16:34:32 local time PHILIPPINES
* Lodging and meal allowances form part of wages:
Living expenses shouldered by the employer can be considered as part of an employee’s pay. However, the employer must show that these are customarily provided for by the business, that the employee accepted these in writing, and that the value charged is reasonable.
Some employees were hired by the company for several projects. They were however paid below the minimum wage.
When the company faced economic problems and had to cut down the overtime work of its employees, the employees left. Subsequently, they filed a complaint against the company for, among other things, underpayment of wages.
In its defense, the company pointed to the food, lodging, transportation, electricity and water allowance it provided these employees. The company argued that these should be added to and considered part of the employees’ basic pay. read more.
15:34:32 local time VIET NAM
* EU funds to boost nation’s trade unions:
The Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Viet Nam (FES) signed a co-operative agreement in Ha Noi yesterday for a project to develop trade unions for industrial workers in Viet Nam.
The project will begin next month and continue for 36 months, with a budget of about $415,000, 80 per cent of which will be funded by the EU and the remainder by FES.
15:34:32 local time THAILAND
* Wage hike ‘hit hardest’:
Kasikornbank, the market leader in SME lending, believes the impact of the rise in the daily minimum wage to Bt300 is more serious than either the strength of the baht or the severe flooding of late 2011 for small and medium-sized enterprises, as they will take longer to adjust to the increased cost.
After the floods, affected SMEs were generally able to resume their businesses quickly, while the strong baht is only negatively affecting SME exporters. The minimum-wage increase, however, will continue to impinge on business operations, KBank executive vice president Patchara Samalapa said yesterday.
He said the bank expected SMEs to take at least two or three years to adjust fully to the nationwide wage increase, and that some non-performing loans (NPLs) from these customers could be seen in 2014. SMEs in at least four industries – agriculture, wooden furniture, textiles and plastic – are particularly badly affected by the higher minimum, he said. read more.
* TDRI calls for rise in overall productivity:
The government and the private sector should focus on enhancing overall productivity rather than of labour alone to mitigate the negative impacts of the blanket Bt300 daily minimum wage, says the Thailand Development Research Institute’s Chettha Intharawithak.
The researcher’s economic model shows that if total productivity rose by only 0.612 per cent, gross domestic product would not be affected by the wage increase. Other negative impacts on public and private consumption would also be mitigated. To achieve this, business operators should be encouraged to increase the efficiency of their entire operations – machinery, labour, transport and logistics, and information technology.
“Increasing labour productivity is harder than enhancing overall productivity. Thus policy-makers should focus more on overall productivity,” Chettha said in the research. read more.
* Cabinet cuts SSF rate to ease wage cost:
Labour leaders say small firms unlikely to benefit
The cabinet has approved a motion to cut employee and employer contributions to the Social Security Fund (SSF) from 5% each to 4% to ease the impact of the minimum wage hike.
Government spokesman Tossaporn Sereerak said the cabinet approved an amendment to Labour Ministry regulations governing SSF contributions to help businesses with the cost of the wage hike.
Once it is announced in the Royal Gazette, the change will take effect retroactively from Jan 1, the date the government’s 300-baht daily minimum wage was enforced nationwide. read more.
* Japanese makers feel the wage hike:
Labour-intensive firms looking to relocate
Up to 80% of Japanese firms operating in Thailand are affected by the daily minimum wage hike, with labour-intensive industries looking to relocate to neighbouring countries.
A survey by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce (JCC) in Bangkok found about 30% of respondents have felt the impact of the increase in the daily minimum wage to 300 baht since the start of January.
Conducted in November and December last year, the survey was handed out to 1,419 JCC members, of which 381 companies responded including 71 firms hit by the 2011 floods.
To address the higher wages, nearly half the respondents said they intend to replace labour with machinery, while 26% opted to freeze employment and increase of prices. About a quarter chose to reduce headcounts, with the remainder saying there are no effective measures. read more.
