* Is self-regulation working? :
Nearly 300 workers were killed last week when flames engulfed a clothing factory in Karachi, Pakistan. Many of them were trapped behind locked exit doors.
This week it has emerged that a US-based monitoring group had approved the safety standards at the Karachi factory just weeks before the fire.
The group is called Social Accountability International, and receives heavy corporate financing.
Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner asked Eileen Kaufman, the executive director of Social Accountability International, if the audit of the factory should have prevented the fire.
“If the auditors found that there were inadequate systems, then they would have asked the factory to correct them. Whether the factory corrects them or not is their decision. If the auditors had found inadequate fire systems and asked the factory to correct them and the factory did not correct them, then it would not have been certified,” Kaufman said.
“And so we would always hope that the audits, the inspections find the data that’s necessary for people to implement the correct changes and to tell people what training is needed and then they would do it. There are voluntary systems. We’re a supplement to government and to regulations but obviously not a substitute,” she added.
The Karachi incident has highlighted serious concerns about the current system of monitoring factories and supply chains.
08:42:39 local time CHINA
* The export of textile and apparel declined by small margin in January-July:
In July 2012 , China `s foreign trade imports and exports valued at USD 328.73 billion. Compared with the same period in 2011 increased 2.7%. Among them, exports worth USD 176.94 billion, an increase of 1.0% y/y; imports worth USD 151.79 billion , an increase of 4.7% y/y;USD 25.15 billion trade surplus, down 16.8%.
* Luxury Is Becoming More Expensive in China:
The slowdown in the economy has knocked the confidence of the Chinese luxury consumers,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman and chief researcher of Hurun Report. Despite this, Chinese consumers are clinging to their high priority purchases. read more.
* New generation of workers demands more respect:
Foxconn reportedly reopened its factory in Taiyuan, Central China’s Shanxi Province Tuesday, one day after the factory was forced to close due to a massive brawl involving nearly 2,000 of its workers. The fight, which was described by some as a “riot,” lasted for four hours from late Sunday to early Monday, leaving some 40 people injured.
According to media reports, the incident was triggered by security guards at the plant beating workers in a dispute.
Some attribute the riot to Foxconn’s quasi-military style of management. Such an approach may have worked with the older generation of workers, but is outdated today when the factories are filled with fresh faces. The Taiyuan factory employs around 79,000 workers, most of whom belong to the new generation of migrant workers, while some even belong to the post-1990s generation.
These workers from the new generation have a higher awareness of their rights and interests, and long for equality and respect. read more.
* Expo gives evidence of manufacturing shift:
The Bangkok-based Chia Tai Group plans to redirect more of its agricultural investment from China to Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, countries, which tend to have lower labor costs and land prices.
The company’s agricultural businesses export processed-food and farm products to European Union countries and the United States.
“Labor costs in ASEAN countries are 30 percent lower than in China, and land prices are 50 percent lower on average,” said Luo Xing, executive of the Guangxi unit of Chia Tai Group’s agro-industry business.
“I’ve given licenses to two garment factories a week,” he said. “That shows how quickly the Chinese are investing in Cambodia. We can compete with our labor costs, as well as with the duty-free policies we have with many countries.”
07:42:39 local time VIET NAM
* Viet Nam makes progress on EU trade deal following Ha Noi forum:
Relations between Viet Nam and the European Union (EU) have gained more momentum with a significant increase in bilateral exchanges in recent months, said Jean-Jacques Bouflet, Trade Counsellor of the EU Delegation at a public dialogue forum held in Ha Noi yesterday.
The forum attracted representatives from ASEAN Member States, Vietnamese Government officials and stakeholder representatives from the private sector and social organisations. The meeting served as an oppoportunity for participants to share their concerns and aspirations about the deepening of their country’s engagement with the EU ahead of the first round of bilateral Free Trade Agreement negotiations between the two sides expected to take place next month.
read more in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 26/9.
* Fashion fair targets textile distributors:
The Viet Nam Fashion Fair is scheduled to open next month, targeting distributors for both domestic and overseas markets.
Hoang Ve Dung, deputy general director of the Viet Nam Textile and Garment Corp (VINATEX), which is organising the annual event, said the fair would showcase production capacity of companies in the industry and the Autumn-Winter season collections. It will also introduce trends of the coming Spring season.
“We wish to continue to introduce to distributors and end-users Viet Nam’s strong brands and provide an opportunity for Vietnamese companies to expand their co-operation with partners elsewhere in a more professional way,” he said. to read.
