in the news on-line, 20 September 2012

16:16:21 local time map of china CHINA

* US apparel firm eyes double-digit growth in China:

VF Corporation, the US apparel maker that owns Lee, North Face and Timberland brands, said it will more than double its retail outlets in China in the next five years as it sees strong demand from domestic consumers.

VF estimates its China revenue will grow at an average rate of 21 percent a year through 2017, its senior executives said in Shanghai today.
The company said its outlets in China will increase from 2,300 now to 6,000 by 2017 as it expands to smaller cities in the country.
Aidan O’Meara, president of VF Asia Pacific, said the company will post double-digit sales growth in China in the next few years.
Last year, its sales in China was around US$900 million.to read.

16:16:21 local time map of philippines PHILIPPINES

* Labor alliance against contractualization, for a meaningful wage hike, formed:

“They [big corporations] have, for years, raked in profits by pressing down workers’ wages and pushing back the hard-earned gains of the country’s labor movement. They have been able to widen the disparity between the affluent minority and the poor and hungry majority in the country – a situation that violates the principles of social justice.”

For the first time in years, Filipino labor groups that used to regard each other as rivals and on different positions in the labor spectrum are banding together for a common cause. They say they want to push back the government-supported policy of contractualization and demand for a “significant wage hike.”

Late last week, a number of labor federations and trade unions banded together in an alliance called ACT2WIN, or Action against Contractualization and Towards a Significant Wage Increase Now. In a press conference in Manila last Friday Sept. 14, leaders of these labor groups vowed to fight together for the rights to security of tenure and a living wage.

“We demand a significant wage hike, one that will bring current wage levels closer to the living wage. We demand the junking of contractual employment schemes, those which erode employer-employee relationships and result in lower wages and denial of benefits and job security of workers,” their unity statement said. read more.

15:16:21 local time map of viet_nam VIET NAM

* Vietnam puts higher expectation on private economic sector:

Vietnam expects to have 350,000 more private businesses by the end of 2015 in order to develop the national economy which has been relying on state owned enterprises (SOEs).

The plan to have 350.000 more private businesses has just got the nod from the government based on a proposal by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI).

Well-known Vietnamese economists, while pointing out a lot of problems of state owned enterprises, have repeatedly urged to develop the private economic sector to ease the reliance on the state economic sector.

To date, the state economic sector has always been defined in all important documents as the most important driving force and the backbone of the national economy. read more.

15:16:21 local time map of thailand THAILAND

* Somyot’s trial – New court date:

The next court date will be the 19th December. That’s an additional two months that Somyot is being held in Bangkok Prison. We have yet to get confirmation when a verdict will be announced. In the meantime please keep submitting your protest emails on the Clean Clothes Campaign website. to read.

* Somyot’s trial – Joint statement:

Human rights and labour organizations today urge that magazine editor and human rights defender Somyot Prueksakasemsuk be immediately released from 17-month pre-trial detention. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law) for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the monarchy.
The group further called on the Thai authorities to uphold international standards of freedom of expression, and to stop using Article 112 and arbitrary detention to criminalize or restrict free speech.

The outcome of Somyot’s trial is a litmus test of Thailand’s commitment to protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, the group said

Somyot has been held in prison since his arrest in April 2011, five days after he launched a petition campaign to collect 10,000 signatures required for a parliamentary review of lèse-majesté law. Lengthy pre-trial detention of Somyot clearly violates Thailand’s obligations to refrain from arbitrary detention.

On 18 September, the Thai Criminal Court cancelled a court hearing in his case scheduled for 19 September, prolonging his pre-trial detention indefinitely. The Criminal Court did not provide reasons for the cancellation or a new date for the hearing. read more.

* Free Somyot Now:

Human rights and labour organizations today urge that magazine editor and human rights defender Somyot Prueksakasemsuk be immediately released from 17-month pre-trial de- tention. If convicted, he faces up to 30 years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law) for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the mon- archy.

The group further called on the Thai authorities to uphold international standards of
freedom of expression, and to stop using Article 112 and arbitrary detention to criminalize or restrict free speech.
The outcome of Somyot’s trial is a litmus test of Thailand’s commitment to protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, the group said Somyot has been held in prison since his arrest in April 2011, five days after he launched a
petition campaign to collect 10,000 signatures required for a parliamentary review of lèse- majesté law.

