15:38:57 local time CHINA
* Apparel industry should further tap the mainland market:
Of these five industries, the apparel industry seems to have the most mature conditions. Since the middle of the last century, Hong Kong began transforming from a re-export commercial port into an industrial city of export, and the apparel industry played an indispensable role in leading the industrialization of the city. Besides, garments have always been an important part of our export.
The development of the apparel industry depends greatly on consumption in the target market. Developed countries in Europe and Japan haven”t yet recovered from the global financial crisis and the macroeconomic environment is fatigued and weak. These countries don”t encourage consumption, and consumers hold a cautious disposition when buying. In comparison, the emerging markets, where the demand is increasing, are unprecedentedly important. read more.
* Income doubling goal needs strategy:
While local governments are contemplating plans to double residential disposable income per capita, experts expressed their concerns Sunday over how to make those scenarios come true.
“The governments of Beijing, Helongjiang Province and other regions and municipalities are working on plans to double the per capita incomes of residents,” Yang Yiyong, director of the Institute for Social Development under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), was quoted as saying by East China’s Shandong Province-based Jinan Daily Sunday.
Northwest China’s Gansu Province announced on November 20 that the province is expected to accomplish the double disposable income goal by 2016, which means the annual growth rate of local disposable income per capita should remain at 15 percent. read more.
14:38:57 local time VIET NAM
* FDI capital begins flowing to dyeing and textile projects:
As predicted, the foreign direct investment (FDI) flow has been heading for the dyeing and textile sector, because investors can take full advantage of the tariff preferences Vietnam can enjoy as the member of the Trans- Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, expected to be wrapped up soon, and of the other free trade agreements (FTAs).
A lot of fiber manufacturers and dyeing enterprises have come to Vietnam recently to seek the opportunities to invest in the dyeing, textile and material production projects.
In November alone, Vietnam received nearly 10 foreign enterprises which have suggested setting up joint ventures with the Vietnam Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) and its subsidiaries, to make garment materials in Vietnam.
These include the big groups from the countries with developed textile and garment industries, namely Chinese Texhong, Japanese Toray International and Mitsui, Austrian Lenzing and Chinese Sunrise Textile and Garment Company. read more.
14:38:57 local time THAILAND
* Wage Hike Affecting Thai Employers:
The government’s new wage hike policy in which workers in all areas across the country will receive a daily minimum wage of 300 baht (US$9.78) beginning Jan 1 next year is affecting several employers.
In the country’s northeastern Chaiyaphum province, several textile plants are either planning to shut down or relocate to neighbouring countries after the enforcement of daily minimum wage policy, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.
Theeravara Vitnakorn, chief executive officer of Hi-Tech Chaiyaphum Apparel Co., Ltd., said the wage hike policy appears to be affecting Chaiyaphum province’s textile industry.
He anticipated that some textile manufacturers would close down their businesses and many would relocate their production bases to neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia where wages are lower.
“Several small textile factories in Chaiyaphum have already closed down and many are planning to reduce staff,” he said. read more.
* SME demand for soft loans to exceed govt target:
Small and medium-sized enterprises affected by the government’s wage-hike policy are expected to demand soft loans exceeding the government target of Bt20 billion, Wiboon Permarayawong, president of Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation (TCG), said yesterday.
The TCG, a state-owned agency, has been joining hands with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand in a government loan scheme to support small businesses adversely affected by the hike in minimum wage to Bt300 a day.
Two months since the implementation, the SME Bank has loaned Bt2.05 billion, with 100-per-cent loan guarantee by the TCG, said Wiboon. The government offered Bt7.5 billion loan via the SME Bank in the first phase for those who want to buy new machines and improve their productivity in order to offset the rising cost of wages. SMEs can apply for the loan until April next year and the government plans to offer another Bt12 billion in the second phase when the new minimum wage comes into effect nationwide next year.
The wage-hike policy recently sparked a conflict at the Federation of Thai Industries as representatives of SMEs voted to oust the chairman who was accused of not protecting the interest of smaller businesses. The wage hike is also not popular among Japanese investors. Labour-intensive industries such as garment and leather products are expected to be hit hard. read more.
* Free Somyot Update:
* UN’s legal opinion on arbitrary detention. read more.
* Group helping lese majeste detainees upset with media, govt:
Nearly half a year ago, a group of family members affected by the controversial lese majeste law decided to form The Network of Family Members and Peoples Affected by Article 112.
This, they believed, was necessary as they felt not enough is being done to guarantee justice for those detained under the law while censorship and the curbs to freedom of expression are not adequately raised and discussed in society.
When the network launched itself, only Thailand’s two-English language newspapers paid interest while the Thai-language papers ignored their formation. It is symptomatic of how the media and society warily treat the issue of lese majeste law, said 45-year-old Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, wife of lese majeste detainee Somyos Prueksakemsuk.
“There are more foreigners who pay attention to the formation of our network,” said the mild-speaking Sukanya, a private company employee, who had to learn about political activism from scratch after the group was formed to partly help her husband who has been behind bars for more than a year without bail. Sukanya cited a German radio journalist interviewing the group and a journalist from France. “Hardly any Thai media,” she added. read more.
* Wage measures extended:
The government will extend an assistance programme to help ease the impact of the higher daily minimum wage on SMEs, says Kittiratt Na-Ranong, the finance minister and deputy prime minister.
He said 11 measures previously approved for businesses in seven provinces that hiked wages this past April will be extended for another year.
A similar package will be offered to businesses operating in the 70 other provinces starting Jan 1.
The measures include a reduction in contribution rates to the Social Security Fund to 4% from 5%, tax deductions equal to 1.5 times the added labour expenses incurred as a result of the wage hike and deductions equal to two times the cost of skills training expenses. read more.
14:38:57 local time CAMBODIA
* Protesters destroy factory property in Phnom Penh:
A strike involving 200 workers at the Nex-T Apparel factory in Phnom Penh turned destructive on Saturday when angry protesters broke several items in the factory.
Nex-T manager Chea Sovann Chansambath said yesterday that workers destroyed office windows, bikes, cupboards, flower pots and other items.
