in the news on-line, 9-10 December 2012

09:45:26 local time map of china CHINA

*  Protecting workers’ representatives: A key issue in the development of collective bargaining in China:

As collective bargaining begins to gain traction in China, the need to support and protect those workers who are willing to stand up and represent their colleagues in face-to-face negotiations with management has become increasingly apparent.

On numerous occasions, worker representatives have suffered reprisals after taking part in collective bargaining with management.  Indeed, the Laowei Law Firm in Shenzhen, which specializes in labour rights matters, is currently handling at least half a dozen cases in which worker representatives were sacked, forced to resign by management or detained by the police. read more.

* City steps up efforts to collect old clothes:

The city will add another 4,000 “panda bins” to collect old clothes in communities next year to help out less fortunate people and reduce garbage, authorities said yesterday.

Some of the used clothes in good condition will be donated to people in poor areas in other parts of the country while the rest will be processed into renewable raw materials.
People are encouraged to find the panda-shaped bins near their homes to support the campaign and prevent used clothes from entering the second-hand market, which may lead to bacteria problems. read more.

08:45:26 local time map of viet_nam VIET NAM

* Government to apply new minimum wage rates:

The government will increase the minimum wage to VND1.65-2.35 million (USD79.1-112.7) per month from January 1 next year.

The new basic salary will be divided by area, with the highest increases going to the most developed areas.
Area 1 includes Hanoi, HCM City, Quang Ninh, Danang, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Vung Tau, which will see the minimum wage increased to VND2.35 million (USD112.7), up from a current VND2 million.

Area 2 includes Haiphong, Vinh Phuc, Thai Nguyen, Khanh Hoa, Binh Phuoc, Tay Ninh, Long An, An Giang, Can Tho and Ca Mau, and will set VND2.1 million as the minimum wage, compared to current VND1,780,000.
Areas III and IV will respectively set VND1.8 million and VND1.65 million as their minimum wages, up from a current VND1.55 million and VND1.4 million.

The new basic salaries are from VND250,000 to 350,000 per month higher than the current rates.
The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs proposed two planned minimum wage increases, to be applied from January 1, 2013 with the highest set at VND2.7 million and the lowest VND1.8 million. to read in  BUSINESS IN BRIEF 8/12 (2nd it)

* Minimum wage announced to increase in January:

A new minimum wage band for workers, which will be up to VND300,000 (US$14) more than the current rate per month, will be applied from January 2013.

The country now has different wage brackets covering four regional zones, ranked according to the level of socio-economic development in each zone.
Zone One covers urban Hanoi and HCM City . Zone Two covers rural Hanoi and HCM City along with urban Can Tho, Da Nang and Hai Phong. Zone Three covers provincial cities and the districts of Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Hai Duong, and Vinh Phuc. Zone Four covers the remaining localities. read more. & read more.
 

08:45:26 local time map of thailand THAILAND

* Wage hike may hit 2,193 SMEs:

A total of 2,193 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are expected to be affected by the increase in the daily minimum wage to 300 baht, according to Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap.

The figure was based on a preliminary assessment made by officials about how businesses are preparing for the wage hike, which will take effect on Jan 1 in  70 provinces.

The minimum wage was already increased to 300 baht in April in the seven most highly developed provinces including Bangkok and Phuket.
Mr Padermchai on Saturday chaired a workshop for labour office chiefs from all 77 provinces in preparation for the change in the minimum wage next month. Officials hope to minimise the negative impact on SMEs, he said. read more.

* Help, training urged for small firms:

More than 2,000 small businesses will be affected by the minimum wage hike to Bt300 a day, Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap has warned.

Meanwhile, a senior Bank of Thailand official urged the government to develop workers’ skills to keep productivity in line with GDP growth, and adopt new tax measures and expand markets to aid businesses. read more.

* Small firms face ‘shock’ of wage rise:

Business operators must adjust or go out of business following the full-scale increase of the minimum wage to 300 baht per day, a central bank senior official has warned.

The Labour Ministry conceded Saturday that the nationwide wage hike from Jan 1 would place more than 2,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in hardship.Somsajee Siksamat, director of the Bank of Thailand’s Statistics Office, described the coming wage increase as a “shock” to the economic system.
But she said the rise was necessary because wages had been suppressed at an unrealistically low level for a long time. read more.

08:45:26 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* Cambodian Garment Industry Institute a Stitch in Time? :

The Phnom Penh Post reports that The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) inked an agreement on Monday with the Agence Francaise de Development(AFD) for a loan of $US3.5 million to establish within two years the first garment training institute in the Kingdom.

With a 15-year repayment period, it would be set up in the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone and would aim to up-skill garment workers to allow them take over specialist jobs currently done by foreign expats.

Most Cambodian garment workers are currently restricted to jobs like cutting cloth and sewing garments, while the industry is forced to hire people from abroad for technical jobs and managerial positions. Most of these come from Malaysia, China and the Philippines, and must be paid higher salaries than might be paid to locals.

The training will help prepare Cambodians for specialised jobs in apparel making and merchandising, with foreign technical experts imparting the training. The institute would operate as a no-profit, with fees charged to cover routine expenses and to ensure the institute’s sustainability. read more.

