* FATAL FASHION: Analysis of factory fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh: Change to RESPECT & PROTECT Garment Workers:
COMPANIES’ BLIND FAITH IN FAILED AUDITING MODEL RESULTED IN MORE THAN 400 DEATHS
‘Fatal fashion’, new report by Clean Clothes Campaign and SOMO on garment factory fires in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The centre fo research on multinational corporations (SOMO) and the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) have published a report analysing two recent garment factory fires in the export-oriented garment industry in Pakistan and Bangla Desh in which more than 400 lives were lost.
“Fatal Fashion” is an URGENT call upon governments, suppliers, brands, retailers, audit firms and certification bodies for a fundamental game-change to protect and respect workers’ rights.
This report describes two recent factory fires ravaging the facilities of clothing manufacturers in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In September 2012 a fire raged at Ali Enterprises in Karachi, in November 2012 a factory fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions Limited in Dhaka; two companies producing for well-known European and American clothing brands and retailers.
Hundreds of workers were killed in horrendous circumstances, and many others were severely injured. Sub-standard buildings, poor emergency procedures, blocked fire exits, overcrowded workplaces, and vastly inadequate control and auditing practices resulted in an extremely high death toll.
The two cases described in this report are symptomatic of an ailing system. They reflect systemic flaws on the level of government protection of human rights and a gross disrespect shown by the garment industry for workers rights.
The garment industry in both Bangladesh and Pakistan is notorious for low wages, demanding and unsafe working conditions, and the repression of unions. Workers are not organised and therefore not in the position to monitor or report freely about safety hazards.
In the report, SOMO and CCC have formulated detailed steps for responsible actors including brands and audit firms to take with regard to compensation, the implementation of fire safety programmes and auditing practices.
Unless there is a real game-change, death by factory fire is inevitable. In the report, SOMO and CCC call upon companies to fundamentally alter their reliance on audit firms and certification bodies to undertake their inspections.
” These firms lack safety expertise, are not trusted by workers and trade unions rendering their worker interviews implausible, and are commonly paid by the factory
owner. Even when they detect violations, they fail to resolve them”, says Tessel Pauli of CCC.
“Instead, buyers should implement a safety programme that includes independent inspections with mandatory reparations, public disclosure of workplace locations and inspection reports, and a central role for workers and unions. In addition companies should ensure pricing covers the costs of eliminating deathly hazards and operating safely”.
For Bangladesh this can be done immediately
by signing on to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement .
* Don’t You Ever Forget It…Remember….The Garment Factory Workers:
Jawad Ahmad’s Song “Sunn Lo Kay Hum Mazdoor Hain” to pay tribute to the workers of Baldia Factory, Karachi.
See & listen here.
21:04:31 local time CHINA
* For Chinese workers the right to strike is an academic issue:
The right to strike came up again during the annual parliamentary gathering in Beijing last week. Ge Jianxiong, head of Fudan University Library, suggested that the right to strike be restored to the Chinese constitution, telling the Financial Times that strikes were an effective way of defending workers’ rights, and should be legally protected.
Two years ago, Guangzhou businessman and national legislator, Zeng Qinghong, made a similar proposal to the National People’s Congress. Zeng was well known at the time for his mediating role in the 2010 Nanhai Honda strike and his proposal to legitimize the right to strike caused considerate debate among academics.
For most workers however it has remained an academic debate. There has not been a right to strike in China since it was removed from the constitution in 1982. But this has not prevented workers, especially young, well-educated workers who are well aware of their rights, from going out on strike. In mid-February, for example, when hundreds of workers at the American-owned International Paper factory in Panyu struck for a better annual bonus, they didn’t think about the legitimacy of the strike.
* China’s “world factory” position will not change in the next decade:
Delegates from business sectors discuss the new conception of “world factory”
You can hire 1.5 workers in Thailand, 2.5 in Philippines or 3.5 in Indonesia for the same price than one in China.
The advantages of low-cost labor force of China no longer exist. Countries in Southeast Asia are ambitious to substitute China as the world factory. Meanwhile, developed counties like United State are advocating reviving manufacture industry and reindustrialization.