07:42:39 local time LAOS
* German gives 18 sewing machines for Lao garment development:
Germany increases its support for the development of the Lao garment sector
On Saturday German Ambassador to Laos, Mr Robert von Rimscha officially handed over 18 new industrial sewing machines to the Garment Skills development Centre (GSC) in Vientiane Capital.
German Ambassador Robert von Rimscha stressed the significance of small and medium-sized enterprises for the economic development of the Lao PDR. “Only with a healthy private sector and flourishing smaller companies, the successful path of Laos toward overcoming least developed country status can continue,” said Ambassador.”Within this framework, the garment sector is crucial”
He said that labour intensive, traditional sectors like textiles, tourism and agriculture are core to providing jobs for the many young people of Laos. “Here at GSC, Laotians learn a trade” Competitive trading products is what Laos needs.” He stressed.
Germany provides 650 billion kip for development cooperation with Laos in 2012-2013 which makes it the second biggest bilateral donor. read more.
07:42:39 local time CAMBODIA
* Protest calls for workers to be rehired:
Nearly 100 workers held a strike inside Phnom Penh’s Conpress Holdings jeans factory yesterday to demand the company allow four fired workers to return to work.
The Seak Meanchey district factory, which employs more than 1,000 workers, fired the four in August because they attempted to start a union to protect workers’ rights, Free Trade Union representative Luch Lin Ang said.
“We are afraid the company will fire more workers,” he added.
Worker Yem Srey Net said the company should let the workers return because they did nothing wrong.
“We need union activity to protect against the factory’s demands, including orders to work over hours.” read more.
06:27:39 local time NEPAL
* Run Shoes Industry steps into market:
A new domestic footwear manufacturer Run Shoes Industry has come into operation. Announcing the opening on Monday, the company said that it would add new dynamics to the domestic footwear market through innovative designs and quality products.
Run Shoes Industry maintains exclusive outlets at New Road, New Baneshwor and Chabahil in Kathmandu and numerous retail shops elsewhere in the country from where its products are being sold. read more.
06:42:39 local time BANGLA DESH
* BD may get duty free access to Russia next year:
A top diplomat of Bangladesh to Russia Tuesday said the country (Bangladesh) might get duty free access to the world’s 10th economy in 2013.
“We’re trying hard to resume GSP facility for our country within 2013,” Dr SM Saiful Huq, ambassador of Bangladesh to Russian Federation told the reporters while visiting Bangladeshi stalls at the 39th textile fair organised at the All Russian Exhibition Centre in Moscow.
Bangladesh used to enjoy GSP (generilised system of preference) in Russia until 1997.
GSP facility will enhance competitive edge for local garment manufacturers in the US$ 6.5 billion plus Russian clothing market. read more.
06:12:39 local time INDIA
* Powerlooms threaten to shift:
The powerloom industry has threatened to shift out of Maharashtra if their power subsidy is not hiked.
With the recent rise in electricity tariff by more than 16% in the state, the powerloom industry in Maharshtra is suffering heavy loss as subsidy given to them was not increased with the price rise. A delegation of Powerloom Owners’ Association headed by MLA Rashid Momin met chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanding an increase in subsidy.
The association representatives informed the CM about the present situation and claimed that if subsidy given to them was not increased then they might be forced to shift their powerlooms to other states that are charging lower electricity tariff than Maharashtra. read more.
* Indian handlooms seek govt help to compete powerlooms:
* Textile ind seeks higher domestic sourcing in multi brand retail:
* Textile chronicles…:
Capturing the history and culture of Mumbai, Social Fabric is an exhibition which traces the history of textile trading in Mumbai from early colonial days. The city’s oldest museum, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum that currently has a strong focus on contemporary art has come together with INIVA, the Institute of International Visual Arts, London to feature artworks by eminent artists like Sudhir Patwardhan, Archana Hande, German artist Alice Creischer and UK based artist Celine Condorelli among many others.
“A lot of research was done to bring this exhibition together. I have studied the textile industry for a long time and we wanted people who were serious about their work to put forth their best. If you see, every artist has their own way of expression and in the end that is what matters,” says Grant Watson, co-curator. The museum also has many dioramas and models that find congruence with subject of textile mills as they showcase culture and life of people as depicted in the exhibition. “There are dioramas of the earliest mills in Mumbai, of the first chawls, of a textile weaver’s hut and clay models demonstrating the various processes of making and embellishing textiles,” says Tasneem Mehta who is the curator for the museum. read more.
* Minimum pension proposal with department:
Union Labour Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge has said that 10 lakh families in the country receive pension less than Rs. 500 per month and 83 per cent of the pensioners receive pension less than Rs. 1,000 per month.
