06:57:36 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.
This is also a considerable increase over the current fine of VND300,000 – VND30 million ($14-$1,400).
A fine of VND5-7 million is proposed for violations like cutting salaries of employees without prior notice or prior discussion with the trade union.
Cutting employees’ salaries by more than 30 per cent and paying lower than the regulated overtime wages will also attract similar fines. read more.
06:57:36 local time THAILAND
* Central Trading uses lean manufacturing:
Two years ago Central Trading Co, a unit of the Central Marketing Group, paid its staff the daily minimum wage of 215 baht, which accounted for 20% of production costs.
Despite the increase to 300 baht on Jan 1, the company lowered jeans production costs by 7 million baht per year after it took advantage of projects by the Industrial Promotion Department to promote lean manufacturing and maximise material utilisation.
Calling itself a medium-sized textile company, Central Trading has 650 employees working at its two factories. The company manufactures and distributes apparel products from brands such as Lee and Wrangler.
On average, staff receive wages of more than 400 baht per day, said Suphot Phawachittranon, assistant vice-president for production.
“Two years ago employees did not know how to use raw materials efficiently and also lacked teamwork skills,” said Mr Suphot.
By improving the production process, the company lowered its defect rate to only 3% from 13% in 2010. It aims for zero defects this year. read more.
* Wage hike needs help:
The 300 baht minimum wage policy the Pheu Thai Party campaigned on which has been implemented across the country since Jan 1 is one of the most contentious issues in Thailand today.
On the one hand, there are those who say it will be a death knell for many labour-intensive businesses and force investors to look to neighbouring countries to set up new operations. Then there are those who point out that as the cost of living rises, the lower economic sectors are getting squeezed the hardest, and there has not been a significant minimum wage increase for a very long time.
Much of the difficulty with implementing the policy has to do with the fact that it is a relatively large increase to impose suddenly, and it also puts pressure on employers to raise wages across the board, as more skilled employees expect to earn more than inexperienced new hires.
At the end of the day, however, it’s hard to defend the assertion that 300 baht is too much for a full day’s work. The fact is that the 300 baht minimum wage has been signed into law and backing away from it now would be disastrous in terms of social discontent and erosion of trust in government. read more.
* Fund set to help boost SME output, cut costs:
The Department of Industrial Promotion has budgeted Bt400 million to help small and medium-sized enterprises improve production capacity and cut costs in the wake of the increase in the national minimum wage.
Deputy director-general Sirirat Jitseree said 3,000 SME operators were expected to participate in the projects.
She acknowledged that some labour-intensive industries had experienced a rise in labour cost of 25 per cent.
The department also plans to ask for a budget of Bt2 billion to promote similar projects next year, pending Industry Ministry and Cabinet approval.
Meanwhile, the International Trade Promotion Fund will ask for Cabinet approval next week to use Bt400 million to provide financial support to SMEs, which have experienced the impacts of a strengthening baht and slowing global economy, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom said after meeting with the fund.
06:57:36 local time CAMBODIA
* H&M dismisses call-for-help Kingsland workers:
Female workers protest in front of the Phnom Penh Tower. Photo: Heather Stilwell
One month after garment workers from the closed Kingsland factory started a vigil they are still out on the streets. Today they called at H&M and the Swedish Embassy in Cambodia.
In an attempt to draw H&M’s attention to their grim situation, around seventy workers went to the Phnom Penh Tower this morning – the building in which both the H&M office and Swedish Embassy are located.
The workers demanded that the Swedish Embassy support the case and that H&M ensure payment from Kingsland’s owner – or if the circumstances require it – from the brands that sourced from the factory. Staff from the Embassy arrived to accept a petition.
H&M’s local representative, Mr. Basirun Nabi circled the group before approaching a workers’ representative. He requested that local media cease filming the exchange, but assured that the document would make its way to the H&M head office.
read more. + SEE video here.
* Kingsland workers respond to Walmart and H&M:
More than a month after their factory owner fled, Kingsland garment workers remain on guard outside the factory gate to demand their stolen severance and wages.
The workers are owed approximately $200,000 in wages and indemnity by Kingsland, a Hong Kong-based company.
If you haven’t seen Part 1 of the Kingsland workers’ story, watch it here:
* Cambodian garment sector attracts huge foreign investment:
Cambodian garment industry is attracting huge foreign investments due to tax incentives and duty free access to world’s major markets like the US and the UK.
