18:24:30 local time PHILIPPINES
* Philippines handicraft exporters eye new markets:
17:24:30 local time THAILAND
* Businesses unimpressed by govt ‘compensation’ to deal with wage hike:
The Cabinet yesterday approved 16 measures aimed at helping owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the Bt300 daily minimum wage, said Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong.
Key among the measures is an increase in the profit ceiling for tax exemption, from Bt150,000 to Bt300,000 per annum, which will benefit around 210,000 SMEs at a cost to state revenue of Bt2.8 billion, said Kittiratt.
Another key policy, which proposed reducing SMEs’ withholding tax from 3 to 2 per cent, has been withdrawn by Kittiratt, pending further consideration. SMEs want the reduction to reach 0.01 per cent.
The 16 measures include 11 that were proposed and informally approved last year, plus five new ones covering case-by-case soft loans subject to conditions, cost-reducing incentives, productivity-boosting measures, profit-increasing conditions and stimulus and sales promotion. read more.
* 2,500 jobs axed as daily wage hike bites:
Almost 2,500 workers were laid off in the first five days after the 300-baht daily minimum wage was enforced nationwide on Jan 1, Labour Minister Padermchai Sasomsap says.
The minister’s remark came on the same day that the cabinet approved a package it claimed would ease the strain on the almost 300,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and create about 320,000 new jobs.
Mr Padermchai quoted the Social Security Office (SSO) as reporting that 2,479 workers were laid off from Jan 2 to 6 after the wage increase took effect.
The 300-baht minimum daily wage had already been in effect since last April in seven pilot provinces, including Bangkok. There were 243,141 workers laid off from April to December last year, the minister said. read more.
* Wage hike relief measures approved by cabinet:
The cabinet has approved tax relief proposals for small- and medium-enterprises (SMEs) affected by the increase in the nationwide minimum daily wage to 300 baht, which took effect on Jan 1.
The measures are aimed at helping SMEs with annual revenue not exceeding 50 million baht a year, and were proposed by the Finance Ministry after an approach by the private sector.
Revenue Department chief Sathit Rangkasiri said the measures include raising the income tax exemption limit for SMEs from 150,000 baht to 300,000 baht a year. SMEs declaring income between 300,000 and one million baht will be taxed at 15% and those with over one million baht profit will pay tax at 20% on the difference.
read more. & read more.
17:24:30 local time CAMBODIA
* Over 2100 garment workers fainted in 2012: Cambodian union:
* Cambodia’s low wages lure manufacturers away from China, other countries:
Inside a gleaming white-and-blue garment factory in Cambodia stand rows of second-hand Singers — weathered sewing machines transported from a plant in China that closed last year.
The Hong Kong-headquartered Top Form, which has 700 workers at the plant, is one of many businesses that have moved to Cambodia, mostly from China, in the past year or so to take advantage of its lower wages, which are roughly a third of those in China.
Double-digit wage increases in China and a shortage of labor for factory work have prompted several companies to move to Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and other cheaper countries.
Angie Lau, chief executive of bramaker Clover in Hong Kong, says that her company has found operating in Cambodia easier than in India, where it also operates a plant, and that productivity at the Cambodian plant is rising fast toward levels seen in its Chinese factories. read more.
18:24:30 local time INDONESIA
* Workers to go back to the streets:
An alliance of labor unions in North Sumatra said that they would return to the streets in the immediate future and file a lawsuit against acting governor Gatot Puji Nugroho at the State Administrative Court over his cheap-labor policy.
Economic activities in Medan and its surrounding areas were paralyzed last month when thousands of workers from industrial estates went on strike and blockaded the Tanjungmorawa-Belawan toll road and the Belawan seaport.
Labor union alliance spokesman Minggu Saragih said in a press conference here on Sunday that all labor unions were still preparing to stage the second wave of industrial strikes.
“We will be back on the streets with massive rallies and a special team that has been assigned to accompany workers while they file their lawsuit against the acting governor,” he said. read more.
16:09:30 local time NEPAL
* Govt mulls sector-wise minimum wage rates:
With the time to review workers’ basic salary inching closer, the government is mulling sector-wise minimum wage rate.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) is planning to hold discussions with employers’ organisations and trade unions to this effect. As of now, minimum salary scale is same across all sectors.