15:34:32 local time CAMBODIA
* GMAC members double:
The number of companies registering to become members of the Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia (GMAC) doubled last year, with more investment in value-added products.
GMAC said the number of new members reached 120 last year, compared with 60 newcomers in 2011.
GMAC operations manager Ly Tek Heng told the Post low labour costs, access to key markets and duty-free exports were driving growth in Cambodia’s garment sector, but illegal strikes and a shortage of skilled workers were challenging the industry.
“Most of the newcomers are from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where wages have been rising,” Heng said. “More of them are tending to focus on higher-value-added products that require more expertise.” read more.
* More garment workers needed:
In its first year of operation, the Human to Human recruitment agency experienced how challenging the recruitment of factory workers can be.
The agency provides a skilled work force, and offers a higher salary and free training – but still needs more workers.
Human to Human is a private company that “acts social” by providing training for workers and deals with companies that follow ethical standards.
Previously, managing director Chap Chamroeunkunkoet trained garment workers for the International Labour Organisation.
“We want to make sure that recruited workers meet the requirements of the company,” she said. For that reason, we offer training on labour law and awareness of human trafficking and health and safety issues.” read more.
* Cambodia’s Exported Garment Products Keep Increasing:
Cambodia’s exported garment products have continued to grow despite some unstable economic difficulties of its main export markets, according to the statistics released recently by the Ministry of Commerce.
The export of garment products in 2012 have seen an increase by 8.72 percent to US$4.61 billion from US$ 4.24 billion the previous year, the statistics highlighted.
Some economic experts explained the growth by high regional market demand, particularly from China.
Cambodia’s major export partners are the US , the EU, Canada, Japan and China.
16:34:32 local time MALAYSIA
* Minimum Wage Will Not Shoo Away Chinese Investors:
The implementation of a minimum wage in Malaysia which took effect on January 1 will not shoo away Chinese investors.
“It depends on the increment rate, if the margin is not big, Chinese investors will accept and be able to cope with it,” Vice-Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Yu Ping told Bernama recently.
However, he agreed that the implementation of minimum wage might lead to an increase of labour costs. read more.
14:34:32 local time BANGLA DESH
ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* Unfit licensed as fire-fit:
The fire department issued safety clearance to Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia although the factory had grossly lacked fire safety measures and building approval.
On November 24, 2012, a devastating fire in the factory on the outskirts of the capital killed 112 workers.
In 2008, the fire department first issued licence for the erstwhile three-storey factory building. They kept renewing the licence year after year until June, 2012 while owner of the factory Delwar Hossain kept extending the building illegally.
The fire department, however, served a notice on Tazreen Fashions in July, 2012 asking it to renew the licence. But the factory owner did not pay heed to that.
Maj Mohammad Mahboob, a director of Directorate of Fire Service and Civil Defence, admitted that the factory building lacked fire-protected emergency escape as per building code. read more.
* HC moved for owners’ arrest:
The High Court was moved on Tuesday to order authorities to arrest owners of the two readymade garment factories where fire incidents left at least 118 people dead in two months.
Supreme Court lawyer Yunus Ali Akand in the petition also sought orders for adequate compensation to families of the fire victims.
The petitioner said the bench of Justices AHM Shamsuddin Choudhury and Mahmudul Hoque might hear the plea on Wednesday.
The petition has sought orders for arrest of the owner of Tazreen Fashions and three directors of Smart Fashions ‘within 24 hours’ and payment of compensations to the families ‘within 72 hours’. read more.
* Petition filed to arrest owners of Tazreen Fashion, Smart Export:
A petition was filed with the High Court (HC) Tuesday seeking its directive upon the law enforcing agencies to arrest the owners of two garment factories, where at least 119 workers were killed by devastating fire recently.
The HC’s directive was also sought upon the Labour Ministry secretary, owners of the factories and BGMEA to give adequate compensation to family members of the workers killed at the fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd and Smart Export Garments Ltd.