In a conversation with fibre2fashion, the business development manager of Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, Mr. Kaing Monika said, “Cambodia has become the new apparel manufacturing base for several countries and the country’s clothing industry is attracting huge foreign investments.”
Last year, China turned out to be the largest investor in Cambodian garment sector with a total investment of US$ 121 million followed by Taiwan with US$ 112 million and Korea with US$ 70 million. Singapore, the US, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, Australia, England and India were some other countries that invested in Cambodian apparel sector in 2012. read more.
07:57:36 local time MALAYSIA
* Employers/ Workers Advised To Refer Disputes On Minimum Wage To Council:
Employers or private sector workers having disputes on the implementation of the minimum wage are advised to refer them to the National Wages Consultative Council.
Human Resource Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said the council would try to arrive at win-win solutions to the disputes.
“The policy is for every worker, it started for local workers but we also have foreign workers in this country and they are also getting the same benefit. But it was started with the aim of increasing the income of workers, particularly Malaysians who are getting very low salaries. read more. & read more.
07:57:36 local time INDONESIA
* BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates:
1. Better Work Indonesia arrive in Bandung.
Read the full article here (Article in Bahasa Indonesia).
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
2. Government to Exempt Hundreds of Companies from Minimum Wage Rise.
Read the full article here.
3. Companies have to compose Wage Scale.
Read the full article here (Article in Bahasa Indonesia).
4. Workers educated on minimum wage. Read the full article here.
5. Unions’ Stand on Social Security Premiums Is Easing, Govt Says.
Read the full article here.
6. Number of Labour Violation Still High.
Read the full article here (Article in Bahasa Indonesia).
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
7. Textile Industry: Investment targeted at IDR1.12 trillion, industry to restructure machinery.
Read the full article here (Article in Bahasa Indonesia).
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
05:42:36 local time NEPAL
* NTIS could include garments on priority list:
Nepali readymade garments (RMG) hold a higher possibility of being enlisted in the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy (NTIS) 2010 priority product list during its revision.
“At present, readymade garments have emerged as one of the products that could be included in NTIS priority product list but it is yet to be discussed and if approved it will be recommended to the cabinet for further approval,” said joint secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies Toya Narayan Gyawali.
Besides readymade garments, exporters are also lobbying for hand knotted carpets and coffee to be included in the priority list.
Though garments, carpets, pashmina and handicrafts were defined as the special focus area for export promotion, NTIS failed to include handmade carpets and garments in the priority list. read more.
* Sunsari-Morang industries brace for trade union polls:
Trade unions in the Sunsari-Morang Industrial Corridor, one of the country’s biggest industrial hubs, are gearing up for the election for an official union. The polls are being held in the third week of February after nine years.
With the Department of Labour (DoL) issuing a circular for holding the election, the Biratnagar Labour Office has begun preparations. Rajkumar Gupta, chief of the office, said there has been an agreement to hold elections in 30 industries in the first phase.
The upcoming election has cheered both workers and employers. While the workers are expecting fair wages after the election of a dominant and official trade union, the employers will get rid of the hassles of negotiating with numerous labour bodies.
Dharma Sanjel, chairman of Jute, Garment, Carpet, Textile Workers’ Union Nepal, said the election holds ‘special significance’ as an elected official union can alone demand for the rights the workers and play an important role in decision making processes. “Even political parties are showing interest at the local level,” he said.
05:57:36 local time BANGLA DESH
* Fire breaks out at textile mill:
A fire broke out at a textile mill at Surichala in Kaliakoir upazila on Friday.
Local fire service sources said the fire originated from an electric short circuit at the weaving section of Mesbah Textile Mill at about 2pm and soon it raged through the mill.
Receiving information, fire fighters from Kaliakoir fire service rushed to the spot and extinguished the blaze after one hour of hectic efforts.
The mill authorities claimed that valuables worth about Tk 1.50 crore were damaged in the fire. to read.& to read. & to read.
* Fire gutted Palmal garments at Ashulia:
A devastating fire was gutted at a five-storied Palmal garments factory at Bauri para of Ashulia tonight.
Fire service sources said the fire caught at 10.15 pm at the second floor of the five-storied Palmal garments located at Bauri Para of Ashulia. The cause of the fire could not be known immediately.
