01:39:43 local time CHINA
* Textile margins wear thin:
Declining overseas demand, rising costs take toll on exports, profits
Domestic textile and garment manufacturers are facing tough times due to declining overseas demand, sharpening domestic competition and rising labor costs.
Li Daoyou, a manager at Dongtai Henghua Weaving Co Ltd in Jiangsu province, said there had been a big fall in overseas demand since the second half of last year.
Sales at his factory, which produces high quality fabrics, decreased about 30 percent year-on-year in 2011.
Statistics from the General Administration of Customs showed the country exported garment and textile products worth $24.6 billion in August, down 3.35 percent from the previous year.
In the first eight months of 2012, China exported garments worth $99.48 billion and textile products worth $62.51 billion, both down 0.7 percent from a year earlier.
“Orders from the European Union are dropping and competition with domestic factories is intensifying,” Li said.
“Overseas buyers always demand lower prices. But it is better to do it at a lower price than have nothing to do,” he said.
Many smaller textile factories have been forced to close because of a lack of orders and higher labor costs, said Li. read more.
* H&M August sales hit by warm weather:
World No.2 fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz on Monday posted an unexpected drop in like-for-like sales in August, blaming a heat wave in key European markets for keeping customers away from stores.
The Swedish budget apparel firm, which trails Zara owner Inditex by value and turnover, as well as by the number of markets and stores, said sales at stores open a year or more shrank 4 percent in local currencies in August.
“It was primarily the extreme heat wave in a number of European markets in August that affected sales negatively,” H&M said in a statement. read more.
00:39:43 local time VIET NAM
* Garment exports reach 10.8 billion USD:
The country’s textile and garment sector achieved a trade surplus of 5.3 billion USD in the first eight months of 2012, a year-on-year increase of 24 percent.
According to the Vietnam Textile and Garment Association (VITAS), in the first eight months of the year, the sector achieved an export turnover of 10.8 billion USD, an increase of 6 percent compared with the same period last year.
The textile and garment sector has taken the lead of the country’s top 10 export products. read more.
00:39:43 local time THAILAND
* Somyot’s trial hearing cancelled:
We have just had news from Somyot’s lawyers that his hearing due on the 19th September has been cancelled. No reason has been given and we will update you as soon as we have further news. to read.
00:39:43 local time CAMBODIA
No More Excuses: Dignity, Not Poverty Pay. A worker in Cambodia explains the terrible difficulties and humiliation of trying to get by on her poverty wages. From fainting due to exhaustion and lack of nutrition to the spiral of debt to her employers while trying to pay for the necessities of her life.
Join our campaign: tell Cambodia’s big buyers H&M, Levis, GAP and Zara to tell them they must pay a living wage!
* Watchdog cites Cambodia as “repressive” on labour:
Cambodia continues to be a “repressive” environment for labour activists in 2009, despite the existence of relatively progressive legislation, according to a new report from United States-based watchdog Freedom House.
In the report, released on Tuesday in Washington, the group said Cambodia had laws in place that guaranteed labour rights, but that implementation continued to be lacking.
“Despite the fairly robust legal framework, enforcement of labour laws is weak,” the report said. “Anti-union harassment, dismissal of union leaders and supporters, and violence by vigilantes are common.”
The labour report, the first of its kind produced by Freedom House, also cited recent moves to amend Cambodia’s labour laws to allow for the increased use of short-term contracts, which it says discourage workers from supporting trade unions.
“The government has enjoyed increasing success in attractive private investment to Cambodia, and appears to favour the interests of investors and employers over workers‘ rights,” it concluded.read more.
01:39:43 local time MALAYSIA
The RM900 minimum wage set by the government for Peninsular Malaysia should also be set for Sabah and Sarawak, said non-governmental organisation (NGO) Oppressed People Network (Jerit).
“What is the rationale of providing a minimum wage below the poverty line in east Malaysia? The cost of living in east Malaysia is 30-40% higher than in Peninsular Malaysia,” said Jerit.