As per the labour laws, workers’ minimum salary is reviewed every two years.
The pay scale was last revised in March 2011 and was hiked to Rs 6,200 per month.
“This time, we are planning to set different pay scales for different sectors,” said Som Lal Subedi, secretary at the Labour Ministry. “As some sectors are providing more than the government-fixed salary, we are exploring possibilities for setting minimum wage rate based on what workers are getting in a particular sector and the sector’s performance.” read more.
16:24:30 local time BANGLA DESH
* ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* HC asks for govt inspection report on fire safety:
The High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities concerned to submit to it within six weeks the government’s inspection report on the fire safety arrangements after and before the deadly fire in November at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia.
The devastating fire that swept through the nine-storey apparel factory at Nischintapur in the suburbs of Dhaka on the night of November 24 killed as many as 112 garment workers, mostly women, and inured scores of others.
The bench of Justice Hasan Foez Siddique and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain also asked the authorities to submit to the court within two weeks all the documents, including the licence the government had issued to Tazreen Fashions Ltd for garment production.
The court also asked the owner and the management of Tazreen Fashions Ltd to explain in two weeks why they would not be directed to compensate the families of the workers killed in the fire as well as the injured.
The court also asked the government to explain in two weeks why it should not be directed to take action against Tazreen’s owner and management for negligence of responsibility in relation to fire safety and security of the workers.
read more. & read more.
* Is Walmart partly to blame for Tazreen fire:
On November 24, 2012, a fire at a garment factory that killed at least 111 people in Dhaka, Bangladesh, sparked global outrage and calls for higher international labor standards.
The incident at Tazreen Fashions was not unique; several conflagrations at other garment factories in the country broke out after the tragedy. In fact, it is part of a long line of similar accidents in a country where 80% of its $24 billion in annual exports is dependent on manufacturing.
Soon after, an investigation into the cause of the fire was conducted, and multiple safety violations such as locked exits and the absence of fire escapes were identified. Clothes were also found that had been labeled for major corporations such as Walmart, Sears Corp, and Walt Disney.
The companies have since told the media that they had not known or authorized this factory to be a part of their supply chains. The most criticized and vocal of those companies, Walmart admitted that the factory had been producing garments for its retail stores, but without its permission. It has since terminated its relationship with Success Apparel, the company that sub-contracted the work to Tuba Group, of which Tazreen Fashions is a part.
As they have profound influences on not only the local economy but also a region’s denizens and the environment in which their factories operate, transnational corporations have been increasingly criticized for their lack of concern and oversight in countries that manufacture much of their products.
Labor rights groups such as the International Labor Rights Forum say, “low wages and sub-standard safety conditions remain a problem among many of [Bangladesh’s] roughly 3,000 apparel factories because end-buyers squeeze them for rock-bottom production costs.” Essentially, retailers such as Walmart claim they want to enforce more ethical safety and labor standards in these Asian factories, but they want their products to be so low-priced that they are making it difficult for the factories to operate according to those standards. read more.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
*US seeks comments on GSP for Bangladesh:
The US Trade Representative (USTR) office is seeking comments from stakeholders by January 31 on the possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation of Bangladesh’s duty-free benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
In a Federal Register notice to be published on January 8, the USTR noted that the Trade Policy Staff Committee’s (TPSC) GSP subcommittee is considering whether to recommend that GSP benefits for Bangladesh be withdrawn, suspended or limited.
A workers’ rights country practice review is ongoing and the TPSC has looked at charges from the largest federation of unions in the United States AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations) that Bangladesh is not taking steps to afford to workers internationally recognised worker rights, specifically the right of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively. read more. & read more. & read more.& read more.
* US Senators’ veiled threat over GSP makes BD exporters edgy:
The exporters enjoying GSP facilities from the US market have expressed their worries over the recent move by the US Senators to review the special facilities for Bangladesh on grounds of labour related ‘disagreements’.
Not only the GSP beneficiaries, other exporters have also found the US lawmakers’ plea alarming for the country’s overall export sector.
The GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) is the facility that allows duty-free export from a country.