After inaugurating a sub-regional office of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation here on Tuesday, he told a gathering that a pensioner must get a minimum of Rs. 1,000 as pension per month. He said he is trying to achieve this and a proposal is before the Finance Department. He made an appeal to all members of Parliament, leaders of trade unions and State governments to bring pressure to bear on the Union government to realise this. read more.
06:12:39 local time SRI LANKA
* Biggest Indian textile delegation arrives in Colombo:
The biggest ever textile industry delegation from India arrived in Colombo on 18 September.
“We warmly welcome the high level textile delegation which is here in the aftermath of Minister Anand Sharma’s well known recent visit to Colombo to boost bilateral co-operation. The latest visit is an important event for our apparel sector and Minister Sharma has decided to include four high ranking Secretaries under him showing the seriousness of Indian textile sector” revealed Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 18 September in Colombo.
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 private sector.
“The latest high level visit will also help us to increase our garment exports to India further,” Minister Bathiudeen added. read more.
05:42:39 local time PAKISTAN
* ‘Govt should give soft loans to small garment units’:
The government should facilitate small garment units by providing them soft loans to enable them to take necessary measures that are essential to become socially compliant – a precondition of foreign garment buyers, experts said on Tuesday.
Adil Butt, chairman-elect of the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA), said that the industry and the government planners should realise the gravity of the situation and take immediate remedial measures to ensure full social compliance by the entire garment sector.
Social compliance has emerged as a major issue for apparel exporters after the deaths at a garment factory in Karachi as even the most compliant industries are being scrutinised by foreign buyers, he said.
Most of the large garment units are fully compliant socially in line with the best global standards, he said, and admitted that several smaller units are not fully compliant with the requirements of foreign buyers.
Social compliance pays the industry in the long run in the shape of improved efficiencies and less sick leaves of the workers, said Butt. read more.
* Textile imports down 11.17pc in July-August (2012-13):
The textile imports into the country fell in July-August (2012-13) by 11.17 per cent against the same period of last year.
The overall imports of textile group remained US $374.341 million during first two months of current fiscal year against the imports of US $421.433 million during the same period of previous year.
According the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the imports of synthetic fibre shrank by 28.51 percent during the during the period under review.
read more. & read more. & read more.
THE KARACHI FIRE:
* Owners told to file assets list in court:
The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the owners of the gutted garment factory in Baldia Town to file a complete list of their respective properties and assets in court within 10 days.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam was seized with as many as five identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the fire incident that claimed lives of over 250 workers on Sept 11.
The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Rana Faizul Hasan, a civil right campaigner and others filed the petitions for institution of a judicial commission who may fix the responsibility on persons responsible for such an incident and suggest monetary compensation to the legal heirs of the inferno victims.
* Lazy fire brigade to blame for tragedy, say owners:
The owners of Ali Enterprises, the ill-fated garment factory where 258 people died in a fire, have refuted all claims of negligence on their part and blamed the late arrival of fire tenders for the tragedy.
Shahid Bhaila and his brother Arshad Bhaila appeared before the two-member commission on Monday for the first time since the hearing began on September 17. The third owner, their father Abdul Aziz Bhaila, could not turn up because of health problems.
“Had the fire brigade arrived sooner, the loss could have been contained,” said Shahid Bhaila while testifying before the tribunal constituted by the Sindh government to determine the cause of fire.
Allegations of closed doors, an unregistered factory or no fire safety measures inside the building were all rejected by the owners.
Earlier, the chief fire officer, Ehtisham Saleem, informed the tribunal that fire tenders had reached the spot within 15 minutes and continued the operation till the fire was extinguished. But Shahid Bhaila disagreed, saying: “We rang up the fire emergency number many times, but did not get a response. I had to send my manager personally to the SITE fire station. Despite our hectic efforts, the first fire tender arrived after one hour.” read more.
* Fire officer records his statement to the tribunal:
The tribunal, formed to investigate the cause of fire which erupted in one of Karachi’s factory killing at least 258 people on Sept 11, summoned some of the surviving workers on Wednesday to record their testimonies, DawnNews reported.
Chief Fire Officer Ehtesham uddin appeared before the tribunal, headed by Justice (retd) Qurban Alvi, to present his testimony.
The chief fire officer presented the call records of the day of the incident and daily journal of the fire department to the tribunal.
Answering a question, the chief officer said that it was necessary to examine the map of the factory so that it can be ascertained that how many emergency exits were initially planned. read more.
