European Parliament to reject the concessions package on Pakistani textile exports to the European Union, which was announced following the 2010 floods, said a statement issued Friday.

The EU had announced a duty waiver on 75 dutiable products exported by Pakistan to Europe to compensate Pakistan for the setback to its economy, which faced a loss of $10 billion due to the floods, according to estimates by the World Bank.
read more.

THE KARACHI  & LAHORE FIRES

* Baldia blaze Statement of factory owner recorded:

The owner of a factory destroyed in a devastating fire, which left over 250 workers dead, in their statement recorded by police on Saturday sought to dispel the impression that the industrial unit had only one exit and rejected reports about its ill-designed architecture.

The statements recorded by the police investigators put a question mark over the response time of the city’s rescue organisations and their capacity to meet such challenges.

Apart from the criminal investigation being carried out by the Site-B police station, the Sindh IG-assigned special investigation team to determine the cause of the deadly fire and elements attached with the incident moved a little forward by recoding the statements of survivors and collecting ‘more pieces of evidence’ from the haunted factory. read more. & read more.
 

This photograph shows an undamaged area of a garment factory following a fire in Karachi on Sept 12, 2012. — Photo by AFP

* Four days late: PM flies into Karachi to review factory fire:

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf flew over the burnt Baldia Town factory, terming Pakistan’s largest industrial accident a national tragedy.

Visiting the site in a helicopter, almost four days after the incident, Ashraf did the customary, an announcement of compensation for the victims’ heirs.
The prime minister then presided over a meeting at the Governor House, which was attended by police officials, commissioners, deputy commissioners and cabinet members of Sindh government. The meeting briefed the prime minister about the incident in which over 250 workers had lost their lives as well as on the damaged caused by the recent floods in the province.

According to a governor house spokesperson, the prime minister announced Rs0.4 million as compensation for families of the dead, and Rs0.1 million for the injured, in the fire and floods, after Dr Ebad requested the premier to announce compensation on behalf of the federal government. read more. & read more.

* Sabotage can’t be ruled out in factory fire: Interior Minister:

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Sunday that the possibility of sabotage in the Karachi garment factory fire that killed at least 259 people cannot be ruled out.
Talking to media during his visit at the site of the tragic factory fire on Sunday, Malik said that there was no confirmation in the report about the generator or boiler of the factory exploding and that simultaneous incidents of fire at factories in Lahore and Karachi could be an act of terrorism.
He said terrorists are bent upon destroying peace in Karachi, where political, sectarian attacks and bomb blasts have killed hundreds of people in recent months.
“The investigators will look at the intentions behind the incident and the possible involvement of the people,” Malik told reporters at the site of the factory.
Malik said that the factory had caught fire twice in the past and yet the owners made no safety arrangement adding that an insurance claim for a previous fire at the factory was also being investigated. read more. & read more.
  

* Baldia factory fire: 13 workers in police custody for questioning:

The police have picked up 13 factory workers for questioning as part of investigations into the Baldia factory fire.

A raging blaze had swept through the garment factory on Tuesday night and claimed the lives of 258 people. The CCTV footage from inside the factory has initially indicated that the fire appears to have broken out from a spark in electric wires.
“We have arrested about 13 people, mostly security guards and other staff, because there was so much talk about the doors being closed,” SP Amir Farooqi told The Express Tribune.

The officer said that he didn’t want to divulge too many details of the investigation as they may clash or compromise the other inquiries taking place at the same time.
When asked whether the government has been cooperating with the investigators, Farooqi replied in the affirmative but said that no one has really come forward to help.

Two days ago, the police had asked the State Bank to freeze the factory owners’ accounts, which according to police officials have Rs500 million. The request has, however, not been entertained so far. read more.

* Fight for rights: Safe working environment for workers demanded:


Protesters vowed to continue their efforts for safety of workers. PHOTO: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Following the tragic fires in Karachi and Lahore that killed nearly 300 workers this week, a much-need demand for workers’ safety came from leftist parties on Friday.

Scores of political activists, trade unionists and students held a demonstration led by Workers’ Party Pakistan (WPP), Awami Party Pakistan (APP) and Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), and slammed anti-workers policies that were going unchecked due to apathy on the part of the government.
They demanded accountability for those killed in the twin fires.

“The fight for rights will continue as long as people will remain deprived,” was the slogan that echoed at Aabpara Chowk, where demonstration was held without any traffic disruptions.
“Preventable disasters such as these reflect a lack of political will to protect the basic rights of the working class,” said Aasim Sajjad of the WPP.

He said that all the gains of trade union movement to improve wages and working conditions for workers after decades of struggle have been repealed in recent years at the insistence of Pakistan’s creditors, who demand establishment of an “investment-friendly” business environment. read more.

* Geo.tv- Full Coverage:

Khi Fire: FIA confiscates factory record

* Rs20m AWT package for Khi fire victims:

Alamgir Welfare Trust (AWT) has, in an initial response, started providing help to the victim families of Baldia Town factory inferno with Rs20 million worth of food supplies and other essentials.

Shakeel Dehalvi, the spokesman for AWT said that registration of the affected families is underway at an emergency camp set up at the Trust’s central office. The families are getting themselves registered at the camp from 9am to 6pm daily.
read more.

