in the news on-line, 12 October 2012

06:40:13 local time map of china CHINA

* Act 2: The curtain rises again on severe pollution from textile manufacturing in China. Are the good guys going to do anything about it? :

Yesterday in Beijing, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a leading environmental NGO in China, released its second in a series of disturbing exposés about the severe water pollution problems caused by textile dyeing and finishing in China (http://www.ipe.org.cn/Upload/Report-Textiles-Phase-II-EN.pdf).

The report documents the huge pollution caused by the fashion industry and identifies 49 top brands — from Armani to Zara — that contract with these polluting factories to manufacture their apparel.   Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, and Jasmine will all be saddened to see that even Disney is complicit in this problem, and that the company has been unresponsive to calls to improve. (http://www.ipe.org.cn/En/alliance/new_sc.aspx?pid=007 )  Perhaps now that he is grown, Simba can save the day.

The IPE report finds that industrial waste discharges from the apparel industry is a severe problem that is not improving fast enough.  Discharge violations from the industry abound.  The inescapable conclusion is this sector refuses to clean up its act, and the reasons are clear:  The scofflaws face no consequences to their bad behavior.  In highlighting this dismal state of affairs, the IPE report serves up a timely reminder of how much more remains to be done.  Timely because the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is meeting this week in Hong Kong, and the group must begin addressing this problem in a serious and concerted way. read more.

* Praise and condemnation for brands over pollution:

Major retail brands including Gap, H&M, Levi’s and IKEA have stepped up management of suppliers and are researching ways to cut pollution in supply chains following a report that suppliers were illegally discharging sewage in China.

In an April report, the Green Choice Alliance, a coalition of non-governmental organizations trying to promote a green supply chain, found that the suppliers of nearly 20 Chinese and multinational brands were responsible for pollution.

Yesterday, it issued a follow-up report on the companies’ responses.
* Clothing giant H&M said it had looked into all the cases raised in the alliance’s   report and had begun using a pollution database to screen suppliers.
* Gap had begun an investigation and was pushing suppliers to provide explanations for environmental non-compliance, while IKEA said it would push any suppliers found at fault to take corrective action and disclose environmental information.
* Levi’s said it was monitoring its dyeing and finishing sector in a bid to control pollution.
* C&A said it had carried out checks and found that two companies named were its suppliers. C&A said it had assurances from these suppliers that their problems had been corrected. …. read more.

05:40:13 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* Trade barriers hinder growth of Cambodia’s export industry:

Cambodia could reap even greater benefits from trade facilitation measures in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) by removing high logistics costs, delays and other barriers that hamper the country’s connectivity and competitiveness, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) book released here on Thursday.

“Cambodia’s exporters are well-positioned within the GMS to grow and expand,” said Peter Brimble, senior country economist and author of one of the book chapters. “Policy adjustments can help reduce cost and transport times, making Cambodian exporters more competitive and enhancing their credibility.”
(…)
At the sector level, the book looked at garments, rice and wood exporters, conducting interviews with 120 small and medium enterprises and 39 export companies.

Cambodian firms reported a lack of reliable energy supply, shortages of labor with sector-specific skills, financing constraints, and government regulations that slow down their ability to import inputs and also hamper their ability to export more.

Cambodian garment exports accounted for about 82 percent of all Cambodian exports. However, without a stable electricity and water supply, manufacturers say they aren’t able to produce high quality fabrics that would allow them to move up the value chain, whilst food exporters face shortages of investment capital, industry- specific infrastructure, and international familiarity with Cambodian products.

“These constraints not only hold back exports, but also affect foreign direct investment,” the book noted. read more.

06:40:13 local time map of malaysia MALAYSIA

* Factories retrenching as output slips, minimum wage looms:

Manufacturers in Malaysia are shedding workers due to uncertainty over the global economy and the impending start of minimum wage next year, says RHB Research Institute.

RHB said in a report yesterday that in line with a slowdown in sales, the manufacturers retrenched 4,609 workers in August compared to a recruitment of 441 workers in July. Unemployment was 3.1 per cent in July, with an estimated two million foreign workers employed in the country. read more.

06:40:13 local time map of indonesia INDONESIA

* Adidas ‘humanitarian aid’ gives cold shoulder to Kizone workers:

One month after our petition with nearly 50,000 signatures was handed over to adidas by US and European activists, the sports brand issued a statement saying how they intend to respond to the outstanding US$1.8million in severance payments owed to former Kizone workers in Indonesia.