Six fire service units-two from Kaliakoir, two from Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and another two units from Gazipur, already have been rushed to the spot and working to bring control the fire. to read. & read more.
* Fire alarm accident:
An important report was published in the business page of a local English language daily on February 3, which was on a serious mismanagement issue at the Envoy garment factory at Ashulia.
The authorities there must know that any repairs or tests of fire alarms needs; it has to be done on a factory holiday, with no workers present. If done on a working day, all workers must be fully informed. Also all senior management personnel must be present on the spot. Further, all exits and emergency doors should have to remain open, throughout the period of the test.
Working on a fire alarm, that too, on a plastic (itself an inflammable material) cover to the alarm box is indeed something rather strange. Why should someone repair the alarm box cover on a regular working day? Why was the cover there, and why did it need to be repaired? All these matters point to gross negligence and apathy of the management that needs to be satisfactorily explained. read more.
* 3,000 RMG workers receive fire safety training:
Over 3,000 mid-level workers of ready made garment factories have received training on fire safety till Saturday.
As many as 3,359 workers from 379 factories of Gazipur, Ashulia, Mohakhali, Banani, Malibagh, Rampura, Badda and Mirpur received the training in 12 batches.
* 100 RMG workers again fall sick in Savar:
Over 100 workers of a garment factory again fell sick on Saturday after taking polluted water at their factory at Ashulia industrial belt.
Earlier, over 300 workers of the same factory, Starling Creations Limited, fell sick after eating foods provided by the factory authorities on Thursday night.
Police said over 100 workers of the same factory fell sick after taking water at the factory at Beron on Saturday morning.
The victims were later admitted to different local hospitals.
Physicians, however, termed their condition as not so serious.
Police and the factory authorities said they are investigating the matter.
In another incident, workers of 10 other garment factories at Nischintapur staged demonstration on Abdullahpur-Baipile Road demanding payment of their dues, which hampered traffic movement on the road for about two hours from 11am today.
The authorities announced closure of their factories for the day apparently to avoid trouble. to read. & read more.
* Ashulia RMG workers burst into protest:
100 workers fall sick, 25 hurt in clash with police, 15 units stop work
At least 25 apparel workers were injured in a clash with police and 15 factories declared shut to sidestep a labour unrest building up on Saturday morning at Beron in Ashulia on the outskirts of Dhaka.
The clash erupted as workers, enraged by an incident of at least 100 colleagues falling sick from drinking water supplied by their factory, blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway for two hours and vandalised no less than eight vehicles in protest against the alleged food poisoning.
Witnesses said workers of Starling Creation went to the factory at 8:30am and at least 100 workers fell sick after drinking water at the factory canteen.
The sick workers were immediately admitted to Woman and Children Health Complex, Nightingale Medical College Hospital, and other clinics and hospitals in the locality.
Witnesses said the incident maddened the colleagues of the sick much more than what was usual as earlier on Thursday night at least 300 of them had fallen ill after eating the food given by the factory authorities. read more.
* Govt forms high-powered committee for RMG sector:
Labour leader terms move as an eye-wash before USTR hearing
The government has formed a cabinet committee on garment industry for further improvement of conditions in the sector and ensuring its workers’ safety and rights, officials said.
Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, minister for labour and employment, will head the 11-member committee, said a cabinet division official quoting a notification of the same division.
The committee, formed with 10 others ministers and state-ministers, has been asked to suggest the government to amend any law, if necessary, for safeguarding the interests of the garment workers.
The fast-growing garment industry which accounted for US$19.09 billion of the country’s total $24.3 billion exports earnings in 2011-12 fiscal year and employed some four million workers is facing manifold problems—safety and rights of the workers being the most pressing ones. read more.
* Wal-Mart blocks shipment from a Bangladeshi firm:
The exporter made clothes at Tazreen without the retailer’s knowledge
US retail giant Wal-Mart refuses to take shipment from a Bangladeshi exporter, which had a link with Tazreen Fashions where 112 workers died in a recent fire.
The Bangladeshi company, Simco Dresses Ltd, says it will face bankruptcy unless it is paid soon.
Simco got the work order through New York-based Success Apparel, which was a sourcing company for Wal-Mart, to make 336,000 pieces of women’s shorts worth $1.2 million for the retailer.
