15:04:36 local time PHILIPPINES
* Workers push for wage hike bill in 15th Congress :
This week marks the last nine session days before Congress takes a recess for election campaign.
As such, workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) tried to remind the lawmakers not to leave behind their years-long demand for Congress to immediately pass the P125 across-the-board wage hike bill. The said bill has finally garnered the House Subcommittee on Labor Standard’s nod last Jan 18, after it was subjected to a Luzon-wide consultation in La Trinidad, Benguet. It was the committee’s last stated requirement before giving the bill its approval.
The workers now called on House Committee on Labor and Employment headed by Northern Samar Rep. Emil L. Ong to fulfill its promise of immediately creating the committee report on House Bill 375, also known as the P125 Wage Hike Bill, and submitting the report to the House plenary for possible deliberation and voting.
* Garment Exports Recover to $2B:
The country’s garment industry has started on a recovery mode with 2012 exports expected to have returned to the $2-billion level for the first time in four years, outgoing Trade and Industry Undersecretary Cristino L. Panlilio said.
Panlilio expressed optimism that garment exports in 2012 would go back to the $2-billion level from less than $1-billion level in 2009.
“Garment exports get a big boost from new Chinese investors in this sector,” he said.
As of November, 2012, however, the country’s garment exports have reached only $1.4 billion as against $1.746 billion in the same period in 2011. The last time garment exports hit the $2 billion level was in 2007 with $2.299 billion. read more.
14:04:36 local time THAILAND
* Sentenced to 11 years:
The 112 Families Network, Clean Clothes Campaign, Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign strongly deplores the conviction of human rights defender and magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk. Today, the Bangkok Criminal Court found him guilty on 2 counts of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law*) and sentenced him to 11 years of imprisonment.
Somyot is a prisoner of conscience. He was convicted solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression and opinion. He has been in detention since April 2011for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the monarch. Today’s verdict is a serious blow to the rule of law in Thailand and will further contribute to the culture of censorship that is upheld through the use of lèse-majesté law.
The verdict is a violation of international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified. Currently, Thailand is running for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council where its contribution “to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization,” (article 23.1 on criteria of membership of UNSC) including “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms” (article 1.3 of the UN Charter) will be examined. read more.
* Editor of Voice of Taksin jailed for 10 years on lese majeste charge:
The Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced a magazine editor to ten years in jail after finding him guilty of lese majeste.
Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, editor of Voice of Taksin, was jailed for publishing articles in his March 2010 edition. read more.
* International condemnation of the conviction of activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk :
Clean Clothes Campaign, together with the Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign strongly deplores the conviction of human rights defender and magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk.
Today, the Bangkok Criminal Court found him guilty on both counts of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law*) and sentenced him to 11 years of imprisonment imprisonment 10 years for both count and plus one more year for a violation of printing act in 2009t.
Somyot is a prisoner of conscience. He was convicted solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression and opinion and the right to participate in public life. He has been in detention since April 2011for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the monarch. Today’s verdict is a serious blow to the rule of law in Thailand and will further contribute to self-censorship.
The verdict is a violation of international human rights law, in particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified. Currently, Thailand is running for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. We recall that the UN Charter urges the General Assembly, where the election takes place, to consider candidates’ contribution “to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization,” (article 23.1 on criteria of membership of UNSC) including “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms” (article 1.3 of the UN Charter).
* Thai activist jailed for 11 years for ‘royal slurs’:
A Thai political activist was jailed for 11 years Wednesday in the latest tough sentence under the kingdom’s controversial royal defamation law, to the dismay of human rights defenders.
The European Union said it was “deeply concerned” by the punishment imposed on Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, 51, in connection with two articles that appeared in his magazine in 2010.
“The verdict seriously undermines the right to freedom of expression and press freedom,” the EU delegation in Bangkok said in a statement.
Amnesty International, which considers Somyot to be a “prisoner of conscience”, described the Bangkok Criminal Court ruling as “a serious setback for freedom of expression in Thailand”.
Somyot is a supporter of the “Red Shirt” protest group, which is broadly loyal to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. read more.
* Somyot lese majeste judgement on Wednesday:
With an online global campaign drumming up support for lese majeste defendant Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a large contingent of observers and friends is expected at the Criminal Court for the scheduled reading of the long-delayed judgement on Wednesday.
Protests against the arbitrary detention of Mr Somyot, editor of the Voice of Taksin, have been organised throughout the past year in such places as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Paris, Seoul and Sydney.