Low cost is ending
“China’s advantages in globalization and international industrial transfer, and especially the advantage of low cost labor force are reducing”, said Pei Changhong, a member of Chinese People’s Political Consecutive Conference (CPPCC) and director of Economy Institute under Chinese Academy of Social Science.
Pei said that except the increase of labor cost, the land source cost has still risen. The price of land in main monitored cities is 3,049 yuan per square meter, 2.4 times of that in 2005. (6.28 yuan against the U.S. dollar)
China has not been the most low-cost product manufacturing base in the world. Pei said in 2000, 40 percent of Nike shoes in the world were made in China, 13 percent in Vietnam. In 2009, both China and Vietnam accounted for 36 percent of the Nike shoes’ manufacturing proportion. In 2010, Vietnam has taken the lead as Nike’s largest manufacturing country. read more.
* Call to prevent harassment in the workplace:
NGOs say more needs to be done to protect female employees
Legal experts are calling on legislators to shore up the commitment of China’s employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
With the number of sexual harassment cases growing, women’s rights NGOs such as the Maple Women’s Psychological Counseling Center, said China urgently needs to create a law to deal with disputes or specify employers’ responsibilities in the regulations.
In April, a regulation on the protection of female employees touched on employers’ responsibilities, but in Wang Xingjuan’s eyes, it is far from enough.
“The employer is key to handling sexual assault cases. They must be blamed and be punished, such as in some Western countries, especially in the United States,” said Wang, director of the Maple Center. read more.
20:04:31 local time VIET NAM
* Wage reforms make sense:
Proposed wage reforms have got businesses thinking.
The draft law on minimum wage is being penned by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) and slated for completion to submit to the government and the National Assembly for approval in May.
The draft law has been circulated to gather comments from state agencies and experts.
According to MoLISA’s Legislation Department, the law’s major target was to have in place a wage policy based on market rules and gradually stamp out the low minimum wage scheme. read more. & read more.
* Better Work Vietnam: Better Work. Better Business. Better Lives:
Listen first hand to Better Work Vietnam’s partners describe the role of the program and how it has helped improve workers’ lives and business competitiveness.
Vietnamese government officials, factory owners, international buyers, and workers explain the achievements of the program and its personal benefits to them. Better Work staff explain their objectives and ultimate goals of the program.
20:04:31 local time THAILAND
* Unions appeal to embassies over abuse:
Some foreign firms ‘taking revenge’ against workers in wake of wage hike
The Thai Labour Solidarity Committee (TLSC) is today leading 650 representatives from four labour unions to rally outside the Australian, US and Netherlands embassies against alleged abuse of Thai workers by employers from those countries.
They will call for government assistance and later join others protesting against General Motors (Thailand) while camping out in front of Government House, TLSC chairman Chalee Loysung told a press conference at the Thai Labour Museum yesterday.
At least 40,000 workers have been treated unfairly after the Bt300 minimum daily wage was made countrywide in January, he said.
Some companies outright refuse to pay the new rate, some increase working hours to nine without overtime, some reduce benefits and some close factories and lay off workers, he said. The TLSC has been flooded with 2,158 complaints from affected workers since the wage increase, he said. read more. & read more.
* Thailand’s Minimum Wage Hike Boosts Thai-Cambodian Border Trade:
Thailand’s new daily minimum wage of 300 baht (RM31.48), has considerably boosted the value of Thai-Cambodian border trade and the value of the Thai baht against the Cambodian riel, Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.
Vice President of Chantaburi’s Association of Thai-Cambodian Trade and Tourism, Sombat Juengtrakul, told journalists on Tuesday that the value of border trade in Chantaburi peaked in six years early this month, reaching almost 500 million baht (RM52.5 million) or about 43 million baht (RM4.51 million) daily. read more.
20:04:31 local time CAMBODIA
* Wage demands: Workers hit streets in bid for pay rise:
More than a thousand garment workers went on strike yesterday morning to demand a minimum wage increase and better working conditions, following the failure of minimum wage negotiations between unions and employers on Monday.
