00:28:29 local time VIET NAM
* Bigger fines tipped for labour breaches:
Labour violations including delays in paying employees’ salaries could attract fines of VND20-50 million (US$960-2,400) under a new draft decree introduced by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) this week.
The proposed fine is much higher than the current fines of VND2-10 million ($96-480) stipulated by Decree 47 issued three years ago.
The draft decree, currently open for public discussion, also proposes the VND20-50 million fine for those paying lower than minimum wages fixed by the Government.
* Vietnam garment industry to add nearly 200,000 new jobs:
Vietnam apparel and textile sector is set to add 200,000 new jobs in the country since the industry expects an export growth of 12 percent this year.
The Vietnamese clothing industry is targeting a turnover of US$ 19 billion this year compared to US$ 17.2 billion worth of exports made in 2012, said Mr. Le Tien Truong, the deputy general director of Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (VINATEX).
According to him, Vietnamese clothing and textile industry has been able to create 100,000 new jobs for every US$ 1 billion increase in turnover, Vietnam News reported quoting Lao Dong newspaper. read more.
* Textile industry to earn $20 billion early:
If the export growth of Vietnam’s textile and garment industry remains between 12 and 15 per cent, the sector will reach its target of $20 billion in 2014 ahead of the 2015 deadline, according to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS).
VITAS Vice Chairman Le Tien Truong said that despite a 5-10 per cent decrease in export prices in 2012, total exports still rose by 15 per cent.
The industry’s trade surplus was $8.4 billion last year as imported materials accounted for only $8.8 billion of the total export value of $17.2 billion, he added.
The textile and garment industry has already achieved its 2015 goal to source 50 per cent of raw materials domestically.
It expects to earn 18.8-$19.3 billion this year. to read.
00:28:29 local time THAILAND
* Students mock PM, protest over Somyos jailing:
A small group of young activists led by the son of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, sentenced recently by the Criminal Court to 10 years in jail for lese majeste, yesterday made a scene during a parade ahead of the 69th annual Traditional Football Match between Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities.
About a dozen men and women, including Thammasat law student Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, held posters with messages criticising Article 112 of the Penal Code involving lese majeste alongside a parade by students from the two universities at Supachalasai Stadium.
Among the messages were “Free Somyos”, “Free political prisoners”, and “It’s a pity Somyos cannot join this football event”. However, the event organisers prevented the protesters from merging with the procession. Staff cordoned them off from the parade but there were no reports of any dispute. read more.
* Somyot case stirs fiery, emotional talk on lese-majeste enforcement:
A recent forum to discuss the case of former the ‘Voice of Taksin’ editor brought back the debate on the controversial law and the often ambiguous standards behind its use
An emotionally charged forum on the lese majeste law and particularly the case of former Voice of Taksin editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk raised a host of issues surrounding the legislation and its enforcement.
The discussion, held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Thursday, was a deeply personal one for those in attendance, particularly Sakanya Prueksakasemsuk, the wife of Somyot who was sentenced late last month to 10 years in prison for publishing two articles deemed insulting to the monarchy. Also on the panel was Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of Prachathai.com, who had her own experience with the law after being handed a suspended sentence last year for lese majeste-related charges under the Computer Crime Act.
The tone of the event veered from the personal and emotional to a more academic discussion of the specifics of the law, its interpretation and enforcement in a rapidly changing society. read more.
* Inflation falls despite minimum wage rise:
Inflation in January eased from a 13-month high in December, indicating last month’s nationwide minimum wage rise has made only a limited impact.
Commerce Ministry figures show annual headline inflation was 3.39% year-on-year last month, down from December’s 3.63%, which was the highest since November 2011.
The ministry last month started using 2011 instead of 2007 as the base year for calculating inflation.
It also increased the number of consumer items to 450 from 417. The added items include fresh food, cooked food, natural gas for vehicles, interprovincial taxi vans, security guard payments and nursery costs. read more.
00:28:29 local time CAMBODIA
* The plight of Cambodia’s garment workers:
Striking workers call on Wal-Mart to take responsibility after supplier skips country owing $200,000 in wages
On Thursday morning garment workers gathered outside the US Embassy in Phnom Penh to follow up with the petition they submitted on Januray 18th, 2013 asking the US government to pressure Wal-Mart.
They are owed $200,000 by Kingsland, a Hong Kong-based company that started to operate in Cambodia 10 years ago and worked with Wal-Mart and H&M suppliers.
Yon Sok Lein, one of the Kingsland’s workers, said that there was no feedback from the US Embassy. “We would like Wal-Mart to be held accountable for this situation. It is a big and powerful company. We would also like the owner of the factory to be held accountable but he left the country”.
As a garment worker for Kingsland, Yon Sok Lein was working on 1,000 pieces of underwear per day from 7 AM to 4 PM for $120 to $130 per month. There are 400,000 garment workers in Cambodia and 90% of them are women. read more.
01:28:29 local time MALAYSIA
* Discuss wage terms before hiring foreigners, bosses urged:
Employers should discuss with foreign workers on what should be included in the RM900 minimum wage before deciding to recruit them, said MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.
This was because the RM900 minimum wage, in addition to housing and transport allowances for existing foreign workers here, had posed a huge financial burden to employers, he said.
“The worst hit are those employing a huge number of foreigners,” he said after opening the Federal Territory MCA 64th anniversary celebrations here yesterday.
Citing a textile factory with 1,200 foreign workers as an example, Dr Chua said the employer had to fork out an additional RM300 a month for each staff under the minimum wage policy effective from Jan 1, totalling some RM4.32mil a year.