A global appeal on his behalf was also jointly launched by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), Civil Rights Defender, Freedom House, Clean Clothes Campaign, and Amnesty International.
* Somyot submits 18-page closing address ahead of judges’ ruling:
Lese majeste defendant Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has submitted an 18-page closing address to the Criminal Court ahead of the long-delayed ruling scheduled for today.
Mr Somyot was arrested on April 30, 2010, near the Thai-Cambodia border on charges the Voice of Taksin magazine, which he published, carried two articles which constitute lese majeste.
In his statement, Mr Somyot argued he should not be found guilty because the Print Act 2007 said writers, not editors, should be held as the prime offenders in lese majeste cases.
Since the authors of the two offending articles, written under the pseudonym Jit Polachan, were not included in the lese majeste lawsuit, the articles did not violate the law, Mr Somyot said. read more.
14:04:36 local time CAMBODIA
* Government Tells Unions to Agree on Minimum Wage Demands:
The government on Monday requested that manufacturers look at raising the minimum wage for garment workers, but only after divided trade unions agree on what that wage should be.
At the moment, union leaders are demanding that the current $61 per month minimum wage be raised to between $93 and $150, a 52 percent and 145 percent hike, respectively.
“After discussions, those present at the meeting agree in principle to discuss raising the minimum wage for workers,” the Ministry of Labor said in a statement after a meeting between manufacturers and unions on the issue. read more.
* Workers left homeless and unpaid after factory closure:
Workers at a Cambodian underwear factory supplying H&M and Walmart are keeping a 24-hour vigil outside their factory after managers shut up shop and fled, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages and benefits.
Workers from Kingsland Garment are maintaining a camp in front of the factory in hopes of catching managers if they return to take machinery and equipment out of the factory.
After the factory abruptly closed in December, many of the workers were evicted from their homes because they could not pay their rent.
The workers encamped outside say they are owed a combined $200,000. Cambodian law requires a certain amount of severance for workers based on the number of years each has worked at the factory, but Kingsland – the Hong Kong-based owner company – is currently offering less than half.
Workers believe that the factory closed with plans to reopen once it has shed long-time employees who have seniority and benefits. They say the new factory will be similar to other Walmart or H&M suppliers that rely on temporary workers who will work on 3-month, short-term contracts. Such a scheme will prevent workers from forming a union or having any job security. read more.
* Convicted men ‘not real murderers’: Chea Mony:
On the nine-year anniversary of the murder of unionist Chea Vichea, his brother yesterday renewed calls for the release of two men convicted for the crime.
“They are not the real murderers,” Free Trade Union President Chea Mony told some 100 supporters who gathered yesterday morning in front of the Wat Langka newsstands where Vichea was shot. “I call on the court to release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun soon.”
Arrested just days after the outspoken activist’s murder, both men have long maintained their innocence, and it is widely believed the pair was framed for the crime.
Last month, in a surprise announcement, the Appeal Court upheld Samnang’s and Sam Oeun’s murder convictions and ordered their re-arrest. Both had been out of prison since early 2009, after the Supreme Court provisionally released them and ordered a reinvestigation. read more.
15:04:36 local time INDONESIA
* Koreans relocate factories due to RI’s high labor costs:
A number of Korean investors have closed down their factories and relocated them to other countries due to the increase in labor costs in the country, a senior executive of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) has said.
Apindo’s secretary-general, Suryadi Sasmita, said the Korean companies had shut down their Indonesian factories as their requests to be exempt from paying the new minimum wage had been refused.
“These investors that employ hundreds of workers each, have left because they face difficulties in paying their workers in accordance with the new minimum wage, and with severance pay to dismissed workers,” he told The Jakarta Post.
More than 400 labor-intensive companies had submitted an official request to governors in Banten, Jakarta and West Java to be exempt from the minimum wage hikes due to financial difficulties, but only 10 percent of the requests were accepted.
Suryadi, who has closed down his garment factory that employed more than 200 workers in Cikarang, West Java, and has changed its business orientation to trade, admitted he would have to spend more than
Rp 10 billion in severance payments to dismissed workers, but he added that he would gain more from the trading company in the next few years. read more.
13:04:36 local time BANGLA DESH
* BGMEA cancels 586 memberships:
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) cancelled membership of about 586 apparel manufacturing units in its board meeting on December 29, officials said.