09:45:26 local time map of indonesia INDONESIA

* A wake-up call from Indonesia’s manufacturers to government:

A recent incident saw labor union members shut down several factories in Indonesia by force as they demanded a higher minimum wage. This wreaked havoc in the country’s business certainty. Unfortunately, the government seems to believe it is the opposite.

As widely reported in the media, labor unions demanded that the government raise the national minimum wage by between 30 and 50 percent to around Rp 2.9 million (US$300).
Recently, the Jakarta provincial government set the provincial minimum wage at Rp 2.2 million, up by 40 percent from Rp 1.5 million in 2012. read more.

07:30:26 local time map of nepal NEPAL

* Apparel factory fire reveals big brands’ shadowy supply chains:

Sweating and trembling as he fielded questions about last month’s killer fire at one of his factories in Bangladesh, Delwar Hossain insisted he had no idea the workshop was making clothes for Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) when it went up in flames.

On the other side of the world, Wal-Mart said the factory – where 112 workers lost their lives – was not authorized to produce its merchandise and had been sub-contracted by a supplier without its permission.
That there should be such blind spots in the supply chain of the world’s largest retailer is puzzling. read more.

07:45:26 local time map of bangla_desh BANGA DESH

* ASHULIA- TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:

* Confusion over Tazreen toll:

Labour rights activists yesterday claimed the number of casualties in the Tazreen fire is much higher than the official count.

The government put the number of dead at 111 and that of missing at 53.
But Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garments Sramik Oikya Forum (GSOF), a labour rights organisation, insisted that over 200 workers died in the blaze.
Dozens have remained missing since the incident two weeks ago, Mishu said at a press conference.

At a separate press meet, three researchers and rights activists put the number of missing workers at 59.
Saydia Gulrukh, a researcher from the University of North Carolina, said the journalists and fire-fighters who rushed to the fire site on the night of November 24 think the authorities were evasive about the total number of casualties.

The activists also came down heavily on the government and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) for siding with Delowar Hossain, owner of Tazreen Fashions, from the very beginning.
“BGMEA has maintained its tradition by siding with the owners,” said Anu Muhammad, professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University.

The rights activist said the government has been trying to protect Delowar by painting the incident as an act of sabotage.
“Although the government talks about sabotage there is no sign of investigating the reasons and people behind it,” he said. read more. & read more.
 

* Some Tazreen workers stage demo for payment:

A group of workers of Tazreen Fashions Ltd staged demonstration in front of the BGMEA office Saturday demanding wages and compensations.

The workers who are yet to get the benefits participated in the demonstration led by general secretary of Garment Sramik Trade Union Kendro, Montu Ghosh.

Their demands included wages and all arrears, compensation, free treatment of injured workers, safety of workers at work places, publication of probe report and immediate steps on the basis of recommendations of the probe report, trade union rights and setting up of information centre near the factory to identify the dead and injured workers. read more.

* Most Tazreen workers fail to manage new jobs:

Hundreds of workers of the Tazreen Fashions Ltd (TFL) who are now jobless following the devastating fire in the factory are unable to manage new jobs as recruitment process in most of the factories for the next year has been completed, workers said.

After paying full benefits to the workers Wednesday (December 5), the owner of the TFL announced permanent closure of the factory.

“After the devastating blaze, we were busy in realising our wages and compensation. But, now we are jobless and have no other means to maintain our family,” Ripon Sarker, a worker of Tazreen, told the FE. read more.

* Bangladesh factory lacked fire clearance:

Tazreen factory lost its fire safety certification in June, five months before deadly blaze, fire official says.

A Bangladesh garment factory that was producing clothes for Wal-Mart, Disney and other major Western companies had lost its fire safety certification in June, five months before a blaze in the facility killed 112 workers, a fire official told the AP news agency.

Separately, the owner of the Tazreen factory told AP that he had only received permission to build a three-storey facility but had expanded it illegally to eight stories and was adding a ninth at the time of the fire.
The revelations about the deadliest garment fire in Bangladeshi history provide insight into the lack of safety enforcement at the country’s more than 4,000 garment factories.
The powerful garment industry is responsible for 80 per cent of the South Asian nation’s exports.

Safety violations
A Dhaka fire official said the Tazreen factory’s fire safety certification had expired on June 30, and fire officials refused to renew it because the building did not have the proper safety arrangements.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, would not provide details of the violations.
“I can’t explain more because the case is very sensitive and this is under investigation,” the official said.
The factory did not have any fire exits for its 1,400 workers, many of whom became trapped by the blaze. Investigators have said the death toll would have been far lower if there had been even a single emergency exit. read more.

* Tazreen lost fire safety clearance months before tragedy:

The factory where 112 garment workers died in a fire should have been shut down months ago. The fire department refused to renew the certification it needed to operate, a top fire official told The Associated Press. And its owner told AP that just three of the factory’s eight floors were legal. He was building a ninth.

Government officials knew of the problems, but the factory just kept running.