“The workers have a legal right to protest, but on Saturday they broke national and international law,” she said, adding that she did not know whether the company would file a complaint against the strikers.
Workers say they will continue striking on Monday to demand better work conditions, that the company treat them with more respect and that it reinstate three fired union members. to read.
15:38:57 local time INDONESIA
* Labour strikes affect economic growth: Economist:
Indonesia is expecting economic growth of 6.8 percent next year, but it will be difficult to reach the target because labour issues have not been resolved by the government, said an economist.
“Labour issues will hinder the government`s efforts to reach the target of 6.8 percent. That is why the government should handle the labour problems immediately,” said Latif Adam, an economist from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), on Friday.
According to him, companies that are severely affected by labour strikes are those that export their products to meet the demand of the international market.
* BKPM and Workers Talk About the Ideal Wage System:
Head of Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) conducted a meeting with the Indonesian Assembly of Workers’ (MPBI) representative to urge the Government to establish an ideal wage system.
The system should be established in order to minimize public controversy over minimum wage determination and allow laborers to predict minimum wage increase.
“Laborers’ demand for a proper wage is reasonable. As for foreign investors, minimum wage increase is not a problem because normally, foreign investors pay their workers above minimum wage,” said Chatib Bisri, Chairman of BKPM, during the meeting, Wednesday (28/11).
Chatib explained that businesses may delay the implementation of the minimum wage (see ILB No. 2043), especially those that are unable to comply with the minimum wage provision. read more.
* Workers welfare is more than wages and status:
No issues have attracted as much attention for the last few days as outsourcing and the minimum wage. Rallies by workers for the elimination of outsourcing have crippled production.
Factories are closed as their workers are flocking in the streets. The saga continues as business owners and investors send clear messages that they will withdraw their business from the country if this issue remains unresolved. The government is stuck in the middle. It is obvious the situation will put the economy at risk.
In response, the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry issued a decree allowing outsourcing of non-core jobs only. Few days later, the Jakarta minimum wage was set at Rp 2.2 million (US$230). The decision has been made, therefore the issue is settled, no? Not so fast. Business owners are ready to request deferral for the payment of the new wage. read more.
* No more cheap labor in RI: SBY:
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono has taken a firm stand amid demands from labor unionists to end the international perception that Indonesia is a haven for investors wanting to tap pools of cheap workers.
On the heels of recent rallies by unionists that often ended in violence, Yudhoyono said on Thursday that the government’s stance over labor welfare was in line with the workers’ demands.
“It is our moral obligation to fight for it. The era of cheap labor and injustice is now over,” said Yudhoyono in a speech before governors, regents, mayors, police chiefs and regional military commanders.
Yudhoyono argued that labor rallies and strikes would stop if businesses were more committed to improving the welfare of their workers. read more.
13:38:57 local time BANGLA DESH
* ASHULIA- TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* The last call:
Knowing that he would die, Polash Mian called his mother to say a final goodbye.
Moyna Begum choked with emotion yesterday as she tried to recollect what her son had told her for the last time. Polash came from Latibpur village that lost 11 of its residents to the deadly fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia on November 24.
“Ma, I am going to die. You will find me in a toilet,” Moyna quoted him as saying.
Polash would not let him go unidentified. He told his mother that he had tied a black shirt around his waist so that she could identify him even if his face changed beyond recognition.
After the fatal fire, Moyna said, she came to Dhaka along with other villagers whose sons and daughters had been working with the garment factory.
“I checked every toilet until I found him [Polash] on the third floor,” she said with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“He had that black shirt wrapped around his waist,” Moyna said before she lapsed into silence. read more.
* Tazreen workers protest in Ashulia:
Workers of fire-devastated Tazreen Fashion Ltd waged demonstration blocking the Dhaka-Tangail highway in Ashulia on Saturday after they were asked to go to Tongi of Gazipur to receive their salaries.
The workers however are not getting their salary today since Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) leaders have asked for a new list of workers to clear the arrears.
Earlier, the authorities asked the workers to collect their salary today (Saturday) from the factory at Nishchintapur in Ashulia where 111 people were killed in the devastating fire on November 24.
Meanwhile, the authorities of two factories in Ashulia — Dada Factory and News Trouser — suspended operation for today fearing vandalism.
The demonstration ensued around 8:00am when nearly 1,500 workers thronged the factory gate to receive their salaries as per a notice given by the garment authorities earlier.
When the workers reached the spot, Monowar Hossain, assistant commissioner of police (Ashulia and Savar zone) were making an announcement from a nearby mosque’s loudspeaker directing them to head for Tongi College premises.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* PM allocates money for Ashulia-Ctg victims:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday allocated Tk 2 lakh for each of the families of the identified people killed in a garment factory fire in Ashulia and flyover collapse in Chittagong.
Each of those wounded in Saturday’s Ashulia fire will receive Tk 50,000, PM’s Special Assistant for media Mahbubul Haque Shakil told The Daily Star.
The prime minister on Friday approved the allocation from her special fund.
Earlier on Saturday, at least 111 people were killed and 100 injured in a devastating fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd at Nischintapur on the capital’s suburb Ashulia.
On the other hand, 12 people were killed and 15 injured when three concrete girders of a flyover under construction at Bahaddarhat in Chittagong collapsed on a makeshift kitchen market on the same day. to read. & read more.
* BGMEA readies compensations for fire victims’ families:
In contact with buyers for more funds
Local apparel manufacturers have announced a raft of compensations for families of those who fell victim to a fire that killed over 100 lives at Tazreen Fashions Ltd at Savar off the capital last week.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in a meeting Thursday decided to provide Tk 100,000 to each of the families of the ready-made garment workers, who were killed in the incident. read more.
* Salary day for Tazreen workers today:
The surviving workers of razed and now-closed Tazreen Fashions Ltd at Nischintapur in Ashulia demand their salary of four months and 13 days altogether.
As the factory authorities are set to pay the workers their November salary today, tension runs high in the area as they are adamant about their demand and said they would not accept if the authorities offer them only the month’s salary.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, over 20 workers of the factory expressed their suspicion over the factory’s resumption of operation anytime soon.