“We cancelled the membership of about 586 members in our board meeting last month,” BGMEA Vice President Faruque Hassan told the FE.
The move came, as the trade body is always held responsible after any untoward accident in the RMG sector, he said.
“We took the decision not only for compliance issues, but there were some other issues too. Besides, many of the factories do not exist.” read more.
* BD emphasises worker rights as GSP-related threats loom:
The government has moved forward to be more labour-rights-friendly in line with desire of the United States and the European Union, officials said Monday.
“Steps need to be taken so that workers can carry out trade union activities more effectively. It is essential to protect their rights in every factory,” Mikail Shipar, secretary-in-charge, Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) told the FE.
He said trade union has been allowed in every factory in accordance with the labour law of the country. But the worker fail to form unions because of some shortcomings on their part.
“We are taking all types of labourer-friendly initiatives so that their rights are ensured,” Mr Shipar said. read more.
* The benefits of US-GSP elude Bangladesh:
Akramul Qader in the first of a two-part article, Bangladesh in the US-GSP: An emerging nation’s fluctuating trade fortunes
The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is one of the key administrative arrangements that govern US’s concessions in foreign trade. The programme was designed in 1976 with a view to promoting economic growth mainly in the developing world. Since its launching, 128 beneficiary countries and territories have availed GSP facilities for exporting up to 5000 products to the US market. Theoretically, Bangladesh could also be among the beneficiaries. Ironically it is not.
In 2011, Bangladesh’s export to the USA under the GSP scheme was worth $26.33 million compared with India’s $3.7 billion and Brazil’s $2.0 billion. Analyses of exports under GSP would give an identical picture for these countries in the current and previous years as well. read more.
* Is TICFA really ticking? :
Is it apparent that the threat for scrapping the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme for Bangladesh is meant to press the government into signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) with the US?
Seemingly so. There are strong indications to suggest that the issue of labour rights (absence of it), alleged to have invited the threats for GSP withdrawal, is no stray subject and can conveniently be seen as part of a whole package TICFA.
That the matter is not too speculative is evident from some of the remarks that are being uttered by none other than persons at the helm of affairs. read more.
* Wal-Mart refuses to pay firm with Tazreen links:
US retail giant Wal-Mart is refusing to pay a Bangladeshi garment firm for its shipment — after learning of its connections with Tazreen Fashions.
The case also turns the spotlight on a complex supply chain of garment merchandise that travels from one manufacturer to another via middlemen.
Simco Group, based in Dhaka, sent 130,000 pieces of women’s shorts, worth $390,000, to Wal-Mart via its New York-based sourcing company, Success.
Simco received the Wal-Mart order through Success in a sub-contract on August 14 last year.
Following the order, Simco started importing fabrics and other accessories from China in October.
Faced with a shortage of workers during the Eid-ul-Azha festival, Simco signed a separate sub-contract on November 4 with Tuba Group, owner of Tazreen Fashions. Under the agreement, Tuba Group was supposed to make 25,000 pieces at its plant, known as Tuba Fashion. read more. & read more.
* Walmart tightens supplier policy after Tazreen fire:
Walmart Stores Inc plans to cut ties immediately with suppliers who subcontract work to factories without the retailer’s knowledge, changing its policy after a fire killed more than 100 garment workers in Bangladesh, reports Reuters quoting a report of the Wall Street Journal.
Walmart is warning suppliers that it is adopting a ‘zero tolerance policy’ for violations of its global sourcing standards and the company’s new plan would begin taking effect from March 1, the Journal said. read more. & to read. & to read.
12:34:36 local time INDIA
* They worked for 15 hours non-stop every day:
The Bangalore Urban deputy commissioner’s office on KempeGowda Road came alive around 6pm on Tuesday.
About 50 children, in the age group of 8 and 14, who had been rescued from four sweatshops, were enjoying their first whiff of freedom at the conference room where they had been brought after the raid. About eight children allegedly escaped during the raid.
The dishevelled look and unkempt hair were the only indicators that the children were in a hell less than an hour earlier. As officials began collecting their details and photographing them, they began opening up. Some children silently grabbed a plate of piping hot chow chow bath and withdrew to a corner.
Abdul Ameen, in his early teens, was brought to Bangalore from Bihar a few months back. His working hours ran up to 15 hours a day and he spent them sitting in a small room stitching bridal bags.
“There are no fixed numbers but I ended up stitching about 40 bags on any given day,” he said. He has not seen much of life outside the little room he was working in. “We eat, sleep and work in the room,” he said. read more.