The Capital Development Authority could have fined Tazreen Fashions Ltd. or even pushed for the demolition of illegally built portions of the building, said an agency official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. But it chose to do nothing, rather than confront one of Bangladesh’s most powerful industries, he said.

“I must say we have our weaknesses. We could not do that,” he said. “Not only Tazreen. There are hundreds more buildings. That’s the truth.”

Bangladesh’s $20 billion-a-year garment industry, which accounts for 80 percent of Bangladesh’s total export earnings, goes virtually unchallenged by the government, said Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, a labor rights group.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Walmart blocked safety push in Bangladesh:

Documents found at the Tazreen apparel factory in Bangladesh, where 112 workers died in a fire nearly two weeks ago, indicate that three American garment companies were using the factory during the past year to supply goods to Walmart and its Sam’s Club subsidiary.

The documents — photographed by a Bangladeshi labour organiser after the fire and made available to The New York Times — include an internal production report from mid-September showing that five of the factory’s 14 production lines were devoted to making apparel for Walmart.

In a related matter, two officials who attended a meeting held in Bangladesh in 2011 to discuss factory safety in the garment industry said on Wednesday that the Walmart official there played the lead role in blocking an effort to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety. read more.

* Wal-Mart supplier denies knowing clothes made in Bangladesh factory:

After the Bangladesh factory fire that killed more than 100 workers in November, retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc fired a supplier making clothes at the facility. Now that supplier has come forward to say it was not aware its clothes were stitched there, according to reports.

Success Apparel said in a statement to Bloomberg that it placed an order with Simco, a Wal-Mart-approved supplier, to fulfil orders. Simco then doled out about 7 percent of the order to Tuba Group, owner of the now infamous Tazreen Design factory in Bangladesh, according to Success.

“This factory is not on our matrix and we have never done business with them,” Success said in the statement to Bloomberg. “We have been a trusted supplier to Wal-Mart for over two decades, never had any violations and complied with the highest ethical and safety standards that our company sets forth.”

A workers’ rights group found documents in the remains of the fire that reportedly pointed to at least five suppliers making clothes for Wal-Mart at the factory this year.
read more.  & read more.
  

* Buyers risk brand image by sourcing from rogue factories:

International buyers who source garments from non-compliant factories in Bangladesh run the risk of harming their own brands.

US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne S Verveer shared her thoughts in an interview with The Daily Star on the sidelines of South Asian Women Entrepreneurship Symposium at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel yesterday.
“Buyers who source from factories that exploit workers are the buyers who know that their brands are going to be harmed,” she said.
“But there is not a company that ever wants to have a potential customer say to them [that] ‘I will not buy a shirt from you or anything from you because the source of manufacturing was abusive or the result of exploited labour’.”
read more.
& read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
     

* Any insurance claim made against Tazreen Fashions fire?:

More than a week has passed since Bangladesh’s worst garment industry tragedy killed 113, injured hundreds and displaced thousands from home, hearth and livelihood.
We have seen photos and films of wailing widows, heard the cries of orphans and the silent grief of parents. This is a normal phenomenon in our country and will soon fizzle out. The usual blame game among owners, government, firemen, police, buyers and know-alls is going on at full pitch while the bankers, investors and multi-lateral giants wait in the wings to join the fray. read more.

* Ashulia factory fire preplanned: Muhith:

Terming the Ashulia RMG factory fire preplanned, Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Sunday said steps need to be taken right now to check the recurrence of such incidents in the future.

“Investigation into the tragic incident is going on, and steps will be taken after the probe,” he said while talking to reporters after attending a programme here.
Earlier, the minister witnessed a joint drill, aimed at providing treatment for fire victims and facing disasters. Sylhet Fire Service and Civil Defence, Health Directorate and Islamic arranged the drill at Osmani Medical College Hospital.
read more.

* Corruption nexus behind garment tragedies:

An investigative report in the Friday issue of this paper has revealed how safety issues in the garment factories have been seriously compromised by some owners in cahoots with a section of corrupt government officials.

The recent fire tragedy at the Tazreen Fashions in Ahulia itself provides a glaring example of such corruption nexus and its dreadful consequence.

The facts that have come to light from the report are flabbergasting. First, the factory is housed in a structure that has got no permission from the building regulator Rajuk. Worse yet, its design has been found to be faulty. But the question is what were its inspectors doing when this unauthorised eight-storied construction was progressing in that garments belt? Second, the building had no reservoir for water–neither underground, nor overhead. Such mandatory requirement was flouted due to failure of the regulatory bodies.

While a building’s emergency exits should lead to the outside, that factory’s staircases to the exits have reached the ground floor thereby violating the standards. And as to the infringement of construction rules, the ground floor is not an open space, but one converted into a warehouse clogged with flammable substances like fabrics.

The report detailed how all the relevant building safety codes were flouted one by one and at every step of its construction in connivance with some unscrupulous officials of the regulatory bodies. There have been lapses on the part of Rajuk, fire service and civil defence department, environment department, chief inspector of factories, boiler licensing authority, insurance companies, etc. read more.