The statement contains a proposal for a global summit in late October in Geneva to discuss proposals for a general private insurance fund for all workers affected by factory closures and non-payment of wages and benefits. A second proposal is to commit another US$275,000 in humanitarian aid to the Kizone workers. The first batch of humanitarian aid worth US$250,000 was provided to workers in supermarket vouchers   worth just 43 euros, which the workers explicitly rejected as a method of payment. adidas argue they should not have to pay the full amount because they had left the factory by the time the factory closed down, but as we have made clear in previous updates the violations began whilst adidas were still sourcing at the factory.
(….)
Workers’ protest

Just after adidas issued the statement, workers in Indonesia were again fighting for their rights. On October 1st, the former Kizone workers and allies staged a colourful protest at the Supreme Court, which was followed by a demo at adidas’s Jakarta office. adidas refused to meet the whole group of workers. At the Supreme Court, they called for a quick resolution to the Kizone bankruptcy, and for workers to receive the full amount of money. Workers from other factories spoke about their experience in similar struggles, and the need for solidarity. adidas refused to meet the whole group.

adidas clearly shows it has no intentions to speak to the Kizone workers. The company continues to fail to consult or even inform the workers. The legitimate union representative of the workers has not yet been notified of these plans to provide humanitarian aid and hold a summit. adidas’ claims to ‘[p]rotect[] the interests of global workers involved in producing our footwear and apparel’, seem hardly credible in the light of its actions. read more.

04:25:13 local time map of nepal NEPAL

* Export of readymade garments to India drops:

An unexpected decrease in the export of Nepali readymade garments has shattered the  expectations of Nepali exporters of making India its next prime export destination.

According to garment exporters, due to non-tariff harassment, garment exporters are using illegal channels to export their products to India, due to which real figures may
be missing from the available original export data.

“We are quite surprised with the changes in the export figures to India,” said president of Garment Association – Nepal Uday Raj Pandey, adding that the demand for Nepali readymade garments is good in India.

“We had high expectations  regarding garment exports to the Indian market but the reason behind the drop is yet to be identified,” he said. read more.

04:40:13 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLA DESH

* BKMEA for releasing cash incentive before Eid to pay workers’ arrears:

Knitwear manufacturers demanded disbursement of cash incentive before the Eid-ul-Azha so that they can pay all arrears to the workers.

Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) in a letter Thursday requested the finance ministry to take steps to release the cash support before the festival.
Hailing the government’s initiative of releasing the first installment of the budgetary cash allocation worth Tk 5.12 billion before Eid-ul-Fitr, the association said this timely disbursement helped the exporters to avert labour unrest.

“There is possibility of labour unrest in the knit sector this time if the exporters do not get the cash incentive timely,” Md Hatem, acting president of BKMEA said.

Eid and Puja holidays are expected to start from October 24 and there would be no working day after October 23, he explained. read  more.

* Hallmark Group’s workers stage demo:

Workers of a garment factoy, owned by the scandal-hit  Hallmark Group, on Thursday staged demonstration at Hemayetpur demanding  payment of their arrears.

A large number of workers from different units of the factory took part in the agitation inside the factory in the morning demanding that salaries for the last two months and wages for extra duty be paid immediately.
They, however, could not come out of the factiry due to obstruction by police.

Meanwhile, the authioriies declared the factory closed for the day following agitation by the workers.
The workers said that the authorities did not pay their salaries for the months of August and September and wages for extra duty.

The Hallmark Group came to spotlight as the company was accused of taking huge amount of money as loan from a branch of Sonali Bank in Dhaka. read more.

04:10:13 local time map of india INDIA

* Cabinet note on change in contract labour law soon:

After a spell of industrial unrest due to wide difference in wages of permanent and temporary workers, the labour ministry is preparing a Cabinet note for amending the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act to ensure parity in wages, social benefits and improve enforcement.

The government is also considering amendments in the Minimum Wages Act, Employees’ Provident Fund Act, Factories Act and the Building and Other Construction Workers Act to ensure better working conditions for labourers, labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge said at a conference. read more.

* Weavers raise grievances at handloom camp:

The Handloom Package Camp organised by the development commissioner (handloom) at Indian Institute of Handloom Technology (IIHT), Chowkaghat premises on Thursday witnessed disruptions and chaos right from beginning of the programme.

