* Asia’s cheap labor rising:
China’s affluent cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen will raise their minimum wages by 19 per cent in the manufacturing heartland of Guangdong province tomorrow, to coincide with International Labour Day.
Similar hikes in the minimum wage have been seen this year in Southeast Asia, one of China’s main rivals in labour-intensive industries such as garments, shoes, toys and processed foods.
Thailand in January introduced a nationwide minimum wage of about US$10 a day, an increase of 65 per cent. Malaysia announced its first-ever mandatory minimum wage of $300 a month, up 50 per cent from previous guidelines.
In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, the minimum wage rose 40 per cent to $226.
The wage spikes top a decade of gradual pay increases for workers in the region.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), average monthly wages adjusted for inflation nearly doubled in Asia during the previous decade.
The ILO calculated that a Filipino factory worker takes home $1.40 an hour, compared to the $23.30 earned by workers in the United States.
“This is certainly not the end of cheap labour, but it might be the end of ridiculously cheap labour,” said Malte Luebker, senior regional wage specialist at the ILO’s Bangkok office. read more. (the complete article here-without payment and/or subscription)
20:08:55 local time PHILIPPINES
* Protests mark Labor Day celebrations:
Various militant groups joins the labor day protest along Espana avenue in Manila during Labor day. JIM GUIAO PUNZALAN
Separate protests marked labor day celebration Wednesday with various groups pressing for better wages and working conditions.
As early as 7 AM, protesters including members of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines gathered at Welcome, Rotonda to air their dismay over the government’s inattention over contractualization among other concerns.
Other protesters trooped to Liwasang Bonifacio while others mobilized themselves at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila. read more.
19:08:55 local time VIET NAM
* Ministry proposes minimum wage increase delay:
The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has recommended the government delay an increase in the minimum wage.
Currently, the minimum wage which took effect from January this year covers only 62-69% of a worker’s minimum living costs.
Under the Labour Code, the minimum wage level should be VND2.6-3.4 million (USD123.8-161.9) per month.
Earlier, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs submitted a proposal to increase it to a level adequate for basic living needs by 2015. The minimum wage increase would be 35-27% higher in 2013; rising 25-27% in 2014 and 20-25% in 2015.
* New regulations for labour subleasing:
Illustrarive image.— Photo nld.com.vn
The Labour Code has been amended to recognise the practice of labour dispatch, where workers are employed by one company and sent to work in another, to come into effect starting yesterday.
While the move was to accommodate fluctuating demands in the labour market, Ngo Hoang, deputy director of the Labour Law Division at the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs said, enforcement was critical in regulating the process.
“This is significant because Viet Nam has never put labour subleasing in any of its legislative documents. It takes time to stabilise the market.” read more.
* Favourable opportunities for footwear exports:
Most Vietnamese footwear businesses have received steady orders, for the second and third quarters of 2013, according to the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso).
Many producers are now turning to new markets, such as the US and Japan, in addition to their traditional consumers in the EU.
Statistics from the General Department of Vietnam Customs show that revenue from footwear exports hit US$1.73 billion by the end of March, up 16.1 percent over same period in 2012.
Footwear is now one of the country’s key 10 export items with total earnings in the first quarter of 2013 surpassing US$1 billion. read more.
19:08:55 local time THAILAND
* May Day we think of Somyot:
Yesterday we remembered the political prisoners in Thailand’s prisons, including our friend Somyot.
We believe that their life long support of working people – through their activities supporting the building of trade unions, the minimum wage and protections for contract and agency workers have led to their internment. read & see more.
* PM urges workers to upgrade skills:
Marking Labour Day yesterday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra thanked workers for their contributions to Thailand’s economy but emphasised the need for labourers to improve their skills.
“Thank you for strengthening the country’s economy and quality of services as well as products,” she said as she presided over the official Labour Day celebration.
Phadermchai shrugged off a recent survey that suggested workers had bigger debts and their living conditions had not improved, despite the government’s increase of the daily minimum wage to Bt300.
“The daily minimum wage has increased by about 40 per cent on average. Although commodity prices have increased, they did not jump that much,” he said. “I don’t think workers’ debts grew because of the hike in product prices.”
Chayanut Sakkanjanakul, an employee at a factory in Samut Prakan, said commodity prices had risen since the new minimum wage took effect.