* BGMEA to sign MoU with architects to ensure fire safety in RMG units:

Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is going to sign a MoU (memorandum of understanding) with the architects with a view to identifying the problems and finding out solutions to ensure fire safety in the country’s RMG factories.

“I have already talked to BUET, Institute of Diploma Engineers and Institute of Architects Bangladesh who will be part of our taskforce,” Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, President of BGMEA told the FE.

“A high-powered taskforce would be formed soon to ensure security in the RMG factories, and of course fire safety is the top most priority,” he said. read more.

* Fire fighting tools’ demand spikes on Tazreen tragedy:

Prices increase by 30pc in two weeks

The bane of fire victims of the Tazreen Fashions Limited turned a boon to those trading in fire fighting equipment, as their sales volume increased many times across the country in just two weeks, importers and traders said.

Factories, especially the apparel units, were the main buyers of the fire fighting equipment, according to the traders.
To meet the high demand, many of the importers either opened fresh letters of credit (LCs) or were doing so for importing the equipment in a larger volume, they added.
read more.

* Ershad takes responsibility of 2 children:

Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad has taken responsibility for bringing up two children who lost both their parents to the November 24 fire at Tazreen Fashions.

Ershad yesterday went to see the two orphans, 10-year-old Seema and her five-year-old brother Zakaria, at Buripara Narshinghapur in Ashulia. The siblings come from Rangpur but are now staying with their two distant uncles in Ashulia.
The former president publicly announced that he would provide the orphans with food, shelter, treatment and education “until they are independent and married off”.
read more.

MORE AND OTHER NEWS:

* 50,000 weaving units closed in Sirajganj:

At least 50,000 weaving factories have been closed and more than one lakh weavers have become jobless in Sirajganj district in the past nine years due to uninterrupted price hike of dye, yarn and different chemicals.

Besides, huge appearance of Indian clothes at different markets, lack of necessary funds, efficiency, training and government’s patronization are main among many others hindrances in the way to its prosperity. Meanwhile, the financial backbone of many weavers has broken down, while many of them have changed their paternal profession and joined at different newly jobs centering the crisis.

According to the census in 2003, there had been over 5 lakh weaving factories in the country. Of them, about 1.5 lakh factories were in Belkuchi, Chowhali, Enayetpur, Shahzadpur, Raiganj and Kazipur upazila of Sirajganj district, while about 14870 families of weavers had been living there.
It is further revealed from the census that, around 70 crores meters of clothes is produced from handlooms in the country each year, which have to fulfill around 40 per cent internal demand of clothes. On the other hand, the country earns around Tk 1500 crores through vat and tax realization from the sector each year. read more.

* RMG workers rally at Ashulia for pay hike:

Several hundred workers of a Korean-owned knitwear factory at Ashulia in Savar staged demonstration on Sunday, demanding a pay rise.

Witnesses’ said the workers of Hyson Korea at Kathgora began agitation on the factory premises in morning and then came to the street.
Agitating workers said they wanted the management to increase the ‘piece-rate’, the rate a worker gets for doing a job on each piece of sweater and other kinds of knitwear.

The police baton-charged the agitators who reportedly vandalised furniture at the factory, leaving wounded at least 10 of them, witnesses said.
Deputy director of Ashulia industrial police Ali Ahmed Khan said the workers also demanded suspension of the factory’s production manager and general manager.
He added that the management had recently raised the piece-rate from Tk 50 to Tk 55 but the workers, demanding Tk 80 per piece, did not agree to it.
read more.

* Fire panic stampede hurts 20 at Savar factory:

At least 20 workers were injured in a wild rush to get out of a readymade garments factory at Ashulia in Savar as a fire panic gripped them on Sunday.

Witnesses said the stampede began at a factory of Nasa Basic Limited, a concern of Nasa Group, at Jamgora in Ashulia when smoke was seen caused by an electric spark on a tube light.
Referring to the factory management, Ashulia industrial police inspector Abdus Sattar said the factory’s own firemen controlled the situation but the panicked workers who left the building refused to resume work.
Dhaka Export Processing Zone fire station officer Anwar Hossain said they had visited the scene and did not find any threatening flames. read more.

* BGMEA’s training programme for workers, management people starts from tomorrow:

The country’s apex body for apparel-BGMEA will start the crash training programme Monday in a bid to train all the workers which starts with the mid- level management personnel.

The BGMEA’s move to launch such a training programme came against the backdrop of the devastating fire incident at Tazreen Fashions Ltd at Ashulia last month, which claimed at least 112 lives of workers and injured several others.

Global buyers also laid emphasis on training programme for all workers, especially the mid level management personnel, and also owners in a bid to ensure health and fire safety in each and every factory of the apparel industry in an emergency meeting with the apparel leaders last month after the Tazreen incident. read more.

* Khulna textile village in limbo:

Construction of the Khulna textile village hangs in the balance keeping the district people doubtful about the future of the much-hyped project.

Work on the project remains stalled for several years due to callousness of the Textiles and Jute Ministry and complexities caused by three cases filed.
Khulna Textile Mill was established on 26 acres of land near Boyra Main Road in the city in 1931.