The drama started as a weaver, Faulad Ansari from Badi Bazaar area, got on to the main stage where Kiran Dhingra, secretary, textile was seated along with other officials, and charged them, banks and weavers’ co-operative societies of adopting a biased attitude regarding financial packages and other schemes.

Notably, the camp was organised to mark the formal beginning of distribution of welfare and developmental schemes among selected weavers. However, following Ansari, an angry mob of weavers from the city forced Dhingra and other officials to stop the symbolic distribution of weavers credit cards and weavers accessories in the middle of the programme, and demanded individual hearing of problems faced by weavers community. read more.

* Garment makers explore new markets to raise exports:

With exports not registering any growth in the last 3 ½ years, garment makers from Tirupur are aiming to ship at least a third of their merchandise to markets outside the US and EU. Non-traditional markets (non-US , non-EU ) currently account for only about a fourth of the total garment exports from Tirupur. While the EU accounts for about 50% of the exports from the knitwear town, nearly 26% of the shipments go to the US.

“Our aim is to increase the share of exports to non-traditional markets from 24% to 35%. Subsequently, the share of EU would come down to around 40%,” said A Sakthivel, president , Tirupur Exporters’ Association. read more.

* Cotton sourcing firm to procure 18 lakh bales this year:

In a bid to cut costs of cotton procurement and transportation, around 50 textile spinning mills in the region have joined hands to float the Cotton Sourcing Company (Cosco).
These mills, which have a capacity of around 20 lakh spindles or nearly 10% of the total spinning capacity in Tamil Nadu, aim to buy 18 lakh bales (1 bale = 170 kg) during the current cotton season (October-September ) through Cosco .

“Since we have the volumes, we would be able to get the advantages of large players . We would also be able to provide prompt payment to cotton ginners,” said M S Rajarathinam, chief executive officer, Cosco. read more.

* Bt cotton demonstrates biotech’s potential, says expert:

Bt cotton has delivered significant benefits to all members of the agricultural value chain in the country, and has contributed to a cumulative national farm income of about $9.4 billion between 2002 and 2010, turning India from an importer of cotton to an exporter, according to T M Manjunath, a consultant in agricultural biotechnology and integrated pest management.

“In India, various studies have revealed that increase in yield due to effective control of bollworms and reduction in insecticide applications following the introduction of Bt cotton were about 50%. Further, a farmer was able to earn a profit that ranged from Rs 7,800 to 30,500 per hectare. Given this track record, it is clear that plant biotechnology, which can offer several more beneficial traits, has the tremendous potential to improve agriculture in India and the world over,” he said.read more.

* 7 Reebok scam accused sent in judicial custody:

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) produced all seven accused in the Rs 870 crore Reebok India case, who were arrested recently, in a city court on Wednesday and sent them in 14 days’ judicial custody. The accused were arrested by the SIT late on Tuesday night in connection with the Rs 870 crore Reebok India scam.

Only one of the seven accused is working with Reebok India at present while the other six had quit the job before the scam was unearthed.
Meanwhile, Surakshit Bhatt, a co-accused in the case, applied for bail on Wednesday in a city court. The court fixed the date of hearing on October 13. This is the first bail application filed by an accused in the Reebok India case. read more.

03:40:13 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* ‘No option but to revive textile industry’:

For the sustainability of Pakistan’s economy, the hurdles faced by the textile industry must be removed with friendly policies as the industry is the single largest provider of employment, brings huge export orders and lends support to all those western businesses which are shifting focus to this region, says a foreign industry representative.

“Pakistan has no other option but to revive its textile sector, not for us, but for its economy,” said Denis Chiarello, Area Sales Manager of Italy-based company Tonello, while talking to The Express Tribune.

Chiarello was in Lahore to display his company’s machinery at the 7th International Textile and Garment Machinery Exhibition – IGATEX Pakistan 2012, which started on Thursday at the Lahore Expo Centre.

“We have been providing latest machinery for garments in Pakistan for 10 years and I believe Pakistan is still the best part of the world for textile business. But the energy crisis and poor law and order situation have struck not only the local millers, but also foreign companies, which are operating from Pakistan due to increased cost of doing businesses in the West,” he said. read more.