The NGO also called for wealth redistribution to reduce the income disparity in Sabah and Sarawak, noting that they are rich with natural resources.
“Both Sabah and Sarawak have plenty of resources from timber and oil and also have wealth from the plantation industry. But both states remain among the poorest in Malaysia,” it said in its statement in conjunction with Malaysia Day last Sunday.
00:09:43 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* EC ready to reinstate trade preferences to Burma:
The European Commission has adopted a proposal to bring Burma back under the so-called “Everything But Arms” preferential trade regime which would grant duty-free and quota-free access to the European market for all products except for arms and ammunitions.
The US signaled this week that it also is prepared to rescind a ban on Burmese imported products.
“Everything But Arms” is part of the EU’s “Generalised System of Preferences” and it is an important scheme to help developing countries boost their economy by providing them with tariff preferences when selling on the EU market. Burma is classified as a “Least Developed Country” by the United Nations.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said, “Since Myanmar/Burma started to open up earlier this year, I saw the need to underpin such deep and important changes with real economic support once key improvements for the workforce had been met.”
“Trade is fundamental to supporting political stability and the EU’s trade preferences mean we will give this reform-minded country priority access to the world’s largest market. That said, we will continue to engage with Myanmar/Burma to encourage continued progress on all fronts,” he said. read more.
* Shift in forced labour complaints from govt to private sector:
A Growing number of complaints submitted to the International Labour Organisation’s forced labour complaints mechanism concern the private sector, the organisation’s liaison officer in Yangon said last week.
The organisation is receiving about 60 complaints a month of forced labour incidents, which include underage recruitment into the military, up from about 50 in mid-2011 and just 42 in the whole of 2007, the year the mechanism was introduced.
“We are now seeing some shift, in fact, with a slight increase in people raising issues with the private sector and different types of forced labour,” liaison officer Steve Marshall told The Myanmar Times on September 6.
Recently received complaints include state employees not being allowed to resign and housekeepers being imprisoned by their employers. A further problem coming to light is the practice of children being sold by parents to the owners of teashops.
“We’re seeing different things develop as people get to understand the issues around rights,” he said. read more.
23:24:43 local time NEPAL
* Fake health certificates for migrant workers:
Despite having confiscated a number of fake health certificates issued to migrant workers, the government has failed to punish even a single offender in the lack of law.
The government has seized 301 fake certificates in the past few months. However, the ambiguous provision of the Foreign Employment Act (2007) has made it difficult to decide the pending cases regarding the issuance of fake health certificates. The Act fails to pinpoint the responsible regulatory body, its role and nature of punishment for law violation.
According to Lal Babu Kawari, director of the Department of Foreign Employment, anomalies while issuing health certificates are widespread. He said that the board finds fake health certificate every day. Various health organisations have been issuing fake certificates.read more.
23:39:43 local time BANGLA DESH
* Carpet-making brings hope to disabled women in Mymensingh:
Handloom items made by disabled women in Mymensingh are turning out to be hot properties among the discerning customers at home and abroad.
Wall mats, carpets and floor mats produced at a carpet workshop in the district sell at plush stores in Dhaka and are exported to the US, the UK, France, Australia, Luxembourg, Thailand and Japan.
The prices of wall mats range from Tk 3,000 to Tk 10,000, while those of carpets from Tk 2,000 to Tk 20,000, and floor mats from Tk 1,000 to Tk 15,000.
The workshop is a project of the Protibandhi Community Centre, a platform for the disabled.
“Many tourists come to visit the workshop and buy items off us straight,” said the workshop’s supervisor Shefali Akhtar, also a disabled woman.
The Japanese and American visitors are particularly keen on the wares, she said.
* Bangladesh textile workers scare bosses with strike wave:
A new wave of militant strikes by garment workers in Bangladesh is spreading fear in the government and among multinational clothing firms.
Several factories in the Ashulia district of the capital, Dhaka, are closed after workers demanded pay rises and the right to free independent trade unions. This follows a summer of action that spread to garment workers across the Export Processing Zones, and is now galvanising others.
