05:06:34 local time CAMBODIA
* Workers halt blocking of road:
Workers at the Yung Wah Industrial garment factory complex ended their two-day blockage of Takhmao town’s road 21B yesterday after government officials promised to pay their overdue salaries today, but they continued to demonstrate in front of the factory to demand other benefits.
The provincial committee tasked with resolving the dispute had inspected the factory’s equipment and decided to sell it to pay the workers’ salaries, said Um Visal, labour dispute resolution officer at the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) and a member of the inspection committee.
“We found that about 50 per cent of the factory’s equipment was gone because the employers took it out before the workers were aware that they had fled [to Singapore],” he said. read more.
* Workers Demand Back Pay:
Cambodian garment workers say they are owed two months of wages after their factory owner fled the country.
Thousands of Cambodian factory workers are in a limbo after their employers bolted without paying them and say plans by the government to dispose of the factory assets to compensate them may not be adequate.
The workers have protested for two days in a row this week pleading with authorities to assist them in collecting back pay they say they are owed by the owner of two garment factories who went missing after incurring massive debt, representatives said.
Some 7,000 workers in southeastern Cambodia’s Kandal province from the Yung Wah Industrial Complex, which supplies western clothing retailer Gap, blocked traffic on National Road 21B in Takhmao town in solidarity with around 1,000 employees who said they are owed more than two months of salary by the company’s Singaporean owner, who fled the country in December. read more.
06:06:34 local time MALAYSIA
* Minimum wages for all:
Malaysian trade unions and civil society called on the Malaysian government to withdraw the recent cabinet decision that allow the employer to deduct from the migrant workers’ wages of the amount employer paid to the government to employ foreign workers.
In July 2012 the Malaysian government announced that workers in Malaysia would receive minimum wages of RM 900[USD291] (for Peninsular Malaysia) and RM800 [USD259] (for Sabah and Sarawak). The announcement came into force from 1 January 2013.
The minimum wage is a basic wage excluding overtime, existing allowances and other benefits. However, to avoid paying minimum wages some employers calculate other benefits as part of minimum wage and some force workers to sign that they received minimum wages, while actually paying them less. read more.
04:06:34 local time BANGLA DESH
* Garment units go faulty as buyers offer low prices:
Foreign buyers’ tough bargaining stance is in a way responsible for the poor working condition in garment factories, industry insiders said.
“Our profit margin is going down by the day,” Feroz Kobir Prodhan, manager of the export-oriented Swan Group, told The Daily Star.
A T-shirt which sold at $5 two or three years ago is now going at $3.50 to $4 due to buyers’ tendency to offer low prices, according to Prodhan.
“The garment manufacturers counter this by going for high volume orders, which call for the need for subcontracting,” he added.
Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), agreed with Prodhan on this.
“Many garment owners do not have the bargaining capacity so they survive by increasing the volume.”
A lack of resources and tight deadlines mean the garment exporters need to take the services of small and medium factories, subcontracting a part of the order.
* BD should sign TICFA with US:
Bangladesh should sign the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) with the United States of America for negotiating bilateral issues with the latter effectively, said President of AmCham Bangladesh Aftab ul Islam Thursday in the capital.
“If Bangladesh signs TICFA then it will have a strong platform for the country to negotiate bilateral issues effectively with the US,” he said as the chief guest at a business meeting between the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and American Chamber of Commerce in India (AmCham, India) at the auditorium of DCCI on the day.
He called upon the foreign investors to invest in Bangladesh considering the investment- friendly environment offered by the government.
“Bangladesh is an ideal destination for foreign investment. None of the businesses left the country after their investment here since they are getting proper return. Many Chinese companies are now relocating their factories in Bangladesh considering price competitiveness of labour costs,” he said. read more.
* Business leaders urge US to continue GSP:
Business leaders urged the US authorities to continue the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) to allow duty-free access of Bangladeshi products to US market.
They made the call at a meeting between the visiting delegation of American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), India and Dhaka Chamber Commerce and Industry (DCCI) at Dhaka Chamber in the city.
“We are concerned at the move of discontinuing of GSP for Bangladesh, which would have negative impact on Bangladesh export,” DCCI president Md Sabur Khan told the meeting.
Many other business leaders made the same call when they participated in the discussions.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
03:36:34 local time INDIA
* Five child workers rescued; employers arrested:
The city police had arrested employers of five child workers who were rescued from four textile units situated in the heart of Tirupur knitwear cluster on Wednesday night.
The arrested were M. Rangasamy (52), M. Ramasubbu (34), P. Mohanraj (35) and C. Ravi (30).
The rescue operations were carried out by Bachpan Bachao Andolan volunteers and anti-human trafficking unit of the city police.
Inspector E. Nirmala of Anti-Human Trafficking Unit told The Hindu that cases were registered against the employers of the children under Section 26 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, and a few sections under Indian Penal Code. read more.
* People urged to join trade union strike:
Leaders of the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) have appealed to people to join the two-day general strike called by major trade unions on February 20 and 21 and to observe a general bandh in protest against the Union government’s “anti-people” policies.