* Rights groups slams policy reversal on levy payment:
The Malaysian Trade Unions Council (MTUC) will be submitting an official complaint to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regarding a government policy which now requires foreign workers to pay for their own annual levy, instead of their employers.
“The government’s sudden reversal of its policy requiring employers to pay the annual foreign worker levy is a great injustice against migrant workers,” said MTUC secretary general Abdul Halim Mansor in a statement today.
“Since 2009, the burden of levy payment on employers was deliberately imposed as a measure to reduce dependence on foreign labourers, but today, in many workplaces, migrant workers comprise 75% of the workforce,” he said. read more.
* MCA denies speaking for wealthy in minimum wage implementation issue:
The MCA strongly disagrees with the allegation made by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MUTC) that the party speaks for the wealthy in raising the issue of the minimum wage implementation.
Its president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said MCA proposed that the levy and transportation as well as housing allowances should be borne by the foreign workers.
“We support the implementation of minimum wage. Our proposal does not apply to local workers. read more.
01:28:29 local time INDONESIA
* Major Rally Avoided as Workers & Employers Reached Settlement:
Workers union and Employers Association (Apindo) have finally reached an amicable settlement related to the 2012 minimum wage (UMK) for Banten province in a meeting led by Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Muhaimin Iskandar Wednesday (Feb 1).
There are several points agreed by the disputing parties. First, Apindo agrees to drop its lawsuit filed to the State Administrative Court within a month. Secondly, Banten Governor decree about 2012 UMK will be applied. The agreement also allows employers to ask for postponement of the new minimum salary.
Thousands of Workers in Tangerang, Banten province have earlier threatened to hold a massive strike and block the Jakarta-Tangerang Toll road if the meeting with employers and government failed to come up with satisfying agreement. read more.
* BetterWorks Indonesia- MediaUpdate:
1. Wage System: Government will Revise.
Read the full article here .(Article in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
2. Minimum Wage 2013 – Banten: Provincial Government Decline Minimum Wage Suspension for 33 Companies.
Read the full article here (Article in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
3. Tangerang Workers’ Pay Raise in Limbo over Exemption Appeals
Read the full article here.
4. Climbing up the global value chain. Read the full article here.
5. National scene: Jamsostek has new details on social security.
Read the full article here
6. Indonesian Government Prepares New Areas to Relocate Factories.
Read the full article here
7. Textile makers to invest Rp 1.5t in machinery. Read the full article here
* Urban Chat: Telling the tale of traditional textiles:
“Such a nice lurik you have on!”
“The shirt you’re wearing. It’s a lurik.”
“Um, thank you. It’s silk, from Obin.”
“[Pause] yes, Madam Obin is one of our most celebrated designers. But the pattern she used there on your shirt is called lurik, and it is from Yogyakarta.”
That was an actual conversation between me and an expat as we were leaving the Indonesian Services Dialogue late last year.
Before you, especially Indonesians, have a good chuckle, let me ask earnestly: How many of you actually know, own or have ever touched a lurik?
Let me ask further: How many of you have worn, or at least can tell the difference between jumputan, ikat, songket, ulos or other types of tenun?
Javanese batik has come a long way, thanks to breakthroughs in designs and technology fought for by modern fashion designers and the undying dedication of mostly low-paid artisans and craftsmen throughout the decades. Nowadays, you can easily find batiks in all ranges of color, price and function. read more.
23:58:29 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Higher wages will keep Burmese migrants in Thailand, say researchers:
High wages in Thailand are likely to keep the majority of Burmese migrant workers here over the next three years, a labour researcher says.
While Myanmar [Burma] is currently taking steps toward democratisation and a freer market, finding good jobs there remains difficult, Premjai Wangsiripaisarn of the Asian Research Centre for Migration at Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Asian Studies said.
Most Myanmar migrant workers are able to find work easily here and earn enough so they can send money home, she said.
Foreign remittance payments from Myanmar workers is a big source of revenue for the Myanmar government. read more.
23:28:29 local time BANGLA DESH
ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* Ashes of Souls:
“A silent burial ground, where maybe the ashes of wounded souls are still encircling. Broken pieces of burnt smashed tiles with countless shards of glass can tell the tale of how staircases could not save hundreds of scorched living beings. Imagining myself at the place of these unfortunate garments workers who were burned alive, I felt vulnerable. Shoes, bangles or an unfinished ironed cloth in the stand or the half eaten evening tiffin are standing witness to how workers died helplessly. Pieces of glass bangles all over the floor, as mostly female workers had faced the tragedy, were witness to a violent disaster no one of them had even seen in nightmares. & thus by facing fire they lost their existence in a burning blaze” – GMB Akash
Tazreen Fashions, located in a rural area of Ashulia occupies a nine-storied building.
The ground floor, which stored the factory’s raw materials, had the only entrance to the factory, with three staircases leading to other floors.
The fire at the eight-story building of the apparel factory started on the first floor, quickly cutting off all three exits from the building. Survivors stated that at least one exit was locked while no emergency exits existed in the building whatsoever. Some workers tried to escape the fire by jumping out of the windows of upper floors – many of them died.
Others choked to death in the thick smoke of burning fabrics. Many of the bodies the firefighters found in the ruins were burnt beyond recognition. Later it was estimated that more than 1,000 people could have been inside the building when the fire started. But survivors claim more.