“I hope the government will not stick with its original plan to peg the daily minimum wage at Bt300 for two more years.
“If the wage doesn’t really increase in the next two years, the government must control product prices,” he said. read more.
* Workers rally for better conditions on May Day:
Tens of thousands of low-paid workers took to the streets in Asia on May Day to demand higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions a week after a Bangladesh garment factory building collapse killed hundreds — a grim reminder of how lax safety regulations make going to work a danger in many poor countries.
Labourers in Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines and elsewhere marched and chanted en masse Wednesday, sounding complaints about being squeezed by big business amid the surging cost of living. read more
19:08:55 local time CAMBODIA
* Thousands of workers in Cambodia march for pay rise on Int’l Labor Day:
About 5,000 Cambodian workers took to the street on Wednesday to mark the International Labor Day, calling for pay rise, better labor conditions and decrease in petrol prices, a union representative said.
Marchers, mostly garment workers, held banners and walked from the Freedom Park near the Wat Phnom historical site to the National Assembly in order to submit a petition to the National Assembly.
“Our petition is to ask the government to set the minimum wage of $150 a month for a garment worker and to take measures to ensure working safety for workers,” Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, who headed the protest, told reporters.
Currently, the minimum wage for a garment worker is $80.
“We also urge the government to cap the gasoline price to less than $1 a liter from the current price of $1.37,” he said. read more.
* Workers march, air grievances:
Workers and labour activists take part in a march to mark International Labour Day in downtown Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Banners calling for higher wages and the government to find the “real” murderers of slain union leader Chea Vichea were among those carried by thousands of workers who marched through the capital yesterday to mark International Labour Day.
More than 5,000 people converged on the National Assembly, where they presented a petition to legislator that demanded improved working conditions.
“All garment factories must have skilled doctors,” the hand-written sign of one worker outside the assembly read. “The government must act to regulate rent prices around factories,” read another. read more.
* Workers Take to the Streets to Mark Labor Day:
Several thousand workers marched down Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay on Wednesday, demanding higher wages, stronger protection of their rights and reform of the country’s judiciary in what was the largest gathering of Cambodia’s labor unions in almost three years.
Along with thousands of garment factory workers who had the day off and were trucked in for the city center rally, Wednesday’s parade marking international Labor Day was joined by members of unions representing teachers, construction workers, public servants and sex workers, along with a strong contingent of motorcycle taxi and tuk-tuk drivers.
The 4,000 or so people who joined the march met no resistance from police, who lined the route from Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to the National Assembly. Speaking over loudspeakers strapped to trucks and tuk-tuks, union leaders called for a general monthly minimum wage of $150 and a monthly wage for civil servants of $250. read more.
* Justice Means a Living Wage:
We, the Sarment workers of Cambodia represented by the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel.WorkersDemocratic Union, declare that the minimum wage decided by the Labour Advisory Committee of $80 per month is grossly insufficient to meet our basic needs. We are calling on the multinationat brands to ensure a minimum wage of $100 per month for Cambodian garment workers who produce apparel bearing their names.
A joint report released by Stanford Law School and the Workers Rights Consortium states that “[Cambodian] workers still suffered a L6.6% drop in real wages for regular work from 2000 to 2010, a decrease that was expected to grow bv 30% by 2014.”
This decrease is compounded by the fact that the minimum wage was significantly below living wage levels in 2000 just as it is today.
Studies by both the lnternational Labour Organization and the Cambodia lnstitute of Development Study both conclude that the real adjusted wage for Cambodian garment workers should be $fO+ per month. This wage will allow
us to provide for basic necessities such as food, housing, and the ability to save a small part of wages for when emergencies, such as the death of a family member, arise.
The mass workers fainting that have plagued workers in the Cambodian garment industry recently are just one of many consequences of insufficient wages. Since June 2010 there have been at least thirty- four separate incidents of mass fainting by workers in more than sixteen garment and footwear factories in Cambodia. ln total, more than 4000 workers have fainted.
Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Labour Mam Vannak, estimated that 60% of the fainting was “due to lack of nutrition”.
But for us, this is about more than statistics – it is about our daily lives. Will we have enough to eat? Will we be able to provide a better future for our children?