Addressing a JCTU convention here on Thursday, district secretary of the All-India Trade Union Congress Shoukat Ali Alur, with K. Somashekar Yadgir of the All-India United Trade Union Centre and others, came down on the Union government for “being indifferent to the long-pending demands of workers and trade unions”.
* Trade unions seek public support for strike:
The district unit of the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) has appealed to the public to extend support to the two-day nationwide general strike on February 20 and 21.
Addressing a joint press conference here on Thursday, A.R.M. Ismail of the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Satyababu of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, and Somashekar of the All-India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), on behalf of other trade unions, said that the proposed strike was not only limited to the issues of the working class but also to highlight the problems of the common man owing to inflation, foreign direct investment in retail trade and privatisation.
The strike was against the anti-people and anti-labour policies being followed by the Union and State governments, they said and added that fixation of a minimum wage of Rs. 10,000 a month for daily wage workers, implementation of labour laws, social security for workers, stopping privatisation of profit-making public sector undertakings, abolition of contract labour, enhancing bonus, retirement benefits and gratuity, and pension for all, were among other prominent demands. read more.
* Unions unrelenting on strike plan:
If the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not personally intervene to give a commitment on the 10 demands raised by 11 major central trade unions, including the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), the February 20-21 nationwide strike is unlikely to be called off.
“There is no question of dropping the strike without having our demands settled,” AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta, MP, told The Hindu on Thursday. “We are not going to knock on the doors of the Prime Minister or anybody else.”
Leaders of the 11 unions, including Mr. Dasgupta, had met Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge and Union Minister of State for Labour Kodikunnil Suresh on Wednesday. “At the meeting, we requested the leaders to call off the strike plan as it would immensely damage the economy and cause inconvenience to the people,” Mr. Suresh told The Hindu . “They said they wouldn’t.” read more.
* Indian garments frayed by excise duty:
Bangladesh and Nepal gaining competitive advantage over India, says garments body.
The South India Garment Association (SIGA) on Tuesday urged the government to reconsider levy of excise duty on labelled garments in view of problems facing the industry like negative growth, devaluation of stocks, economic slowdown and underutilisation of production capacity.
SIGA President Kundan Jain said that the levy of excise duty has had a negative impact on the growth of the garment industry. “This requires urgent attention, as otherwise, it can adversely affect the industry. We request the government to reconsider the levy and its law before it is too late,” Jain said. read more.
* Textile Traders expectations from Budget 2013:
Surat in the western Indian state of Gujarat is home to India’s biggest man-made fibre industry.And traders there are feeling the heat from China and other Asian countries.
A 5 to 16.9% extra duty imposed on imported yarn makes their products more expensive.This has had a knock-on effect on the domestic weaving industry as well as the country’s fibre export. Analysts feel that the anti-dumping duty, which is meant to protect the local industry from unfair competition, is being misused by bigger industrialists to gain monopoly over the trade.
Big producers jack up prices to maximise profits, knowing that cheaper imported yarn is out of reach for small-scale weavers.Traders say even a partial reduction of the anti-dumping duty will help improve the situation. read & see more. Video.
* Reduction in import duty on MMF poses threat to weavers:
The expected decision by the Indian Government to grant concession on import duty of man-made fabrics (MMF) in order to improve the garment exports would pose a threat to the powerloom weaving and textile processing sector in the country.
“The Central Government is considering providing concession in import duties on man-made fabrics. Such a move will destabilize the powerloom weaving sector and as a result, thousands of workers in the weaving industry will lose their jobs, Mr. Arun Jariwala, Chairman of Federation of Indian Art Silk Weaving Industry (FIASWI), told fibre2fashion. read more.
* Cotton export target too ambitious, say exporters:
This financial year, cotton yarn exports are estimated at about 1,000 million kg, compared with 827.68 million kg in the last financial year
Meeting the Cotton Advisory Board’s (CAB) export target of eight million bales this cotton year (October to September) might be a tall order.
Cotton importers in China (which accounts for about 60 per cent of India’s cotton exports) have been told if they import, they would have to buy three times that amount from the Chinese government agency. This would hit India’s cotton exports. In the second half of 2012, China had reduced cotton imports and it is expected the trend would continue through this cotton year. Through the past few years, China, has created a buffer stock.
Bangladesh, the second-largest importer of Indian cotton, has reduced imports by six to eight per cent. read more.
* India approves FDI proposals of 4 single-brand retailers:
03:36:34 local time SRI LANKA
* Govt. won’t reapply for GSP plus facility:
Despite concerns by exporters regarding the impact on losing the GSP plus facility, the government is adamant that it will not reapply for it, it is learnt.
The European Union (EU) cancelled the GSP plus facility given to Sri Lanka in 2010 because the government declined to implement some of its recommendations to strengthen good governance. Under the GSP plus, Sri Lankan exporters enjoyed preferential access to the EU market. With the loss of this facility, exporters have been unable to compete with countries such as Bangladesh that enjoy this trade facility in the EU.
Already, a few investors had shut down their operations in Sri Lanka, and instead opted to invest in Bangladesh.
A government official told the Daily Mirror on condition of anonymity that apparel and fish processing industries were the worst hit sectors by the GSP loss. read more.