In Saturday’s deadly fire, the eight-storey factory building was badly damaged. A banner set at the factory by police, seen yesterday, reads: “This factory is highly risky. Everyone is requested not to enter the building.”
According to the government rule, a garment factory has to provide its workers with the salary of three months and 13 days if it is shut or dismisses any worker.
For the past few days, the issue of realising the salary of four months and 13 days has been in the air of Nishchintapur area where most workers of Tazreen Fashions live.
They were also in deep uncertainty of getting new jobs soon to continue their livelihood and feed their dependents.
Meanwhile, the survivors who sustained major injuries feared that they would not be able to join elsewhere immediately, and therefore, they needed the money to support their families until they recover.
Meanwhile, a small crowd of workers staged a demonstration at Nishchintapur Primary School yesterday morning when they announced that no worker would join Tazreen Fashions if the authorities offered its workers only a month’s salary.
Tazreen Fashions has 1,700 employees, of whom, 1,630 are workers, according to the website of Tuba Group, which owns the factory. read more.
* Survivors get no pay after long wait:
After hours of agonising wait, the survivors of Tazreen Fashions blaze that killed 111 people on November 24, returned empty-handed from the factory on Saturday as the management failed to pay them the wages they had expected.
Tazreen authorities as well as Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association had earlier assured them that their one month’s salary would be paid on Saturday.
But the workers refused to accept one month’s salary and demanded four months and 13 days’ wages, including one month’s due salary and that for three months and 13 days as per the labour law for closing the factory without notice.
Tazreen managing director Delwar Hossain said it was difficult for him at the moment to arrange the money for payment of wages for four months and 13 days to the workers. He also said that he would discuss the issue with the garment sector leaders to work out a solution. read more. & read more. & read more.
* ‘Tazreen workers to get wages by Dec 5- 6’ :
Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju on Sunday said the workers of Tazreen Fashions Ltd would be given their wages by Dec 6.
He said the wages could not be paid as promised on Saturday as suspicion rose over authenticity of the list of the factory workers.
BGMEA and BKMEA will make a new list after examining the workers’ list, Raju told reporters at the Secretariat.
“The list will be prepared on (Monday) and finalised on Dec 4 after a meeting with the owners and others involved. Then the wages will be paid by Dec 6.”
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Chaos deepens over Tazreen tragedy:
Number of deaths, factory workers not yet clear: Payment of salary delayed
Even after one week of the Tazreen Fashion inferno nobody knows as to how many workers were working on the floors on that fateful night and what is the exact number of the deceased.
At least 113 garment workers died in the deadly fire of the factory that broke out last Saturday evening.
An official of the BGMEA’s ‘Crisis Management Cell,’ mainly dealing with labour related issues, said, it is the duty of the labour department.
“You better talk to the concerned ministry official who is looking after the matter,” he added.
To make the situation clear, the government yesterday formed a committee led by local Member of Parliament (MP) Towhid Murad Jong, sources said. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting presided by Labour Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju held at RAB headquarters, Uttara in the city.
Towhid Murad Jong, MP, high officials of the Labour Ministry, BGMEA, RAB DG, Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka and senior officials of law enforcement agencies were present at the meeting.
“Our prime task will be to find out the exact number of the factory workers,” Towhid Murad Jung, MP, told The New Nation yesterday.
He said, a draft list of the total number of workers would be prepared after discussion with the floor in-charges of the factory.
“The list will be placed to the factory owner and the workers and will be tallied with the attendance log books and other documents preserved in the computers to avoid confusion,” he added. read more.
* Fire takes toll beyond factory:
Armed police stand guard at the gate of Tazreen Fashions. A black banner hung on the wall reads: “Please do not enter. The building is highly risky.”
A few yards away a small crowd gathers at a grocery shop that Shafiqul Islam owns. Among them are some survivors of the November 24 fire. They speak of how they dodged their death by a nail’s breadth, their faces look still frozen.
When a survivor describes how the assistant production manager directed the guards to lock the collapsible gate and a top official played music on a loud speaker in high volume to deceive the workers about the fire, a tea stall boy becomes angry. More in disbelief than hatred.
“If the production manager were here now,” he says, adding that he wants to teach the officials a lesson. The boy does not understand how top managers can make decisions that kill. read more.
* Move to collect info about Ashulia fire victims:
Those having information about the fire incident at Tazreen Fashions at Ashulia have been asked to give those to a committee, formed to investigate the incident.
Labour and Employment Ministry earlier formed the seven-member committee, headed by joint secretary Faizur Rahman, said a press release of the ministry.
The probe body began investigation and collecting information about those who were killed and injured.
Those who have necessary information have been requested to contact the committee office at Sramo Bhaban, (2nd floor) 4, Rajuk Avenue in the city from December 3-6 for providing proper evidence.
Contact phone numbers are: 9555537, Mobile numbers- 01819558064, 01819558065 and 01727212169. read more.
* Doubt over justice in Ashulia fire:
A minister and the leader of a garment lobby group at a BBC Sanglap said people responsible for the last week’s fire tragedy should be punished, but the audience at the show expressed doubts over justice.
The debate was created after Rahimul Alam from the audience raised a question: “Would it be possible to punish the responsible persons for the fire incident at Tazreen Fashions on November 24?”
Rahimul was in doubt that the culprits will not be punished.
The BBC Bangladesh Sanglap is a joint initiative of BBC Media Action and BBC Bangla Service.
Commerce Minister GM Quader at the dialogue at BIAM Auditorium said common people are in a confidence crisis as they did not see any punishment in the past for these incidents. read more.
* Labour leaders demand punishment to Tazreen culprits:
The leaders of different labour organisations and students yesterday demanded an immediate arrest of all responsible for a fatal fire that killed at least 111 workers at Tazreen Fashions Ltd.
In separate progra-mmes, the labour leaders also demanded compensation to the victims and necessary treatment for the injured.
Garment Sramik Trade Union Kendra held a sit-in programme in front of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association demanding punishment to culprits and at least Tk 10 lakh in compensation to the family of each victim.