The public interest litigation (PIL), filed by a citizen Sherajul Alam Khan of Kathalbagan area, is likely to be heard at a HC Division bench today (Wednesday), his lawyer Advocate Dr Md Eunus Ali Akond told the FE. read more.
* DNA test of 37 Tazreen fire victims matched:
11 more bodies remain unrecognised
DNA testing of 37 Tazreen fire victims matched with samples collected from their immediate family members confirming identities of the unfortunate workers two months after the devastating fire, ministry sources said.
Dr. Abul Hossain, project director of Multi-Sectoral Programme on Violence Against Women handed over the results of DNA testing to the secretary of Ministry of Labour and Manpower on Tuesday.
Dhaka Medical College Hospital conducted the DNA testing to ascertain the identities of Tazrin fire victims.
At least 114 workers were killed and many others were injured in the devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia on November 24 last year. At least 57 bodies were charred beyond recognition and were buried as unidentified.
Doctors from DMCH collected samples from the charred bodies and immediate family members for DNA test to ascertain their identify of the victims.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Those responsible for RMG sector setback must be punished: Atiur:
Bangladesh Bank (BB) governor Atiur Rahman on Tuesday said there is no way for the government but to punish those responsible for the recent upset in the readymade garment (RMG) industry if the country’s economic march forward is to be sustained.
“The government needs to address the problem seriously as the country is right now in the spotlight of the international community,” he said referring to the recent fire incidents in the RMG sector.
* Smart garment chairman, MD held:
Detectives have arrested the chairman and the managing director of Smart Export Garments Ltd at Dhanmondi in the capital.
The arrestees are: Zakir Ahmed, the chairmen of the garment factory, and Sharif Ahmed, the MD.
A team of Detective Branch (DB) of police arrested the duo at a house around 11:00pm Tuesday, Gazi Rabiul Islam, assistant commissioner (Media and Community Service) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
Zakir and Sharif have been taken to DB Office on Minto Road for interrogation, the DMP official said.
The chairman and the MD were arrested following a murder case filed after a blaze killed at least seven female workers at the garment factory at Mohammadpur in the capital on January 26.
Father of a dead victim, Jotsna, filed the murder case.
to read. & read more.
* 20 teams start RMG factory safety inspection:
Twenty monitoring teams of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment formed by the Ministry of Labour and Employment started a special drive on Tuesday to check safety compliance in the readymade garment (RMG) factories.
The teams are made of two officials from the Labour Inspection Department each and will be coordinated by the director of the department, acting Labour Secretary Mikail Shiper told UNB.
Shiper said a fit-list of the RMG factories will be prepared following the reports of the monitoring teams about the compliances and safety measures in all the garment factories. read more. & read more.
* Remove collapsible gates from RMG factories by Feb 10: Govt:
‘Gates can’t be kept under key and lock during working hours’
The government has asked the owners to remove collapsible gates and instead install sliding or other gates that can be opened from outside in all the garment factories by February 10.
The government issued a notification in this regard on Tuesday.
The notification said the incidents of deaths and injuries of the garment workers have marked a sharp rise for the use of collapsible gates in the factories and keeping those under key and lock during working hours.
“The existing gates can’t be put under lock and key during working hours. If needed, the number of security personnel has to be increased,” said the notification.
The government also warned that stern action, including temporary closure of factories, will be taken if the gates of any factories are found locked during sudden visit of a special team. to read.
* GSP hinges on govt’s detailed work plan:
The country director of American Center for International Labor Solidarity says at a roundtable
The continuation of duty-free export under US’s GSP scheme depends on the Bangladeshi government and industry owners, an official of American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) said yesterday.
“It is really up to the government of Bangladesh and employers to decide if they want to continue to get GSP facility. It’s really not the US government, not AFL-CIO,” said Alonzo Suson, country director of American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).