* 50 child bonded labourers rescued in Bangalore:
The seamier side of the IT city stood exposed on Tuesday when 50 child bonded labourers in the age group of three to 15 were rescued from three gunny bag and once incense factories in the City Market area. Three girls were among the rescued children. Some of the boys were suspected to be barely three to four years’ old, officials said. About eight children escaped during the raid.
The sweatshops were located on a 50-foot-long stretch of Jolly Street. The raid carried out by officials of several government departments including police and an NGO revealed harrowing and unhygienic conditions under which the children were made to work. The children hailed from Bihar, Assam, Punjab and Orissa and were housed in the manufacturing units where they worked from 9 am to 12 midnight every day, officials said. read more. & read more.
* CICR develops highest fibre strength cotton:
A woman scientist at the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) Vinita Gotmare has developed a cotton type which has the highest known fibre strength of American cotton in the country and also probably in the world.
The CICR cotton type has been obtained after many years of work by crossing wild sources of cotton with cultivated species. A few years down the line, after it becomes a variety and is crossed with other good cotton varieties, this cotton type can revolutionize the spinning and the textile industries. Cotton mills generally use cotton having fibre strength over 17g/Tex (unit used to measure fibre strength). Highest fibre strength is needed for high speed ginning machines in textile industry. The new cotton type has been tested for strength at Ginning Training Centre in city.
12:04:36 local time PAKISTAN
* GSP plus status: government urged to implement 27 international conventions:
Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea) urged the government to speed up the implementation process of 27 international conventions to attain the GSP plus status.
“Time is fast running out for Pakistan’s application for GSP Plus status,” Central Chairman of Prgmea, Sajid Saleem Minhas said showed concern, adding that a joint strategy was needed for the nation to become eligible for the status.
He called upon stakeholders and all provincial government to chalk out a joint strategy to ensure the implementation of 27 international conventions to apply for duty-free exports status. He was of the view: “Getting of GSP plus status is vital for the survival of Pakistan’s industry and economy.”
He expressed fears that the country may not be able to qualify for the status as provincial governments were largely indifferent to the issue. He said that Pakistan is left with only 13 days to apply. read more.
* Textile exports grow over 8 percent in first half fiscal year 2013:
The country”s textile exports showed growth of over eight percent during the first half (July-December) of the ongoing financial year 2012-2013 against the same period of last year, revealed Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) here on Tuesday. According to the latest figures, Pakistan has exported textile goods worth of 6.46 billion dollars during July-December 2012 against the 5.95 billion dollars during the same period of last year, thus registering an increase of 8.55 percent.
The figures revealed that some major textile products contributed in the positive growth of the overall exports during July-December 2012 including cotton yarn which registered a substantial increase and stood at 1.09 billion dollars against 784 million dollars in the comparable period the year before (39 percent rise), cotton cloth 1.29 billion dollars against 1.15 billion dollars (12.08 percent rise), yarn other than cotton yarn 26.4 million dollars against 17.1 million dollars (53 percent rise), towels 369 million dollars against 327.2 million dollars (12.77 percent rise), tents, canvas & tarpaulin 53.9 million dollars against 43 million dollars (25.39 percent rise), readymade garments 897.8 million dollars against 792.5 million dollars (13.29 percent rise), made-up articles 294 million dollars against 275.2 million dollars (6.89 percent rise) and other textile materials 217.2 million dollars against 133.3 million dollars (62.95 percent rise) as compared to the same period of last year.
read more. & read more.
* Wal-Mart warns suppliers on stricter measures:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has alerted its global suppliers that it will immediately drop them if they subcontract their work to factories that haven’t been authorised by the discounter.
Wal-Mart’s stricter contracting rule, along with other changes to its policy, comes amid increasing calls for better safety oversight after a deadly fire at a Bangladesh factory that supplied clothing to Wal-Mart and other retailers.
The fire in late November killed 112 workers at a factory owned by Tazreen Fashions Ltd. Wal-Mart has said the factory wasn’t authorised to make its clothes.
In a letter sent Tuesday to suppliers of its Wal-Mart stores as well as Sam’s Clubs in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom, the company says it will adopt a “zero tolerance” policy on subcontracting without the company’s knowledge, effective Mar 1. Previously, suppliers had three chances to rectify mistakes.
Building fires have led to more than 600 garment work deaths in Bangladesh since 2005, according to research by the advocacy group International Labour Rights Forum. read more.