* BGMEA is responsible for the deaths of Tazreen’s workers:
BGMEA is a giant propaganda machinery which protects killers
Many garment workers died on the evening of November 24th when fire broke out in Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia’s Nischintapur. The exact death toll is still unknown. According to the government, 112 workers had died but many family members were unable to identify their beloved ones as the flesh had burnt away leaving behind only charred bones and skeletons.
Fifty three unidentified bodies have been buried in Jurain graveyard. But several investigative reports have concluded that the death toll is higher. Some of us have conducted preliminary research in Nischintapur’s Buripara at our own initiative, and, we too, have been forced to reach the same conclusion. The government and the BGMEA should immediately have launched a serious drive to ascertain the exact number of those who have died, but instead they displayed a callous indifference which amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence.
The government and the BGMEA are also guilty of creating smokescreens, despicably aimed at letting the owner of Tazreen Fashions off the hook and, reducing the likelihood of compensation claims: the families of those workers who jumped to their death have not been given any compensation the families of many dead workers have not been given compensation because they have been unable to identify their loved one’s body. But who is to blame for the inability of family members to recognise charred bones and skeletons? read more.
* Arrest of Tazreen owners demanded:
Politicians and labour leaders on Friday called on the government to ensure safety of the workers at their workplace and demanded immediate arrest of Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain.
Addressing the opening session of 12th biannual conference of National Garment Workers Federation at Rassel Mancha at Workers Party central office premises. they also expressed concern for not arresting the Tazreen owner on charge of killing more than one hundred workers in a fire on November 24.
Speaking on the occasion, Workers Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon demanded immediate arrest of Tazreen owner and said he should not be allowed to escape as a BGMEA member. read more.
* Labour leaders demand arrest of Tazreen owner:
Several garment labour rights organizations on Sunday laid siege to Srama Bhaban in the city to demanding arrest of Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain.
Speaking at a rally at the spot Mantu Ghosh, the president of Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre, called upon the labour director and chief inspector of factories to take adequate steps to ensure workers’ safety at workplace.
President of Garment Workers’ Unity Council, Mushrefa Mishu, said that the owner of Tazreen Fashions could not avoid the responsibility of deaths of 112 workers and injury to many more in his factory fire on November 24, as he failed to ensure their safety.
Mahbubur Rahman Ismail, the president of the Bangladesh Textile Garments Workers’ Federation said that unless the Tazreen Fashions owner was
arrested by February 10 the workers would go for a tougher action programme to press the demand for his arrest. read more.
* Apparel industry workers deserve better:
The tragic saga of garments workers continues to mount with no end in sight to the cruel exploitation.
How cruel the fate of the most exploited at the lower end of the largest volume of foreign exchange earner can be is illustrated to a large extent by the hapless and well beyond recognition charred bodies of workers of the Tazreen garments factory.
Families of the dead workers whose bodies could be identified at least received monetary compensation and did not have to suffer the mental agony on account of lack of identification of their daughters, sisters, mothers or wives. But those families which had the misfortune of not knowing which of the charred bodies was theirs had to suffer doubly because of the loss plus the uncertainty involved -uncertainty of ever performing the last rites every religion makes it obligatory and then over receiving any compensation. Even the injured were handed some compensation although that is meagre compared to the loss suffered.
The 11 unidentified bodies are a proof that life in this land is no better than what stray dogs lead here. Nameless and rootless with no one mourning for these once human beings, they have not even earned the minimum esteem to be given the last rites by their near and dear ones. How undignified and demeaning for human souls!
It is exactly where entire humanity should hang its head in shame. Society where such things can happen has no right to claim sophistication and elitism. No wonder, brutality and outrage have replaced fellow feeling and social justice. Any human soul needs to be comforted and given the care it deserves in times of suffering and illness. read more.
….no better than what stray dogs lead here.
Nameless and rootless with no one mourning for these once human beings, they have not even earned the minimum esteem to be given the last rites by their near and dear ones.
How undignified and demeaning for human souls!
It is exactly where entire humanity should hang its head in shame……
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* 60 -100 injured as false fire alarm triggers garment stampede:
At least 64 garment workers, mostly women, were injured as they stampeded over a false fire alarm in an Ashulia factory yesterday.
The railing of a staircase collapsed when the workers were trying to rush out of the six-storey factory of Envoy Group at around 7:50am, police said.
The alarm rang on its own when a worker was repairing a plastic cover of the fire alarm box, said Mostafa Kamal, an inspector of Ashulia Police Station.
The railing of the staircase between the ground and first floors of the factory of 6,000 workers fell down due to the huge rush, he said.
The false fire alarm panicked the workers and led to the stampede, said Abdus Salam Murshedy, managing director of Envoy Group.
The injured were admitted to different hospitals and clinics, said Murshedy, also a former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* N’ganj spinning mill catches fire:
A fire broke out at a spinning mill at Tarabo in Rupganj upazila of the district Saturday morning, causing substantial damage.
Fire service sources said the fire erupted at the ring section of Abdullah Spinning Mills under the Phultala-Kamal Bridge in the area at about 7:30 am and spread very fast.
Being informed, six fire service units from Demra and Haziganj rushed in and extinguished the flame after three hours of frantic efforts at about 10:40 am.
Police said about 200 workers were working inside the mill.
Some 10/12 workers received minor injuries while getting out of the mill in their rush to flee the blaze, said police.
It was not possible to estimate the extent of loss in the fire at the moment.
Mozzammel Haque, owner of the mill, said the fire originated from an electric short circuit.