The mill was run by Adamji until 1970 and its ownership was later transferred to Arshad Group in April, 1972.
It was later nationalised in the same year.
There are 32 people, 17 of them guards, employed in the mill at present.
The authorities declared the factory closed in 1993.
Later the work on establishing a textile village was initiated there after selling goods of the textile mill. read more. & read more. & read more.
   

* Korea ready for more investment, envoy says:

Korean ambassador to Bangladesh,  Lee Yan Young, has said, they want to increase their investment in various sectors, specially Garments sector of Bangladesh. “We have been investing in garments sector since 1975.

Now, there are many opportunities and environment for more investment here. We are trying to invest more in Garments sector. Korea hope that Bangladesh government will take initiative to develop the safety procedures in garments sector. Lee Yan Young said this while visiting Gecon garments of Concord group at Salna area under Gazipur sader upazila in the district on Friday afternoon.He visited every floor of the factory and talked with garment workers.General Manager of the factory Abu Naser Manik explained about their activities. read more.

* Higher foreign buyers, spot orders expected in BATEXPO:

Despite the recent campaign abroad highlighting the country’s RMG sector’s weaknesses, apparel exporters expect higher foreign buyers in the upcoming BATEXPO, the biggest apparel show beginning here on December 12.

“We know how to make a turnaround. We believe we can do that…we’ll repair the damage done addressing all the causes,” BGMEA president M Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin told reporters at a press conference at its conference room.
Over 40 foreign buyers from the USA, the UK, Canada, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, India and Pakistan had been here in the last Batexpo to have business, and a new opportunity emerges following the market expansion plan to Russia, Mohiuddin said.
“We hope buyers from Russia will also come this time…we need to have a revised duty structure through proper economic diplomacy as they impose almost 40 percent duty,” he said. read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
     

07:15:26 local time map of indiaINDIA

* Centre urged to set up raw material bank for textile sector:

Representatives of textile industry have urged the Central government to set up a raw material bank in the city to impart knowledge to weavers on procurement of raw material, marketing and production of different varieties of fabrics on the highly modern shuttle-less looms.

Industry leaders said that since most of the weavers in the decentralized powerloom sector do not have organized information about these aspects, the centre should launch a scheme where a federal association under the companies act or a district level cooperative society is set up to provide support through the raw material bank.

They said that in the last decade modernization has taken place in case of yarn process for preparatory sector with the support of capital subsidy and interest subsidy under Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme ( TUFS). Texturising machines with higher speed have replaced old machines and helped in reducing the cost of processing the yarn. read more.

* Gumla youths achieve excellence at garment firm after training:

Lilawati Kumari, a tribal girl from Lawagain village in Maoist-dominated Sisai block in Gumla, has become a role model after she was selected the best worker (operator) in the Noida unit of Orient Craft Limited (OCL), an apparel manufacturing firm sometime back.

Lilawati told TOI over phone that she earns up to Rs 8,000 per month as an operator of high-speed sewing machines in the garment factory. In addition to this, she earns money from overtime duty. Earlier, she had no work in the village, she said. After she dropped out of matriculation, she chose to get her trained in stitching on a modern machine at the Gumla centre run by the Orient Craft Fashion Institute of Technology (Ocfit) of OCL set up for dropouts and poor youths. read more.

* Textile machinery exports to rise 17% to Rs 1,400 cr this fiscal:

Textile machinery exports will swell 16.67 per cent this financial year to Rs 1,400 crore, on the back of good demand pouring for spinning machinery and components of textile machinery, according to India International Textile Machinery Exhibition ( ITME). Last financial year, textile machinery exports stood at Rs 1,200 crore.

In the last three years, demand continued to pour in for domestic textile machinery despite the overall slowdown in major economies. Between FY10 and FY12, textile machinery exports saw an increase of 166.67 per cent, from Rs 450 crore to Rs 1,200 crore. read more.

06:45:26 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* APTMA decides to step up protest against energy crisis:

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) has decided to protest strongly against the severe energy crisis, especially in the province of Punjab where 80 percent of textile industry exists and passing through electricity and gas supply shortages.

It has been learnt on good authority that the Aptma leadership would hold an important press conference early next week where some crucial announcement is likely to be made in order to warn the government.

It may be noted that the Aptma leadership had brought the textile workers on street against severe gas shortage last year. A large number of textile workers, along with top leadership, had surrounded the SNGPL main building and dispersed only after clear-cut assurance of gas supply.read more.

* Burden of power outages shifts to industry:

Contrary to its previous policy, the federal government has significantly shifted the burden of power outages on industry from domestic consumers under a new directive of the Federal Ministry of Water and Power.

As per the revised load management plan, effective from the first week of December, 2012, steel furnaces are subjected to outages 12 hours a day against total exemption in the past from power outages. The independently-fed textile industry faces four hour cuts in power supply, which will shortly be raised to six hours and then eight hours a day from the third week of December till February.

There will be a two-hour suspension of power supply to industrial dominated tube-well, flour mills and commercial markets. Only the continuous process industry has been given exemption from outages.
(….)
The textile industry is visibly perturbed about the intensity of suspension in power supply.

