in the news on-line, 18 September 2012

23:13:09 local time map of thailand THAILAND

* Walmart’s Human Trafficking Problem:

Americans love shrimp, there’s no doubt about it. Per capita consumption in the United States stands at about four pounds a year, the country’s most consumed seafood. The popularity stems from multiple qualities: its durability when frozen, ease of cooking, and culinary versatility, articulated famously by Bubba in the movie Forrest Gump: “pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp.”

Shrimp is also very easy to farm. Although there was a time when most shrimp consumed in the United States was caught by shrimpers working the coast of Louisiana, today most of it comes from aquaculture farms in Asia. According to the USDA, the leading country of origin is now Thailand, and the United States is Thailand’s largest export market.
But the American appetite for shrimp now poses challenges for U.S. companies that import it.

In April, a strike broke out at a seafood processing factory in Thailand’s southern province of Songkhla, where thousands of Burmese and Cambodian workers, living in small barracks and working in a nearby factory, process shrimp for export by a Bangkok-based company called Phatthana Seafood Co., Ltd. The proximate cause of the strike appears to have been the company eliminating a daily 20 baht food allowance (about 65 cents) after the Thai government raised the legal minimum wage by over two dollars, to $8.48 a day.

But labor organizers on the ground say that problems at the factory ran far deeper. Among other complaints, some workers said they were provided inadequate toilet facilities and given insufficient bathroom breaks, obliging them at times to relieve themselves in corners of the factory. read more.

23:13:09 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* BetterFactories  Media Update 07-17 September 2012:

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

2012-09-07 Bra factory strikers look to ministry for suppoprt.
2012-09-10 Tide changes at Ocean as factory pays strikers.
2012-09-12 Union president calls for inspectiors.
2012-09-13 Unpaid workers cry factory foul.gif
2012-09-14-20 Behind the scenes of the garment industry.
2012-09-14 Factory trashed- owner.gif
2012-09-14 Faintings and strikes continue.
2012-09-14 Plush-toy factory to pay up.
2012-09-17 Bandith trial to begin soon.

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

2012-09-08-09 Unrest threatens Bangladesh’s garment exports.
2012-09-11 Cambodia’s trade grows by 15 percent.
2012-09-13 500 garment workers protest over unpaid wages.gif
2012-09-14 20 more garment workers injured on way to work.
2012-09-14 More than 30 garment workers faint in factory.

22:43:09 local time map of myanmar BURMA/MYANMAR

* Garment makers fight to survive:


Garment workers shield themselves from the sun during a strike demanding salary increases and better working conditions. Yadanar / The Myanmar Times

A low-skilled workforce, import sanctions and comparatively unfavourable tax policies are blocking the development of Myanmar’s garment industry, members of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association said recently.

The comments were made by officials during a press conference at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry workshop on August 25.
It was the first time that manufacturers had spoken to the media since worker unrest broke out five months ago. Workers from approximately 70 garment factories held strikes between May 1 and July 30 to demand salary increases and improved working conditions, such as lifting the prohibition against forming a labour union.

MGMA president U Myit Soe said: “The countries that sell raw materials to Myanmar, such as Singapore and Malaysia, are geographically distant from our export markets in Japan and South Korea, which increases production time. As we are constantly under pressure to meet deadlines, workers are forced to work long hours and overtime payments are low.”
He said Myanmar produces low quality garments due to a lack of skilled workers and total earnings amount to about 10 or 15 percent of an item’s total export value.
read more.

21:58:09 local time map of nepal NEPAL

* Labour problem hits Shikhar Shoes:

Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI) has shown concern regarding the closure of Shikhar Shoes due to a labour dispute. FNCCI, in a press statement, has condemned the manhandling of the managing director and padlocking of the factory based in Goldhunga.

Workers from the All Nepal Revolutionary Industrial Workers’ Association had misbehaved with the managing director after entering his house in Ranibari of Kathmandu metropolis on Saturday. The group had also seized the factory and padlocked it the very same day.

FNCCI has urged the agitating workers to open the factory and resolve the problem through talks. Workers should stop their protest programmes and start a dialogue as soon as possible, it said. Shikhar Shoes is a popular brand in the country, and also exports its products. to read.

22:13:09 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLA DESH

* RMG workers go berserk:

At least 50 people including five policemen and two journalists were injured in clashes with ready-made garment workers in Siddhirganj of Narayanganj yesterday centring a rumour that a worker was killed the previous night by muggers.