However, Saiful Islam, deputy assistant director of Narayanganj Fire Service Station, said the origin of the fire could be confirmed after investigation. to read.
* Fire burns spinning mills:
A huge quantity of cotton, yarn and machinery of Abdullah Spinning Mills were destroyed in a fire at Tarabo under Rupganj police station in Narayanganj early Saturday.
Police and fire brigade sources said the fire originated from a short circuit at unit-2 of the mills at about 6:00am and the fire, which lasted till 10:00am, burnt several units.
No casualty was reported. to read. & read more.
* Fire in Opex-Sinha Group thread factory:
A fire on Monday at a thread factory of the Opex & Sinha Group in Narayanganj destroyed a large amount of raw cotton and damaged machineries.
Officials said the fire originated from an electric short-circuit around 2am in the factory that is located in Sonargaon’s Kanchpur Industrial area.
“The fire spread quickly after starting from the weeding section, where thread is spun out of raw cotton,” Demra fire service’s Senior Station Officer Shawkat Ali Zoardar told bdnews24.com.
He said two fire-fighting units from the Demra station and another from Narayanganj’s Hajiganj station rushed to the spot and controlled the fire after three hours of frantic efforts.
Zoarder said there were no casualties as the factory was closed. read more.
* National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) brought out a red-flag procession in the capital on Friday marking the 12th biennial conference:
* Sub-contracting apparel units facing closure:
A large number of ‘sub-contracting’ apparel factories might face closure as big garment makers, who take work orders directly, are either turning away from the third-parties or are opting for the compliant ones in the face of strict monitoring of safety measures by the buyers.
The big garment owners take direct manufacturing orders form buyers and, in many cases, they assign their tasks to third-party houses to make timely shipments.
The main buyers usually overlook the third-party manufacturing, but this has now emerged as one of the key thorny issues following the frequent disasters in the garment factories. read more.
* Garment subcontracts avoidable? Far from it:
Exporters say they need to give work to outsiders to meet tight deadline
Poor road infrastructure, political unrest and pressure to meet the deadline force many garment exporters to resort to subcontracts, industry people said.
Of the 3,500-odd active garment factories, at least 500 run purely on a subcontract basis, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
The remaining 3,000-odd factories also produce garments on subcontracts when they have no orders of their own.
Also, there are several hundred non-BGMEA factories engaged in subcontract activities.“We cannot keep our factories idle. It’s a labour-intensive industry and the operating cost is very high,” said Mahmud Hasan Khan, managing director of Rising Group of Industries. read more.
* Cotton production to get 6-fold rise in 3 yrs: CDB:
The government has planned to boost cotton production by six times through a three-fold expansion of its cultivation areas, mostly in hilly and salinity-prone areas, over the next three years.
In a bid to reduce import dependency of lint cotton for the still expanding readymade garment (RMG) sector, the Cotton Development Board (CDB) has proposed the expansion of its cultivation over one lakh hectares of land that will produce about 6.11 lakh bales by the 2015-16 fiscal, said officials.
read more. & read more.
* Dhaka to ink cotton import deal with Delhi: GM Quader:
Dhaka and New Delhi may shortly seal an agreement on cotton that will ensure the supply of a fixed minimum quantity from India to Bangladesh every year irrespective of any export ban.
“Bangladesh wants India to commit to 15 lakh bales (170 kg each) of cotton every year, but the final amount is still being negotiated,” Commerce Minister GM Quader told Business Line in New Delhi.
The daily said the deal, which will be at a business-to-business level, is being worked out by the Commerce and Textile Ministries of the two countries.
For India, the Cotton Corporation of India will sign the final agreement, an Indian Commerce Department official told the Business Line.
read more. & read more.& read more. & read more.
* Deal to import 260,000 tonnes of cotton from India likely:
Bangladesh is mulling procuring some 260,000 tonnes of cotton from India annually to feed its booming ready-made garment (RMG) sector, officials in Dhaka said Friday.
“India has agreed to export some 1.5 million bales, each weighing 170 kilogram, and intense interactions are now going ahead between the textile ministries of both the countries in this connection,” Ministry of Commerce (MoC) Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told the FE. read more.
* B’desh factories must comply with int’l labour standards: EU:
The European Union called upon the Bangladesh authorities to act immediately to ensure apparel factories comply with international labour standards following two incidents of factory fire that have killed more than 119 workers.
On Saturday (26 January) at least seven workers were killed and at least 50 others injured in a fire that raged through an unlicensed garment factory in Dhaka – just two months after 112 people lost their lives in another apparel factory fire in Bangladesh, according to Brussels based weekly newspaper New Europe.
* The problem of core labour standards in a nutshell (or: … in an EU press release):
The European Union issued a statement three days ago about the horrifying factory fires in Bangladesh.
It was signed by Catherine Ashton, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and Karel de Gucht, the EU’s Trade Commissioner. The statement emphasized that the EU is Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner, and that the country benefits from the EU’s Everything but Arms scheme, which means that it has to pay little or no important tariffs at the European border.
This preferential scheme is part of the EU’s generalized system of preferences (GSP), and is thus conditioned upon compliance with ILO core labour standards. If a beneficiary country commits serious and systematic violation of principles laid down in the eight conventions on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced and compulsory labor, the abolition of child labor, and and the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, it may lose its beneficiary status.
Ironically, Bangladesh does not have an obligation to comply with the most important ILO standards on this issue, for the simple reason that they have not ratified the relevant conventions (nos. 155, 161 and 187). The EU can do three things.