They also demanded all pending salaries, including service benefit to the workers and staff who survived. read more.
* Demonstration continues in Ashulia:
Angry workers in Ashulia staged rowdy protest for nearly 45 minutes on Dhaka-EPZ highway as RMG and leather workers attacked several factories in Jamgara on Sunday morning.
The marauding workers were also locked in chase and counter-chase with police on the highway, forcing the law enforcers to lob 10 rounds of tear gas shells and fire at least 20 rounds of rubber bullets.
The law enforcers also charged batons on the workers to disperse the attacking group.
During the demonstration, Mitu, a staff of MD Jeans, fell unconscious.
The demonstration erupted around 10:45am when the workers of Picard Bangladesh Ltd, a leather factory which came under attack on Saturday, came out of their factory and attacked the adjoining ones.
read more.& read more: 50 hurt in Ashulia- All factories closed amid attacks.
* Ashulia region remains restive:
Factories become target of protest by a group of garment workers; law enforcers act tough
Stemming from the Tazreen Fashions disaster, garment and leather workers’ agitations in Ashulia industrial belt continued yesterday as they attacked several factories and clashed with industrial police.
They halted traffic on Dhaka-Tangail highway at Jamgara for about 45 minutes.
Police had to resort to teargas, rubber bullets and truncheon charge to disperse them as the workers fought running battles with them.
Mitu, a staff of MD Jeans, lost consciousness when police charged truncheons.
The workers’ unrest began since a fire on November 24 claimed 111 lives at Tazreen Fashions factory in Ashulia.
The demonstrations yesterday began around 9:00am when nearly 1,000 workers of leather factory Picard Bangladesh Ltd in Zirabo came out of their factory to protest garments workers’ attack on their unit on Saturday.
Golam Rouf, director of industrial police, said workers of adjoining garment factories also took to the streets then but police promptly dispersed them. The workers were only interested in dodging a day’s work using any excuse available, he claimed.
Rouf said just before 11:00am, 25 garment workers attacked the Rose Dress factory. The 25 workers had been suspended by Hyun Apparels Ltd, now temporarily closed, in connection with assaulting a factory official.
read more. & read more.
* Trade bodies concerned over industrial unrest:
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) yesterday expressed deep concern over the recent untoward incidents in the readymade garment sector.
The apex trade body also said the leather and footwear factories in Ashulia have now become the target of attacks by the miscreants as some unruly people damaged two factories — Picard and Leatherex — in the area on Saturday.
The FBCCI urged law enforcement agencies to be vigilant and take preventive measures in this regard. read more. & read more. & read more.
* Main drivers of apparel industry deserve protection:
Ashulia, the industrial hub on the outskirts of Dhaka, as well as the entire apparel industry are yet to recover from the Tazreen Fashions shock. At least 113 workers died and many others received injuries in a fire incident in Tazreen on November 24 last.
The fallout from the tragic incident is still rocking Ashulia. Last Saturday when the workers went to Tazreen to receive their wages, they were told to collect their wage for the month of November from a factory at Tongi and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) arranged several buses to take them there. But the workers refused either to accept one month’s salary or to go to Tongi. What they wanted was their legal severance benefits since they were certain that their factory would not be reopened soon. read more.
* Outburst against delaying salary:
Ashulia workers go wild again: Vehicles vandalised;100 hurt in clash with cops
At least 100 persons, including 12 policemen, were injured when thousands of garment workers locked in clashes with the law enforcers at Jamgarh area of Ashulia, in the outskirts of capital city Dhaka, on Sunday.
The traffic movement on Dhaka-Tangail highway, the road link connecting to country’s northern districts, adjacent to the Ashulia industrial zone, remained halted for over two hours when the garment workers put blockade igniting fire on tires and wood pieces.
The garment workers also vandalised around 40 motor vehicles with creating a panicky situation around the Jamgarh Bus Stand and its adjacent areas for hours.
Police said, the situation went almost out of control when several thousand workers, divided in different groups, conducted attack simultaneously on the law enforcers with stones.
Over one hundred factory owners across the industrial belt, in an instant decision, declared one-day shut down to avoid further untoward incidents.
At one stage a heavy contingent of police, wearing riot gears rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control. The entire Ashulia and its surrounding areas turned into a battle field when workers tried to continue their agitation defying police action. read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Ashulia still volatile, nearly 100 units shut for today:
The authorities shut down around 100 garment factories at Jamgara in Ashulia for Monday as the angry workers continued their demonstration nine days into Tazreen Fashions Ltd fire.
The devastating fire that swept through Tazreen garment factory on November 24 night claimed the lives of 111 people and injured more than 100.
The Monday’s demonstration erupted around 8:15am when the workers of Tazreen and other garment factories started demonstration at a road in Jamgara.
On information, police rushed to the spot and fired several teargas shells to disperse the agitating workers, prompting chase and counter-chase.
The agitating workers also threw brick chips on the law enforcers who are barring them from holding any rally at Jamgara. read more. & read more.
* Govt mulls RMG workers’ fed: minister:
Labour minister Rajiuddin Ahmed said on Sunday that the government was considering introduction of participatory committees at readymade garment factories to form a federation of apparel workers.
Expressing deep shock at the tragic incident of fire at the Tazreen Fashions Limited in Ashulia, the minister iterated that no factory would be allowed to operate without adequate safety measures and exit facilities.
‘We are considering introduction of participatory committees at each RMG unit and a garment workers’ federation would be formed with the representatives from each factory,’ Rajiuddin told reporters after a meeting with the US ambassador in Dhaka, Dan Mozena.
The minister’s attention was drawn to the workers’ long standing demand for trade union in the apparel sector that contributes 80 per cent of the country’s total exports of $24 billion.
Rajiuddin said that it was time to ensure safety measures at each RMG unit and the United States had assured assistance in this regard. Labour minister Rajiuddin Ahmed said on Sunday that the government was considering introduction of participatory committees at readymade garment factories to form a federation of apparel workers. read more.