The angry workers also torched a police pick-up van, four motorcycles and a police box as they were chased by law enforcers. The sporadic clashes from noon to 2:30pm halted vehicular movements on Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet highways causing huge tailbacks.
During the clashes, police fired over 100 rubber bullets and teargas canisters to disperse the RMG workers. No one was arrested.

The workers were demanding suspension of Officer-in-Charge Kamrul Alam Mollah of Siddhirganj Police Station for, what they claimed, his failure to take proper action against muggers.
Witnesses and police said several hundred workers of Epic Garments in Adamjee EPZ area refused to join work in the morning when a rumour spread that one of their fellow workers was knifed to death by muggers on Saturday night in Siddhirganj.
read more.

* RMG workers take to streets at Savar:

Several hundred workers of a readymade garment factory at Dilkhushabag in Savar demonstrated on Monday. Amongst their eleven-point demands, they called for a re-opening of the factory and dues from the last few months to be paid.
Workers of HMA Garment Ltd came to the factory premises in the morning and found it shut for an indefinite period.
Workers became agitated and held a rally. Some blocked the Dhaka-Aricha highway for half an hour, witnesses’ said.
As the management had illegally closed the factory and did not pay workers over the last 2-3 months, they organised the demonstration, those who took part said.
Their eleven-point demands includes the re-opening of the factory, salaries and bonuses to be paid in full,  a salary increase, housing facilities to be provided and job security. read more.

* Buriganga water: A poisonous mix of greed and corruption:

Hundreds of years ago, the banks of the river Buriganga were a prime location for trade and tourism. It was the main waterway for trading and the main source of drinking water for the residents of Dhaka city.

Now the Buriganga river is afflicted with multiple pollutions. It is nothing but a crematory. The chemical waste of mills and factories, sewerage, human waste, polluted water, rubbish, domestic wastes, medical wastes, birds and animals carcasses, polythene, oil and grease, along with all sorts of liquid and hard wastes of riverine vessels, are being discharged into the water of Buriganga mindlessly. Moreover, Dhaka city produces about 4,500 tonnes of solid waste every day and most of it is dumped into the Buriganga.
(…)
More than 60,000 cubic metres of toxic wastes including textile dye, paints, laundry waste water and chemicals are released into the main water bodies of Dhaka every day.  read more.

* Exploring new markets and resolving labour issues:

AKM Selim Osman has been re-elected president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) for the next two years. According to an statement issued Monday by the Association, Mohammad Hatem has been elected first vice-president, AH Aslam Sunny second vice-president, Mohiuddin Farooqi third vice- president, and Shamim Ahmed vice-president (finance) respectively.
All the candidates including the president were elected unopposed as there was no opponents against the posts.
While talking to the Independent the newly elected president AKM Selim Osman said, his first and foremost responsibility would be to resolve labour issues that is hindering the development of the industry.
To train up the mid-level managerial staffs, who usually deal with the workers, the BKMEA has already undertaken a training programme, said the BKMEA chief adding that a training institute has also been set up at Narayanganj in this regard.
read more.

* Netherlands keen to expand trade, investment:

The Netherlands is keen on making big investments in potential sectors of Bangladesh as well as expanding the trade and commerce between the two countries.

Newly appointed Netherlands Ambassador-designate to Bangladesh Drs. Gerben Sjoerd De Jong said this while he was presenting his credentials to  President M Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban.
”We are keen to import more Bangladeshi products as well as make huge invest here,” he added.
The President urged the Dutch entrepreneurs to import more international standard Bangladeshi products including readymade garments, ceramic, jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods and pharmaceuticals, considering their very competitive prices. read more.

21:43:09 local time map of india INDIA

* Labour min to prepare Cabinet note on Bill to hike minimum wages of workers soon:

The labour ministry will soon prepare a Cabinet note for amending a Bill to link minimum wages of factory workers to the retail inflation rate and enhance penalties for erring companies, a ministry official said on Thursday.

The move to amend the Minimum Wages Act will have an economic cost — it may crimp profit margins of small and medium sized companies while pushing up demand for food and other essential goods, leading to some cost-push inflation as was the case when wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme were raised in tandem with consumer price inflation. read more.