Some 600 workers in Kandal province yesterday protested in front of the Sixplus Industry factory, an Adidas supplier, for a monthly minimum wage increase from $61 to $120 and day-off benefits, among other demands, said Free Trade Union officer Yann Roth Keopisey.
The factory’s administrative officer, who declined to be named, said yesterday that the employer had agreed to increase workers’ minimum wage to $71 per month but could not fully accept workers’ demands. She added that workers said they would strike again today.
About 1,000 workers at the E Cheng Cambodia Cooperation factory in Takeo province also protested yesterday to demand a minimum wage increase to $80 and other benefits. to read.
* Limited yarn supply troubles Cambodian silk industry:
The silk industry of Cambodia is in rapid decline due to limited domestic supply of silk yarn and high cost of imported raw materials.
According to the latest data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)-Cambodia, the Southeast Asian nation imports 395 tonnes of raw silk yarn from countries such as China and Vietnam, and only 5 percent of raw materials are produced in the country.
“Cambodian silk sector is in rapid decline mainly due to the high import cost of raw materials from countries such as Vietnam and China as well as limited domestic supply of silk yarn,” said Ms. Botumroath Lebun, the spokesperson of FAO-Cambodia, in an interview with fibre2fashion. read more.
* More capital for plants:
Workers protest outside the H&L Apparel (Cambodia) Co factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district last year. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
The GOVERNMENT approved 103 fact-ories with a combined investment of $660 million last year — a big increase from the previous year’s 52 factories valued at $230 million, according to data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
Industry representatives and economists said the sharp rise was a result of minimum- wage increases in some other countries in the region.
Companies were relocating manufacturing to Cambodia, with its low labour costs and export incentives, they said.
According to Council for the Development of Cambodia data, 82 garment factories with a capital investment of $499 million were approved, as were 13 shoe factories with $116 million investment, two sock factories supported with $25 million, four textile manufacturers with $9 million and two glove factories with $10 million invested.
In 2011, investments in 45 garment factories were worth $205 million, and $25 million was invested in seven shoe factories.
Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said higher minimum wages in other countries would force manufacturers to move to the Kingdom. read more.
* Footwear sector to have ‘running room’:
Cambodia’s footwear industry has experienced significant growth over the past five years, with the number of factories doubling, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has announced it will monitor and report on footwear factories.
As of November, 45 factories exported footwear with a combined value of $268.7 million, according to estimates of the Ministry of Commerce.
Nearly 50 per cent of the products were shipped to the European Union, the top export destination for footwear and garments since the Everything But Arms regulation that gives Cambodia duty-free and quota-free shipping to all EU countries. The second largest destination was Japan, which imported 34.7 per cent of Cambodian footwear, followed by the US at 27.03 per cent.
In 2012, most footwear factories were Taiwanese owned (26), while only six were Cambodian and five Chinese. Other manufacturers were Korean, Japanese, Thai, Canadian, Australian and from Hong Kong, according to ministry data. read more.
* More trade finance needed:
Finished men’s shirts hang on a clothing rack prior to being loaded onto a truck for export at a factory in Phnom Penh. Bloomberg
A lack of trade financing – the loans and guarantees needed to support import and export transactions – for international deals within developing Asian countries such as Cambodia is restricting opportunities for growth, a survey by the Asia Development Bank (ADB) has found.
Of 106 banks surveyed, those within developing Asian economies had rejected $425 billion of a potential $2.1 trillion requested in trade finance in 2011.
Additionally, 138 companies who were users of trade finance said that a 10 per cent increase in trade finance would enhance both their production and staff numbers by five per cent. read more.
19:04:31 local time BANGLA DESH
* Businessmen asked to ensure safety in factories:
Commerce Minister GM Quader on Tuesday called on the country’s business community to ensure occupational safety in their factories.
“Success in the industrial sector can’t be achieved without a worker- friendly environment,” he said while addressing the inauguration of a three-day expo and summit on green investment.