The US is the single-largest destination for the Bangladesh-made products. The country exported products worth $4.87 billion in 2011, while its export under GSP was $26.3 million led by tobacco products, frozen fish, furniture, ceramic and plastic products.
About 95 per cent of Bangladeshi products being exported to the US market now enjoy duty-free access, less than one per cent of the country’s total exports, that exclude RMG, leather and jute and jute goods. read more.
* The garment sector: A cloudy future:
There are many persons joining in to remind the garment industry that it is wake up time. We hope that the industry leaders and the government officials concerned will take these warnings seriously.
The business leaders and the government have been smug for too long. With opportunities to expand the RMG industry this bright future is threatened by poor governance, self-serving illusions, and the wrong macroeconomic policy.
It is time for a serious look at the industry and prompt implementation of real changes. For years the industry has dreamed—of lower tariffs in the USA, of expanding markets, of more and more uncomplaining workers and of a world continuing to pretend to be interested in labour and factory conditions.
But the world is changing and it is imperative that the industry focuses on the emerging reality not daydreams.
Lower Tariffs: There are not going to be lower tariffs on garments imposed by the United States. Of course there are groups in the USA who support such a change but the political line up of interest groups in the United States Congress has been and continues to be that such a tariff deal will not be forthcoming. read more.
* BJMA leaders for execution of Jute Packaging Act to raise local use of jute goods:
The leaders of Bangladesh Jute Mills Association (BJMA) have demanded of the government to implement the Jute Packaging Act aiming to raise local consumption of the bio-degradable goods.
They placed their demand recently at the 29th annual general meeting of the association saying if the mandatory Jute Packaging Act is executed, the domestic use of the eco-friendly products will increase 60 to 70 per cent compared to that of present consumption. read more.
15:54:30 local time INDIA
* Paying a high price for cheap fashion:
Young women are mistreated in some Indian textile factories in the Tamil Nadu state. German companies are among those who work with factories in that region. But there is no obligation to disclose the commodity chain.
A sweater for 20 euros, a pair of jeans for 30 ($40) – most people on a shopping spree should be well aware that their transactions happen at the expense of Asian textile workers. Take Sumangali in India’s southern State of Tamil Nadu. Sumangali is Tamil for “the bride that brings wealth”.
Parents send their daughters off for a so-called “training” period in textile factories or spinning works where they are supposed to earn money for their dowry. The “training period” can take up to three or four year.
The girls are exploited: the salary for a working day of 12 hours is as little as 60 eurocents ($0.80). They are often promised a bonus payment of 500 euros ($660) – which is only paid if the girls manage to finish their contract – when the three to four years are over. Usually this bonus falls to the family of the groom.
The girls are not allowed to leave the area and have to live in crowded shacks. Many are beaten or sexually harassed. read more.
* Industrial workers to go on 2-day strike:
Industrial workers have planned to go on a two-day nationwide strike from February 20 to press for their various demands.
Workers from different sectors in various industrial units will participate in the two-day stir, All India General Secretary of the Steel Metal and Engineering Workers’ Federation of India (SMEFI) Sanjay Wadhavkar said here today.
While the demands of different working unions vary as per the sector, the main demand of all the unions is that the minimum wages for a worker should be Rs 10,000 (a month), Wadhavkar said.
Charter of demands
The charter of demands relates to social security measures for the workers, opposition to privatisation of the PSUs, removing the ceiling on bonus, contract labour, issues relating to workers in unorganised sectors, he said. read more.
* Textiles industry seeks cut in excise duty on man-made fibres:
Apex industry chamber for textiles CITI today demanded that the Government reduce excise duty on man-made fibres to 8 per cent in the forthcoming Budget to boost the sector’s growth.
In its pre-Budget memorandum to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the Confederation of Indian Textiles Industry (CITI) said: “The duty on man-made fibres and their raw materials may be reduced to 8 per cent from the current 12 per cent.”
It argued that the duty reduction will not lead to revenue loss for the Government.
“This may not lead to revenue loss since demand and therefore production will increase, leading to increased revenue,” it said in a statement.
CITI said the increasing cost of production in China has opened up huge opportunities for the Indian man-made fibre based textiles industry to expand its market share. read more.
* Gujarat’s garment export share to rise three times: FIEO:
With new textile policy in place, Gujarat is set to see robust growth in garment exports in the next five years, informed top officials of Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO).
