17:48:10 local time THAILAND
* Easing impact of wage hike needs greater cooperation:
Greater collaboration is needed between the government and businesses to address the impacts from the new minimum wage, according to TMB Bank research.
TMB Analytics estimated that the blanket increase to Bt300 per day in 70 provinces that took effect on January 1 was hurting business operators in the Northeast and the North more than those in other regions. Their operating costs are rising by nearly 3 per cent, against 2 per cent in other regions.
Phayao, Uttaradit, Kamphaeng Phet and Nan are the most affected in the North, while in the Northeast they are Nakhon Phanom, Buri Ram, Mukdahan and Ubon Ratchathani. The Bt300 minimum had already been in effect in seven key provinces since April, and was expanded nationwide at the beginning of this year. read more.
* Anti-Section 112 activists protest Somyot’s sentence:
Dozens of activists burnt mock law textbooks in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road to protest against the 10-year prison sentence given to magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasensuk for lese majeste crimes.
The protesters torched mock textbooks, especially those guaranteeing the right to bail, the principle of presumed innocence and free speech as a symbolic gesture of protest against Section 112 of the criminal code, or lese majeste law.
The demonstration started at noon and lasted for about an hour. Police and court officials were present at the scene and filmed the protest.
17:48:10 local time CAMBODIA
* Union warns of general strike if wage hike too small:
The Cambodian Confederation of Unions warned Thursday of a general strike if proposed increases in monthly salaries are too small.
“Cambodia will have a big strike exploding across all clothing and footwear factories if minimum wages are raised by only 10 percent from the basic $61,” president Rong Chhun said.
“A consideration to increase minimum wages by 10 percent is an insult,” he said. “Workers in many factories are agitating and protests and strikes are occurring gradually, especially as they look forward to seeing the results of minimum wage discussions.” read more.
* Workers’ demand for living wage backed by research – Big brands must pay:
US$150 minimum wage for garment factory workers is feasible according to research; current minimum wage is US$61.
Profit made by H&M, GAP, Puma and other big brands is close to US$1 billion/year from Cambodian workers.
US$2 billion is spent on administrative costs, transportation and others including unofficial fees= corruption.
Workers’demands for US$150 and other benefits must be met through transparent dialogues and negotiations and not court orders and police crackdowns.
* CCHR highlights concerns about increased strikes at garment factories in 2013:
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) is concerned by reports in The Phnom Penh Post on 21 January 2013 (‘Strikes in Cambodian factories may hit orders’) that about 10,000 workers have been in an ongoing strike against seven or eight factories since the beginning of 2013 to demand an increase in the minimum wage and an improvement in working conditions.
16:48:10 local time BANGLA DESH
ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* Tazreen families demand compensation:
The cries of Tazreen workers and their families once again filled the air of Nishchintapur on Friday as they expressed their frustration over the slow DNA identification and compensation process and legal action against the Tazreen owner.
Two months after the fire that claimed at least 112 lives, the families of the victims organised a demonstration outside the factory premises, with the help of Garments Sramik Oikko Forum and Activist Anthropologists, to vocalise their demands.
The bodies of their loved ones are yet to be identified despite the DNA tests, said the family members who spoke at the rally attended by hundreds.
“We have been sent from one place to another and made to go through a series of bureaucratic processes and yet we have not seen their bodies,” said one Wahidul, widowed by the inferno on November 24. read more. & read more.
* Punish errant owners:
CPD dialogue told tragedies like Tazreen repeat as careless garment employers enjoy culture of impunity
Lawmakers, labour leaders and civil society members yesterday demanded arrest of the owner of Tazreen Fashions and others responsible for the death of at least 112 workers in a blaze in the factory.
They said successive governments have refrained from bringing factory owners to book for deaths of workers in fire and other incidents, and such culture of impunity has encouraged factory owners to remain indifferent to the workers’ safety and security.
“This sort of incident will continue to happen unless owners are brought to justice,” said Israfil Alam, chairman of parliamentary standing committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment.