ACILS is affiliated with American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), the largest US trade union organisation. read more.
* Indian jute industry to seek withdrawal of duty on imported fibre:
A section of the jute industry in India, being alarmed over the rise in raw jute imports from Bangladesh, has decided to approach the central government in New Delhi to discontinue the 4.0% special additional duty (SAD) imposed on imported fibre, according to a report published in Business Standard of India.
The report said: “There is an over 75% increase in imports of high quality raw jute from Bangladesh in the past five years. Figures available from land customs – Petrapole, West Bengal show that raw jute imports have gone up from approximately 0.5 million bales in 2006-07 to almost 0.9 million bales till 2011-12. read more.
* They Make Our Clothing:
The human face of tragedy. Photos of young women and girls killed and injured in the fire at Smart Fashion in Bangladesh—and those who survived.
Saturday, January 26 was just an ordinary work day at the Smart Fashion Export factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh—until the fire broke out at 2:30 p.m.
As heavy black smoke filled the shop floor, workers rushing to escape found locked exit doors. Within an hour, seven young women were dead—crushed to death in the panic or asphyxiated by the toxic smoke.
Three of them were teenagers, Kohinoor, 15, Razia, 16, and Nasima, 17 years old.
Today, their families mourn, and Bangladesh’s labor and human rights organizations have taken to the streets once again, demanding safety and fundamental rights for Bangladesh’s four million mostly young women garment workers. The Bangladeshi Government is saying that the lives of the dead teenagers are worth $252 each.
14:04:32 local time INDIA
* Strike of 1984 turning point for Indian textile sector:
“The Mumbai textile strike of 1984 led by the trade union leader – Datta Samant was the turning point as well as a decisive year for the Indian textile industry”, says Mr Arvind Somany – Managing Director of Ahmedabad based Soma Textile and Industries Ltd.
“The strike led to the closing down of most of the textile mills in Mumbai. Secondly, it was only after 1982, that standalone weaving factories and printing houses mushroomed in Maharashtra and Gujarat, which further affected the Ahmedabad based textile mills and which also closed down one-by-one after the late 1980’s”, Mr Arvind Somany exclusively told fibre2fashion.
* Shreekant Sambrani: Gene revolution – The way ahead:
The battle for sustained nutritional security for the entire world must not be held hostage to anti-GM dogmatism
The most important success for genetic modification (GM) crop technology in India is Bt cotton.
The bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) affects most common insect pests that attack cotton (and some vegetables, notably brinjal, 98 per cent of which is pest-affected) but is harmless for most other living organisms. Cotton all over the world is extremely susceptible to pests. Farmers have traditionally used chemical pesticides to kill pests.
The trouble is, most pests become immune to these chemicals soon and ever more deadly pesticides costing more and more are required in increasing quantities. These also have substantial ill-effects on other flora and fauna, including human beings. So the Bt genetic code was successfully introduced into cotton seeds, which has saved yields and costs for the farmers. Hence its popularity among farmers. Hence also the scorched earth policies of chemical manufacturers in opposing GM!
* Higher yields & farmer preferences show, Bt cotton detractors spreading patent falsehoods:
Last week, Greenpeace’s chief in India, Samit Aich, wrote a column in ET on genetically-modified crops. In this, he repeated an old green falsehood, that Bt cotton has failed to raise cotton yields in India. For the truth, consult the government’s Economic Survey 2011-12 (see accompanying graphic).
India’s cotton yield was 225 kg per hectare in 1990-91. It fell to 190 kg per hectare in 2000-01, a bad monsoon year. Bt cotton cultivation began in 2002, and its acreage shot up from 0.29 million hectares in 2002 to 9.4 million hectares in 2011-12. By this time, the Bt variety accounted for 90% of cotton acreage. The result? Cotton yield rose to 362 kg per hectare in 2005-06, and then increased further with fluctuations to 510 kg per hectare in 2010-11. read more.