The summit, titled ‘Green investment Bangladesh Summit and Eco Industrial Infrastructural Technology’, was organised by Exponent Exhibition at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC). read more.
* India clarifies duty on RMG:
In response to media reports on imposing countervailing duty by India on imports of Bangladeshi garments, the High Commission of India in Dhaka has given a clarification.
India has not imposed any new duty on garments the country imports from Bangladesh, the High Commission said. Here is the statement:
With reference to reports appearing in sections of the Bangladeshi media, this is to clarify that no new countervailing duty (CVD) has been imposed in the Indian Union Budget 2013-14 on readymade garment imports into India. The CVD of 12.36 percent, which existed on readymade garment imports in 2012-13, continues without any change. read more.
* Do we have a child-friendly society? :
I went to Rangpur for attending my family reunion for two days in this winter. One seven years old child came to our home in the morning and asked for a shirt to my sister.
I was lying on bed covering myself with blanket and the child had no cloths to wear. Unfortunately, there was no shirt that he could wear. My sister gave him Tk 100 and a piece of cloth with which he covered the upper part of his body.
Why was he naked? Had he no parents or relatives? Northern part of Bangladesh suffers shivering cold in every winter. Mostly children and elderly people suffer from asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and Rota Virus. Cold wave troubles normal life as well as crops. Many infants and children die of cold-related diseases.
There are many families in this region which live hand to mouth. Many women work as housemaid in the wealthy families only for food instead of wages. Cold wave is an extra pain to them.
Bangladesh is going to be a brand for garments industries while many people of the country are going to die of cold wave.
Many businessmen, government officials, non government officials, who are leading regal life, can help the poor. I salute the students from various institutions for collecting cloths for the cold-affected people.
When I remember the voice of the boy, I get hurt. How others look at the naked children? Do we have a child-friendly society?
Md Mahiul Kadir
Disaster Management- University of Dhaka
18:34:31 local time INDIA
* Four killed in factory fire in Mangolpuri:
Four people were killed in the early hours of Tuesday when a major fire engulfed a shoe factory in Mangolpuri in outer Delhi. Another man is said to be critically burnt and is admitted at the hospital.
Fire official received the call at around 3am and at least 20 fire tenders were sent to the spot to extinguish the fire.
Fire officials managed to douse the fire in about an hour and initiated cooling off operation after evicting the victims out.
The victims were rushed to Sanjay Gandhi hospital where four were declared brought dead while the fifth was admitted for treatment.
Cops said that deaths happened due to suffocation and not burns.
The factory was being illegally run inside a residence. Neighbours said that an electric wire hanging outside the factory prevented the labourers from escaping out.
The cops have registered a case of causing death due to negligence against the factory owner and are looking for him. The dead bodies will be handed over to the families after the autopsy. to read.
* Job work weavers to go on strike from March 17:
More than 10,000 weavers, who are working in the textile outsourced units, have announced an indefinite strike from March 17 in Pallipalayam, demanding an increase in wages.
Representatives of weavers submitted a petition to Collector D. Jagannathan at the grievance meeting on Monday urging the district administration to conduct a peace committee meeting in this connection.
Namakkal District RG and All Job Work Weavers Association president R. Senguttuvan said that weavers, who do the job of converting yarn into cloth, earned between Rs. 1.50 and Rs. 2 for a metre of cloth.
“This has been the wage structure for the last three years based on an agreement between weavers, labourers and their employers.
In January 2013, the weavers and labourers met their employers – who supply yarn, pay wages and also take back the woven towel – to negotiate a wage hike as the existing three-year wage agreement was coming to an end,” he added. read more.
* Textile traders to intensify stir:
Textile traders have decide to intensify their agitation in Srikakulam town opposing the collection of Value Added Tax.
Srikakulam District Textile Owners Association representatives who met in Srikakulam on Tuesday expressed concern over the lack of response from the government despite bandh of all the textile shops in the State for the last few days. Association president Konark Srinivas said that they would seek the support of all the parties to step up pressure on the government to resolve their problems. to read.
