01:04:37 local time VIET NAM
* Safety net urged for workers whose bosses abscond:
The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs recently asked the People’s Committees of provinces and cities to help workers who became unemployed after their companies’ bosses ran away to evade responsibilities.
In a letter, the ministry requested People’s Committees order local State agencies to review the list of enterprises in the area with owners who had run away and pay employees compensation for the salaries and social insurance they were owed.
A report on the situation including solutions to the problem must be submitted to the ministry before April 1.
State agencies were also asked to help the unemployed workers find new jobs and get loans from the National Labour Fund under the National Labour Target Programme, and job placement centres were asked to offer consultations to the affected workers. read more.
01:04:37 local time CAMBODIA
* 5,000 workers demand wage increases up to 130 percent:
Thousands of workers in Bavet’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone went on strike for a second day Tuesday demanding wages increases of up to 130 percent.
Sources said the estimated 5,000 workers wanted basic wages of between $120 and $150 a month, up from $64, as well as bonuses of $30 for skilled workers and $15 for transport. to read.
* Minimum wage may rise for Cambodian garment workers:
00:34:37 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* EU proposes chambers of commerce:
The European Union (EU) is in discussions with Myanmar to form a commercial federation, according to officials.
The European delegation met on February 4 with Myanmar officials at the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration and discussed the legal framework for the formation of the Myanmar-EU Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Trade between Myanmar and the 27 European countries thrived during 1990 to 2004, but the EU later imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar mainly due to its violation of human rights.
Looking at the trade trend, textiles and garments represented 66 per cent of total exports from Myanmar to Europe during 1995-2009, topping the list. It was followed by marine products (8 per cent). read more.
00:04:37 local time BANGLA DESH
* RMG factory shut amid protests:
Workers blocked Dhaka-Tangail highway at Ashilia as a garment factory in the Ashulia industrial area in Savar was shut down for an indefinite period on Monday in the face of demonstrations and strike of the workers pressing for five-point demand including salary hike.
The authorities of New Age Apparels at Narashinhapur closed the factory on the third day of the demonstrations and strike.
The workers began their demonstrations and strike on Saturday pressing for five-point demand including salary hike and increase in annual increment in attendance bonus, factory sources said.
The police and the factory workers said the workers had been demonstrating for the demands from Saturday, as the management paid no heed to their demands. On Monday the management announced shutdown of the factory for an indefinite period.
* RMG exports to new markets mark 24.11pc rise in first six months of current fiscal year:
The country’s ready-made garments (RMG) exports to new markets rose significantly in first six months (July-December) of the current financial year, industry insiders said.
“RMG export is growing significantly to non-traditional markets thanks to better quality and competitive price that attracted the new buyers to import Bangladeshi apparel,” Chairman of Sterling Group Siddiqur Rahman told the FE. read more.
* Garments boost BD Jan exports by 18.8%:
Bangladesh’s exports rose 18.81 percent in January, gaining for a seventh straight month from a year earlier thanks to improved garment sales, the Export Promotion Bureau said on Monday.
From March through June, Bangladesh’s monthly exports fell year on year as the global slowdown weighed on demand. But overseas sales have since picked up, with a 8.83 percent rise in the July-January period, bureau data showed.
23:34:37 local time INDIA
* Trade unions on nationwide strike on Feb 20, 21:
In protest against rising price, trade unions will go for a nationwide strike on February 20 and 21. In the two-day strike, 11 national trade unions, including BMS, AITUC, INTUC and CITU and a few other state level trade unions will take part.
Addressing the media, Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary, AITUC, alleged the government has failed to contain price rise since 2004. “The government hiked diesel price several times in the recent past.
The government that increased railway fare recently is planning to increase it again. The electricity tariff has also gone up. The repeated price hike has affected livelihood of common man in the country, said Dasgupta. read more.
23:34:37 local time SRI LANKA
* Sri Lanka’s private sector trade unions demand increase of minimum wage:
Private sector trade unions in Sri Lanka have commenced a campaign demanding the increase of the minimum wage of private sector employee by Rs. 10,463.