Gohar Ejaz, group leader All Pakistan Textile Mills said “the textile industry is not being supplied with uninterrupted power despite low domestic demand at present.” “The industry is already facing a severe cut in gas supplies.” He said that gas was being supplied to the textile industry only eight days a month. read more.

* Textile sector to benefit from increased Chinese demand:

Chinese demand for Pakistani cotton has increased and will benefit the Pakistani textile sector in near future.

Our local cotton arrival target for fiscal year 2012-13 stands at 14.5 million bales. Local prices would remain range-bound where the domestic textile sector is expected to benefit from increased demand from China given its higher support price, said a JS research analyst on Saturday.

Cotton crop dynamics, both local and global, appear relatively robust for FY13. As a result, world cotton prices would remain on the downside, averaging $0.83 per pound in FY13 as against $1.11 per pound in the same period last year, research analyst said in his report. read more.

* Punjab textile industry in duress:

Aptma Chairman Shahzad Ali Khan has said that textile industry in Punjab is under serious threat of closure due to gas supply suspension on the one hand and six to eight hours announced/unannounced electricity load shedding on the other.

He said reduction in gas supply from five days to two days a week has already played havoc with the industry. Now the phenomenon of unannounced load shedding is going to intensify the situation further and the textile millers are not clear whether to continue operations for five days a week in the absence of gas supply and uncertain availability of electricity to mills or lay off the workers in Punjab, he added.

According to him, the prevailing uncertainty is fast eroding the viability of the Punjab-based industry. The textile industry is mainstay of the Pakistan economy and 75 percent of the production units are Punjab-based. But severe energy shortage in Punjab is hitting the textile industry worst despite the fact that the textile units are on independent feeders and paying 100 percent electricity bills. read more.

* Financing to textiles: Dr Baig hails President’s proposal to South Korea:

Federal Advisor on Textiles Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig who returned after three days official visit to Seoul Korea with President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari hailed President Zardari’s proposal to Chairman Korea Eximbank Dong Soo Park to extend financing to Pakistan’s textile sector to enhance their economies of scale.

Dr Baig also attended the said meeting with the President appreciating the President’s vision for our textile sector competing in the region and getting maximum share of the Chinese textile market in the future.
Dr Baig informed the President that China was no more competing with Pakistan in cotton yarn and denim fabric, instead China had emerged as one of the biggest buyers of these items from Pakistan.
With increasing wages and labour costs by 20% per annum China would also phase out of the garment business providing opportunity to Pakistan and other countries in the region to get their market share. read more. & read more.
 

* Falling bedwear exports: government urged to reduce mark-up rate:

With a view to augmenting the country’s export of bed-wear textile, the government should reduce mark-up rate and high cost of inputs to enable the local manufacturers to compete with India, Sri Lanka, China and Bangladesh on world markets, said Chairman Pakistan Bedwear Exporters Association (PBEA), Zain Bashir on Saturday.

Speaking at a joint press conference along with Shabbier Ahmed and Naqi Bari at a local hotel, he showed panic over the falling bed-wear textile export to $1.7 billion in 2012, which had touched over $2 billion mark in 2005-06. read more. & read more.
 

* Weaving a future for Islampur’s shawl industry:


The 50,000 or so dwellers of Islampur are almost wholly dependent on this centuries old craft. PHOTO: FILE

Islampur, a tiny village in Swat, is known for its fine-quality handmade woollen shawls, which are available for a bargain at Rs450 a piece. However, prices sometimes go as high as Rs14,000 per piece, depending on the quality of craftsmanship.

The 50,000 or so dwellers of Islampur are almost wholly dependent on this centuries old craft. Around 5,000 weavers, including a sizable number of women, work inside their houses using wooden looms of a local design, known as ‘khaddi’ in the local language. At least 85 small and medium shawl manufacturing units are located in the scenic village.

The small cottage industry was hit hard by insurgency and flooding in the past, and production had all but ended. After the successful military operation in Swat, locals who had migrated to other parts of the country returned to their hometowns, but faced problems in restarting their businesses due to the shortage of available funding. read more.

     THE KARACHI FIRE

* Hoping to prevent another Baldia-like tragedy, experts hash out recommendations:


“Factory owners should register their workers and should not treat them like machines,” PWF general secretary Zahoor Awan. PHOTO: FILE

Industrial accidents happen all over the world, but it amounts to a criminal act if the government turns a blind eye to such incidents. On the other hand, the Sindh government tackled the fallout from the Baldia Town factory fire tragedy in a prompt manner.

These views were expressed by Francesco d’Ovidio, country director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as he was attending a consultation for formulating a plan of action to prevent industrial disasters in the future. The session was jointly organised by the ILO, the Sindh Labour Department, Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP) and the Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) on Thursday.

PWF general secretary Zahoor Awan stressed on the importance of factory owners properly registering their workers, and added that they should “not treat workers like machines”. Unregistered workers at the ill-fated Ali Enterprises in Baldia Town had created a host of problems for the government and nongovernmental organisations, as they were not sure how many workers were present in the factory when the file broke out. The participants also observed that when contracts are awarded to third parties, then the problem of unregistered workers rises.