Sean Sophal has been working in a factory producing for major international brands for 10 years and still only earns the minimum base wage of $61 per month. Despite working overtime for at least two hours a day, she lacks enough money for nutritious
food, schooling and transportation for her two sons, and to send home to her parents. She has to regularly take out high interest loans just to mike ends meet. “l am appatled that while my coworkers and I have to decide between feeding our children nutritious foods and paying for their schooling, multinational brands are making billions of dollars off of our hard work.”
Sean Sophal states that if she earned a minimum wage of at least $100 per month she could afford to buy more wholesome foods such as beef, enroll her sons in English classes, and have a little extra money for important religious and family
obligations. “l call on all the multi-national brands that source from Cambodia to use their power to ensure a $100/mo minimum wage, not just for myself but for all garment workers in Cambodia.”
No longer will we allow the brands to escape their responsibilities. No longer can the brands hide behind the complexities of their supply chains, the intricate network of suppliers, subsidiaries and subcontractors. With just four major brands, H&M, GAB Walmart, and Adidas having combined revenues of roughly 5608 billion in2012, an amount almost 43 times Cambodia’s entire GDP, it is obvious to us who has the real power to set working conditions and wages in Cambodia.
While the multinational brands make record profits off of our labour, we toil for many hours a day, 6 sometimes 7 days a week to barely make ends meet. The sheer size and economic clout of the multinational brands that produce in Cambodia has made our great country a client state in this modern form of economic imperialism whereby we tlo all the work and H&M, GAP, Walmart, and Adidas extract enormous profits.
We’re calling on all major brands sourcing from Cambodia to do everything in their power to ensure a minimum wage for garment workers of $100 per month. This includes adopting a policy that all factories sourcing to the brand must, under its contract with the brand, guarantee that workers employed by it will pay no less than $100. This also necessitates a reprieve in the extreme downward price pressures the multi-national brands put on supplier factories that undermine any real hope of improved conditions.
Brands must pay more for goods and this increase must be passed on to the workers. No longer will we accept the answer that it is not the brands’ fault. We know this is a tactic to avoid responsibility and to encourage a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions, further increasing the brands’ bottom lines. lt is the brands that make the massive profits off of our labour and it is the brands’ responsibility to
ensure we are paid a living wage for our labour. Ath. Thorn, President C.CAWDU.
20:08:55 local time MALAYSIA
* Peaceful May Day rally in KL:
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) committee member Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj has commended the police for a peaceful May Day rally.
“It is such a big difference and we wouldn’t have dreamt of having such a gathering in such a peaceful manner for the rakyat to voice their grievances,” he said yesterday.
“It shows that if politics are left out, such gatherings are possible for peace-loving Malaysians.” read more.
20:08:55 local time INDONESIA
* May Day Protests Shut Down Central Jakarta:
Indonesian labors march to the Presidential Palace during a May Day rally in Jakarta, Indonesia on May 1, 2013. (EPA Photo/Adi Weda)
Indonesian workers converged on Central Jakarta in Wednesday’s massive May Day rally, halting public transportation and closing down major arteries as workers and labor unions marched to the State Palace and Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration in protest of the government’s planned fuel subsidy cuts and unfair labor practices.
More than 135,000 workers from three of Indonesia’s largest labor unions joined the protest on Wednesday. The protestors held rallies and speeches outside government buildings, calling on public officials to put an end to the controversial practice of contract labor called “outsourcing” in Indonesia.
Outsourced workers lack the protection or benefits of regular workers. The government has curbed the practice, limiting the hiring of outsourced workers to select industries. read more. & read more.
* Labors urge government to meet seven-point demand:
Thousands of labors from Welfare Labor Union Confederation (KSBSI) urged the government to meet their seven point demand when commemorating the World Labor Day (May Day) in Jakarta on Wednesday.
“Today on May 1, millions of labors demand that justice should be enforced to improve our welfare,” said KSBSI President Mudhofir in his speech here, Wednesday.
“We also reject the low wages regulations and the suspension of the implementation of Provincial Minimum Wages as well as City Minimum Wages,” Mudhofir said.
* Workers threaten to go on strike on August 16:
President of the Indonesian Labor Union Confederation (KSPI) Said Iqbal has called on workers across the country to go on strike on August 16 unless the government meets their demand related to occupational social security programs.
“We should like to affirm that if the government insists on putting the programs on hold we will go on strike on August 16 nationwide,” Iqbal said outside the Presidential Palace here on Wednesday. read more.