Strikers are met with a typically brutal state response—the Rapid Action Battalion paramilitary police force, which is notorious for torturing, and on occasion killing, leading militants.
But repression isn’t working, says Mushtuq Husain of Dhaka’s Centre for Social Praxis. “Workers organise themselves clandestinely. So when they burst into protest, it seems like a bolt from blue.”
Mushtuq says that as soon as one dispute appears settled another explodes, leading bosses to close all the factories in a district rather than have the strike spread.
The falling value of wages, which are often just £20 a month, compared to rising prices is spark for many strikes. read more.
* Workers block Dhaka-Mymensingh highway:
Readymade garments workers on Wednesday blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway for over an hour in Bhogra Choudhury Bari area of Gazipur Sadar upazila.
“Traffic was halted around 8:15am after the workers of Viella Knit Fashion Limited gathered in front of the factory,” Gazipur Industrial Police Officer in Charge Selim Reza told bdnews24.com.
It resumed after an hour when police came and dispersed them, the officer added.
* BKMEA renews agreement with Metro Group:
Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) on Tuesday renewed its two-year agreement with a German based organisation Metro Group on continuing the activities of Sunny Day-care centre for the term 2012-13, said a press release.
It aims to ensure anxiety-free working environment for the female workforce of the BSCIC industrial area in Narayanganj, Fatulla.
BKMEA on August 12, 2010 started operation of the international standard day care centre for the children of women workforce.
The day care centre can accommodate up to 60 children at a time, and provides all kinds of facilities free of cost.to read.
23:09:43 local time INDIA
* Factory fire brings to fore a subcontinent of apathy:
Bangladesh, India and Pakistan may well be separate nations with independent flags, anthems and identities but the kind of human tragedy they offer the world is distinctly South Asian. There must be some deep-rooted web somewhere under the surface that reveals how wonderfully we treat our own citizens, especially if they happen to be struggling to survive.
Take for instance, the recent news out of Karachi that a clothing factory in the industrial part of town was engulfed in fire. The manager on duty, fearing the worst from his team of X hundred workers (we don’t know exactly how many), decided that it was in the best interest of his bosses to lock up the steel doors, just in case the fire gave anyone an idea to loot piles of stone-washed jeans ready for shipment to Europe, where the orders obtained would earn our manager’s sensible owners, a lucrative pile of Euros. Oh well, it was not to be. The manager, while ensuring his bosses’ safety and security, didn’t realize that there was a human pen inside that would have to die to protect inflammable material. Trapped inside – some three hundred people (or who knows) dsouthied, most of them of asphyxiation.
Only one news report casually – at its very bottom – revealed the names of the factory owners – a father and his two sons; Shahid, Ali and Arshad Bhela who ran a garment factory. Everywhere else it was simply reported that the ‘owners’ were on the lam. There was no mention of the factory address, the name of the business or those who would necessarily have to be held accountable for providing little to no basic security for the people working long shifts to maintain the health of the business.read more.
* Strikes loom as India pledges more reform:
India’s trade unions on Monday called a nationwide strike against the opening of the retail sector to foreign supermarkets as the government pledged to push ahead with more economic reforms.
The planned shutdown on Thursday, backed by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is designed to force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reverse his decision to allow the likes of Walmart and Tesco to set up shop in India.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), an umbrella body of nearly 10,000 trade federations, said it would mobilise for the day of defiance against the reforms which have been welcomed by investors and business leaders. read more.
* Labour min may censure states for wage gaps, lax enforcement:
Worried over a subdued job market due to the economic slowdown, the Centre is likely to censure some states over disparity in wages of factory workers, tardy implementation of labour laws and slow progress on skill development.
Union labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge has convened a meeting with state ministers on September 27 to discuss the contentious issues. Top of the minister’s agenda, sources said, is the wide divergence of minimum wages among states and the non-compliance by some states even in offering the government-mandated national floor level minimum wage (NFLMW) to workers. read more.