He was speaking at a dialogue organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) at the CIRDAP auditorium in the capital.
Alam said many workers were killed in fire and other incidents in the last two decades. “But no owner has so far taken responsibility for any of the incidents or deaths of workers in the factories.”
He also criticised the probe report by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association that termed the November 24 fire incident an act of “sabotage”.
“Your report appears to be aiming to protect the owners.” read more.
* Arrest of Tazreen owner demanded:
Speakers at a dialogue Saturday demanded immediate arrest and punishment of Tazreen factory owner for his alleged negligence that led to killing of 114 workers in November.
“This is nothing but killing of workers because of owner’s negligence,” said a speaker who attended the dialogue on “Occupational safety risks in the RMG sector: Challenges and way out.”
They expressed their concerns over poor labour standards and insufficient safety measures in the country’s apparel industry urging the authorities to take effective steps so that not a single garment worker in future dies in factory fire. To overcome the longstanding abuse of workers rights, they also demanded implementation of their rights to form trade unions and ILO (International Labour Organisation) conventions and internationally recognised practices on labour issues.
* Relatives of Tazreen fire victims rally:
Threaten to lay siege to home ministry
Several hundred relatives of Tazreen fire victims at protests in front of the factory at Ashulia on Friday threatened to besiege the home ministry if compensation for the dead, the injured and others who went missing were not paid by January 31.
They also put forth a seven-point charter of demands including the arrest of the factory owner, proper compensation for both the deceased and the injured and action against factories having no proper fire-fighting equipment.
Social workers and organisations, columnists, politicians, artists, journalists, teachers, students and people of professions also attended the programme at the gate of Tazreen Fashions Ltd at Nishchintapur of Ashulia.
At least 112 workers were killed and more than a hundred were injured in the fire at the factory on November 24, 2012.
Columnist Rahnuma Ahmed, Jahangirnagar University teacher Nasim Akter Hossain, vocalist Arup Rahi, journalist Faruk Wasif and representatives of families of the victims and many local organisations also spoke at the rally.
The speakers said that the factory fire was not an accident and it was rather planned killing as the owners were negligent about safety and security of workers.
* Call to allow TUs for RMG workers to protect rights:
Speakers at a dialogue Saturday demanded of the government to immediately arrest the owner of Tazreen Fashions Ltd and mete out punishment to the persons responsible for the devastating fire incident that took lives of 112 workers.
They said, if the persons responsible are brought to face justice and given exemplary punishment, no such incident would ever recur.
They also demanded granting of rights to form trade unions in garment factories to protect workers’ interest and ensure their occupational and workplace safety.
They were speaking at a dialogue on “Work Environment in the RMG Sector and Labour Safety Consequences and What Needs to be Done”, organised by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) in the city Saturday.
Md Israfil Alam, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE), was present as chief guest while Mikail Shipar, MoLE secretary and Nazrul Islam Khan, executive director of Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) were special guests and Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, first vice president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) was guest of honour. read more.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Fire at city RMG factory kills 7:
At least seven female workers were killed and many others injured in a fire that raged through a readymade garment factory at the capital’s Mohammadpur on Saturday.
The deceased were identified as — Kohinur Akhter, 15, Razia Akhter, 16, Fatema Akhter, 15, Nasima Akhter, 17, Jyotsna Akhter, 20, Laizu, 20, and Nasima Begum, 30.
Six of them were pronounced dead after they were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and Zainul Haque Sikder Women’s Medical College and Hospital in Mohammadpur, Manjurul Kabir, deputy commissioner of the Tejgaon division, told The Daily Star.
The relatives of Laizu, who died on the spot, took the body to their residence, without informing the authorities, but the body was later taken to the Sikder hospital, said Azizul Haque, officer-in-charge of Mohammadpur Police Station. read more.
* 7 female workers die in stampede:
At least seven female workers of a readymade garment factory in Mohammadpur’s Beribadh area were killed in a stampede as a fire broke out there on Saturday, reports bdnews24.com.