Lengthy pre-trial detention of Somyot clearly violates Thailand’s obligations to refrain from arbitrary detention.
On 18 September, the Thai Criminal Court cancelled a court hearing in his case scheduled for 19 September, prolonging his pre-trial detention indefinitely. The Criminal Court did not provide reasons for the cancellation or a new date for the hearing. read more in pdf.

15:16:21 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* Education integral to gender goals:

Neang Panha, 48, sells bottles of water and sundry drinks in a roadside shop in Takeo province. In grade nine, her mother forced her to stop studying so she could support her brother and three other sisters.

“I did not have more chances to go back to school,” Panha said. “My mother just told me that I have to quit because we are poor.”

Panha said that if she had more opportunities, she would have liked to finish her education and work in an office. But for many Cambodian women battling poverty, issues of sustenance come before gaining an education.

A Millennium Development Goal Acceleration Framework action plan presented yesterday by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) seeks to address Panha’s and other women’s lagging economic opportunities in Cambodia. read more.

* Workshop shows women needed in the workforce:

The empowerment of women contributes to economic development, according to UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Douglas Broderick yesterday.

“Empowering women isn’t just an essential part of realising women’s rights,” he said at a workshop to validate the action plan on women’s economic empowerment in Phnom Penh. “It also makes good economic sense.”

Presided over by the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Ing Kantha Phavi, the workshop was aimed at unveiling an action plan by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MWA) to promote the economic empowerment of Cambodian women. The action plan is based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Acceleration Framework, a tool to speed up progress on the MDGs.read more.

16:16:21 local time map of indonesia INDONESIA

* House slammed for backing rate hike:

Local businesses strongly criticized the House of Representatives’ decision to approve a rise in electricity prices next year, stating that bureaucrats had decided “to murder local industry”.

Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Sofjan Wanandi told The Jakarta Post that the 15 percent increase in power prices next year would have knock-on increases in operating costs for local industry.

“Aside from the electricity price hike, local industries have already been hampered by the government’s recent approval of a 50 percent boost the price of gas for industry and the planned rise in Jakarta’s provincial minimum wage [UMP] next year,” he said Tuesday. read more.

* Power Tariff Hike Plan Worried Industrialists:

Jakarta-Commission VII of the House of Representatives finally approved the proposal of the relevant government electricity subsidies next year IDR78.63 trillion from approximately IDR92 billion this year.

This subsidy reduction will be acquired from power tariff (TDL) adjustment, where electricity customers above 900VA will be imposed by 15% hike, starting from April 2013.
The Commission’s spokesperson Sutan Bhatoegana at the end of the House – the government meeting discussing subsidy reduction and tariff hike of electricity yesterday (9/17).
(…)
Ade Sudradjat, the Head of Indonesia Textile and Garment Association was wondering why the House passed the Ministry of ESDM’s proposal while earlier they strongly opposed the idea. He questioned if there was a hidden agenda behind the approval. “I will make a close study about it,” he said, today.

And to be real, industrialist community valued that the TDL hike was launched discriminately, since it was applied only to the industry sector.

In the mean time, the Head of Entrepreneur Association of Indonesia Sofjan Wanandi said that the TDL hike will indirectly urged the business people to subsidize low income earners. read more.

14:16:21 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLA DESH

* Blockade on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway; 10 injured:

Ten workers were injured as police charged baton on them during their road blockade on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway in Sadar upazila on Wednesday.

Workers of VTL Knitting Factory, owned by Vielatex Group, said they blocked the highway at Bhogra point of the highway in protest against the sudden closure of their factory.
The workers turned violent when they saw a closure notice  on the main gate of the factory in the morning.

They then brought out a procession at about 8am and blocked the highway, halting traffic movement for half an hour.
They also damaged several vehicles.Police later dispersed the workers charging baton on them, leaving 10 workers injured.
The workers alleged that the management retrenched two workers on Tuesday and prepared a list of 74 other workers for retrenchment, which caused unrest in the factory.   to read.

* New horizon for RMG:

The news of a high-powered Chinese apparel delegation visiting Bangladesh to source apparel from this country would have shocked anyone beyond belief, a few years ago.