* Export may face challenge over FTA between EU, Vietnam:
‘Bangladeshi exporters may face tough competition in exporting readymade garment products on the EU market if Vietnam is given duty-free facility under the FTA as the country exports almost same kind of RMG products in the region,’ a tariff commission official told New Age on Sunday. read more.
* Bangladesh wants GSP benefits to continue:
While providing explanations for key concerns regarding labour rights, the government, in its submission to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), has argued for continuation of benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladeshi products in the US market.
The commerce ministry, in its position paper submitted on Tuesday (January 29), gave details of the steps taken by the government with respect to labour rights, said sources.
On January 8, the USTR requested for public comments on the possible withdrawal, suspension, or limitation of GSP benefits for Bangladeshi products. Stakeholders were asked to submit their submissions by January 31.
In the position paper, containing 40-50 submissions, the commerce ministry also stated measures the government intended to take in future in this regard. The government claimed that it made significant progress with regard to fulfilment of pledges made during the third hearing in January, 2012 on retaining GSP benefits. read more.
* 15pc RMG export growth likely this fiscal: BGMEA:
The export growth in the apparel sector of the country is likely to be more than 15 per cent in the current fiscal year (FY 2012-13) as the relevant manufacturers are continuing to get orders from overseas buyers, traders said Saturday.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) leaders claimed that the two consecutive deadly fire incidents over the past two months did not stop continuation of exports.
The garment sector has been continuing to get export orders from overseas buyers, who were however little bit slow in issuing new orders for few days immediately after the deadly fire in Tazreen Fashions Ltd, the traders said. read more.
* Textile millers to get cash incentive:
The textile millers are going to get cash incentive for the unusual rise of cotton price in the fiscal year (FY) 2010-11.
The decision came from a meeting of the Ministry of Finance (MoF) held on December 23 last year, a high official at the MoF said.
“We will give compensation to textile millers according to the decision taken at the meeting,” System Analyst of MoF Narayan Chandra Sinha told the FE.
* Chinese market beckons Bangladesh garments:
Bangladesh exported readymade garments (RMG) worth about $20 billion last fiscal to different countries of the world. It accounted for a big chunk of the total exports valued at $24 billion.
The figures make it fairly clear that the apparel sector is the country’s single largest source of foreign exchange earnings. Now there exists an opportunity to push the total export figure far higher, as China is a good potential export destination for Bangladesh’s apparel products.
Though the marketing opportunity was limited at the beginning, now it is increasing gradually. If only one-tenth of the $250 billion domestic market of China could be grabbed by Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers, the export volume would just more than double very easily. So it is very urgent for Bangladesh to give more attention to the Chinese market alongside the existing export destinations. read more.
* Policy approved against child labour for hazardous jobs:
The government has approved the national plan of action to implement the National Child Labour Elimination Policy 2010 to abolish child labour from hazardous sector, a high official of the ministry of labour and employment (MoLE) said.
With this end in view a high powered central committee will be formed soon. Labour and Employment Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu will be the head of the committee, he said. read more.
22:58:29 local time INDIA
* PM treating trade unions as ‘untouchables,’ says Dasgupta:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is treating trade unions as ‘untouchables’ said Gurudas Dasgupta, senior leader of the Communist Party of India and general secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, the party’s labour arm. He complained that Dr. Singh had time for people from the corporate sector, including tax defaulters, but not for trade unions.
He described the two-day general strike called by the 11 registered trade unions on February 20-21 as a “wake-up call against the anti-people policies” of the United Progressive Alliance government.
“We are getting support from a diverse spectrum of people for the general strike,” he said, adding that the trade unions of Biju Janata Dal, Shiv Sena, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and others, including bank unions, are supporting the strike. read more.
* ‘Make general strike a big success’:
The four-day State conference of the CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) commenced in the city on Friday, with A.K.Padmanabhan, all India president, making a clarion call to the working class to make the 48-hour general strike called by the central trade unions on February 20 and 21 to protest against the anti-people’s policies pursued by the Central Government a big success.
Steep rise in prices of essential commodities, government’s inaction on issues such as social security for organised and unorganised sector workers, minimum wages, handling of issues such as foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail trade, insurance and civil aviation sectors, and privatisation have badly hit the country , Mr.Padmanabhan said in his inaugural address. read more.
* CITU meet calls for making two-day strike a major success:
The 12th state-level four-day conference of the CITU, the trade union arm of the CPM, got underway in Trichy on Friday with Karl Marx’s slogan to the lower social class that “you have nothing to lose, but your chains.” CITU chief A K Padmanabhan officially inaugurated the first day session with a clarion call to all of the working class to make the forthcoming 48-hour strike on February 20 and 21 a great success.
Padmanabhan said the CITU-affiliated workers had in the past 22 years had struck work against the Centre’s policy of liberalisation and privatisation and the 15th strike was for the first time jointly organised by Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) and Labour Progressive Front (LPF). The first day was however dedicated to facilitate D Selvaraj, one of the founders of the Progressive Writers’ Association, who had won the 2002 Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel “Thol” (Skin) that vividly portrayed the lives of tannery workers in and around Dindigul. read more.
* Bangladesh asks India to commit 15 lakh bales of cotton each year:
Bangladesh has asked India to commit 15 lakh bales of cotton each year to its fast-growing garments industry. India’s frequent bans and restriction on export of farm produce to keep a check on domestic prices has invited criticism from its regular buyers.
In an interview to ET, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader said the deal is expected in two to three months. Readymade garments account for 80% of Bangladesh’s total exports.