Simco later subcontracted Tuba Group, the owning company of the controversial Tazreen Fashions, to ready a portion of the order through Tuba Fashions, which was known as a compliant factory. But Tuba Group shifted the order to Tazreen instead of Tuba Fashions without the knowledge of Simco.
Wal-Mart was aware of the deal between Success and Simco, but did not know about the subcontract with Tazreen. read more.
* Bangladesh RMG Industry Gains at the Expense of India and China:
India’s garment industry is losing out to Bangladesh due to rising input costs, especially on labour and tax incentives, a minister has said. Bangladesh Commerce Minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader said rising input costs in India and China – the two big players in readymade garments business – offered a good opportunity for his country to expand its readymade garments business.
“India is shifting away from the readymade garments business. There has not been any significant investment in India in the readymade garments industry in the recent years,” Quader, who was in India to attend the Partnership Summit in Agra, told IANS in an interview here.
He said rising wages and other input costs would make the readymade garments business uncompetitive in India and China.
He said many Chinese companies have shifted their production facilities to Bangladesh to take advantage of cheap labour.
“Many Chinese companies are opening production facilities in Bangladesh. Even for their domestic use, they are supplying garments form our country. I hope the Indian companies will also do the same,” Quader said.
“Wages have been going up in India. Other costs are also going up with rising living standards,” he said.
Apart from cheap labour, Bangladesh’s readymade garments industry also benefits from tax incentives on exports, especially to European countries.
* BNP to cooperate with govt to protect garment sector: Khasru:
Former Commerce Minister and BNP leader Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury today said BNP wants to cooperate with the government to protect the country’s garment sectors through playing constructive role in a bid to strengthen the country’s economy.
Former Commerce Minister said “Remembering our commitment to upgrade the country’s garments sectors, our party and I myself did not create any problem in Chittagong port until today though it is situated in my constituency.” read more.
* Petition filed with HC for repaying Hall-Mark’s loan:
A Supreme Court lawyer on Sunday filed a petition with the High Court seeking the court’s directive on Hall-Mark Group Chairman Jesmin Islam to repay Tk 2600 crore, taken as loan from Sonali Bank against the name of the Group, within seven days.
* BTMA, BGAPMEA now eligible for BB’s EDF loans:
The central bank has included one more sector under its low-cost export development fund (EDF) aiming to facilitate backward linkage industries, officials said on Sunday.
As per new provisions, the mills registered with the Bangladesh Garments Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGAPMEA) will be eligible for the EDF loans along with the mills of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA).
The Bangladesh Bank (BB) issued a circular in this connection Sunday and asked the commercial banks to provide EDF loan to the members of BGAPMEA form now on. read more.
* Bdesh to appoint lobbyists to get duty-free mkt access for RMG to US:
Bangladesh will appoint lobbyists in the United States of America (USA) to pursue Congressmen to get duty-and quota-free market access of ready made clothes to the US market and safeguard the interest of the country’s RMG sector, a high trade official said.
The move came following the recent suggestions by some congressmen to the high ups of the government to appoint lobbyists for protecting the interest of the country’s garment sector, the biggest source of foreign remittance earnings of the country.
* Position paper submitted to retain GSP facility: minister:
Bangladesh has already submitted its position paper to the US authorities to retain duty-free benefits under the generalised system of preferences (GSP), Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said yesterday.
“We’re hopeful that the GSP facility for Bangladesh will continue in the US market,” she told the House while responding to a scripted question from AKM Maidul Islam (Kurigram-3).
The minister said the government is trying its best to retain the GSP for Bangladeshi products and expand its coverage area.
She said Bangladesh in its position paper described the steps taken for the workers’ welfare and the plans that will be taken, including the women empowerment issue.
read more. & read more.
* US Senator assures Bangladesh of discussing GSP issue in Senate:
David Vitter, a US Republican Senator from Louisiana, assured Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Akramul Qader on February 8 that he would discuss Bangladesh’s generalised system of preferences (GSP) issue with his colleagues in the Senate.
The Ambassador briefed the US lawmaker about various aspects of the US-Bangladesh mutual trade, including the problems and potentials, according to a press release received in the city Sunday. read more.