* Garments factories or death traps? :
True, natural disasters are a universal reality and humans have no control over it. But when disasters are man-made, and our preparedness is either non-existent or minimum, we have reasons to be worried.
Damage can be minimised in any sector when if the concerned authorities, like industrial owners, have an effective safety plan and an efficient team to fight such crisis.
Shockingly though, the garments sector here has neither.
The fire incident at Tazreen Fashions is a pathetic reminder of the callousness of the garment’s owner in meeting safety norms of those staggering 6,000 employees that work there. If the death of hundreds wasn’t tragic enough, the lethargy, management capability and the chaos of response by the owners of such factories was unforgivable.
It is a failure of the owners as well as the state, whose agencies seem incapable of making proper surveillance of such a vital sector; which currently earns the highest foreign remittance. read more.
* Seeing beyond garments factories’ inferno:
The country’s worst RMG (readymade garments) factory fire claiming no fewer than 110 lives brings to the fore the uneasy question if the industry is going to witness even greater tragedies once the outpouring and hullabaloo over this incident dissipate over time.
Such a possibility cannot be ruled out as long as the buildings housing such factories are made to comply with the stipulated rules and regulations. An internet search will reveal that incidents of RMG factory fire are almost non-existent in countries like Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong and even Vietnam and Nepal. Vietnam and Nepal as late entrants to apparel manufacturing have apparently managed the sector better than Bangladesh.
A near parallel of Bangladesh’s management of the sector is found in Pakistan where about two months ago, on September 11 this year to be precise, a garments factory and a shoe factory caught fire and accounted for the death of 315 workers and injury to 250 more, the share of the apparel factory being 289 deaths. On that count, Pakistan perhaps tops the list of RMG sector casualties in a single fire incident anywhere in the world. But deaths and injuries from fire in garments factories or other accidents including the collapse of a whole building of a sweater factory make it a routine tragedy in Bangladesh in an unending procession. Over the past six years 1,300 such factories caught fire in which more than 200 people died and 1,100-1,200 workers were left injured and even maimed.
* Fire check frustration:
One-third of the 89 garment factories visited by fire officials on the second day of safety inspection lack mechanisms to fight blaze.
The drive started in the wake of the deadly Tazreen Fashions fire that killed 111 workers on November 24.
Fifteen teams comprising 60 officials are visiting factories in Ashulia to put the fire safety arrangements into three categories — A, B and C.
In two days of inspection, 163 of the 574 garment factories located in the Ashulia industrial belt were visited.
Some 53 factories, or over 30 percent of those visited by the teams, fall under the C category, meaning they lack fire safety licences, adequate fire extinguishers, hose pipes, water reservoirs and trained workers.
“The factories without fire safety licences will be shut down,” said M Abdus Salam, director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, after the inspection yesterday.
And, factories with poor fire safety records would be given a month to address their faults, he added. “We will take action against the inspectors who have issued licences without verifying the fire safety measures.” read more. & read more.
* Firemen ring alarm for RMG owners:
The Fire Service and Civil Defence on the final day of its inspection drive found 11 of the 69 visited garment factories without sufficient safety mechanisms to fight blazes.
The inspection teams visited factories in Savar area yesterday, and classified 24 in the ‘A’ or good category, 34 in the ‘B’ or acceptable category and 11 in the ‘C’ or poor category.
On Thursday and Saturday, some 163 of Ashulia’s 574 garment factories were inspected, and 53 were put in the ‘C’ category — due to lack of fire safety licences, adequate fire extinguishers, hose pipes, water reservoirs and trained workers.
“The scenario is a wake-up call for the factory owners, but they hardly showed any interest towards our suggestions,” M Abdus Salam, director of Fire Service and Civil Defence, said as he wrapped up yesterday’s inspection. read more.
* Factories run uninspected:
Regulatory lapses main cause of Tazreen inferno
Lack of coordination among the regulatory bodies responsible for overseeing compliance issues at the factory level is widely believe to be the main cause of the deadly fire incident in Tazreen Fashion Garments, officials said Sunday.
“Lax monitoring by the regulators coupled with failure to enforce strict safety rules and building codes often leads to devastating blaze at garment factories” a senior Labour Ministry official told The New Nation yesterday, on condition of anonymity.
He added in most of the cases the regulatory bodies neither looked into the deficiencies of compliance issues nor properly monitored safety standard of the factories.
“They are also overlooking the regulatory lapses of a factory taking bribes from the factory owner,” he alleged.
The official further said the issue of the regulatory lapses came to the spotlight while investigating into the Tazreen Fashion inferno. “The ministry’s probe body found such descend in the factory where most of the rules were violated while setting up the factory,” he noted. read more.
* Selling garments, or your soul? :
The world is in a state of turmoil. In September, it was the Prophet Mohammad video which sparked protests in the Muslim world. This was followed by an armed attack on the US Diplomatic Mission in Ben Ghazi, Libya, killing four Americans.
In October, we were rocked by the anti-austerity demonstrations in Spain. In November, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated, resulting in the Gaza death toll soaring past the bloody milestone of 100. Add to this the continuing unrest in Syria, the resurging dissent in Egypt, and we have a scenario of economic upheaval, social unrest, terrorist attacks and the possible threat of a full-scale war in the Middle East.
Apart from the calamities initiated by rivalries and ideological differences, we have also been hit by Mother Nature with tornados and cyclones causing havoc to human lives. In the midst of all the chaos there is, however, one recent tragedy that has shaken all of us– even those who are practically immune to violence and suffering. Yes, I am referring to the fire in the garment factory (Tazreen Fashions) in Ashulia, Bangladesh, which killed 111 workers trapped inside with no fire exit. read more.
* US ready to assist Bangladesh streamlining RMG sector:
US Secretary of Labour Hilda L Solis on Friday assured that her department was ready to help Bangladesh with technical assistance and expertise in the readymade garment sector.
“The US Department of Labor stands ready to help, with technical assistance and expertise, to work with the government of Bangladesh to ensure that this horrific tragedy becomes a watershed moment for Bangladeshi workers’ rights,” a statement of the US secretary of labour issued from Washington said.