According to official estimates, Bangladesh imports about 35-40% of its cotton requirement from India. Cotton export is often caught up in lobbying by interest groups such as farmers that want better prices and industry that seeks assured supply at low prices. India had imposed ban on cotton for the second time in two years in March last year in order to ensure sufficient supply of cotton for its domestic textile industry. read more.
* AEPC Chairman hails RBI move to reduce CRR:
Dr. A Sakthivel, Chairman AEPC, on behalf of the entire garment and textiles industry has welcomed the RBI third quarter review of monetary policy 2012-13. In his statement Dr Sakthivel said, “The lowering of the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 25 basis points and CRR by another 25 basis points is a welcome come move by RBI.
The tight liquidity conditions which were prevailing since long will surely easy out. It will in turn boost our economy and robust the structural deficit in the system by infusing the permanent primary liquidity in the system. With the easing of inflation and reducing CRR by 25 basis points the garment sector hopes to get credit at the lower interest. RBI by this announcement has addressed both the demand and supply constrains.” read more.
* FDI in retail: Global retailers like Wal-Mart, Tesco, Carrefour and others not buying India story:
Four months have passed since the government braved intense opposition to allow foreign supermarkets to enter India, but it has not received a single investment proposal so far as global retailers play wait-and-watch and seek more clarity about the conditions imposed on their entry.
The delay is beginning to irk the government, which almost put its survival at risk over this controversial issue. A top executive with a global retailer told ET that in a recent meeting with a senior commerce and industry ministry official, he was asked when his firm would submit its proposal for opening multi-brand retail stores in the country. “We have done our bit, when will you do yours?” the official bluntly told him.
* Walmart continues lobbying in US for India entry:
Amid a probe being initiated into Walmart’s US lobbying with regard to its India entry, the global retail giant has continued to lobby with the American lawmakers on this issue, as also others, and spent a total amount of $ 6.13 million on the same during 2012.
As per the latest Congressional records of lobbying disclosure reports, the US-based Walmart Stores spent a total amount of $ 1.48 million (about Rs eight crore) on lobbying for various issues, including on “discussions related to FDI in India”, during the last quarter ended December 31, 2012.
This has taken the total lobbying bill of the company for entire 2012 to $ 6.13 million (about Rs 33 crore), the lobbying disclosure records available with the US Senate show. read more.
22:28:29 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI- BALDIA FIRE:
* Beacon of hope: Compensation in sight for Baldia fire families:
While the fate of the intentional murder proceedings against the owners of the Baldia garment factory has yet to be decided, there appears to be some relief for the victims’ families.
The Sindh High Court has formed an independent commission, headed by former Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery, to disburse the amount of compensation pledged by the government and private parties among the victims’ families.
A petition was filed by several human rights organisations demanding an “independent” judicial investigation of the fire that broke out in Ali Enterprises on September 11, 2012, and killed up to 259 workers. The owners of the factory were taken into custody but Abdul Aziz Bhaila was let go due to his old age. His sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, some employees and government officials are currently in jail on charges of intentional murder and criminal negligence.
* Looking for a way out?: SHC reserves order on Baldia factory owners’ bail plea:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) reserved its verdict on Monday on bail applications filed by the owners and employees of the Baldia factory, where the country’s worst industrial disaster took place.
Abdul Aziz Bhaila, his sons, Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, are among the factory managers and government officials, who are facing charges of murder, criminal negligence and common intention. Nearly 259 workers were killed when Ali Enterprises caught fire on September 11, last year.
The police arrested Arshad and Bhaila after a sessions court rejected their pre-arrest bail applications on October 6, 2012. Their ailing father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, was granted bail due to his old age.
Opposing their bail applications, special public prosecutor Shazia Hanjrah said there was strong evidence available on record to prove their role in the alleged offence. “There is a list of 830 witnesses of the tragic incident,” she said. “A number of witnesses, including the workers of Ali Enterprises and its adjoining industrial units, have clearly stated that the factory owners had ordered their watchmen to lock up all the doors after the fire broke out.” read more.
* Dna testing: Another body identified:
The body of another Baldia factory fire victim was handed over on Monday to his family after DNA tests had revealed his identity.
According to an Edhi spokesperson, the body was that of 42-year-old Mohammad Azeem, who used to live in Sector 14-A, Orangi Town. It was handed over to his family after being identified through DNA tests. The spokesperson added that 20 more unidentified bodies are still lying in Edhi cold storage and their DNA test reports have yet to be received. to read.
* Baldia factory fire case: Murder charge removed without informing prosecutor, court told:
A special public prosecutor told a sessions court on Saturday that the investigation officer of the Baldia Town factory fire case had dropped the murder charge in a supplementary charge-sheet without informing her and she wanted to give arguments against it.
The owner of the ill-fated industrial unit, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, and his two sons Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, general manager Mansoor and gatekeepers Fazal Ahmed, Arshad Mehmood, Ali Mohammad and Shahrukh have been charge-sheeted in the case.
Recently, the IO submitted a supplementary charge-sheet in court in which he dropped Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code and charge-sheeted the suspects only in Sections 322 (punishment for qatl-bis-sabab), 337 (Shajjah) and 34 (common intention) of the PPC read with Section 512 (record of evidence in absence of accused) of the criminal procedure code and also exempted officials of the civic agencies. read more.