Needless to say, the Chinese were better known for their throw-away prices and unmatched abilities to cause havoc in the world clothing market by way of dumping. Not long ago, there was a saying, Chinese price, meaning an unbelievably low price, and exporters in Bangladesh were quick to utter it when offered with a price from any foreign buyer that they considered far too inadequate.
So, competing with the Chinese in garments trade was beyond any plausible proposition. read more.

* Indian RMG importer takes BD exporters for a ride:

Traders hit by non-payment against exports

As many as nine local medium-category apparel (RMG) factories have been closed down and thirteen others are on the verge of closure as their Indian buyer did not settle their export earnings, industry people said.

The exporters-mostly new, enthusiastic and energetic, have become hapless victims of the importer. The letter of Credit (L/C) opening banks are putting pressure on the exporters to clear the funds the banks have already invested, it has been learnt.

“I have been cheated by the Indian buyer. I am ruined now and unable to offset my losses,” said an exporter preferring anonymity. read more.

* Women entrepreneurs get only 4pc of SME credit:

Some banks disburse only one per cent of their total small and medium enterprises (SME) credit for women entrepreneurs while some totally ignore although only four per cent of the total SME credit disbursed goes to them, a top central bank official alleged Wednesday.

He said serious attention is required from authority concerned so that the banks increase the flow of credit and financing for women entrepreneurs.

“Only four per cent of the SME loan or Tk 50.97 billion goes to women entrepreneurs. This cannot continue and we should get out of this and pay attention to increase the flow of credit for women entrepreneurs,” said Sukumal Sinha Chowdhury, general manager, SME and Special Programmes Department, Bangladesh Bank (BB). read more.

* SEC to file criminal case against RN Spinning:

The Securities and Exchange Commission will file a criminal case against RN Spinning Mills as the textile company violated securities rules during its rights issue offer.

The SEC also imposed restrictions on the sales of shares of RN Spinning Mills by its sponsors, directors and their spouses.
The stockmarket regulator took the decisions at a meeting yesterday with its Chairman M Khairul Hossain in the chair. RN Spinning gave fake documents to an SEC inquiry committee that was formed to investigate the spinner’s rights issue offer, the regulator said in a statement. read more.

13:46:21 local time map of india INDIA

* Apparel industry faces slowing growth:

Export fall, idling capacity, demand concerns weigh on sector

Idle capacity and deferment of expansion summarise the current state of the apparel retail industry, in the midst of a slowdown.
Alok Industries, for example, had plans to expand its weaving, knitting and terry towels’ capacities. “We have shelved the plans,” says Dilip Jiwrajka, managing director. Though sales are expected to grow 35 per cent, payments are coming in late. Till last month, a third of the installed capacity was idle.

Almost all leading companies are budgeting for a slower growth rate this year. “Monthly sales are fluctuating between Rs 80 crore and Rs 140 crore. More, we are expecting only a 30 per cent growth this year, compared to 50 per cent growth in the last two years,” said J Suresh, managing director of Arvind Lifestyle Brands and Arvind Retail. read more.

* Base rate cut by State Bank of India is good news for apparel manufacturers in Tirupur:

There is at last some good news for textile entrepreneurs facing cash crunch in Tirupur cluster as State Bank of India, the largest lender to the apparel industry here, has announced a cut in the base rate with effect from September 20.

The SBI reduced the minimum lending rate by 25 basis points to 9.75 per cent, close on the heels of Reserve Bank of India’s recent decision to bring down the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR). read more.

* Reebok ex-MD, COO held in Rs 870 crore fraud case:

Five executives of Reebok India, including former MD Subhender Singh Prem and ex-COO Vishnu Bhagat, who have allegedly caused losses of Rs 870 crore to the company, were arrested by the special investigation team (SIT) of Gurgaon Police late on Wednesday evening.

“The SIT has arrested five people accused of a role in the Rs 870-crore Reebok fraud and will produce them in a city court on Thursday,” K K Sindhu, Gurgaon commissioner of police, told TOI.
On May 22, the Gurgaon police had lodged an FIR against Prem and Bhagat, whose services were terminated by the company. read more.

* 300 apparel firms to be in Russian fair:

With an aim to explore the Russian textile market, over 300 Indian apparel companies will showcase their products in a fair at Saint Petersburg, which will start from next month.
The four-day Fashion Industry International Fair, which will start from October 11, is one of the largest fair of textiles sector, Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC).
read more.