The statement also galvanised support for stronger worker protections and institutions to enforce them, from workplace health and safety to workers’ right to organise and bargain collectively.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* US eager to ensure safety of BD’s RMG industries: Mozena:
* Global campaign to push Walmart into fire safety programme:
A global signature campaign has been conducted to push Walmart into having its own fire safety inspection programme following the death of 112 garment workers in the worst ever fire incident in Bangladesh recently.
SumOfUs.org, a site of consumers, workers and shareholders, collected over 89,832 signatures till Saturday on a petition demanding that Walmart join an independent fire safety inspection programme, according to information on its website.
With 821,649 members worldwide to fight for people over profits, SumOfUs.org launched the campaign with a goal of 90,000 signatures on the petition. “Tell Walmart it must join an independent fire safety inspection programme, supported by Bangladeshi and international labour unions, to prevent tragedies like this,” the website carries the message in the petition. read more.
* Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg:
Over the past two decades, Bangladesh’s merchandise exports in current US dollars surged from around $2 billion in FY1992 to $24 billion in FY2012, growing at a heady pace of 13 percent per year.
This is a superb performance by most developing country standards. This export boom was led by one product group — the readymade garments. The RMG exports have surged from $1 billion in FY1992 to a whopping $19 billion in FY2012, which is an amazing 79 percent of total merchandise exports and some 49 percent of total export earnings of Bangladesh (including goods and factor and non-factor services).
There have also been some positive shifts within the garment sector in terms of product composition. While Bangladesh has continued to gain strength in the low-end segment, outperforming the cost escalating competitors in China and India, it is also making some inroads in the high-end segment of name-brand products.
The spread in terms of geographical diversification of RMG exports is also improving, although the US and the European Union continue to be the main buyers. Overall, Bangladesh’s prospect for gaining further market share in the large global RMG market is bright. read more.
* RMG fire accident emerges as a fresh irritant for investment promotion efforts:
The recent devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions in the city’s Ashulia has emerged as a major issue for Bangladesh in its various ongoing and upcoming forums and discussions with the potential foreign investors.
Foreign investors are raising the issue while discussing their investment prospects in Bangladesh and this is a cause for embarrassment for the government officials, a senior official of the Board of Investment (BoI) told the FE Sunday.
The government is going to organise the first-ever international business conference this weekend to attract investors under one of its important programmes — the PPP (Public Private Partnership).
Officials are expecting more than 500 foreign and local investors to gather at the two-day PPP conference to be held on December 07-08. read more.
* Workers are the life of industry but who cares? :
A catastrophic factory fire at the Tazreen Fashion garment factory in Dhaka took the lives of 111 workers on Saturday, November 24. The factory’s lack of basic safety features compounded the tragedy.
The blaze on Saturday was the deadliest of its kind in Bangladesh and threw a dark spot on the country’s garment sector as whole. More than 200 people died over the past six years in garment factory fires in Bangladesh including one that killed 63 workers in 2003.
Bangladesh has some 4000 garment factories and the country earns about $20 billion a year from exports of garments mainly to the US and Europe. The country’s garment sector has not passed more than 3 decades but it has already been able to account for around 76 per cent of the total merchandise exports.
It is sad but true that the welfare of the workers has not been adequately addressed as yet, despite talks on the issue for a long time. Our garment products represent the name of Bangladesh in world markets which are made by the most ill-paid workers, the bulk majority of whom are women. read more.
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* RMG workers attack 3 Picard units:
Readymade garments workers allegedly attacked three factories of Picard Bangladesh Ltd which produce leather goods on the capital’s outskirts Ashulia Saturday afternoon.
At least 20 people — including 10 security guards — were injured and six vehicles ransacked during the attack.
Police said the workers attacked the Picard factories which remained open when garments factories in the area remained closed following unrest over paying arrears to the workers of Maskot garments limited.
Musleh Uddin, deputy manager of the Picard, told The Daily Star that hundreds of workers attacked their factories around 3:15pm, injuring 20 people — 10 security guards and 10 staffers of the factories.
Golam Rauf, a deputy director of Industrial Police, said workers of several garments factories in Jirabo area vandalised at least six vehicles of the staff of the factories and all the windows and gates of the factories. read more.
* Top buyers press for fire safety:
International buyers yesterday recommended the garment makers of Bangladesh immediately upgrade fire safety system at the factories to avert fire deaths.
They also suggested Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) strengthen its fire safety cell and train the owners first and then the mid-level officials and workers.
The owners called on the representatives of buyers and globally renowned clothing brands at BGMEA building in the capital to clarify their position in the aftermath of Tazreen Fashions blaze.
“There are a lot of good factories in your country.
India, China, Pakistan and Vietnam are not your competitors. It is your local colleagues; you have competitors in your own house.”
On the Tazreen incident, which left 111 dead and many others injured, he said, “We should do something immediately for the victim families…. We have put money in the bank accounts to disburse money to the victim families.”
Hubert added the rehabilitation of victims should be unbureaucratic.
He also stressed the need for a complete revision of building code and government review of construction regulations.
Jenefa Jabbar, representative of JCpenny, recommended reviewing fire licence of almost every factory, as many factories have a shaky fire safety system.
“When a factory catches fire, workers panic and get hurt in stampede,” she said, emphasising regular fire drills.
Payal Jain, representative of H&M, said there is a clear gap in electrical assessment also in many good factories. read more.
* 2 Chinese factories at IEPZ closed:
Two Chinese sweater factories at Ishwardi Export Processing Zone (IEPZ) have been closed for an indefinite period.
The authorities on Thursday night hung a closure notice at the IEPZ’s main gate citing different reasons, including financial crisis and labour unrest.
The two export-oriented factories-Rashita Knitwear and Megatex Knitwear–began its operation here in 2008.
Local sources said about 6,500 workers became unemployed due to closure of the foreign factories. to read. & read more.
* Unrest shuts two RMG factories in Ishwardi EPZ:
Persistent labour unrest shut Roshita Knitting Wear Ltd and Megha Textile Ltd, both Chinese-owned, in the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone.