* Slew of labour law changes in the works:

After breaking the policy impasse with some big-bang initiatives, UPA may now speed up amendments in labour laws to boost jobs and raise wages to generate demand in a slowing economy.

Labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge told FE that his ministry was holding consultations with other ministries to push key labour Bills. “Amendments to Minimum Wages Act, Contract Labour Act and Mines Act are being considered. We are in the process of consultation,” he said. read more.

* TIPC seeks PM’s intervention:

The Tirupur Industrial Protection Committee (TIPC) has sent a representation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention to help 27 Tirupur-based units to get payments for garments supplied to a Delhi-based buyer to the tune of Rs 32.91 crore.

TIPC sources said the Delhi-based group, which had around 500 retail outlets across the country, entered into a contract with 27 units, who were members of TIPC, early this year for supplying knitted kids wear products.
Though the Tirupur companies delivered the goods on time, the buyer did not stick to the payment schedule. to read.

* Farmers expect complete loss, officials hopeful:

The district administration of Amravati more or less concurs with the claims of farmers regarding loss to crops. However, while most farmers say that soyabean and cotton has been completely ruined, the officials say that if there is not much rainfall till September-end then the two crops will give good yield this year.

“The crops have been damaged due to untimely and erratic rains. There was very little rainfall in June and July. And then it rained every day for 28 days till September 6. Now, there should not be much rain till the month-end and the sky should not remain overcast. If this happens, many crops would be saved,” said agriculture department official Prashant Ringe. read more.

21:13:09 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* Deal signed to enhance textile competitiveness:

National Productivity Organization (NPO) Ministry of Industries and Ministry of Textile here on Monday signed an agreement of Rs. 9.2 million for making Textile Sectors competitive and improving its quality in the international markets.

Federal Minister for Textile Industry, Makhdoom Shahabuddin also witnessed the agreement signing ceremony.
CEO-NPO Khawaja Muhammad Yousuf and Secretary Ministry of Textile, Shahid Rashid inked the deal with firm commitment to establish quality standards within textile industry.

The basic objective of the project will be to benchmark textile sectors like Ginning, Knit Processing, Knit Stitching. With the implementation of this project current level of competitiveness in comparison with the international industries especially of Bangladesh, China, India and Vietnam etc will be determined.
Thus study will highlight the factors affecting competitiveness of the sectors and will help the textile policymakers as well as industrialists in preparing the future line of action for the industry. read more.

* Korea offers KSP assistance to Pakistan in textiles:

South Korea has offered assistance to Pakistan in the field of textiles, under its Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP). 
The assistance would be extended in the areas of planning, training and development, monitoring and energy efficiency project for the textile sector.
Korea Development Institute (KDI) experts, who visited Pakistan in April this year to discuss potential areas of KSP with Pakistan Government, identified four key areas from the 11 proposals submitted by the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) through diplomatic channel under 2012 KSP.
The four identified areas include energy efficiency project for textile sector; creating space for urban micro enterprises, higher education, management, training and development and strengthening of planning, monitoring and evaluation cell for SMEs.
read more.

 THE KARACHI  FIRE

* Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers:

With Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday seeing terrorism behind the Baldia factory fire, the record of the doomed Ali Enterprises showed there were only 255 people employed at the fire-struck factory where at least 260 men and women were killed.

The police have dismissed the initial speculations that the fire was caused by a generator explosion.
There were more than 300 people present in the factory when a fire erupted there on Tuesday.

“In fact, there were more than 1,000 workers in the factory,” said the director of the Federal Investigation Agency, Mohammad Malik. “Though the factory’s master roll states that there were only 255 workers, in reality they were more than 1,000.”
Scores of bodies still remain unidentified and DNA samples are being collected from grieving relatives at the Abbasi Shaheed, Jinnah and Civil hospitals for identification.

“We have taken the record in our custody and are currently examining it to ascertain the facts and irregularities in the industrial unit,” said director Malik. The records include bills, certificates of the periodical inspections given by the agencies concerned and other documents. read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Garment factory: Karachi factory partially insured with Reliance:

The Karachi garment factory where 259 people were killed by a massive inferno was partially insured with the Reliance Insurance Company – the same firm that is yet to pay hundreds of millions of rupees in compensation to families of the Bhoja air crash victims.

According to an industry official, Reliance Insurance Company had insured 70% of Ali Enterprises’ assets, whereas the remainder were secured by Premier Insurance.
“The plant was heavily underinsured,” the official added. “Only Rs80 million will be paid to the owners for the destruction of their property, including the plant and machinery.”