The Marxist party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) affiliated Inter Company Employees Union (ICEU) has called on the government to intervene to increase the minimum salary of the private sector since the last increment for the private sector was granted with government intervention in 2005.
ICEU Head Wasantha Samarasinghe said it is unfair by the private sector employees to receive a minimum wage of Rs.9,660 in comparison to the minimum wage of a government sector employee, which is Rs.20,088. read more.
* ‘Apparel industry on positive track’:
In a backdrop of foreign buyers and customers building confidence with the end of the three decade war and the boost in tourism in Sri Lanka, the country’s apparel industry was reaching a positive boom, said Managing Director of Flying Apparels, Asiri Perera.
Speaking to Daily News, Business Desk, he said this was despite government opponents and outsiders saying that a problem had risen from the withdrawal of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) concessions scheme that the US had initiated and other duty grants.
“With me, being in the apparel industry and having the support from the Chamber of Commerce and the Apparels’ Association, I can assure that the Sri Lankan government has taken steps to improve the rights of workers and there is nothing in this context that shows that there are any permeable issues when it comes to the GSP concessions.
People in the industry have shown no sign of problems regarding that matter, even though the opposition have divulged news that it was so,” Perera explained. Flying Apparels Panadura, employs nearly 400 employees. read more.
* Sri Lanka hopes for GSP+ to return:
The Sri Lankan government is hoping for the EU GSP+ trade concessions that were stripped from the island to return, after an estimated US$1.5 billion loss due to the withdrawal, reported the Sunday Leader.
The government is alleged to be preparing an application to handover to the European Union for June 2014, where they will be re-applying for the trade concessions, the loss of which has seen factories leave the island. read more.
23:04:37 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI-BALDIA FIRE:
* SHC releases Baldia factory owners on bail: Lawyer:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday released Baldia factory owners, Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila, a lawyer representing the men said.
“The court ordered the owners to deposit one million rupees ($10,000) each and the three employees to deposit 200,000 rupees each to get bail,” said lawyer Aamir Raza Naqvi.
The owners of the Ali Enterprises factory in Baldia Town, Karachi, who made ready-to-wear garments for Western stores, were charged in the wake of last September’s blaze. Claiming the lives of more than 250 workers, Baldia fire is one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan’s history.
Earlier in January police withdrew charges of premeditated murder in a supplementary charge-sheet filed in court. The police, however, filed a new investigation report charging Bhaila with negligence but not murder, Naqvi said.
* Baldia factory fire Bail granted to all accused:
Sindh High Court presided over by Justice Ghulam Sarwar Korai, granted bail to all accused including owners of Baldia town Factory that caught fire last year killing over 290 people in Karachi.
The court 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 each.
Earlier, the death penalty case against Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila of the Ali Enterprises was withdrawn on PM Raja Pervez Ashraf’s directives, fulfilling his promise he made with office-bearers of Karachi Chamber of Commerce (KCCI). However the Prime Minister had to faced lot of criticism from his own party and coalition members.
It may be recalled that in he factory fire over 290 persons were burnt alive in September last year. to read.
* Murder charges dropped against Baldia garments factory owners:
Police have moved to drop murder charges against the owners of a garment factory, where 289 workers were killed in a fire last year, counsel for Shahid and Arshad Bhaila said on Monday.
The owners of the Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town, which made ready-to-wear garments for Western stores, were charged in the wake of last September’s blaze, which was one of the worst industrial accidents in the country’s history.
But police have now filed a new investigation report charging Shahid Bhaila and Arshad Bhaila with negligence but not murder, lawyer Aamir Raza Naqvi said. Police confirmed the move. A court is expected rule on whether to accept the new charges on Saturday. read more.
* Baldia factory owners get bail:
The owners of a garment factory, where over 250 people were killed in Pakistan’s worst industrial fire last year, have been released on bail, and the police have recommended dropping the key charges of murder against them.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) heard on Monday a request seeking the release of the accused men in the Baldia factory fire case – owners and brothers, Shahid Abdul Aziz Bhaila and Arshad Abdul Aziz Bhaila, factory manager Mohammad Mansoor and watchman Arshad Mehmood.