* New study: Assessment of textile value chain on cards:

The Ministry of Textile Industry will conduct a “Productivity Benchmark Study” to evaluate the working efficiency of the entire textile value chain industry in the country.

The study will be completed within nine months and will help determine issues and challenges faced by the local textile industry, said Dr Khalid Abdullah, cotton development commissioner in the Ministry of Textile Industry.

The main aim of the study is to measure the existing work capacity of a unit, the current operation timing, and its possible output. It would help local industry operate at its full working capacity by minimising the cost of production with rational usage of valuable inputs, including raw material, energy and the labour force in the country.
to read.

* Pakistan can gain from likely dip in Indian cotton exports:

Pakistani cotton traders can benefit if Indian cotton exports fall sharply during the current fiscal, Mr. Ihsanul Haq, former executive member of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA), has said.
Last fiscal, India exported record 12.78 million bales of cotton, with China, the biggest importer of Indian cotton, importing around seven to eight million bales of the same.
However, experts foresee a 50 percent fall in India’s cotton exports during the current fiscal, mainly on account of reduced interest of Chinese buyers in Indian cotton. This can be a great opportunity for Pakistani cotton traders, Mr. Haq said in a statement. read more.

* There’re several reasons behind weakness in cotton prices:

Cotton prices which had risen by about Rs 300 per maund (37.32 Kgs) during the first half of this week conceded about Rs 100 per maund on Thursday displaying weakness in the market. Some quarters in the market attributed the weakness in the cotton market to payment problems being faced by the trade due to credit difficulties.

Others suggested that seedcotton arrivals which had decreased over the previous few days have now resumed to relatively increased levels.
There is also the perception in the market that as and how this year’s crop (August 2012 – July 2013) hastens into maturity, the seedcotton arrivals should increase putting more pressure on both the growers and the ginners to sell their produce. Another section of the trade suggested that mills have withdrawn from cotton purchases and thus the market prices have eased. read more.

* Textile Policy (2009-14): key initiatives in limbo:

Key initiatives of the Textile Policy (2009-14) are in limbo, as the government has not released any amount to the Ministry of Textile Industry during the current fiscal year, informed sources told Business Recorder Thursday.
The government earmarked Rs 7.5 billion in budget 2012-13 for implementation of Textile Policy, however in the first quarter, not a single penny was released to the ministry, senior officials said.

Due to inadequate funds some key policy initiatives have yet to be launched, which are not only causing resentment among the industry following huge pending liabilities under operationalised schemes, but are also hampering projects” execution and their timely completion. read more.

   THE KARACHI  FIRE:

* Agonising wait ends as seven factory fire victims identified:

News of the death of loved ones in the Baldia garments factory fire last month must have been devastating. What is equally agonising is the wait many families have had to face for the identification of victims burnt beyond recognition. For seven families, that wait ended on Thursday.

The Edhi Foundation received the bodies of seven victims after DNA tests, and sent them to their families.

The victims identified are Mohammad Hanif, resident of Orangi Town, Mohammad Asif, resident of Baldia Town, Mohammad Imran, resident of Nazimabad, Mohammad Israr, resident of Baldia Town, Amna Bibi, wife of Allah Bukhsh, resident of Baldia Town, Masood ul Hassan, resident of Federal B Area, and Mohammad Faizan, resident of Baldia Town.

Edhi officials insist they received 202 bodies at their Sohrab Goth morgue, while government officials have put the death toll at 259.  read more.

* Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire:

Labour rights groups call upon Social Accountability International (SAI) to release information on brand buyers and factory audit reports

  • Victims of tragic factory fire in Pakistan are denied  crucial information to hold brand buyers accountable
  • SAI and SAAS refuse to cooperate in identifying international buyers that were at the factory or release the findings of accredited auditors
  • SA8000 certification gave clean bill of health to Ali Enterprises factory that went up in flames and cost the lives of nearly 300 garment workers

Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)  and the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUF) are calling upon New York-based Social Accountability International (SAI) and its related body Social Accountability Accreditation Services (SAAS) to release information about the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Pakistan, where 300 workers were killed in a factory fire last month. Ali Enterprises had received an SA8000 certification for decent working conditions from the SAAS-accredited Italian auditor Registro Italiano Navale Group (RINA) only one month prior to the tragedy.

The SA8000 standard, developed and promoted by SAI, applies to all industrial sectors and is supposed to guarantee that production takes place under decent working conditions. The standard includes respect for human and labour rights, a prohibition of child labour, and protection of health and safety in the workplace.