While quoting a media report, Sindh labour secretary Arif Elahi said that the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) had issued 38,000 power connections to industrial units in the city, when the number of registered factories in Karachi is closer to 5,000. “We have 7,000 registered factories in the entire province, and therefore this [KESC figure] is ridiculous,” said Elahi. read more.

* Court dismisses bail application of two security guards:

A district and sessions court dismissed on Saturday the bail applications of two security guards of the Baldia garment factory.

The fifth additional district and sessions judge, West, Abdullah Channah, dismissed the bail-after-arrest applications of Ali Muhammad and Fazal Mehmood, and reserved the verdict.
The counsel for the guards, Muhammad Tamim Khan, said that the applications were denied around noon, but he could not get hold of the grounds on which the judge took that decision.

Khan will receive copies of the judgment on Monday, after which he said, he will file an application for bail in the Sindh High Court.
The police had arrested the guards on charges of their involvement in the factory fire that took over 250 lives in September this year. to read.

* Fresh samples for DNA test sent to Islamabad:

Police investigators have sent fresh samples, collected again from the 33 unidentified bodies at the Edhi morgue, to a forensic laboratory in Islamabad for DNA matching with the families whose loved ones have been missing since the Sept 11 Baldia Town factory inferno.

The exercise for the identification of the 33 bodies, which are beyond recognition, was started afresh following a recent Sindh High Court directive in the Baldia factory fire case, while the families of many victims desperate to know their fate for the past three months have been told to wait for another two weeks.
The process, officials said, could take 15 to 20 days.

“We had collected the samples on Nov 30,” said Dr Jalil Qadir, the police surgeon who heads a medical team tasked with the job.

He said: “Thirty one complete bodies are beyond recognition, while two others can’t be said complete bodies but fragments of bodies. The samples of all 33 objects were collected and handed over to the police investigators for further process.”
read more.

* Baldia blaze fails to move authorities:

The horrific Baldia factory fire in September this year that claimed over 250 lives was apparently not enough to wake up the government’s welfare labourer institutes from their slumber as they are still not making any efforts to register the thousands of employees working at the city’s factories.

The registration would have paved way for ensuring safety measures at workplaces so that a tragedy like the one in Baldia does not recur, but the death of so many workers in that blaze failed to change the attitude of the authorities.

Besides, the high court had also ordered the authorities concerned to register industrial workers, but the directives remain unimplemented.
There are 5,000 industrial units in Korangi Industrial Area (KIA) and only half of them are registered with the Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), the Sindh Employees’ Social Security Institution (Sessi) and the Labour Department.

According to a survey conducted by The News, there are around 500,000 or 600,000 workers are these 2,500 industries. However, only 100,000 of them are registered with these institutes.

These unregistered workers have been serving in these industries for a long time and no efforts are being made to register them. There is also no action against the industrialists who did not have their workers registered. As per Sessi and the EOBI specifications, any industry where a minimum of five workers are working should have its employees registered with these organisations. read more.

* Now the threats:

The devastating fire in a garment factory in Baldia Town, Karachi on September 11 took the lives of over 250 labourers, 28 of whom are still lying in an Edhi morgue, unidentified and likely to be buried in nameless graves unless somebody comes forward to claim them.

This was the worst industrial accident in the history of Pakistan and has prompted much debate and soul searching about safety in the workplace, as well as giving rise to an ongoing court case – wherein tragedy is now compounded. The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), among other organisations, alleged at a press conference on Wednesday that the case being brought on behalf of the legal heirs of some of the victims has become the target of ‘threats’.

The case is an attempt to identify those responsible for the fire. At a hearing on December 3, it was alleged that the lawyer representing the complainants was ‘photographed’ in a presumed attempt to intimidate him. Many witnesses have changed their statements in court and more are said to be thinking of changing their statements at the next hearing – the presumption being that they have also been intimidated into recanting or altering their original words. read more.

 ASIA

* Pay rises in Asia outside China ‘disappointing’:

Wage increases in Asia have outperformed those in most other parts of the world, including the Western economies, but still have a long way to go, according to a new report from the International Labour Organisation.

One key mechanism for improving the situation is government-mandated minimum-wage rises, the ILO said, noting Thailand’s and Malaysia’s progress in this area.

Between 2000 and 2011, wages in Asia almost doubled. Globally, real average monthly wages grew by just under a quarter in the same period, while in the developed world the increase was only around 5 per cent over the entire period.

The “Global Wage Report 2012/13: Wage and Equitable Growth”, was released yesterday by the ILO, a United Nations agency that deals with work and work-related issues. read more.

* Crisis-hit developed countries see wages fall: ILO:

A sluggish global economy hit world wage growth hard last year, taking an especially harsh toll on workers in developed countries, who saw their salaries shrink, the International Labour Organization said yesterday.

“The global crisis has had significant negative repercussions for labour markets in many parts of the world,” said ILO director general Guy Ryder.