* Court seeks prosecutor’s help over supplementary charge sheet:
To accept or not to accept the supplementary charge sheet minus Section 302 in the Baldia factory fire case is the question. And the additional district and sessions court (West) directed the special public prosecutor on Saturday to assist it in determining what should be done.
Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, two of the three owners of the ill-fated factory, Ali Enterprises, are among several people, including factory manager and staffers and the SITE MD, who are facing charges of murder (Qatal-bisabab), attempt to murder and mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage.
Investigation Officer (IO) Jehanzaib Khan had filed the supplementary charge sheet on January 5 after removing Section 302 (Qatl-e-Amd) of the Pakistan Penal Code, submitting that since no case of murder with intent was made out, he dropped the murder charges. Section 302 had been part of the previous two charge sheets presented to the court. The court asked Special Public Prosecutor Shazia Hanjra to argue so as to determine whether or not the supplementary charge sheet after the removal of Section 302 could be accepted. read more.
* Baldia inferno case: a cover-up:
The Baldia inferno was a big accident. I personally went through the entire police file and the order of the magistrate in which he had issued warrants for arrest of officials of the civil defence, labour department and SITE.
There was a clear violation of the cabinet meeting’s decision of 2001 in which it was decided that the labour department and civil defence would carry out a joint visit twice a month to various factories, but during the past 11 years there had not been a single visit.
While going through the police file, before inserting section 302 PPC, I asked inquiry officer Jahan Zeb about the performance of fire-tenders and the role of the officers of Civil Defence Department, Labour Department and SITE. I did not get any proper reply.
Although investigators knew that there were other factors involved such as extortion and terrorism, they were only concerned about the deletion of Section 302 PPC instead of taking action against the negligent departments.
I would like to draw the attention of victims’ families that prosecutors worked on the case under stress so that government officers should not be nominated as accused, and the police did not furnish a list of all officers who had been working since 2001 till the incident.
The repetition of such an incident cannot be ruled out because our government functionaries have been providing shelter to the culprits.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* US rules out duty-free access to textiles:
Kara Babrowski, economic officer at the US Consulate in Karachi, has said that the US government cannot provide duty-free access to Pakistani textiles.
The US official stated this during his visit to the Towel Manufacturers Association (TMA) here on Thursday at TMA House.
The members of the association pointed out that the impact on allowing zero duty would be negligible because duty collection on export of terry towels and allied products of around $736 million from Pakistan to US hardly comes to around to $67 million per annum.
TMA chairman Mehtab Uddin Chawla said that the business community of Pakistan prefers trade over aid and this is a win-win situation for both the countries because by opening up trade opportunities, Pakistani youth would get jobs which would help reduce terrorism. read more.
* Textile exports contribute $40.2b to national kitty:
The exports of textiles products are 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 $10.3 billion through exports of textiles products during 2009-10, $13.8 billion during 2010-11 and $12.5 billion during 2011-12. A senior official here on Sunday said in first quarter of current year 2012-13 (Jul-Sep) the exports of textiles products have been recorded at $3.60 billion which is a good sign. He said in fact during last five years the exports of textile sector have seen an increasing trend from $10.3 billion to $12.5 billion, registering an increase of around 20pc.
Enumerating the measures adopted during the period, the official said a detailed in-house analysis has been conducted as a result of which Textiles Policy (2009-14) document was prepared by the Ministry of Textile to identify the loopholes. He said the Textiles Policy (2009-14) was duly approved by the Cabinet in which various initiatives were stated to support the textile sector. read more.
* Value-added sector criticises trade policy framework:
The value-added textile sector has expressed disappointment in the treatment of the textile sector in the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2012-15, which was announced almost seven months after the due date.
Central Chairman, Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PHMA), Jawed Bilwani, expressed concern that decisions were taken without consulting the major stakeholders – the exporters who contributed to the export development fund (EDF) by way of export development surcharge.
He referred to the policy framework and the commerce secretary’s statement saying that seed money of Rs1 billion had been proposed for the first year of the EXIM Bank. For three years, the total amount would be Rs5 billion. The total amount would be met from export development surcharge. He said this is a very serious matter.
* Textile industries get fire safety training:
As many as 150 local textile and garment industries attended a series of fire safety workshops and training courses, which were offered by the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP).
This was the first time when a series of international training courses on fire safety were organised by WRAP in Pakistan. Started from December 17, 2012 in collaboration with Accordia Global Compliance Group, the last training session was held in a local hotel, which was largely attended by local textile, garments, spinning and yarn manufacturing industries.
Earlier training sessions were held in both Karachi and Lahore in collaboration with SITE Association Karachi, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) and Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA). WRAP’s Bangladesh Liaison Office Director Saifullah Khawaja, was the lead trainer in the course. read more. & read more.
* Rising Backlog: Before you drink that, read this:
Twenty-eight industries account for most of the cases pending at the Environmental Tribunal. Objections raised by complainants against these industries vary from the type of pollution to establishment of factories without a proper environment management plan or without obtaining a no-objection certificate from the Environment Protection Department (EPD).
Tanneries discharge waste water which is high in chromium and copper both used for removing hair from the animal’s skin. The untreated waste water is disposed of in drains which empty out into rivers. The water also contains fats from the animal skin.
Some textile factories, embroidery and dyeing units dispose of untreated waste water carrying carcinogens into drains which joins natural springs and rivers.
* Textile industry in Punjab: gas supply not resumed on February 1:
Why gas supply has not been resumed to the textile industry in Punjab on 1st of February despite a clear-cut assurance by the SNGPL? This question is circulating fast in the textile industry but no one is there to respond.