* Workers’ safety: Leftists protest lax enforcement of regulations at factories:

 Over a hundred progressive political workers, students and trade union members on Saturday marched from the Charing Cross, The Mall, to the Lahore Press Club to protest against lax enforcement of health and safety regulations in factories.

Speakers at the rally demanded immediate arrests of the owners of the two factories in Lahore and Karachi where fires had killed more than 300 workers. Farooq Tariq, Labour Party Pakistan federal committee member, criticised the departments of labour and manpower of the two provincial governments for what he said was their collusion with factory owners in following anti-workers policies. He expressed solidarity with the families of workers who lost their lives in the two fires, saying that progressive political parties would keep taking to the streets until the factory owners were put behind bars. He also demanded worker-friendly revisions to the Factories Act and other labour-related laws. read more.

* Our poor factory workers:

“Sometimes it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster.”— Jim Wallis

People matter in Pakistan only during polls or when they are killed in hundreds. On September 11, the death of 300 workers in Lahore and Karachi shook the country. Even those who had never mentioned a single word about the well-being of toiling workers are now trying to champion their cause.

But soon, they will forget all that they have said. They will instead shelter those who are responsible for such tragedies. How many factory owners belong to ruling parties and how many political parties are controlled by industrialists, who not only violate labour laws but also safety and hygiene standards? They blatantly violate rights of the workers who generate profits for them. They neither allow independent unions to function in their factories, nor do they fulfill their legal duty on their own. I have had personal experience of working with the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), which has been fighting for the rights of powerloom workers in Faisalabad, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh since 2003. Most factories in these areas have poor safety and hygiene standards. In the last two months, 25 workers were reportedly electrocuted to death in these areas.

Despite the LQM’s campaigns, most factory owners refused to improve working conditions in their factories. They were not willing to issue social security cards to workers and old age benefit contribution to the Employees’ Old-Age Benefit Institute (EOBI). When the LQM built pressure on them, the Punjab government formed Industrial Police Liaison Committees in Faisalabad in order to scare-off workers. Since then, the unholy nexus of the police and industrialists has become very strong. On minor demands, workers are put in lock-ups and charged under anti-terrorism laws. Currently, seven LQM members are serving a combined sentence of 492 years under the anti-terrorism laws. They did not kill anyone.  read more.

* Comment: The silence of the urban industrial elite:

It turns out that what it takes to silence the loudest lobby in the country is a fire, and the deaths of hundreds of innocent workers. The textile lobby, which ordinarily seems to never run out of ways to tell the country how it is indispensible to the economy, has been rendered mute by the fire in Karachi. Their silence is deafening.

Despite the glare of the media on the fire at Ali Enterprises, much is still unknown about the conflagration, how it started and who shares how much blame. But as journalists try to find out more about the fire, the factory and its owners, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: nobody who knows anything about these people is willing to say anything.

Indeed, virtually every person affiliated with the textile industry who spoke to The Express Tribune claimed to not know anything about the factory, what it produced or which European brands it sold to. This is the kind of information that, before the fire, would have taken our reporters less than a few hours’ worth of investigating to find out. But after the fire, an invisible memo seems to have gone out to the textile industry’s magnates: stay quiet or they will lynch you.

Indeed, the few people who did say anything felt the need to remind us that this fire will damage Pakistan’s exports. That nearly 300 people died a horrific death in the factory seemed, at best, a parenthetical concern for them. read more.

map of Asia

CHINA
* Garment makers over-stocked
* Commentary: All that nonsense about outsourcing
* Romney playing protectionism in China-bashing ad

PHILIPPINES
* Wage boards in 11 regions grant 2-tiered pay adjustments
* Millions of Filipino minimum wage earners get pay hike this year

VIET NAM
* New Balance presses U.S. to keep Vietnam shoe tariffs to protect jobs

THAILAND
* Pricing exploitation

CAMBODIA
* Behind the scenes of the garment industry
* Bandith trial to begin soon

BANGLA DESH
* 50 hurt as workers, cops clash in N’ganj
* Police fire tear gas as RMG workers riot
* Two more polytechnic instts for females soon
* Garment makers urge Muhith to ease bill purchase conditions

INDIA
* For them, job security is a dream
* Diwali will be good for textiles this year
* Spinning mills association against diesel price hike
* Diesel hike dampens Surat textile industry’s festive hopes
* China, Bangladesh Cut Holes In Indian Garment Export

SRI LANKA
* Too Small To Supply Int’l Brands

PAKISTAN
* ‘Several garment factories not adhering to social compliance rules’
* FPCCI denounces opposition to EU concessions package
THE KARACHI & LAHORE FIRES:
* Baldia blaze Statement of factory owner recorded
* Four days late: PM flies into Karachi to review factory fire
* Sabotage can’t be ruled out in factory fire: Interior Minister
* Baldia factory fire: 13 workers in police custody for questioning
* Fight for rights: Safe working environment for workers demanded
* Geo.tv- Full Coverage
* Rs20m AWT package for Khi fire victims
* Workers’ safety: Leftists protest lax enforcement of regulations at factories
* Our poor factory workers
* Comment: The silence of the urban industrial elite

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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