Arshad and Shahid will be released on bail for one million rupees each and a personal recognisance bond whose amount has to be agreed on by the trial court, the court stated. Mansoor and Mehmood have also been awarded bail for Rs200,000 each. read more.
* Baldia factory owners out of jail on bail:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday granted bail to two owners of Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in Baldia Town where a massive fire had killed more than 280 labourers in September last year.
Owners Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, the factory manager and other staffers have been charged with murder (Qatal-bisabab), mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to cause damage and attempt to murder.
Abdul Aziz Bhaila, a third owner and father of Arshad and Shahid Bhaila, has already been bailed on medical grounds.The incident was the worst industrial disaster in the history of the country, prompting calls for better safety measures at all factories across the country.
Production manager Mansoor Ahmed, Watchman Arshad Mehmood, labour director Zahid Gulzar Sheikh, Managing Director SITE Rasheed Ahmed Solangi, Additional Controller Civil Defence Ghulam Akbar and Electric Inspector Amjad Ali have been named co-accused in the case. read more.
* Seeking redemption: Baldia owners offer groceries in exchange for loyalty:
On Monday afternoon at a godown in Baldia, Nazia, who lost her husband in the Ali Enterprises inferno, was handed a white envelope of Rs 5,000. The mother of four was told to come back again on the 16th of this month and collect her ration she ‘deserved’. In return, she was told to keep her mouth shut and not to speak ill against the factory owners.
Such pressure tactics being carried by the officials of the gutted factory, Ali Enterprises is likely to increase after the bail of all the men accused in the Baldia fire incident, claim activists.
Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) executive director Karamat Ali told The Express Tribune that the owners and managers of Ali Enterprises, the factory in which hundreds of people lost their lives, have been intimidating the witnesses and the workers for a while. The purpose of these threats is to pressurise people into agreeing to drop murder charges against the owners.
“Even from inside the jail, the Bhaila brothers had been giving directions to their men to threaten the people to move back from the case,” said Ali. “Now that they are out of prison, we expect an increase in their dirty activities.”
* Improperly framed FIR backfires:
In Pakistan today hardly any perpetrators of crime have been caught or convicted. The criminal negligence of the owners and authorities alike is highlighted by the horrible incident at Ali Enterprises – the textile factory which was burnt to ashes on September 11, 2012 in Baldia Town. Over 289 people died.
The Sindh police was at its incompetent best while registering an FIR. It charged the owners of the factory with both intentional and unintentional murder. It also charged the owners with burning down their own factory and causing hurt to the head and shoulders of the people. In simpler words, the police registered a case that accused the owners of premeditated and intentional murder of some of its employees whereas other employees were murdered by the owners unintentionally. The police also thought that the owners were crazy enough to burn down their only means of livelihood without any motive.
After weeks of investigation, the police proceeded to file a report in court that maintained the charges against the accused. At this juncture, the prime minister thought that he too should jump into the picture. read more.
* Owners among four given bail in Baldia factory fire case:
Two factory owners and two of their employees were granted bail on Monday by the Sindh High Court in the case of the Baldia Town factory fire, said to be the country’s worst industrial disaster that killed nearly 259 workers.
A single bench headed by Justice Ghulam Sarwar Korai had on Jan 28 reserved the order on the bail applications of the accused, including Arshad Bhaila and Shahid Bhaila, after hearing arguments of the applicants’ counsel.
The two owners of the ill-fated Ali Enterprises, represented by Advocate Amir Raza Naqvi, were arrested in the case on Oct 6 when the trial court had rejected their pre-arrest bail pleas. However, their elderly father, Abdul Aziz Bhaila, also an accused in the case, was granted bail on health grounds.