Meanwhile, President Zardari had surrendered to the APTMA leadership efforts and warned the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) representatives of stern action in case of any deviation from the agreed arrangement of 16 hours a day electricity supply to the industry. read more. & read more.
* Textile sector: inadequate gas supply hurting exports: FCCI:
Govern-ment must accord higher priority for supply of gas to the industries particularly to the textile sector, partial supply of two days in a week would not serve the purpose of resuming feasible industrial production.
Talking to newsmen, Mian Zahid Aslam, President of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI) said that the gas supply to the textile industries in Faisalabad is not available from the last two months which has made the export orders piled up and the partial gas supply will not serve the purpose to start production at full scale to clear the orders.
He said gas is essential input for textile industries without which the production process is completely halted. read more.
* Energy woes causing harm to Punjab’s leather industry: PTA:
Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) Central Chairman Agha Saiddain has said that energy crises especially in Punjab has caused historical damage to the third major foreign exchange earning leather industry, as electricity produced through generators has turned the sector uncompetitive not only in international market but also within the country.
He was talking to Business Recorder after addressing an emergent meeting of the PTA Central Executive Committee at north office, attended by all leading tanners of the country here Friday.
He said that tanning industry is the mother industry of leather sector and government may save this important industry by offering relief package up to 5 percent as provided in Bangladesh and India so that industry could sustain to the setback of power and gas load shedding. He said that majority of tanning units are facing complete closures due to zero availability of gas and prolonged power breakdowns in the province, as use of furnace oil for boilers heating is unviable. read more.
* New Bt cotton seed varieties: MoC’s comments sought on issuance of certificates:
The National Bio-safety Committee (NBC) has sought comments from the Ministry of Commerce on issuance of commercial certificates for eight new Bt cotton seed varieties, as the decision hangs in balance without proper legislation for the last one year, it is learnt.
Earlier, NBC never sought Commerce Ministry’s comments on issuance of commercial certificates for any new Bt cotton seed variety. However, to determine the effects on cotton export/import in the local market, it has been decided to take Ministry’s viewpoint prior to permitting its commercial transactions. Informed sources revealed to Business Recorder that in February 2012, Punjab Seed Council (PSC) approved eight BT cotton seed varieties in addition to nine approved in 2010. As per signatory of Convention of Biological Diversity, for release of BT variety, a commercialisation certificate from the NBC, working under the umbrella of the Ministry of Climate Change is mandatory prior to the cultivation.
Pakistan is the ninth country which adopted Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) or Transgenic Crop Cultivation (TCC), and Bt cotton was the first crop approved for commercial cultivation, in 2010 while India allowed Bt cotton in 2002. Transgenic crops revolutionised the agriculture productivity in various countries, sources maintained. read more.
* The Generation of Clothes:
With seven stores countrywide, Generation is a household name when it comes to women’s fashion in Pakistan. Playing true to its name, Generation strives to serve one generation of women after another, with sincerity.
Unlike other garments which underwent mass-production, its clothes are dyed, screen-printed and embroidered by hand. Here’s a look at the design process in Generation’s factory on Ferozepur Road in Lahore. -Text and photos by Nushmia Khan. read & see more.
22:28:29 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Cotton Campaign calls on H&M to implement the Daewoo Protocol:
Members of the Cotton Campaign, including Anti-Slavery International and the International Labor Rights Forum, express their disappointment that H&M’s recent announcement does not go far enough to ensure that it is not complicit in the use of state-sponsored forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.
H&M has recently announced that it will ask suppliers and critical fabric mills to sign a commitment that their cotton does not come from Uzbekistan. It says that those who do not sign the commitment will not be allowed to work with H&M. This announcement follows the Cotton Campaign’s lengthy engagement with H&M, during which we have been calling for the steps set out in the Daewoo Protocol to be implemented.
We are asking that H&M put language into their vendor agreements prohibiting the use of Uzbek cotton which would put their commitment not to use cotton produced with forced labour into practice and, crucially, ensure this message reaches right down H&M’s supply chain.
H&M has established a policy and is in the process of requiring its direct, first tier, suppliers to sign a commitment to that policy and disqualifying companies that do not commit from business with H&M. Unfortunately, the risk that slave-made cotton enters H&M’s products will remain until the company pushes the policy down the next tiers of their supply chain, as outlined in the steps 3-5 of the protocol.
* Open Letter to Mark Duke, CEO of Walmart: Take the lead on raising minimum wage:
CEO, Walmart Corporation, Bentonville
Dear Mr. Duke,
Walmart, your gigantic company, is increasingly being challenged by your workers, government prosecutors, civil lawsuits, communities (that do not want a Walmart), taxpayers learning about your drain on government services and corporate welfare, and small businesses and groups working with unions such as SEIU and UFCW. Thus far, Walmart is successfully playing rope-a-dope, conceding little while expecting to wear down its opposition.
But you and your Board of Directors know what most shoppers and other people do not know – namely that these pressures are only going to increase. There is one policy announcement by your company that can “roll back” many of these pressures and relieve adverse public relations.
Walmart has about one million workers, give or take, in the U.S. who are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968. This is remarkable for another reason – today’s Walmart worker, due to automation and other efficiencies, does the work of two Walmart workers from 40 years ago. A federal minimum wage, inflation-adjusted from 1968, would be $10.50 today. The present federal minimum wage is $7.25 – the lowest in major Western countries. In Western Europe and Ontario, where you have operations, you must currently adhere to minimum wages of $10.50 or more. read more.