* Repo rate cut brings slight relief to apparel industry:
The RBI’s decision on Tuesday to marginally cut key interest rates after a gap of nine months has brought only a slight relief to loan seekers, especially those from apparel industry getting working capital and term loans and people who want home loans.
During the third quarter monetary policy review on the day, RBI Governor D. Subbarao announced reduction in policy repo rate under liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points from 8 per cent to 7.75 per cent with immediate effect.
13:34:32 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI- BALDIA FIRE:
* SHC reserves order on bail pleas:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday reserved its order on bail pleas of owners, production manager, and watchman of the garment factory of Karachi that caught fire on September 11 last year and resulted in more than 250 deaths.
Police had arrested Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila after a sessions court rejected their pre-arrest bail applications on October 6, 2012, whereas their ailing father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, was granted bail due to old age.
Amir Raza Naqvi on behalf of the applicants, namely Arshad Abdul Aziz and Shahid Abdul Aziz, submitted that investigation carried out by the police into the incident was influenced and full of errors. He said that they had no intention to kill their own workers and ruin their own business, adding that it was just an accident.
He said that police recorded the statements of more 800 witnesses, and not a single witness had testified that the factory owners had ordered to seal the factory doors when the fire erupted. read more.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Call to end discrimination against women at workplaces:
The International Women Leaders Summit,’ was held here at a local hotel as part of the 5th Women in Business Conference Series (WIBCON) for professional women on Tuesday.
A large number of women from different sectors including prominent and notable personalities attended the conference.
Keynote speaker of the event, Dean and Director of Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Dr Ishrat Husain expressed his views on ‘Role of Women in Reviving the Economy.’
He underlined the importance of promoting gender diversity in the workplace and acknowledged the growing economic contributions of Pakistani working women.
* Textiles exports contribute $40.2b to national kitty:
The exports of textiles products is witnessing boost in the country as the sector contributed around US $ 40.2 billion precious foreign exchange to national kitty during more than last three years.
As per year-wise break-up Pakistan earned US $ 10.3 billion through exports of textiles products during 2009-10,US $ 13.8 billion during 2010-11 and US $ 12.5 billion during 2011-12.
A senior official here on Tuesday said in first quarter of current year 2012-13 (Jul-Sep) the exports of textiles products have been recorded at US $ 3.60 billion which is a good sign. read more.
* ‘PPP govt did a lot for labourers, but only on paper’:
Trade unionists and representatives of workers believe that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government cannot bring any positive change in the status of the rights of workers because the economic policy has not been amended after 1988.
They believe that while the economic policy could bring some basic changes to the situation of workers, their rights are being diluted through several unfriendly steps like privatisation, non-implementation of labour laws and by making the formalised sector informal. read more.
* Poverty takes its toll: Sacked factory worker kills entire family, self:
Driven to desperation by poverty, a recently sacked factory worker in Faisalabad shot his entire family before turning the gun on himself.
Muhammad Qasim, 45, lost his job last year after the factory he worked for shut down due to gas shortage. Five months down the lane, Qasim and his family of six were found lying in a pool of blood.
According to estimates, around 600 to 700 factories, which rely solely on gas, have shut down due to the power cuts. In Faisalabad alone, the energy crisis has rendered some 300,000 to 400,000 workers of textile mills jobless. read more.
13:34:32 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Use of adults & older children up in Uzbek cotton harvest:
Uzbek authorities have increased the use of forced labor by adults and older children in the cotton sector during the past year, Human Rights Watch said. The move was apparently made to shift the burden away from younger children in response to public scrutiny and international pressure.
For the 2012 harvest, the Uzbek government forced over a million of its own citizens, children and adults – including its teachers, doctors, and nurses – to harvest cotton in abusive conditions on threat of punishment, Human Rights Watch found. The authorities harassed local activists and journalists who tried to report on the issue. In 2011, Uzbekistan was the world’s fifth largest exporter of cotton.