* Thrust on practical roadmap for integrated, sustainable growth of leather industry:
President of Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Bangladesh (LFMEAB) Syed Nasim Manzur has put a thrust to prepare a practical road map for an integrated and sustainable growth of the leather industry.
“We need to adopt an appropriate strategy to regain the lost image for our survival. In fact we must start to prepare a practical road map for an integrated and sustainable growth of the total leather industry,” Mr Syed Nasim said in a recent seminar titled ‘Roadmap for a sustainable growth of leather sector. read more.
* Global cotton demand rising even as China falls to decade low:
Global cotton demand will rise this year as rising consumption in countries like India and Pakistan offsets a drop in demand from China, the world’s No. 1 producer and consumer, to its lowest level in a decade, a US industry body said Saturday.
Chinese mills are buying less raw cotton because they are importing more yarn, a semi-processed product, or switching to cheaper man-made fiber. Mills are struggling because they have been hurt by Beijing’s policy to support its farmers.
ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* Tazreen victims yet to be compensated:
The majority of the families of Tazreen victims are yet to receive compensation more than two months after the tragic incident, owing to hold-ups in the identification procedure.
To date, only 43 of the 112 deceased’s families were given compensation of Tk 6 lakh each, on December 4.
“We did not receive any compensation from anybody. We have contacted the BGMEA [Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association] and other sources, but no one gave us anything,” said Rashida Akter, widow of Aynal Hossain.
Hossain, a senior sewing operator, died in the fatal fire at the Tazreen premises on November 24, along with at least 111 others.
“We identified his body right after the incident and buried him the following morning. Maybe we did not receive any compensation, as we buried him immediately,” Akter said.
Jamila Khatun, Hossain’s mother, too, did not receive anything from the BGMEA or the government. read more.
05:27:36 local time INDIA
* ‘Implement Minimum Wages Act’:
The State Government should immediately implement the Minimum Wages Act. And the President should give assent to the Model Standing Order Amendment Bill – these were the two resolutions passed at the end of a seminar on elimination of ‘Sumangali’ Scheme in Coimbatore on Sunday.
Society for Community Organisation Trust, Madurai, had organised the seminar, ‘Role of Civil Society Organisations in Elimination of Sumangali Scheme – The Neo Form of Slavery’.
S. Selva Gomathi, Programme Director, Sumangali Scheme, said that the Presidential assent will clearly define labour, age of employment, period of apprenticeship, the number of permanent employment vis-à-vis the installed capacity in an industry, etc. read more.
* Ludhiana’s knitwear industry seeks excise waiver:
Ludhiana’s knitwear industry is expecting that the excise duty imposed on branded garments in Union Budget 2011 shall be waived off in this year’s Budget.
“For industrialists, the imposition of excise duty on branded garments in the Union Budget 2011 was a big shocker and has led to harassment and unnecessary burdens on manufacturers,” said Darshan Dawar, President , Ludhiana Knitwear Club in his memorandum submitted on Monday to Sumit Bose, Secretary Revenue, Ministry of Finance, for pre-budget suggestions.
“Already, the textile industry is facing threats from garments imported from China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, mainly because they are cheaper,” said Dawar.
“Since the knitwear industry is finding it tough to increase prices of hosiery products in proportion, it fears that it may loose its identity as a ‘hosiery cluster’,” added Dawar. read more.
* 150 scientists raise concerns about GM crops, write to Natarajan:
More than 150 scientists have written a letter to the environment minister, Jayanthi Natarajan on Saturday raising concerns about genetically modified (GM) crops. Their primanry concern is that Ministry of Agriculture is allegedly making a case for GM crops by stating that the technology is ‘absolutely needed’ for India’s food security.
They referred to a recent affidavit filed by the ministry of agriculture in the Supreme Court claiming that nation’s food security will be jeopardized without GM crops. “It also argues that open-air field trials of GMOs are absolutely essential for this.”
* Bt cotton productivity on decline in India:
05:27:36 local time SRI LANKA
* Unions oppose night work for women:
The Ceylon Federation of Labour (CFL) has joined other unions in the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) to oppose moves by labour authorities to amend the Shop and Office Employees Act to permit night work for women. The CFL said in a statement that these changes are being brought “at the behest of the Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC)”.
“It appears that the authorities have fallen for the specious argument advanced by the EFC that such an amendment to the law would bring in a spurt of FDI to the BPO-ICT technologies sector.