“The continuous worker agitations of the past eight-month have hampered the exports, so the authorities have decided to close them down indefinitely,” Sumon Hossain, an executive officer of the two factories, told The Daily Star.
Mahmud Hassan, Ishwardi EPZ’s general manager, blamed the shutdown on the confronting workers.
“The workers defied the company and EPZ rules and continued with their unruly demonstrations. Although we tried to mediate, the workers carried on. It impacted the company’s business,” Hassan told The Daily Star. read more.
* Leather factory attacked:
At least 50 guards and workers of an export-oriented leather factory were injured when several hundred garment workers attacked the company’s premises and vandalised six of its vehicles in Ashulia yesterday.
Located at Pukurpar in Zirabo of Ashulia, Picard Bangladesh Ltd, a Bangladesh-German joint venture, came under attack from the workers at around 3:00pm as its owners, like many readymade garment factories in the area, did not give in to their sudden call for production suspension.
“At least 50 of our staffers, most of them female, became victims of the attack. Over 25 of them were hospitalised with severe injuries,” Musleh Uddin Ahmed, a deputy manager (store) of the factory, told The Daily Star.
Picard Bangladesh, which employs 1,200 people, manufactures leather hand bags, briefcases and small leather goods for exports. Apart from manufacturing its own brands, it produces products for customers based in Australia, Europe, Canada, Japan and Singapore, according to the company’s website. read more.
* Crisis managers in hibernation:
Tasked with resolving problems in the apparel sector, seven regional crisis management committees were formed in 2010. Ever since, these committees exist mainly on paper.
The designated committee for Ashulia zone has yet to sit even one after the Tazreen Fashions tragedy, the deadliest in the country’s garment sector, officials said.
The silence of these committees has raised doubt about what the new taskforce that Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has announced to form. This taskforce, when formed, will ensure that garment owners upgrade fire safety measures within a deadline.
The seven regional committees were assigned not only to deal with the crisis in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj. They were also to discuss every month the overall situation of the RMG sector, country’s main foreign currency earner.
Formed in June 2010, local lawmakers the respective areas are chiefs of the committees. read more.
* Garment exporters to protest before India Show:
A group of apparel exporters and workers from 22 factories are likely to stage demonstration in front of Bangabandhu International Conference Centre at Agargoan where the single country Indian exposition – India Show – begins today (Monday).
The entrepreneurs of 22 factories, who exported apparels to India’s Lilliput company and failed to get payments, took the decision after their meeting with the Indian High Commissioner apparently ended without any fruitful result, Sunday.
The aggrieved Bangladeshi apparel exporters said they have no other options now but to stage demonstrations as neither the government of India nor its business leaders took any practical steps to help settle the payments against the exports even after repeated requests.read more.
13:08:57 local time INDIA
* Powerloom weavers relentless:
An indefinite strike launched by the powerloom weavers of Sircilla textile town in Karimnagar to demand for increased wages and other benefits such as bonus etc., entered its fifth day on Friday.
The powerloom weavers affiliated to various trade unions continued their agitation by staging dharnas and ‘rasta rokos’, demanding that the government resolve the crisis and solve their problems by holding talks with the owners of powerlooms.
Though the powerloom owners said that they would hold talks on Friday, they failed to do so due to various reasons. read more.
* Cotton farmers of Perambalur district in deep trouble:
Thousands of cotton farmers of Perambalur district are in deep trouble. The district contributes 4.8 lakh tonnes of cotton, accounting for 30 per cent of the State’s total production.
Almost 90 per cent of the 5.64 lakh population of the district are dependent on agriculture, and maize and cotton are the major crops.
The normal cotton area is 17,140 hectares. This shot up to 26,291 hectares in 2011-12 and touched 23,623 hectares up to October this year.
Kolathur C. Rajendran, a farmer involved in raising both crops, says while 50 per cent of the population are dependent on maize; at least 40 per cent are dependent on cotton.
Rajachidambaram, general secretary, Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, who hails from the district, says cotton farmers are facing a crisis thanks to poor rains.
* Cotton rates expected to fall further:
Farm activists expect that as the supply of cotton increases in the coming month there are chances that the price of this commodity would fall further.
Cotton which is linked with Vidarbha’s farm crisis is already fetching a rather low price of Rs 3900 to 4100 a quintal this year. Last year the rates were moderate at around Rs 4,500 a quintal with an exceptional boom being two years ago.
As supply increases by January there are all the chances that the rates may further plummet, said Vijay Jawandiya a veteran farm activist from Wardha. This has coincided with rates of soyabean falling by around Rs 100 a quintal at the same time. Cotton and soyabean are grown together in the region’s farms with the latter usually being meant as a back-up for losses in cotton. read more.
* Surat to have six integrated textile parks:
With the Government of India sanctioning 21 new textile parks under its scheme for Integrated Textile Park on Thursday, the country’s biggest man-made fabric hub in Surat will boast of six textile parks.
Industry sources said that the newly approved textile parks include six in Maharashtra, four in Rajasthan, two each in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, and one each in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The textile park sanctioned among 20 other parks will be located in the city’s Dumbhal area and that it is being developed by Kejriwal industries. read more.
* 3 spinning mills to be privatized:
The state government has planned to revive three out of the six defunct cooperative spinning mills through private participation, minister for textiles, handloom and handicrafts Sarojini Hembram told the assembly on Saturday.
The mills to be privatized are Kalinga Cooperative Spinning Mill, Govindpur in Dhenkanal district, Sarala Spinning Mill, Jagatsinghpur and Weavers Cooperative Spinning Mill, Tora in Bargarh.
The public enterprises department is initiating the process of privatization, the minister said, adding that the government is taking steps to liquidate the rest three defunct spinning mills. She said over 7,400 employees working in these defunct spinning mills had been paid over Rs 37.48 crore under voluntary retirement scheme. read more.
13:08:57 local time SRI LANKA
* Common salary commission for both public and private sectors:
Secretary of Sri Lanka Ministry of Finance and Planning Dr. P.B. Jayasundera said that a salary commission would be appointed for salary revision in both public and private sectors.