* Handloom Squad shatters sector – frontlines in its Y1 of operations – ministry:
* Int’l fashion expert lauds Taskforce initiative
* EDB’s Target: $2.24 Mn Ceylon Handlooms by 2015
* ‘Private involvement growing’ – Rishad
* ‘Handlooms usage skewed to younger gen’-NEDA Survey
* Private players snap-up huge 85% of imported yarn
Sri Lanka’s Handloom Taskforce, the pioneering mechanism set up to revive the sector and to promote Ceylon Handlooms brand globally, has trumped its first year milestone with multiple achievements, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said in a press communiqué earlier this week.
“In just one year of its operations and using less than $70000, the taskforce has successfully hit multiple targets, specifically, expanding the much needed private sector involvement for which I commend it” said Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka on 12 February. read more.
03:06:34 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI-BALDIA FIRE:
* Families urge court to allow mass burial of 21 unidentified bodies:
As the police drop key murder charges against the owners of the Baldia factory and modern technology fails to determine the identity of 21 victims even though five months have passed, their relatives have finally agreed on a mass burial.
The families of 21 labourers whose bodies were charred beyond recognition in the country’s worst industrial fire have sought an order from the court to carry out the last rites of their loved ones.
The families presented a request for permission for mass burial to the Sindh High Court. The court is already hearing identical petitions for a judicial inquiry into the tragic incident.
According to the official record, 259 workers were burnt alive when the ISO-certified Ali Enterprises in Baldia town caught fire on September 11, 2012. Nearly 21 bodies remain unidentified as the DNA tests have failed. The court has given repeated orders for the authorities to expedite the process. read more.
* A mass burial for the factory fire’s remaining victims:
Riaz Ahmad, 32, was a machine operator at Ali Enterprises, a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.
Ali Enterprises was major supplier of German discount clothing retailer Kik for ready-to-wear garments.
Riaz used to work the morning shift. On September 11, 2012 he left his house at 8:30 in the morning and promised his wife to come back by 4:30 in the afternoon.
It was raining heavily that day and he just overstayed at the factory. He made a last call to his wife at 5:45 p.m.
“He was coughing and told me that the factory was on fire. ‘There is no way to get out. If I don’t return, take good care of my children.’ This was last time I heard his voice,” said Riaz’s 30-year-old wife, Nazia Perveen.
Riaz Ahmad was among the 252 victims (the official estimate) who died in the Ali Enterprises factory fire on September 11, 2012, one of Pakistan’s worst industrial disasters in history.
However, Riaz’s family is among those 24 that haven’t yet received the corpses of their loved ones.
So far, 17 bodies are still placed at the Edhi morgue in Karachi, and despite conducting the DNA test three times, those bodies have not been identified yet.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* No disruption in energy supply to textile mills:
Energy supply to the textile industry in Punjab is intact since last two weeks, as both the Ministry of Water & Power and the SNGPL are following instructions from the President Asif Zardari in letter and spirit.
As per the instructions, power supply to the textile mills in Punjab has been restored on independent feeders has been restored for 24 hours a day. Similarly, gas supply to the mills with Captive Power Plants has been restored for twice a week.
It may be noted that the textile industry in Punjab has witnessed worst scenario during the month of December and January when both the utilities had denied supplies to the mills. The electricity and gas supply remained suspended altogether, leaving the APTMA leadership to run from pillar to post. read more.
* Apparel makers investing in energy:
Tired of growing electricity and gas shortages, the apparel industry in Punjab has started investing in the alternate, cost-effective generation projects with a view to taking full advantage of greater market access offered by the European Union to textile exports from Pakistan.
Majority of the textile processors and apparel manufacturers do not see any solution to the country’s increasing energy woes, responsible for dragging down industrial production, and slowing economic growth, in the near- to medium-term.
Hence, a majority of them have either made significant investments in the in-house generation or are exploring the possibility of setting up power plants to meet their energy needs at minimum possible costs.
In its desperation to attain “energy self-sufficiency”, the industry is experimenting with different fuels coal, wood, agricultural waste like rice husk, etc., to generate steam.
“Since the apparel industry comprises small to medium sized units (barring a few large-scale manufacturers), the over-riding concern of the producers is to save on both upfront investment and recurring costs to stay viable,” Adil Butt, Chairman of the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA), told Dawn on Wednesday. read more.
* Businesspeople urged to set up textile units in Malaysia: HC:
Malaysian High Commissioner to Pakistan Hasrul Sani Bin Mujtabar has invited the business community of Sialkot that they should come forward and establish a textile unit in Malaysia in joint venture.
Addressing the members of Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) on Thursday he stressed upon the business community that they should establish a base in Malaysia for attaining maximum trade benefits Asean countries.
The setting up a base in Malaysia will not only help in boosting trade activities but also supportive in introducing Pakistani products in Asean countries he was of the opinion. The HC further informed the house that establishing business Malaysia the businessmen will get 10 year visa besides relaxation in taxes. Hasrul Sani Bin Mujtabar said that Malaysia and Pakistan are enjoying highly cordial relations since long and these ties would further be strengthened with the passage of time.