We remember that in the ‘80s the then government on similar grounds denounced the Night Work (Women) Convention (Revised) No.89 of 1948 which was ratified by Sri Lanka on 31st March 1966 and by the Shop & Office Employees Act No.32 of 1984 it was made possible for women to be employed at night on certain conditions. Presently women cannot be employed before 6 am or after 8 pm whether as part of normal hours or on overtime,” the statement said. read more.
* Apparel industry set to meet targets:
Government support for the apparel industry has enabled the sector to perform well and industrialists are confident of reaching the target set for earning foreign exchange within the alloted time frame.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Government in developing the apparel sector as a thrust industry in the economy and looking forward to continued support in redressing issues that hamper the sectoral progress,” Flying Apparels (Pvt) Ltd, Managing Director, Asiri Perera told Sunday Observer Business.
The initiatives taken have benefitted stakeholders thus enabling the country to sustain and increase the level of income from apparel exports.
The measures taken to uplift garment industry standards and related infrastructure development has been the key factors in the apparel industry’s forward march, he said. read more.
04:57:36 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI-BALDIA FIRE:
* Move for mass burial of fire victims slammed:
Labour leaders and civil society representatives demanded on Thursday that compensation be immediately paid to the heirs of all Baldia factory fire victims including the ones whose DNA results were awaited.
Speaking at the press conference, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the press club on Thursday, they demanded that the payments be made through a commission set up by the Sindh High Court and headed by retired Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery.
Karamat Ali of Piler, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation and trade union leaders Noor Mohammad, Nawab Ali and Rehana Yasmeen criticised Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmad over his reported statement that the bodies being kept in the Edhi morgue would be buried together. They questioned the move for mass burial of the bodies through the district administration. They asked the government to decide about the burial of the bodies in consultation with the Sindh High Court and the commission it constituted. read more.
* The proletariat in peril:
When a fire started at the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town, Karachi on September 11, 2012, the factory’s only door (and way out) was locked, presumably to keep the over 800 workers from stealing garments.
This fire eventually led to the deaths of about 300 workers. It is safe to assume that if the factory had an active labour union, the door would not have been locked and the workers would not have been trapped inside.
When the prime minister issued directions to drop murder charges against the factory owners of the burnt down factory a couple of weeks ago, an active labour federation in the country would have called a nationwide strike. None was seen. The failure of labour to appear as a bargaining agent in one of the worst industrial fires in Pakistan’s history requires at least a moment of sombre reflection.
Collective bargaining is a fundamental right for labour – however the constitution of Pakistan does not admit it and our statute books do not protect it. The result is that active labour unions are the most repressed institution in the country.
On the other hand, owners of the means of production and distributors are free to create their associations as bargaining tools.
These associations have come into the public eye by demonstrating their ability to shut segments of the economy, a task earlier thought to be reserved for labour. At various moments in the last two years, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma), the All Pakistan CNG Association and the Pakistan Pharma Manufacturers Associations have shut shop. read more.
* In remembrance: Country’s worst industrial disaster comes alive through art:
In a city where tragedy strikes nearly every day, the Baldia factory fire that killed over 250 people remains etched in every resident’s memory.
To show just how tragic the industrial disaster was, a bunch of students decided to immortalise the tragedy through art. On Friday evening, the exhibition ‘Awaaz’ opened at the Arts Council, where people saw the imaginations of around 83 artists on sculptures, portraits, video and sound installations.
As soon as you enter the hall, you will see Seher Naveed’s ‘Emergency Exist’, a red and black light box built digitally and illuminated by three tube lights. Explaining the concept behind it, Naveed, who teaches at the Indus Valley School (IVS) of art and architecture, said that her work shows symbols of a person as depicted on emergency signs. “The direction signs are missing because I wanted to show how the factory workers must have felt in a chaotic situation without any exit.”
Adeela Suleman, the organiser and an IVS faculty member, said that the purpose of the exhibition was to show how artists are sensitive to tragedies that take place around us. “We will keep our Awaaz alive until justice is served to the affected families. We won’t let anyone forget what happened to all those people.”
* Artists pay tribute to Baldia fire victims:
Last year on Sept 11 Pakistan witnessed the most horrific industrial accident in its history when a textile factory in Karachi’s Baldia town area caught fire.