Fire Services Director (Operations) Mahbubur Rahmand said the fire broke out in one ‘Smart’ factory at around 2pm and was controlled after about two hours.
The deaths were reportedly caused when they tried to rush to safety following the outbreak of fire.DMCH police camp Sub-Inspector Mohammad Bacchu Mia said doctors declared Joshna dead after she, along with one of her fellow workers Liza, was taken there at around 3.30pm.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* 7 killed:
Workplace safety horrendous
Locals hold the hose pipe up as firefighters try to douse the flames that broke out at a garment factory of Mohammadpur in the capital yesterday. At least six lives perished in the blaze. Photo: Palash Khan
Two months after the country’s deadliest industrial fire at Tazreen Fashions, another fire raged through a garment factory in the capital’s Mohammadpur yesterday killing at least seven workers.
The exact cause of the fire could not be known but some say that it began in the storage of Smart Export Garment Ltd near Beribandh around 2:40pm and that there were a lot of flammable sponges in the storage.
Like the fire at Tazreen at Ashulia on November 24 last year that killed at least 112 workers and injured another 100, the workers at the Smart Export Garment alleged that they found all exits of the factory closed.
One steel gate was shut and locked during the fire. The main collapsible gate was also locked and there were no guards there to unlock it.
When the guards finally showed up and unlocked the gate, smoke was pluming out of the staircase, said some workers, adding that a stampede was then inevitable.
Eye-witnesses said some workers jumped off the factory windows to save their lives. read more. & read more.
* Yet another RMG inferno:
7 female workers killed, 21 injured in Mohammadpur
In yet another garments inferno at a garments factory in the capital’s Mohammadpur Beribandh area on Saturday afternoon, at least seven female workers were killed in a stampede and 21 sustained injuries.
In November 24 last year, the worst even terrible devastating fire killed 112 workers in the Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia Industrial belt raising questions about safety standards and treatment of workers.
Manjurul Kabir, deputy commissioner, Tejgaon zone DMP, told The New Nation on Saturday that the seven were pronounced dead after they were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and different nearby hospitals.
Fire Services Director (Operations) Mahbubur Rahman told this reporter that the fire broke out in one ‘Smart’ garment at around 2:00pm and it was brought to control after about two hours.
The fire could have originated from an electrical short-circuit, he said. “They found no one trapped inside the factory when they entered there,” he claimed.
The deaths were reportedly caused due to stampede as they tried to rush to safety following the outbreak of fire, he said.
Seven fire fighting units rushed to the spot and doused the fire after two and a half hours’ effort, he added. read more.
* 7 die in city RMG factory fire:
At least seven workers were killed and 15 others injured in a fire that raged through a readymade garment factory in the capital’s Mohammadpur area on Saturday afternoon.
The deceased were identified as Josna, 20, daughter of Md Kawsar, hailed from Bhola District, Razia, 24, daughter of Afzal of Jhalakathi District, Kohinur, 15, daughter of Jabed Hossain of Basila in Dhaka, Nasima, 30, daughter of Azizul Haque of Bhola, Nasima, 17, daughter of Naya Mia of Borhanuddin district and an unidentified girl around 15 years’ old, said hospital sources.
Meanwhile, Laizu, 16, a worker who was injured while jumping from the factory building to the ground during fire, died at home in the evening at Basila slum of Mohammadpur. read more.
* Panel formed to probe Mohammadpur factory fire:
The government formed a four-member enquiry committee to investigate the fire incident at a garment factory in the city’s Mohammadpur area which killed at least seven workers and injured 20 others on Saturday.
Home Ministry sources said the committee was constituted with Deputy Director (Admin) of Fire Service and Civil Defence Bikash Chandra Bhadra as it head.
However, no timeline was fixed for the probe body to submit its report on the fire at Smart Export Garments Ltd unit situated near Beribadh under Mohammadpur Police Station.