Surveyors of the insurance company visited the factory on Thursday to assess the damage.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, raising doubts over the repayment of the meagre amount to the factory owner, the official said.
No official from the two insurance companies or Ali Enterprises was available for comment. read more.

* Factory owners directed to install fire safety mechanism:

The Rawalpindi Commissioner has directed all the owners of factories, government and private offices, mills, educational institutions, bus stands and shopping centers in the Rawalpindi division to install modern fire extinguishing instruments in their buildings within two weeks.

After the tragic fire incidents of Karachi and Lahore, all the factories, government and private offices, mills, educational institutions, bus stands, academies, storage areas and shopping plazas of the Rawalpindi district, along with three other districts of the division, had been served notices to install fire extinguishing mechanism within their premises. The commissioner also asked the major industrial units and owners of other buildings to provide emergency exit facilities in their buildings to avoid any untoward incident. He warned the owners that failure to comply with the instructions would result in heavy fines and even closure of their buildings.to read.

* British firm diverts export order to Dhaka in protest against factory tragedy:

A British firm has diverted millions of dollars worth of export order of garments from Pakistan to Bangladesh on Saturday in protest of Karachi factory’s fire incident that took the lives of nearly 300 workers this week, reported a participant at the Jang Forum.

“A British woman, who had travelled all the way from UK to Pakistan to place an export order of garments worth millions of dollars, left the country without doing so in protest of the Karachi tragedy,” said Muhammad Javed, who is a social worker and a former politician from Peshawar.

He said that she had travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh to place the same order after she received a phone call from her principal officer from the UK. “She had a scheduled flight to Dhaka at 4pm today,” he added.
Two speakers at the forum – Ahsanullah Khan, chairman of Workers Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan and Engineer MA Jabbar, former chairman of SITE Association – were of the opinion that Pakistan could see more cancellation of exports’ orders, especially in the garment sector. read more.

* Pakistan fire victims producing for German low-cost retailer KIK:

  • Labels from German brand KIK found in factory
  • KIKfailed to respond to calls for action
  • Campaigners call for brands to take immediate action

The Clean Clothes Campaign today express their shock and outrage at the failure of German company KIK to ensure that workers in its supplier factories are employed in safe working conditions after it was confirmed that Ali Enterprises, which last week burnt down killing almost 300 people, was producing jeans for the low-cost retailer.

Around 650 workers were working at the Ali Enterprises factory when the fire broke out last Tuesday. Locked fire exits, barred windows and blocked stairways meant almost half of them perished. Many others were injured after jumping from the top floor of the building. The factory was not legally registered and had not undergone any building checks or government inspections. The owners of the factory have now been charged with murder, although they have yet to be apprehended by the authorities. The National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan is now also calling on authorities to look at charging KIK and any other confirmed buyers from the factory with criminal negligence.

“These workers lost their lives in the most horrific manner producing jeans for European customers” said Lars Stubbe of the German Clean Clothes Campaign. “That KIK has failed to respond with any remorse or urgency highlights the total lack of respect and care they have for the workers employed in their supply chain.”

Over the weekend garments were recovered from the factory carrying the ‘Okay’ logo, a label produced and sold in KIK stores in Germany, Austria and across Eastern Europe. To date the company has failed to take responsibility. read more.

* Baldia factory inferno : JC told factories registration not mandatory:

A Judicial Commission (JC), headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, on Monday directed forensic experts, concerned officers from Sindh Electric & Energy Department, Labor Department, Provincial Electrical Inspector and Chief Fire Officer Karachi to appear on September 18, 2012 along with their respective reports regarding causes of fire at the Baldia Town garment factory that killed nearly 289 people.

The commission also recorded statements of four witnesses including Director Labour Department, Commissioner SESSI, Secretary Sindh Workers Welfare Board and Sindh Building Control Authority officers.

On September 12, 2012, Sindh government had constituted the commission with mandate to investigate the fire that broke out in M/s Ali Enterprises, look into cause of fire, kind of civil defense system available inside the factory building and extent of negligence on the owner’s part.

Recording his statement, Director Labour Department Ejaz Baloch informed various factories including M/s Ali Enterprises garment factory, had not been registered with Sindh Labor Department for last 20 years.