*Apparel body for increasing mandatory sourcing norm to 50%:
Days after the government relaxed FDI norms in the retail sector, the country’s apex apparel body AEPC today said foreign retailers must be made to source up to 50% from MSMEs to protect domestic manufacturers.
Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) President A Sakthivel said he will write to the Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma regarding the issue.
“If we don’t put mandatory sourcing conditions then the foreign retailers will buy garment and apparels from Bangladesh and sell in their stores here as India allows duty free imports of textile products from that country. It will severely impact domestic industry and manufacturers,” Sakthivel said.read more.
* Lindstrom – weaving a new outsourcing business:
Finnish firm Lindstrom has taught domestic corporates a new kind of outsourcing. And in this process, it has expanded its own business fabric in India, one of the 21 countries it operates in.
Today, every year, 200-250 new companies are outsourcing their entire work-wear services, including stitching, laundering and maintaining, to the 164-year-old Lindstrom.
Launching its unique operations in India in Chennai in 2007, it is now scaling up business here, making it a garment outsourcing hub for its global clients.
Its business model is simple– it designs, procures, maintains and rents out work-wear for corporate employees, even providing them their own lockers. It charges a weekly rental of between Rs 10 and Rs 50 an employee, depending on the type of office wear and volumes. read more.
* ‘Fiat to banks soon on textile sector debt restructuring’:
The Centre is firm on implementing the debt restructuring package for the textile sector involving Rs 35,000 crore and necessary instructions to the banks will be issued within a week, according to V. Narayanasamy, Union Minister of State in the PMO.
He also defended the decision to permit FDI in retail which he said would give a boost to employment generation and provide an opportunity to farmers to get better price for their produce.read more.
* Discount apparel mart halves:
Trousers at 80% off, a pair of Reebok sneakers for 60% less, buy two shirts and get four free.
Discounted apparel stores that include Cantabil, Koutons, Vishal Retail and Loot had created a buzz with such too-good-to-believe offers when they first appeared on the retail scene a few years back.
The deals, available round the year, were good enough to tempt even the tight-fisted shoppers.
And with inflation pushing up apparel prices, these firms were expecting a windfall and long queues before their stores.
However, things haven’t turned out as per expectations as fewer footfalls and inventory pile-ups have reduced the industry to half in the last one year.
23:09:43 local time SRI LANKA
* High powered Indian textile delegation here:
The biggest ever textile industry delegation from India arrived last night. The high level textile delegation is here to strengthen the promising textile trade between the two countries and incorporates both high ranking government officials and reps from the Indian private sector, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said yesterday.
In 2011, Sri Lanka exported $ 50 Mn of garments, woven fabrics and other textiles to India. Lanka’s “garment exports” to India alone was $ 25.56 Mn in 2011 and garments were Sri Lanka’s fifth export item to India. India therefore is ranked at 14th as for the international marketwise distribution destination for our 2011 garment exports, which totalled $ 3986 Mn last year across 40 countries.read more.
* ‘Garments without Guilt’ bags international CSR award:
Sri Lanka Apparel’s ‘Garments Without Guilt’ the industry’s ethical sourcing platform, bagged the leadership in CSR award at Blue Dart Express (part of DHL Group)’s annual global CSR awards night held at Mumbai’s Taj Lands’ End, recently.
The well attended event had many multi-national corporations, large Indian conglomerates and CSR focused organizations from various Countries. South Asia’s premier courier and integrated express package distribution company and part of the global DHL group, acknowledged CSR champions in India and the region by presenting the inaugural global CSR awards. read more.
22:39:43 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI FIRE
* Baldia Town blaze tragedy:
Many laws of Factories Act not followed
An interesting twist came in the garments factory fire case when it was revealed that many laws of the Factories Act, including electrical/labour inspections, made around a century ago, were not followed by the industrialists against which they were only liable to pay a fine of Rs 500, the Daily Times learnt here on Tuesday.
Sources in Sindh Labour Department disclosed that major electrical and labour laws for conducting inspections and surprise visits on yearly or time-to-time basis had been established as long ago as between the period of 1910-1937. Sources further disclosed that if any factory owner or management did not allow inspecting or restrained surprise-visit, they (factory owner/management) would be liable to pay a fine of Rs 100 to Rs 500 only.