Firefighters, hospital doctors, factory workers and locals said both the fatalities and injuries were caused as the garment workers scrambled to get out of the factory when the fire broke out at 2:20pm.
The fire originated from an electric short circuit at the storage house of the two-storey building that houses the RMG unit, firefighters said.
* With 7 Workers Dead in Another Preventable Fire, Labor Rights Groups Implore Apparel Brands and Retailers to Sign Fire Safety Agreement:
Following the fire that killed at least seven people today who were locked inside Smart Export Garments Ltd in Dhaka, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) called on major retailers and brands that buy apparel from Bangladesh to join the labor-supported Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement in order to prevent future tragedies.
The factory fire is the latest in a pattern of deadly fires that labor rights advocates say could have been prevented with appropriate measures. According to ILRF’s new report, Deadly Secrets, which examines how corporate-controlled monitoring has failed to protect workers’ lives, since 1990, over 1000 people have been killed in garment factories in Bangladesh.
“After more than two decades of the apparel industry knowing about the risks to these workers, nothing substantial has changed: brands still keep their audit results secret; they still walk away when it suits them; and trade unions are still marginalized, weakening workers’ ability to speak up when they are at risk,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of ILRF.
The disaster at Smart Export Garments comes just two months after the Tazreen Fashions fire in which at least 112 workers were killed. None of the retailers that produced at Tazreen, which included Walmart, Sears and C&A, have paid any compensation to the injured workers and families of the dead. There have also been 18 other non-fatal apparel factory fires in Bangladesh since November.
* Another Fire in Bangladesh: Seven Young Women Killed at Smart Fashion:
At 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 26, 2013, a fire broke out at the Smart Fashion garment factory in Mohammadpur in the western part of Dhaka City, Bangladesh. Until now, we know that seven women garment workers were crushed to death as workers raced to escape the fire.
Two of the women killed were just teenagers—15-year-old Ms. Kohinoor and 16-year-old Ms Razia. Also killed were Ms. Nasima, Ms. Joshna, Ms. Hasina, Ms. Nasima Akther and Ms. Laizu.
Approximately 700 workers—over 70 percent of whom are young women—toiled at the Smart Fashion factory, which is housed on the second floor of a two-story building.
Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights staff were able to enter the Smart Fashion factory right after the fire and found the following labels:
* Int’l rights bodies urge buyers to ensure workplace safety:
Different international labour rights organisations have called upon major retailers and brands to join the labour-supported Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement in order to prevent future tragedies.
The call came following Saturday’s fire incident at Smart Export Garments Ltd in Bangladesh that killed at least seven people and left several others injured said a press release of rights organisations published on January 26.
The factory fire is the latest in a pattern of deadly fires that labour rights advocates say could have been prevented with appropriate measures, the press release said.
So far, no brand or retailer has stepped forward to acknowledge a relationship with Smart Export Garments. The factory reportedly had 350 to 400 workers and was likely producing goods for US and European brands and retailers.
The disaster at Smart Export Garments comes just two months after the Tazreen Fashions fire in which at least 112 workers were killed. None of the retailers that produced at Tazreen, which included Walmart, Sears and C&A, have paid any compensation to the injured workers and families of the dead. There have also been 18 other non-fatal apparel factory fires in Bangladesh since November, the press release added.
US-based workers rights advocacy organisation International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF), another US-based labour rights monitoring organisation Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and an alliance of organisations in 15 European countries working to support empowerment of workers Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) reacted in the wake of the latest fire incident. read more.
* Owners, then govt responsible for RMG fires: CPD dialogue:
Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya on Sunday said primarily garment factory owners and then the government were responsible for the frequent fire incidents in the readymade garment sector.
He made the remarks while summing up the statements made by the discussants at a dialogue on working condition and workers’ safety in the garment industry organised by the CPD at the CIRDAP auditorium in the city.
Debapriya said the death of workers in Tazreen Fashion fire could be avoided, if the people responsible for previous fire incidents had been punished.