He also submitted Labour Department’s Inspectors could not conduct raids for inspection of any factory, as an Inspector, who conducted surprise raid at a local factory for inspection, was subjected to torture by the factory management some years ago. read more.

* Investigation reports on Karachi inferno to be filed today:

Forensic experts, electrical inspectors and fire officials are expected to submit their findings for the fire at the Baldia garment factory today (Tuesday).

A judicial commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, directed the officers on Monday to appear on September 18 along with their reports into the possible causes of the fire that killed 258 people. On September 12, the Sindh government had formed the commission to investigate the causes of the blaze at Ali Enterprises, the kind of defence system inside the factory and the extent of negligence on the part of the owners. On Monday, the director of the Sindh labour department, Danish Saeed, the commissioner of the Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI), the secretary of the Sindh Workers Welfare Board, Muzaffar Bhutto, and officers of the Sindh Building Control Authority recorded their statements before the commission. read more.

* Fire dept’s report on Baldia factory blaze is ‘laughable’, say civil society groups:

Fearing that the public reaction to the Baldia factory inferno will fizzle out like that generated by other tragic incidents such as the collapse of the Shershah Bridge and Boulton market fire, members of civil society gathered on Monday at the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) House.

Their mission: to etch the incident into collective memory and kick responsible bodies out of their stupor.
The press conference was organised by the PMA and several high-profile members of civil society got a chance to voice their pessimism about the current investigation on one of the most lethal factory fires the country has witnessed.

“Nothing will come of [the investigation],” said Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, the association’s general secretary. He added that the inferno raised a plethora of questions which have yet to be answered: Is there any central authority which allows factories to be set up across Pakistan without protective measures for workers? Which ministry is responsible? And to what extent? If laws exist, who is responsible for implementing them? read more.

* Passports given to court nazir: Banks told to freeze factory owners’ accounts:

he State Bank of Pakistan on Monday directed all banks in the country to freeze all accounts of the owners of the fire-wrecked garment factory after a judicial magistrate granted a request of police to prevent the owners from transferring money to any other country.

In a related development, two of the factory owners submitted their passports and the third owner whose passport was with the Britishi High Commission filed the original receipt issued by the HC and the passport number to the Nazir of the Sindh High Court on Monday. read more.

map of Asia

THAILAND
* Walmart’s Human Trafficking Problem

CAMBODIA
* BetterFactories Media Update 07-17 September 2012
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
1. Bra factory strikers look to ministry for suppoprt.
2. Tide changes at Ocean as factory pays strikers.
3. Union president calls for inspectiors.
4. Unpaid workers cry factory foul.gif
5. Behind the scenes of the garment industry.
6. Factory trashed- owner.gif
7. Faintings and strikes continue.
8. Plush-toy factory to pay up.
9. Bandith trial to begin soon.
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
10. Unrest threatens Bangladesh’s garment exports.
11. Cambodia’s trade grows by 15 percent.
12. 500 garment workers protest over unpaid wages.gif
13. 20 more garment workers injured on way to work.
14. More than 30 garment workers faint in factory.

BURMA/MYANMAR
* Garment makers fight to survive

NEPAL
* Labour problem hits Shikhar Shoes

BANGLA DESH
* RMG workers go berserk
* RMG workers take to streets at Savar
* Buriganga water: A poisonous mix of greed and corruption
* Exploring new markets and resolving labour issues
* Netherlands keen to expand trade, investment

INDIA
* Labour min to prepare Cabinet note on Bill to hike minimum wages of workers soon
* Slew of labour law changes in the works
* TIPC seeks PM’s intervention
* Farmers expect complete loss, officials hopeful

PAKISTAN
* Deal signed to enhance textile competitiveness
* Korea offers KSP assistance to Pakistan in textiles
* THE KARACHI FIRE:
* Malik sees terrorism behind inferno: Record shows factory had 255 workers
* Garment factory: Karachi factory partially insured with Reliance
* Factory owners directed to install fire safety mechanism
* British firm diverts export order to Dhaka in protest against factory tragedy
* Pakistan fire victims producing for German low-cost retailer KIK
* Baldia factory inferno : JC told factories registration not mandatory
* Investigation reports on Karachi inferno to be filed today
* Fire dept’s report on Baldia factory blaze is ‘laughable’, say civil society groups:
* Passports given to court nazir: Banks told to freeze factory owners’ accounts

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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