13:46:21 local time map of sri_lanka SRI LANKA

* Indian boost for Lankan textiles:

In a major bilateral trade move India will open its billion dollar textile industry to Sri Lanka, and set up a joint textiles manufacturing park as well in order to revive the industry here, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said yesterday (19).

“Favourably considering Sri Lanka’s official request made to Minister Anand Sharma during his successful visit to Colombo recently, the Indian goverment has now decided to increase the current five million piece quota given to Sri Lanka to eight million without any sourcing requirements imposed by us,” visiting Secretary of India’s Ministry of Textiles Ms. Kiran Dhingra said, during discussions with Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce in Colombo. read more.

13:16:21 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* Local textile sector pulls exports down:

Severe energy crises, bad law and order situation and dwindling international demand is taking a major toll on the Pakistani textiles sector as exports reduced, while the country consumed $2.79 billion worth of crude petroleum and its products in July-August FY13, which was 7.9 percent more than the amount consumed during the corresponding period of the previous year, official data said.

During July-August 2012-13, the textile sector’s cumulative exports went down by 1.5 percent to $2.164 billion against $2.196 billion in the same period last year, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) reported on Wednesday. read more.

* Textile exporters voice concern:

Textile sector stakeholders are concerned over the decline in exports as showed by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data.

Exporters said the textile sector has been facing immense problems, including energy shortage, security issues and political uncertainties.
“These issues resulted in the diversion of orders to other exporting countries,” said Shabbir Ahmed, chairman of Pakistan Bedwear Exporters Association.

He criticised the working of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), saying that it had failed to facilitate the exporters.
“The Trade Development Authority of Pakistan was mainly engaged in marketing Pakistani goods instead of facilitating exporters,” he alleged.

He said that it was a wrong impression that exports were declining due to global recession.
“There are demands from foreign buyers but due to flawed government policies, the buyers are diverting to other markets,” he added. read more.

 THE KARACHI  FIRE

* The truth behind the flames:

We still do not know what ignited the fire at the Karachi garments factory that killed over 250 people. This is frightening, since it means we have no clue as to how to prevent similar infernos in the future.

The Sindh government tribunal, set up to inquire into the reasons for the blaze, has not come any closer to the truth thus far. Electrical engineers have dismissed claims by firefighters that a short circuit triggered the fire, stating there is no real evidence of this. The firefighting department, as well as others, have yet to come up with full reports. The observation by the chief of the tribunal stating that highly caustic, possibly inflammable chemicals used at the plant could have been a factor, certainly needs to be examined. read more.

* Baldia Town inferno tragedy : Only five labour officers for 10,000 factories! :

“Over 10,000 factories are working in Karachi’s different industrial zones with only five labour officers visiting them, a fact which indicates sheer negligence,” remarked Judicial Commission (JC) headed by Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Alvi, convened to probe garment factory fire case, here on Wednesday.

The JC also recorded the statements of relevant government officers, including Chief Engineer Sindh Industrial and Trade Estate (SITE) Ghulam Shabeer Khokhar, Managing Director SITE Abdul Rasheed Solangi, Deputy Director (Technical), Labour Department, Avais Ahmad Sheikh and others.

The tribunal head, Alvi, said that industries/factories’ laws were constituted around a century ago with the penalty for any illegal act being Rs 100 to 1,000. “It is sad to note that relevant authorities did not attempt to re-constitute the laws,” he added.
read more.

* Short circuit behind Baldia inferno ruled out:

The cause of the fire that wrecked a garment factory in Baldia Town last week and killed more than 250 people became more suspicious on Tuesday when electrical engineers testifying before a Sindh government-established inquiry tribunal dismissed the firefighters’ assessment that an electric short circuit had ignited the blaze.

None of the relevant institutions had compiled their final reports that could help the probe body ascertain the cause of the fire.
They, however, agreed to do so when tribunal chief retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi sought final reports of the fire and Sindh electric and energy departments on Wednesday.

When asked by the tribunal to “speculate” the apparent cause of the fire in the light of his “decades-old firefighting experience”, chief fire officer Ehtashamuddin confidently said “electric short circuit” as the cause of the inferno that took over 50 firefighters more than 24 hours to douse. read more.

* As time runs out in morgues, the living line up:

Four days after the fire at a garment factory in Baldia Town – men, women and children stood outside hospitals and the Edhi morgue, waiting for their turns to give their DNA samples to help identify their loved ones.