* Apparel body welcomes export growth:
While welcoming the arrest in the fall of exports in February, the Apparel Export Promotion Council Chairman A. Sakthivel said the country’s two major export destinations – US and the EU – were yet to recover from the slowdown.
He was referring to the provisional figures released today by the Commerce Secretary. The trade data showed that exports grew 4.25 per cent and imports by 2.6 per cent in February.
Positive export data were heartening, but it has been from non traditional markets due to supportive FTP (Free Trade Practices) policies. India’s apparel exports to the EU and the US recorded a 14 per cent and two per cent shortfall respectively, he said. read more.
* MNC traders enter cotton trade to encash arbitrage opportunity:
With the global cotton crop forecast lower by 14% in 2013-14, cotton prices have started strengthening in international markets and have reached an 11-month high.
Sensing an export opportunity, leading multinational traders have become buyers of Indian cotton, leading to a price spurt.
International Cotton Advisory Committee said the global production is forecast to decline 14% to 22 million tonne. Rabo Bank also said, “Soyabean and corn continue to limit cotton acreage despite current uptick in prices.” Rabo Bank, a leading financier for agriculture, said the US cotton crop may fall by 18%. read more.
18:04:31 local time PAKISTAN
* New Taxes: Yarn market shuts down indefinitely in protest:
Thread and fabric makers are protesting indefinitely in Faisalabad against new taxes. PHOTO: ARIF SOOMRO/EXPRESS
The yarn market of Faisalabad, considered the biggest in Asia, closed for an indefinite period in solidarity with owners of power looms and sizing units to protest against imposition of new taxes and levies after issuance of SRO 98 and SRO 154.
Thousands of workers as well as owners of sizing units and power looms held a protest rally and marched to Katchery Bazaar Chowk where they staged a sit-in and block movement of vehicles at the busiest intersection of the city, causing a great deal of difficulties for commuters and motorists. read more.
* Tanners want exports incentives:
Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) has proposed to revise upward duty drawback rates by 6.3 percent on export of finished leather.
In its Budget 2013-14 proposals, the PTA has submitted a set of suggestions to the FBR for consideration in the budget.
The FBR should notify upward revision of Duty Drawback rates at least 6.3 percent on export of Finished Leather for goat/sheep skins, cow/buff hides and Cow/Buff Leather for Upholstery to make it realistic, presently DDB rates on these items are very low i.e. 0.80 percent, 1.17 percent and 2.12 percent respectively. read more.
THE KARACHI-BALDIA FIRE
* Baldia factory fire case: SHC gives one week to identify charred bodies:
The Sindh High Court has yet again ordered the National Forensic Science Agency and others concerned to submit a report regarding the identities of the seventeen workers of the Baldia garments factory, whose bodies were charred beyond recognition in the fire.
Nearly 259 workers were burnt in the country’s worst industrial disaster, when a huge fire reduced the Ali Enterprises to ashes on September 11, 2012. As the repeated DNA tests failed to determine the identities of the victims, the bereaved families had gone to court seeking permission for mass burial.
The judges on February 20 allowed the bereaved families to perform last rites and bury the seventeen unidentified bodies to end the mental torture and agony the families had been going through for the past six months.
Meanwhile, the laboratory’s project director was directed to expedite DNA matching process by drawing fresh samples and submit report by March 11. On Tuesday, the advocate general Abdul Fattah Malik said that while the unidentified bodies were buried following permission granted by the court, none of the relatives of the victims had come forward to pursue DNA testing, thus their identification has yet to be determined. read more.
* SHC wants DNA test reports in seven days:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) directed police and the National Forensic Science Agency on Tuesday to submit DNA test reports of 21 unidentified victims of a factory fire within a week.
The directive came at a hearing of identical petitions seeking a judicial inquiry into the Category 3 blaze that killed 289 workers at the garments factory, Ali Enterprises, in Baldia Town on September 11 last year.
In compliance with an injunction, the unidentified victims, who had been burnt beyond recognition in the incident, were buried last month and each grave was allotted a number so as to identify the bodies with the help of DNA tests. read more.