They said that then Sindh governor Muhammad Mian Soomro had issued directions for restraining the electrical and labour inspectors from surprise or routine inspections of any new establishment or ongoing/running factories. “The provincial law department and Sindh law minister, human rights and parliamentary affairs of that time had refused to annul the rule relevant to inspection/surprise visits because no caretaker government, minister or governor could change any rule/law”, sources added. read more.
* All workers from Baldia factory to get Rs3,600 in pensions, says EOBI:
Only 190 workers at ill-fated Baldia factory were registered but the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) has announced it is giving all of them, the victims and survivors, a monthly Rs3,600 pension.
According to EOBI chief Javed Iqbal, the national database authority is providing them DNA matches of survivors and victims so they can draw up a list. On Monday, 25 cases were finalised. “The minimum pension for the dead is around Rs3,600 and the same applies to the injured,” he told The Express Tribune. “But it varies from case to case and the tenure of service.”
A total of 185 workers have been identified and the first compensation was handed by the Bahria Town group at Governor House Monday. The federal and Sindh governments have separately announced compensation for the dead and injured.
There is a total labour force of 56 million in Pakistan out of which 33 million work in agriculture, which does not come under EOBI’s purview. This leaves 23 million workers. “Only six million of them are registered with EOBI and there is no record for the remaining 17 million,” he said. Factory owners are responsible for regisration and not the EOBI. “Either they over report or under report things.”
read more. ( Rs3,600 = $ 38 – € 29)
* Bahria Town gives Rs200,000 to each deceased of factory fire:
The Bahria Town on Monday distributed compensation cheques of Rs200,000 each to the families of 178 people who perished in the Baldia Town garment factory fire, while Rs100,000 each were given to the injured.
The ceremony, held at the Governor House, was attended in large numbers by the legal heirs of the deceased. Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, MNA Faryal Talpur, Zain Malik, Director of Bahria Town, and others were present on the occasion.
Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad said the labourers would be employed soon as he had talked to the traders and industrialists in this regard.
Ebada said that the factory fire was a national tragedy. He said the Sindh government would also provide compensation to the victims within next few days while compensation announced by the prime minister would also be distributed among the legal heirs of the deceased workers soon.
He said efforts have been made to provide jobs to the workers who have been rendered jobless due to the devastating factory fire. He revealed that philanthropists were also involved in collecting fund which would be distributed among the heirs.
* Factory inferno: Ali Enterprises’ assets frozen on SBP orders:
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) asked all banks on Monday to freeze the assets of the owners of Ali Enterprises’ factory, which was engulfed in flames on September 11, killing at least 260 workers that were trapped inside.
The notice was sent to the banks in the evening after a lower court asked the central bank to stop the people nominated in the police complaint from moving their assets elsewhere.
“We have issued the orders,” an SBP spokesman said without sharing further details. “There are 40 commercial banks involved and nothing can be revealed about the amount being frozen.”
According to investigation officer Chaudhry Zafar Iqbal’s written application the owners have Rs510 million in four accounts kept with two banks.
Ali Enterprises, a member of Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA), had annual sales of around Rs5 billion, according to SITE Association of Industry’s Chairman Irfan Moton. read more.
* Factory fire investigation: Men arrested after calls traced from owners’ cell:
After pulling the data from the cell phones of the Baldia factory owners, the law enforcement agencies arrested more than 10 people in Baldia Town in connection with the fire at the garment factory.
The detainees, reportedly affiliated with a political party, were taken to an undisclosed location for questioning. According to sources, the suspects had business ties with the factory owners but were not on good terms with them.
Sources added that all suspects belong to one family and one of them had repeatedly called the factory owners the day of the fire. read more.
* Factory fire: Closed doors made it worse, says witness:
Closed doors made the situation worse, deposed two eyewitness workers of the fire-wrecked garment factory in Baldia Town while recording their testimony in court on Tuesday.