According to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital’s spokesperson Dr Saleem Raza, a total of 42 DNA samples were collected, including two on Friday. At Civil Hospital, Karachi, the doctors collected 17 DNA samples, while the staff at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre received 12 DNA samples. Civil hospital’s spokesperson Dr Kamaluddin Shaikh told The Express Tribune that the hospitals were asked to send all blood samples to the police who will then send them for testing. He added that they might call a team of experts to Karachi to hurry up with the DNA assessment.

However, Dr Suresh Kumar, the special secretary of health at the Sindh Health Department, said that all DNA samples were being sent to Islamabad. He added that around 99 bodies and 65 DNA samples had already been sent to the country’s capital. Although the process of matching and sampling DNA takes about 15 days, Kumar claimed that the government was trying to speed things up. read more.

* Factory fire: avoiding repetition:

The inferno at a Karachi garment factory calls for certain action. Once there was a big fire in a New Delhi cinema hall, Uphaar, killing a number of people who did not all happen to belong to the poor segment of society.

The cinema hall, which was located in a posh locality, did not have any ‘exit’ gates. With the passage of time, people’s memory faded. So did the public anger.
Years later, Calcutta saw a severe fire breaking out at a business locality — ‘Territti Market’ — which housed textile goods, tarpaulin, etc. The market had two unauthorised floors, besides letting and sub-letting for inflammable materials without authorisation.

A mere punishment for the owner of the Karachi factory will not solve any problems. No single person in the public office will, perhaps, be found above the complicity in the arena of enforcement.
Alternatively, is it feasible to demolish all such unsafe factory/business premises to make way for new ones conforming to safety standards? A congested neighbourhood along with narrow lanes compounds the problem all the more for fire brigades.

Building rules with open space norms are to be followed not in breach but in observance. All hazardous units should be shifted phase by phase to greener pastures.
Next comes the question of economic development. read more.

13:16:21 local time map of uzbekistan UZBEKISTAN

* Uzbek schoolchildren sent to cotton fields:

Schoolchildren from Tashkent Region’s Urto-Chirchik District are picking cotton along much older students of colleges, the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan has said.

“Children are not only picking cotton but are also being exploited in inhumane conditions for 12 and more hours [a day],” the alliance’s leader Elena Urlayeva said.
The alliance’s activists launched their monitoring campaign last Friday in the cotton fields outside the town of Toytepa in Urto-Chirchik District.

Mostly first-year college students aged 15 or 16 are picking cotton there.
“We are woken up at 5 or 5:30 o’clock in the morning and pick cotton until 7 in the evening,” a first-year student from the Chirchik medical college said.
Young women from this college complained about very poor living conditions: shortages of drinking water and the absence of hot water. read more.

map of Asia

CHINA
* US apparel firm eyes double-digit growth in China

PHILIPPINES
* Labor alliance against contractualization, for a meaningful wage hike, formed

VIET NAM
* Vietnam puts higher expectation on private economic sector

THAILAND
* Somyot’s trial – New court date
* Somyot’s trial – Joint statement
* Free Somyot Now

CAMBODIA
* Education integral to gender goals
* Workshop shows women needed in the workforce

INDONESIA
* House slammed for backing rate hike
* Power Tariff Hike Plan Worried Industrialists

BANGLA DESH
* Blockade on Dhaka-Mymensingh highway; 10 injured
* New horizon for RMG
* Indian RMG importer takes BD exporters for a ride
* Women entrepreneurs get only 4pc of SME credit
* SEC to file criminal case against RN Spinning

INDIA
* Apparel industry faces slowing growth
* Base rate cut by State Bank of India is good news for apparel manufacturers in Tirupur
* Reebok ex-MD, COO held in Rs 870 crore fraud case
* 300 apparel firms to be in Russian fair

SRI LANKA
* Indian boost for Lankan textiles

PAKISTAN
* Local textile sector pulls exports down
* Textile exporters voice concern
THE KARACHI FIRE:
* The truth behind the flames
* Only five labour officers for 10,000 factories!
* Short circuit behind Baldia inferno ruled out
* As time runs out in morgues, the living line up
* Factory fire: avoiding repetition

UZBEKISTAN
* Uzbek schoolchildren sent to cotton fields:

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

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2