Gujarat, which currently has around 5 per cent share in the country’s total garment exports, will see its share growing by three times to around 15 per cent over the next five years, claimed FIEO. read more.
* AEPC to study competitive factors in apparel sector:
The Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) will soon start a study on the ‘competitive factors in apparel sector’ for which the Ministry of Textiles had given in-principle approval.
“The assessment is meant to benchmark the apparel export prowess of India with five countries that shows higher growth rate which include China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Turkey and Bangladesh and thereby, analyse the factors where India has been losing the edge,” AEPC acting secretary general Vijay Mathur told The Hindu .
As per the in-principle agreement, the Ministry would be earmarking Rs. 1.05 crore out of the total Rs. 1.5 crore expenditure to be incurred for the study with the AEPC to mobilise the remaining amount from the internal resources. read more.
* Cotton exports to dip 60% this year: USDA:
India’s cotton exports are likely to tumble by 60 per cent to 5.7 million bales in the marketing year ending July compared to last year level, a USDA report said.
India, the world’s second-largest exporter, is estimated to have shipped a record 14.7 million bales in the last marketing year, it said. One bale has 170 kg of cotton.
“The 2012-13 export estimate is unchanged at 5.7 million bales (of 170 kg),” the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in the report.
China, the world’s biggest cotton consumer, continues to be the major export market for Indian cotton. Indian cotton prices are trading slightly lower to world prices. Exports have also been aided by a weak rupee, it added.
The USDA did not give any specific reasons for a decline in cotton exports. The domestic traders and experts said shipments could slow down due to lower Chinese purchases in the wake of huge inventories. read more.
* Cotton farmers protest suspension of trading by mill owners:
Cotton farmers in Adilabad staged a protest at Punjab Hotel Chowk here on Tuesday following suspension of trading by mill owners. The owners had closed cotton processing factories intending to stage a protest over the frequent and long power cuts.
Angry farmers who arrived at the marketyard in town, assembled at the Chowk and obstructed traffic flow. They relented only after an assurance by the police and Adilabad Revenue officials that trading would be resumed soon. read more.
* CITU to discuss neoliberal reforms, labour unrest:
State conference to be held in Kasaragod from Saturday
The “neoliberal” economic reforms pursued by the Centre, the rising prices and the grim agricultural scene owing to slashing of subsidies, the alleged moves to weaken the small-scale sector and the rising labour unrest in the State are among the issues expected to figure at the State conference of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) here from Saturday.
At a press conference here on Tuesday, P. Karunakaran, MP and organising committee chairman, said the Union and the State governments were pursuing neoliberal economic reforms, leading to an unprecedented price rise, the setback to agriculture and the small-scale sector and unrest among the workforce.
He said elaborate arrangements had been made for the conference, being held for the first time here. As many as 512 delegates from across Kerala would take part in the three-day event. read more.
* A woman-shaped gap in the Indian workforce:
A mix of social constraints and dearth of employment opportunities has kept women out of the labour market, leading to a huge opportunity cost to the nation
Women in India face enormous challenges for their participation in the economy — in a way that mirrors the many injustices they suffer in the society at large.
The labour participation rate of women — that is, the number of women in the labour force as a proportion of the total female population — provides an indicator of some of these challenges. In 2008, the labour participation rate in India was only 33 per cent for females as compared to 81 per cent for males. By way of comparison, it was 68 per cent. Among Indian States, the female labour participation rate is one of the lowest in Delhi, a region also known for its harsh treatment of women.
The labour force includes not only the employed but also unemployed persons who are actively seeking jobs. In India, substantial numbers of women who are not counted in the labour force are, as described in the official statistics, ‘attending to domestic duties’ in their own households.
National Sample Survey reports tell us that, in 2009-10, out of every 1,000 females (all ages) in India’s rural areas, 347 were attending to domestic duties. In the case of urban females, this number was even bigger: 465 per 1000. Compare this to the number of rural and urban men who were attending to domestic duties: only 5 per 1,000 and 4 per 1,000 respectively. read more.
15:54:30 local time SRI LANKA
* Textile villages coming up in North Western Province:
A special plan has been drawn up by the Provincial Department of Textiles to set up textiles villages in the province to uplift the handloom textile industry.