It took 259 innocent lives and many of the survivors received injuries. To pay tribute to the fire victims, an exhibition titled Awaz opened at the Arts Council Karachi on Friday.
More than 60 artists are taking part in the display and all of them have shown the kind of sensitivity that’s required to paint, draw or portray such a calamitous event.
Some have opted for more direct ways of expressing themselves while others have chosen the roundabout, rather abstract style of putting their ideas across. And all of them have managed to convey their feelings in a pretty convincing manner.
Sara Khan uses the ‘emergency’ warning that one finds in every office building with a difference. Using both the Urdu and English languages she makes it clear that when such a tragedy happens, those who belong to the underprivileged segment of society are often left to their own devices. The words on her digital print artwork read, “In case of emergency, help yourself.” read more.
* Awaaz: The voice of Baldia fire:
Burnt jeans lie on a stand next to a table piled with matchboxes. A photo collage of smiling faces and a timeline of major infernos that have taken place in Pakistan in blaring red complete the scene in the hall, recreated to recall the day a factory fire in Karachi’s Baldia Town claimed the lives of over 250 people.
A blood-splattered candle wax figure, depicting the last moments of a helpless victim is perhaps the most striking pieces on display, enough to make the visitors stop in their tracks.
In the center of the room, a pile of paper planes made out of newspaper clippings on the incident falls over itself, perhaps symbolic of how the nation now deals with the ever-increasing disasters.
The tragedy with Karachi, in particular, is that whatever good, bad or ugly happens here is forgotten almost immediately. To prevent the Baldia fire from becoming ‘just another incident’ a consortium of more than 60 artistes from various areas have set up an exhibition called ‘Awaaz’ at the Arts Council. read & see more.
* After the inferno:
Sparks continue to ignite from the Baldia factory fire in Karachi that killed nearly 300 labourers in September last year.
The families of the victims have since then been seeking justice, fighting apparent attempts to let the owners off the hook and trying to recover bodies charred beyond recognition.
At a press conference on Thursday, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), the National Trade Union Federation and other unions questioned an announcement by the Sindh health minister that some 17 still unidentified bodies would, in all likelihood, be buried together.
The labour leaders asked what the purpose of the sophisticated and expensive DNA testing had been if no conclusions could be reached from it. They also sought a decision on the burials and compensation from the judicial commission set up by the Sindh High Court.
While the families of 210 labourers killed in the worst blaze in our industrial history have received compensation, 22 other families to whom bodies were recently handed over are still to receive the amount, while there is still the matter of the unidentified bodies to be solved. Labour leaders and activists also say it is still impossible to determine precisely how many persons died in the fire. read more.
* SHC grants bail to all accused:
All accused in the Baldia factory fire case, including the factory owners, were awarded bail by the Sindh High Court on Monday, reported Express News.
Justice Ghulam Sarwar Korai of SHC ordered the release of all the accused who were earlier arrested in the case. Factory owners Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila will have to submit surety bonds worth Rs1 million, while the other accused will submit bonds worth Rs200,000.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Fire safety measure nowhere in industrial units:
The City District Government Rawalpindi (CDGR) has failed to remove industrial units from residential areas or to ensure fire safety measure in these units.
Under the Local Government Ordinance 2001, no industrial unit can be established or commercial activity carried out in residential areas. But the ordinance has been completely ignored.
Moreover, a survey of the CDGR in December, 2012 found over 180 illegal factories lacking fire safety system and other security arrangements but owing to political pressure no action could be taken against them so far. read more.
* Powerloom workers protest against loadshedding:
Workers of powerloom factories alongwith their families on Sunday took out a rally to protest against unscheduled and prolonged power load shedding and low pressure in gas in the city and called upon GEPCO and SNGPL authorities to take pity on the poor to make their livelihood and to cook meals.
The children of the workers and their wives were adoring dried loaves in their necks and raising vociferous slogans against 16 to 18 hours unscheduled loadshedding and absolutely low pressure of gas which has deprived them of the two-time meals.
They said that due to dearness and load shedding they are unable to earn some money but low pressure of gas has further aggravated the situation and they are unable to bake even simple bread.
They said that due to tussle between CNG owners and SNGPL authorities the domestic consumers were facing multiple problems due to low pressure and load shedding of gas in the area.
The bare-footed children were holding mock funeral of GEPCO SNGPL.