On 11th of September 2012 nearly 300 workers were killed when fire ripped through the factory which was producing jeans for export. The factory was not legally registered with the Pakistan government and had failed to provide the majority of workers with employment contracts. The high death toll resulted from inadequate fire exits, blocked staircases and barred windows, preventing many workers from escaping the blaze.

Says Nasir Mansoor from the National Trade Union Federation in Pakistan: ‘It is unbelievable that major apparel companies and accreditation bodies are hiding their involvement in the Ali Enterprises factory or denying their responsibility for the fire. The families of the deceased and injured workers deserve full transparency about the role of auditing organisations that gave a clean bill of health to the factory’s safety, and the brands that were able to make profits at the expense of workers’ safety.’

In an answer to a letter from the coalition of international labour rights groups, SAI and SAAS denied any responsibility for the fire, citing confidentiality agreements as the reason neither they nor the Italian auditing company, RINA, can share any information they possess about the factory. They claim that RINA and SAAS are both conducting investigations, but refuse to share their information with the worker representatives in Pakistan.

‘The terrible events of the 11th September highlight the weaknesses of the SAI certification system, which has badly let down those it is paid to protect,’ said Deborah Lucchetti of the Italian Clean Clothes Campaign. ‘If SAI is to maintain any credibility it must drop the veil of secrecy it is currently hiding behind and start cooperating with those groups working for justice for the victims of the Ali Enterprises fire.’
read more. & read more.

   

03:40:13 local time map of uzbekistan UZBEKISTAN

* Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan “Ezgulik” calls on the World Bank to take into account Human Rights:

OPEN LETTER TO THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD BANK

Shigeo Katsu, October 11, 2012
Vice-President of the World Bank
Europe and Central Asia Division

Dear Mr. Katsu,

First of all, I would like to express my respect to You and to the World Bank, which has contributed a lot to the development and poverty alleviation in developing countries, including in Uzbekistan. However, we believe that not all World Bank projects in Uzbekistan deserve unconditional approval. In particular, our concern is that some of the projects in the agricultural sector supported by the Bank have not received adequate prior study and have not been sufficiently consulted with civil society organizations and human rights groups. At least, neither our organization nor other local human rights groups I’m aware of have been ever contacted and consulted despite the fact that we work together with them to addressing social and rights related issues existing in the farming sector of Uzbekistan.

Our human rights organization has been for last several years monitoring the situation with the rights of farmers and the use of child labor in the cotton sector. Our research has shown that the use of forced child labor in this sector is widespread. According to our observations, children are sent to the cotton fields to pick cotton not by their parents, but by their school administrations at the directive of the district and provincial authorities. read more.

map of Asia

The next newsletter and news bulletin will be published 15 October 2012.

Under “special reports” you can find: an overview of articles about the Garment factory Fire in Karachi (and Lahore).

CHINA
* Act 2: The curtain rises again on severe pollution from textile manufacturing in China. Are the good guys going to do anything about it?
* Praise and condemnation for brands over pollution

CAMBODIA
* Trade barriers hinder growth of Cambodia’s export industry

MALAYSIA
* Factories retrenching as output slips, minimum wage looms

INDONESIA
* Adidas ‘humanitarian aid’ gives cold shoulder to Kizone workers

NEPAL
* Export of readymade garments to India drops

BANGLA DESH
* BKMEA for releasing cash incentive before Eid to pay workers’ arrears
* Hallmark Group’s workers stage demo

INDIA
* Cabinet note on change in contract labour law soon
* Weavers raise grievances at handloom camp
* Garment makers explore new markets to raise exports
* Cotton sourcing firm to procure 18 lakh bales this year
* Bt cotton demonstrates biotech’s potential, says expert
* 7 Reebok scam accused sent in judicial custody

PAKISTAN
* ‘No option but to revive textile industry
* New study: Assessment of textile value chain on cards
* Pakistan can gain from likely dip in Indian cotton exports
* There’re several reasons behind weakness in cotton prices
* Textile Policy (2009-14): key initiatives in limbo
* THE KARACHI FIRE:
* Agonising wait ends as seven factory fire victims identified
* Factory certification body fails to assist victims of Karachi factory fire

UZBEKISTAN
* Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan “Ezgulik” calls on the World Bank to take into account Human Rights

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