* Fire dept fails to find cause of Baldia factory inferno:
The fire department submitted on Tuesday its final report to an inquiry tribunal investigating the Baldia Town garment factory inferno, which killed more than 250 workers on Sept 11, and admitted that it did not have the means to determine the cause of a fire.
The report submitted by chief fire officer Ehtashamuddin to the Sindh government-established tribunal headed by retired Justice Zahid Qurban Alvi, however, ‘assessed’ the cause to be a short circuit.
In the final report the department gave details of its operation. It said the provincial institutions, including the Sindh Industrial and Trading Estate Limited and Civil Defence, failed to keep checks on the ‘serious violations’ of the building and safety rules by Ali Enterprises.
“Would it be right to say that a short circuit could be the cause of the fire, but you don’t have the expertise to declare it so?” asked Justice Alvi and the chief fire officer replied in the affirmative.
“Neither do we have the expertise nor do laboratories carry out a forensic examination of the affected place. The cause of the fire we have mentioned in the report is based on our assessment and experience, but not as a result of a technical analysis,” he said, adding that other causes of the fire could not be ruled out.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Short circuit may have caused the fire, says fire brigade:
In their initial report, fire brigade officials have conjectured that a short circuit might have caused the inferno which ravaged Ali Enterprises’ garment factory in Baldia.
“This is not the final report,” said the chief fire officer, Ehtisham Saleem. “We do not have a forensic expert to ascertain the fire’s cause and using our vast experience, we have merely surmised that a short circuit led to the inferno.”
This is the second time that fire department officials appeared before the judicial committee, which was formed by the Sindh government on September 12 to ascertain the cause behind the fire. A day earlier, the factory’s owners, Shahid Bhaila and his brother Arshad Bhaila, had appeared before the committee and castigated the fire department’s inefficiency in dealing with the incident.
During the proceeding, Justice (retd) Zahid Qurban Ali, who is heading the committee, asked the fire brigade how they deduced that a short circuit had caused the inferno. “Frequent power fluctuations can cause a short circuit. I think this was also the case with the Baldia factory fire,” said Saleem. read more.
* Baldia factory fire: Who is architect Qamar Uddin? :
Two weeks after a fire gutted Ali Enterprise factory, killing 258 people trapped inside, the authorities have still not found its architect and industry officials now doubt he even exists, highlighting the shady way in which many building designs are approved in Karachi.
Inquires made by The Express Tribune to track him down have led to dead ends with both professional bodies – the Pakistan Council of Architects and Town Planners and the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP) – equally clueless.
The 6×4 feet blueprint of the factory says that Muhammad Qamar Uddin, with an architect’s licence number of A1-01-67, designed the building. His address is stated to be R-631, Sector 9, North Karachi.
PTCL record shows that a phone connection has been registered under the name of Qamar Uddin at the same home address. The number, however, is dead. read more.
* Pension Systems in ASEAN, Indonesia Unprepared for Rapidly Aging Population:
Pension systems in many parts of developing Asia are unprepared and underfunded to meet the needs of the region’s rapidly aging population, especially as globalization breaks down traditional family support, says a new book launched today by the Asian Development Bank(ADB).
“Across Asia, great divides exist in pensions available in rural and urban areas, between retirees from the public and private sectors, and those leaving the informal and formal job sectors,” said ADB Principal Economist Donghyun Park and editor of pension systems in ASEAN; Promoting Fairness and Sustainability Pension systems need to be fair in coverage, net benefits and retirement age, according to the book. These systems also need to be financially sustainable to assure people that the benefits promised at the end of their working lives are in fact delivered.
A key part of Asia’s economic success story in recent decades has been its youthful population. The increase in the working population has significantly contributed to the expansion of the labor force, widespread growth and greater savings. This demographic dividend is tailing off, however, and falling fertility and rising longevity mean Asia’s median age is rapidly becoming older. read more.
* Asian miracle workers head for poor old age:
Hundreds of millions of workers behind Asia’s economic miracle are heading into uncertain old age after governments failed to set aside enough funds for their pensions, said a book released Tuesday.
“Without far-reaching reforms, the financial burdens of these (Asian pension) schemes on future workers may become politically unacceptable,” said the book, edited by Asian Development Bank principal economist Park Donghyun.
The book, “Pension Systems in East and Southeast Asia: Promoting Fairness and Sustainability”, forecast current or looming problems both in rapidly greying East Asia as well as younger Southeast Asia.
“Just as Asia’s economic landscape was transformed… due to exceptionally rapid growth, its demographic landscape is transforming due to a change in population age structure that is unprecedented both in its scale and speed,” it said. read more.