Machine operator Umer and accountant Khuram Iqbal, who escaped the devastating fire that destroyed the garment factory and killed about 289 people, recorded their testimony before Judicial Magistrate Karachi West Sohail Ahmed Mashori. This is the second set of proceedings into the fire. On Tuesday, a two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, also heard testimonies separately.
Meanwhile, machine operator Umer told the magistrate that he worked on the first floor of the factory. On that evening, he heard an explosion on the ground floor and then the noise of workers who said a fire had erupted. After a while, smoke started spreading. He had hardly reached a window where someone from the outside threw him a rope. He jumped out and fell unconscious.read more. & read more.
* Sindh governor, not CM, called off factory checks in 1999, tribunal told:
As investigations of the Baldia garment factory continue, on Tuesday it emerged that it wasn’t the chief minister but the governor who ordered the suspension of inspections in industrial areas in 1999.
The decision was taken after complaints of widespread corruption were made against visiting electric and boiler inspectors, deposed the energy officials before the tribunal probing the blaze, which claimed the lives of 258 factory workers.
“Then Sindh governor ordered to shut the offices of the electric department and boiler inspection but the law department opposed it and suggested changing the inspection procedure,” senior electric inspector, Amjad Mahesar, told the tribunal, which continued its proceedings for the second consecutive day at the Sindh Secretariat. “Later, the caretaker cabinet came up with the decision to suspend the inspections that no successive government altered.” The two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, was formed by the Sindh government on September 12, a day after the fire broke out at Ali Enterprises. The tribunal had started its hearing on Monday, summoning the labour officials before it recorded the statements of fire and electric officials. read more.
* Burnt factories, charred lives and shop floors:
The devastating factory fire that killed 264 workers in Karachi was a sickening and tragic event but altogether not surprising.
A few years ago when I was conducting fieldwork in urban Punjab, specifically in Faisalabad, Sheikhupura and Sialkot, interviewing heads of various textile and garment factories and quietly observing shopfloor dynamics, I was struck by the highly discriminating treatment of labour across factories of different sizes and specialisations.
The majority of factories I had visited were export-oriented firms firmly entrenched in a hierarchy of global supply chains. While some firms like […] were positioned at the upper end of the value chain as direct suppliers to global retail brands and buyers such as JC Penney and Tommy Hilfiger, many others were wedged at the lower end of the chain struggling to establish direct links with foreign buyers and trying to remain competitive in an increasingly cut-throat market of liberalized world trade. The latter category of firms encompassed upstream suppliers to either large firms like […] or to individuals who acted as middlemen for international buyers. Labour relations across the range of the value chain and firm size varied considerably.
* Multiple government departments control all factories: industrialist:
Chairman of Value Added Textile Associations Rana Muahmmad Mushtaq Khan on Tuesday clarified that all factories come under strict control of multiple government departments all of which monitor safety and security measures in industrial units.
Commenting on the Baldia Town factory fire and the resultant media hype about factory managements, he said that several government departments such as Civil Defence ensured labour training and issued Labour Training Certificate for employees as well as Terminal Certificate.
Similarly, the Labour Department carried out periodic medical examinations of workers by a certified surgeon while the Labour Department’s Technical Inspection Engineers carried out health and safety measures. In addition, there was one Department of Electrical Inspector which inspected electrical installations at factories. Then there is SESSI which “is in-charge of education cess and social security of labourers”.read more.
22:39:43 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Tashkent sends emergency doctors to pick cotton:
After the beginning of the cotton campaign, emergency teams of Tashkent have been left without doctors who have been replaced with nurses.
Tashkent residents are increasingly facing cases of “emergency” teams arriving without doctors.
A nurse of such a truncated team has told a Tashkent resident, Natalya Kolbina, that the entire city has only two to three cardiologists left for emergency care, others have been sent to pick cotton.
“An ambulance was called for my mum who had a heart attack. Although a nurse was of age and experienced, she could not offer anything other than Papaverine and Dibazol. This medicine we know for ourselves,” says Kolbina. read more.