He said that such a salary commission would be appointed for the first time in the history.
The commission that will be appointed in January 2013 according to a budget proposal aims to compile a common policy for salaries of both public and private sector. read more.
* Trade union welcomes industry group call for GSP + :
A top Sri Lankan trade union group fighting for the rights of apparel workers has welcomed a recent statement by an industry body over the value of labour rights and GSP plus concessions.
In a letter sent to Yohan Lawrence, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters’ Association, Anton Marcus, Joint Secretary of the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union, referred to Mr Lawrence’s comment in last week’s Business Times report headlined “Implement LLRC proposals – urge garment exporters.” read more.
* Bullish on apparel:
Sri Lanka is to become home to the largest, automated knitting plant in the region with MAS Holdings confirming its decision to commit an investment of US$ 70 million — the single-largest ever by the group — for a new automated knitting plant at its MAS Fabric Park in Thulhiriya.
In the past few years, MAS Holdings has broadened its focus, to provide design to delivery solutions to the global apparel industry and has diversified into the lifestyle and fashion space. It has been a steady transformation, from a contract manufacturer to a company that brings inspirational design and innovation to global brands.
There is a lot of innovation and technology involved in this project, which makes this a strategic step for MAS and Sri Lanka in the field of textile and apparel. With a 55,000 strong workforce nurtured in an innovation centric eco-system, MAS Holdings has come to be recognized by clients as a company that not only excels in execution, but one that also strives to distinguish itself through excellence in inspirational product and innovation. read more.
* Sustainability boosts Sri Lanka’s textile exports:
Sustainable manufacturing has helped to boost Sri Lanka’s textile and apparel exports to the European Union in recent years, due to manufacturing efficiencies which have helped to stabilise costs, according to a news report.
As part of a drive towards more sustainable production, Sri Lanka’s largest apparel manufacturer, Brandix Group, has reportedly cut its carbon footprint by 30 per cent since 2008, at the same time showing a marked rise in sales, and claims it will cut it by a further 20 per cent by 2020.
The ‘Trade and trade policy: the EU clothing import market and its ten largest supplying countries’ report, from Textiles Intelligence, states that sustainable production has helped to cut costs and maintain stable prices, despite sharp rises in production costs, which has boosted order numbers. read more.
12:38:57 local time PAKISTAN
* ILO promotes entrepreneurship among women:
Called Khadija, after the name of the wife of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a business plan competition organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO) is expected to drive women towards entrepreneurship by empowering them as independent individuals.
During the contest, held in Lahore early November and aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among women by providing skill training, the ILO honoured female entrepreneurs who presented the most successful business plans, leading to what they term socio-economic empowerment of women. read more.
* ‘Apparel sector making efforts to obtain EU market access’:
Despite energy shortages, the apparel sector is making all-out efforts for obtaining market access to the European Union under the GSP plus in 2014, converting their processing sectors to coal-run boilers instead of gas, said an official on Saturday.
“Yes, we are upbeat about the expected market access in another year’s time provided the government ratifies a few conventions as required by the European Union,” said Adil Butt, chairman of the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (North Zone).
“We still face energy issues and some technical problems, he said, adding that the knitwear producers now realise that the gas shortages would increase further in the coming years.” read more.
* APTMA irked over unilateral gas supply cut:
Acting Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Punjab Mahmood Ihsan expressed concerns over unilateral gas supply cut to textile industry within two and a half days of the issuance of schedule of gas supply for four days in a week.
This sudden and surprised change in schedule of gas supply by the SNGPL is highly unfair and anti-industry decision, as it has hit the industrial capacity of meeting export orders, as one day cut in gas supply would leave the industry with no option but to close down one shift, he said.
Resultantly, he added that the export commitments would be dishonoured. Consequently, that would earn a bad name for the country. Also, closing down of a shift would render thousands of textile workers jobless in a situation when the poverty is already plaguing terribly the working class. read more.
* PHMA concerned over non-implementation of textile policy initiatives:
Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA) has regretted that the state has lost its creditability due to its failure to implement the most facilitating long-term textile policy announced in 2009, bringing the entire textile sector to its knees, according to a statement on Friday.
Adil Butt, chairman (North), PHMA, said that billions of rupees are held up with the government on account of research and development and DLTL claims of exporters that they were to get under the textile policy, it said. In fact, said Butt, after defaults in the first two years, these schemes were abandoned, leaving Pakistani textiles uncompetitive in the world markets.
The value-added knitwear sector, in particular, and the textiles, in general, is facing various challenges internally, as well as externally together with the gas and electricity crises, he said.
The initiatives envisaged in the textile policy could help the textile sector meet competitiveness issues and the exports could be increased, said Butt, adding that the ministry of textile industry seems to be helpless as the demands for appropriations in the budget allocations were turned down by the finance.
* APTMA concerned over change in SNGPL’s supply schedule:
Acting Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Punjab Mahmood Ihsan has expressed concern over the surprise cut in gas supply to the textile industry to two and a half days of a week from four days a week as per the gas distribution schedule earlier set by the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
He said this sudden change in the gas distribution schedule is highly unfair and an anti-industry decision, as it has hit the industrial capacity of meeting export orders. One day cut in gas supply would leave the industry with no option but to close down one working shift, translating into joblessness of textile workers and increasing poverty incidences, he added.
Besides, this also implies inability of exporters to honour the export orders, he said.
Ihsan said energy supply is an utmost need of the hour and the industry was quite satisfied with four days a week gas supply arrangement by the SNGPL in Lahore and Sheikhupura regions. to read.
* Ginners press for duty on Indian cotton import:
Fearing damage to their business, cotton ginners have asked the government to slap regulatory duty on cotton import from India in order to protect farmers and the ginning industry as the new Indian cotton export policy may lead to excessive shipments and bring down prices in the domestic market.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) ex-executive member Ihsanul Haq said the Indian cotton export policy might negatively impact cotton prices in Pakistan as Delhi did not place any ceiling on exports. According to the policy, any person or firm may export unlimited quantity of cotton using various names. read more.