The plan will be implemented on the instructions of Provincial Minister Gunadasa Dehigama.
Plans are underway to handover a handloom machine worth Rs 50,000 to each textile village.
Dehigama said five textile villages have already been setup in Kalugamuwa, Kurunegala, Nattandiya, Pothuhera and Weerambugedara. to read.
15:24:30 local time PAKISTAN
* Powerlooms’ workers take out cycle rally:
Thousands of powerlooms workers took out a cycle rally in the favour of their demands here the other day.
The rally was led by Labour Qaumi Movment District President Chaudhary Tanveer.The rally started from Sargodha Road, passed through Ayoub Chowk and moved on Faisalabad Road for onward march to Faisalabad.
Addressing the rally participants, the LQM District president said that they would continue their strike until they succeed in their mission. He said that a contract was signed between the powerlooms owners and workers in 2010 which could not be implemented.
He claimed that under the contract, it was decided that the owners of looms belonging to Jhang would give the same facilities to the workers as given by the owner of Faislaabad powerlooms owners to their workers. read more.
* Owners threaten closure of 20,000 powerlooms:
The owners of 20,000 powerlooms have decided to shut their unite for indefinite period across the district due to every day strikes of workers and save themselves from a ‘criminal group’ which demanding extortion on weekly basis.
Power looms Association President Shiekh Nasir, executive committee members including Iftikhar Lodhi, Haji Rauf and Shakeel Ashraf announced this while addressing a press conference here the other day.
They said that power looms owners paid million of rupees monthly as income, sales tax and electricity bills to the government but the administration was not paying attention to solve their problems.
They alleged that Labour National Movement members had been collecting extortion money from workers but now they started demand money from power loom owners on weekly basis, adding that in case of refusal, they started damaging power loom units and threatened workers and owner as well. read more.
* Apparel Forum takes up issues with FTO:
Pakistan Apparel Forum has raised crucial issues with the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), which include illegal import blockage by customs, input tax adjustment between Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and provinces, pending refunds of special excise duty (SED) claims, audit notices, transfer/change of ownership under SRO 589/2012 and post-refund audit notices prior to 3-5 years.
The issues were raised by the exporters with Federal Tax Ombudsman Dr. Muhammad Shoaib Suddle to apprise him about irritants and problems faced by exporters involving or leading towards mal-administration. The FTO promptly took action on the issues raised by association to resolve them during last meeting at Karachi.
The first issue is that plant and machinery were exempted by the FBR through SRO.727(I)/2011 in consultation with trade and industry. read more.
* The Scandal of Foreign Labor in Asia:
The draconian action taken by the Singapore government against striking bus drivers a week ago, expelling 29 of them and charging another five, is emblematic of the treatment foreign labor can expect in most of Asia’s countries, not just the island republic. Another was charged with inciting by posting comments on a Chinese social network site and was jailed for six months after pleading guilty.
Some 171 Chinese-national bus drivers employed by the Singapore government-controlled transit company SMRT walked off their jobs, claiming they were underpaid relative to other foreign workers doing the same job and forced to live in poorly sanitized barracks, in what has been called the first strike in Singapore since 1986. The dispute had its origins in a new work contract imposed on the workers in July which raised the weekly wage of drivers by S$25 (US $20) but at the same time it also raised the hours of work. The recalculated ratio of pay to wages actually cut the rate per hour.
The SMRT case is no surprise for those who know how the foreign labor industry works in the island republic and in fact across much of Southeast Asia. The dispute is indicative of a much larger chronic problem. The pay and conditions of foreign workers throughout the region have been poor to say the least.
To date, the foreign-worker supply has generally been plentiful and workers are seen as a resource where the maximum should be extracted out of them for the minimum expenditure possible. This is extremely common within local companies. Many stories abound of harsh treatment, poor management, abuse and generally poor working conditions.
Most foreign workers have already paid agents up to US $10,000, mostly borrowed for the privilege of working abroad. There are many cases of workers being cheated out of their salaries by greedy and unscrupulous employers. Just within the last few days the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur warned its nationals not to work as maids in Malaysia due to the abuses many have endured over the years with very few rights of recourse. read more.