* BetterWork Indonesia Media Update:
1. Why are workers demanding fair remuneration? Read the full article here
2. End in sight for ‘cheap’ Asia labour. Read the full article here
3. Workers need more than a holiday on May Day: Unions. Read the full article here
4. May Day: Employers Dismiss Their Workers. Read the full article here
5. Workers begin to pack Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Read the full article here
6. BPS: Industrial Workers Wages have increased. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
7. Employer Requested May Day Celebration to not Disturb Production.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here
18:38:55 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Garment sector on the rise:
The lifting of European Union sanctions on April 22 might herald a bright future for Myanmar’s garment sector if the country can benefit from the generalised system of preference status, which lowers import tariffs, in the EU and United States.
U Myint Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA), said at the start of a business matching event between Myanmar and Hong Kong garment and textile industries on April 24 that Myanmar might be granted GSP status on June 4.
“EU sanctions were lifted last Monday and hopefully we will be granted GSP status by the US on June 4,” he told the 30 representatives at the meeting, which was held at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. “This is the huge opportunity for international companies to invest in Myanmar’s garment sector.”
“If we can get GSP status from the US it will mean we can do more business with international companies. They will be able to invest in Myanmar and be assured that they can get access to the EU and US markets,” he said. read more.
* Fashion industry going strong:
Undaunted by the former sanctions regime, Myanmar’s home-grown garment industry is thriving, industry experts say. They attribute the success to the industry’s ability to cater to local tastes.
Over the past five years, local garment brands have been taking over more space because of their competitive price and good quality, some say. Unlike export-oriented businesses, they can employ and pay staff year-round without the need to wait for orders from overseas.
“We can pay the same wages throughout the year, without night-work and overtime, because we are operating the factory regularly. We know the tastes of Myanmar women and what kind of designs they prefer. Normally we copy the designs from Thai garments,” said Daw Sein Lae Lae, owner of Dear Brand garment factory in Shwe Pyi Thar township. The factory has more than 400 workers. read more.
17:53:55 local time NEPAL
* Govt, workers, employers in pay hike talks:
As the world celebrates the May Day on Wednesday, the government, employers and trade unions are holding talks for increasing the minimum wage of workers.
With the inflation rate reaching around 10 percent, trade unions have been pressuring the government set the minimum salary at Rs 12,000. The common forum of seven trade unions — Joint Trade Union Coordination Centre (JTUCC) — is also positive on inflation-based salary hike.
The unions said the minimum wage should be fixed in such a way that the salary would be sufficient for a worker to live with a family. “Our study has shown that a worker needs at least Rs 12,000 per month for living a normal life,” said Bishnu Rimal, president of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT).
All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) has also been demanding the government fix the minimum monthly salary at Rs 12,500. read more.
18:08:55 local time BANGLA DESH
* May Day being observed:
The historic May Day is being observed in the country as elsewhere across the world today with a vow to establish the rights of workers.
The May Day, also known as International Workers’ Solidarity Day, commemorates the historic uprising of working people in Chicago, USA, at the height of a prolonged fight for an eight-hour workday.
The day is a public holiday. This year the theme of the day is ‘Safe Workplace, Bangladesh will move forward’.
Trade unions and professional groups have taken up various programmes to observe the day to press for improving the working conditions with better wages for the workers and job security. read more.
* May Day observed amid protests by workers:
A week after the Savar building collapse, the historic May Day was observed in the country on Wednesday with garment workers staging peaceful demonstrations demanding punishment of the killers of their fellow-workers in the tragic incident.
The workers vowed to fight against repression and social discriminations and realise their due rights and pressed for improving the working conditions along with better wages and job security.
An eight-storey building, Rana Plaza, crashed on Wednesday last, killing at least 402 people, raising concern about the workplace safety standard in the country’s RMG sector.
During today’s protests, the major streets of the capital were rocked with the slogans of thousands of workers. The workers were seen chanting slogans with huge processions in front of National Press Club, Paltan, Nayapaltan, Bijoynagar, Motijheel, Gulistan, Bangabandhu Avenue, High Court intersection, Matsya Bhaban, Malibagh, Badda and other parts of the city.
read more. & read more. & read more.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Clashes erupt over Bangladesh building owner:
Protesters demand death penalty for owner of collapsed building as court orders confiscation of his assets.
A top Bangladesh court has ordered the government to “immediately” confiscate the property of a collapsed building’s owner, as thousands of protesters demanding death penalty for the man clashed with police, leaving 100 people injured.