In its Global Wage Report, the UN’s labour agency said that monthly average wages adjusted for inflation grew globally by just 1.2 percent last year, down from 2.1 percent in 2010 and 3.0 percent in 2007.

It added that if China — a country where wages roughly tripled over the past decade — was omitted from the equation, global wages grew by just 0.2 percent last year from 1.3 percent in 2010 and 2.3 percent in 2007. read more.

* SE Asia gambles on cheap labour:

After years of profiting from cheap labor, Southeast Asian businesses paying wages low enough to undercut China are being forced to accept it is time they paid people a bit more.

In Thailand, minimum wages will jump by 35 percent in some regions from January, on top of a nationwide increase of 40 percent last April. Big percentages that add up to just a few dollars more in pay packets each month.

The country’s finance minister says it will be good for workers and industry.
“People getting higher wages will not want to lose their jobs and employers will not want to increase wages for nothing. They will have to work together to boost efficiency and productivity,” Kittirat Na Ranong told Reuters this week.

Economists also point out that if you pay people more they’ll buy more. But the nagging worry is that everyone could eventually lose out if wages rise too fast, resulting in higher inflation and job losses as firms lose competitive edge.
While the political benefits are easy to see in a region where a vast majority of people are clamoring for a better life, the economic calculation is a harder sell to a business community whose margins depend on cheap labor. read more. & read more.

* Hub-spokes relations and economic injustice in SE Asia:

During the Cold War, the economic and political ties of the United States and smaller countries could be described as a hub-spokes relationship. The United States was the hub and the other countries were spokes. The relationships were based on bilateralism and dominated by the hub through different free trade agreements (FTAs) with each spoke.

Under this system, spokes often supplied raw materials or provided cheap labour to produce goods for the domestic market of the hub economy. The hub could re-export those goods to other spokes under different FTAs. In this scenario, both earned revenue from trade. However, the spokes seemed to be the ones who bore more environmental and social costs than the hub.

The hub-spokes model thus reflects an asymmetric relationship in terms of political and economic power that the hub has over the spokes. This can also refer to the “North-South conflict” issue.

Today, however, trade between South-South economies can also epitomise the classic hub-spokes relationship. And it is apparently evident in the Mekong region. China has begun to aggressively play the role of the hub economy and mega-financier to the less-developed Mekong economies – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – which are ostensibly spokes for the Chinese economy.
read more.

 

map of Asia

HEADLINES TODAY:

CHINA
* Protecting workers’ representatives: A key issue in the development of collective bargaining
* City steps up efforts to collect old clothes

VIET NAM
* Government to apply new minimum wage rates
* Minimum wage announced to increase in January

THAILAND
* Wage hike may hit 2,193 SMEs
* Help, training urged for small firms
* Small firms face ‘shock’ of wage rise

CAMBODIA
* Cambodian Garment Industry Institute a Stitch in Time?

INDONESIA
* A wake-up call from Indonesia’s manufacturers to government

NEPAL
* Apparel factory fire reveals big brands’ shadowy supply chains

BANGA DESH
* ASHULIA- TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* Confusion over Tazreen toll
* Some Tazreen workers stage demo for payment
* Most Tazreen workers fail to manage new jobs
* Bangladesh factory lacked fire clearance
* Tazreen lost fire safety clearance months before tragedy
* Walmart blocked safety push in Bangladesh
* Wal-Mart supplier denies knowing clothes made in Bangladesh factory
* Buyers risk brand image by sourcing from rogue factories
* Any insurance claim made against Tazreen Fashions fire?
* Ashulia factory fire preplanned: Muhith
* Corruption nexus behind garment tragedies
* BGMEA to sign MoU with architects to ensure fire safety in RMG units
* Fire fighting tools’ demand spikes on Tazreen tragedy
* Ershad takes responsibility of 2 children

MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* 50,000 weaving units closed in Sirajganj
* RMG workers rally at Ashulia for pay hike
* Fire panic stampede hurts 20 at Savar factory
* BGMEA’s training programme for workers, management people starts
* Khulna textile village in limbo
* Korea ready for more investment, envoy says
* Higher foreign buyers, spot orders expected in BATEXPO

INDIA
* Centre urged to set up raw material bank for textile sector
* Gumla youths achieve excellence at garment firm after training
* Textile machinery exports to rise 17% to Rs 1,400 cr this fiscal

PAKISTAN
* APTMA decides to step up protest against energy crisis
* Burden of power outages shifts to industry
* Textile sector to benefit from increased Chinese demand
* Punjab textile industry in duress
* Financing to textiles: Dr Baig hails President’s proposal to South Korea
* Falling bedwear exports: government urged to reduce mark-up rate
* THE KARACHI FIRE:
* Hoping to prevent another Baldia-like tragedy, experts hash out recommendations
* Court dismisses bail application of two security guards
* Fresh samples for DNA test sent to Islamabad
* Baldia blaze fails to move authorities
* Now the threats

ASIA
* Pay rises in Asia outside China ‘disappointing’
* Crisis-hit developed countries see wages fall: ILO
* SE Asia gambles on cheap labour
* Hub-spokes relations and economic injustice in SE Asia

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