The factory’s production manager, Mansoor Ahmed, was represented by Advocate Khawaja Shamsul Islam, and Advocate Muhammad Tamaz Khan appeared on behalf of the accused watchman of the factory, Arshad Mehmood. read more.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Workers decry lack of health and safety in factories, workplaces:
Trade union leaders and representatives of labour rights organisations have expressed their concern over absence and lack of occupational health and safety facilities at factories and other work places and demanded the government to ensure availability of these facilities which are mandatory under Factories Act 1934.
They were speaking at a seminar on occupational health and safety organised by The Hosiery Garment General Worker’s General Union at Delhi Community Hall in Baldia Town No 3 here on Sunday.
Speakers and worker organisation representatives in their speeches expressed regret that labour laws were not being observed in most of garment factories. Labour laws were present, however they were not being followed at any workplace.
If factory owners implemented these laws, then fatal tragedies like the Baldia factory fire could be avoided.
Fires often break out at factories due to old and faulty electrical wiring.
* Alarm over unsafe working conditions in factories:
Senior trade union and labour rights activists have urged the government to ensure strict compliance with occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations at factories and other establishments.
Speaking at a seminar on OHS on Sunday, they said that unsafe workplace conditions affected individuals, the workplace and communities both financially and emotionally.
All Pakistan Trade Union Federation president Habib Uddin Junedi, Port Worker’s Federation president Noor Mohammed, SITE Labour Forum senior vice president Gul Rehman, PIA Union leader Sheikh Majeed, Watan Dost Federation representative Shireen Zadah, National Trade Union Federation representative Riaz Abbasi and KESC People’s Labour Bureau representative Latif Mughal and others spoke at the seminar.
They said that the health and safety situation at many factories and industries was highly unsatisfactory.
“Labour laws are not observed in most garment factories, which among other problems, also contributed to the unchecked deterioration of the OHS facilities,” they said. read more.
* Harassment at workplaces continues to hamper women empowerment:
The most debated issue of Harassment at Workplaces is persistently hampering women empowerment as the implementation of harassment laws, in true spirit, for working ladies is still a challenge.
Women working in offices, private organisations, hospitals and those running their private businesses face Harassment at Workplaces. Only few raise their voice for a respectable working environment while most of the others stay silent.
From Parliament to NGOs and many other platforms, the issue has been raised and discussed in detail, but most of the time, the discussion ends up with optimism about the implementation of the related laws and the victims take their case back after getting a title of bad reputation or find ways to escape from the scenes.
* Footwear exports up 1.52 pc in 6 months:
The footwear exports from the country during the first 6 months of current financial year recorded an increase of 1.52 percent as compared to the exports of same period of last year.
During the period from July-December 2012, about 5,099 thousand pairs of footwear worth US$ 48.39 million were exported as against exports of 5,572 thousand pairs valuing US$ 47.66 million in same period last financial year.
According the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), leather footwear exports increased by 0.02 percent whereas 3,202 thousand pairs of leather shoes worth US$ 39.51 million exported which was recorded at 3,194 thousand pairs of US$ 39.50 million in same period last year. In first two quarters of current financial year 37 thousand pairs of canvas footwear were exported that earned US$ 0.198 million, showing increase of 29.73 percent against the exports of same period of last year.
* Strategic Trade Policy 2012-15: $95 billion export target impossible due to weak economy: PRGMEA:
The Central Chairman, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PRGMEA), Sajid Saleem Minhas has said that the recently announced Strategic Trade Policy 2012-15 has set an ambitious three-year export target of US $95 billion.
This comes to about US $32 billion per year and a growth of about 20 percent over the current exports is required to achieve this target. Even if we assume that the current government or any new one that comes along has a programme to cure all of our energy and law and order problems, this target is still not achievable due to the weaknesses in our economy.
He further added that when one reads through the policy one sees a plethora of new governmental regulatory bodies that have been created to help the proverbial “stake holders” in order to improve exports.
In our opinion the biggest hurdles created for the private sector (the real stake holders) are the many governmental regulatory bodies which are already stalking the export industry and adding a few more would only hasten the demise of the industry.