He also said that the trade union right was a part of the fundamental human rights, so it should be ensured for garment workers, too.
Parliamentary standing committee on labour and employment ministry chairman Israfil Alam termed the Tazreen Fashions fire a national failure and criticised Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association as an organisation for protecting only the interests of owners, not the workers. read more.
* Adopt ‘zero tolerance’ policy to ensure worker safety in RMG factories: CPD:
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a civil society think tank, on Saturday asked the BGMEA to adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to ensure worker safety in all the garment factories and implement their commitment -– no worker’s death in workplace.
* Building workers’ union, others demand labour law amendment:
Politicians and labour leaders on Saturday demanded that the Labour Law Amendment bill should be passed at the 16th session of the ninth parliament to begin today.
They stressed that through passing the bill the ruling Awami League would fulfil its commitment to amend the Labour Law 2006 to make it more democratic and worker-friendly.
The demand came from separate programmes organised on the day near the National Press Club in the capital.
Imarat Nirman Shramik Union Bangladesh held a rally in front of the National Press Club to press its 12-point demand including passing the bill.
General secretary of Samyabadi Dal and industries minister Dilip Barua said at the rally that more than 30 lakh building workers of the country were deprived of most from their rights.
Shahidullah Chowdhury, president of the Trade Union Centre, said the workers’ condition deteriorated during the regime of the present government.
He also alleged that the labour law was not amended that was one of the AL’s election pledges.
‘Nor have the national minimum wages for the workers been announced,’ Shahidullah Chowdhury said. read more.
15:48:10 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI FIRE:
* ‘What if it were the PM’s son?’ :
“If it had been the prime minister’s son instead of mine, would he have spared the owners?” asked Mohammad Sharif as tears gushed down his face.
Sharif’s eldest son, Hanif, who had a speech and hearing impairment, was among the hundreds of victims who died muted deaths as flames licked the top floor of the factory.
Hanif, 21, worked as a machine operator at Ali Enterprises and despite the disability, was working to contribute to his household with aims to build a roof over his almost mud-plastered house in Ittehad Town.
“My son had small wishes. He wanted to construct rooms and get married,” said the white-bearded Sharif as he choked back his grief on a charpoy (bed) borrowed from a neighbour. The family of nine had been cramming into a single room for the past 25 years. But, Hanif was going to change that; his savings were dedicated to changing the conditions his family lived in.
As the family deals with the loss of Hanif, the news of the murder charges being dropped only adds to their woes. “If the owners are set free, we will lodge murder cases individually. Then we will see how they escape,” said Bashir, Hanif’s uncle.
Shahida Parveen, who dwells with her three children in front of Sharif’s house, was left a widow by the Baldia Town fire.
“I spend every night cursing the owners and weeping. Why didn’t the owners die in the fire? Why was it only the poor?” she said.
Shahida’s husband, Akmal worked as a supervisor at the stitching floor. The family lost their sole breadwinner with Akmal’s death.
“Only God knows how I am living. I don’t have money to buy milk for my children.”
* Negligence is not murder, insists KCCI:
Despite widespread uproar over the reports of the government’s decision to drop murder charges against the owner of Ali Enterprises, Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) – the biggest chamber of the country – insists that they should be withdrawn and instead the case should continue on the lines of “alleged negligence” on the part of the owner.
The chamber believes there is a clear-cut difference between murder and negligence – both are not in any way synonymous.
“We want the government to complete all the investigations as soon as it can and take action if negligence is proven against the owner of the factory,” KCCI President Muhammad Haroon Agar said in an interview with The Express Tribune. “But we believe that murder charges against the owner are unjustified and should be withdrawn immediately.
“In case of such incidents, even if negligence is proven, you cannot be booked for murder,” said Agar, when asked why the KCCI insists that the government drop the murder charges. “Yes, one may be jailed in such cases and we would not have any problem if he were jailed on charges of negligence.” read more.