A two-judge panel of the High Court on Tuesday also asked the central bank to freeze the assets of the owners of the five garment factories in the building, and use the money to pay the salaries and other benefits of their workers.
The order came after police produced Mohammed Sohel Rana and the factory owners in court. The order did not elaborate but it was implied that the salaries of the dead victims would be paid to their relatives. The court has given the police 15 days to interrogate Rana. read more.
* Retailers seek plan to prevent disasters like ones in Bangladesh:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., WMT -0.85% Gap Inc., GPS +1.28% and Hennes & Mauritz AB HM-B.SK +0.22% met with about 30 Western retailers, labor groups and nongovernmental organizations to work on a plan to prevent industrial disasters like last week’s deadly building collapse in Bangladesh.
The discussions included creating a clearinghouse of factory-inspection results, so companies can see where other retailers stopped production over safety concerns, participants said. The group plans to publish the results of the talks in May, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Gap, Wal-Mart and H&M all confirmed they attended Monday’s meeting in Eschborn, a town near Frankfurt, at the headquarters of GIZ, a German federal agency. A spokeswoman for El Corte Inglés SA, the Spanish department-store chain, confirmed discussions of a program aimed at monitoring and improving Bangladesh’s industrial infrastructure. read more. & read more. & read more.
* Retailer Joe Fresh sends reps to Bangladesh as death toll rises:
Take a few moments to browse fashion retailer Joe Fresh’s crisp, minimalist website and you might just succumb to sticker shock. For once, it’ll be because you can’t remember the last time you saw a pair of jeans this cool for $19.
The Monday after the deadly collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh, Joe Fresh parent company Loblaw joined fellow retailers Sears Canada and Wal-Mart Canada at an emergency meeting of the Retail Council of Canada to discuss how to combat working conditions in sweatshops. read more.
* More bodies recovered:
This April 30 photo shows cranes lifting concrete blocks from the debris of Rana Plaza as the rescue operation enters day seven. The rescuers started using heavy equipment Sunday night in the second phase of the operation.
Rescuers pulled out more bodies from the debris of Rana Plaza in Savar when the rescue operation stepped into eighth straight day on Wednesday.
With the fresh recovery, the death toll of the deadly building collapse now stands 402, according to an account of Dhaka District control room which is opened to provide information on the Savar tragedy.
No person was rescued alive in the last two days, keeping the figure of survivors unchanged at 2,437.
Rescuers gave up hope of finding any more alive as the tragedy stepped into eighth straight day.
People believe that unnumbered decomposed bodies remain stuck in concrete slabs of the sandwiched building. read more.
* Only 149 are missing, claims Army:
The coordinator of the rescue operations in Savar has claimed that only 149 people are still missing in the country’s worst ever industrial disaster.
General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Bangladesh Army’s 9th Infantry Division Major General Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardi, who is leading the operation, came up with the figure at a press conference on Wednesday.
The disclosure comes amidst confusion over the exact number of people who got buried under the rubble.
He said the figure was determined on the basis of a list released by the Deputy Commissioner of Dhaka. But he could not specify what the premise of such listing was. read more.
* Unclaimed laid to rest:
Jurain graveyard. Photo: STAR
The serenity of Jurain graveyard seems more than other days on Wednesday as 32 workers whose bodies remained unclaimed made their final journey.
The victims of the deadly Savar building collapse remained unsung as nobody could own them.
They were stashed into three corpse-carrier owned by Anjuman Mufidul Islam, a charity organisation that provides free burial service, and taken for burial at the graveyard in the capital. read more.
Ensure workplace safety, workers’ welfare: PM to entrepreneurs
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday asked the country’s mill and factory owners to ensure the safety and overall welfare of their workers if they want to do business.
“You (owners) will have to ensure workers’ fair wages, allowances and other rights…you must look after their workplace safety if you want to do business,” she said while addressing a discussion at Osmani Memorial Auditorium marking the historic May Day.
The Prime Minister also called upon the workers not to be misguided with false propaganda and involve in any destructive activities as those are suicidal for the country’s economy.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* ILO assures of all-out support for capacity building:
International Labour Organization (ILO) on Wednesday assured Bangladesh of extending its all-out support for capacity building to protect the interests of the workers, including the rehabilitation of the Savar tragedy victims.
ILO Deputy Director General Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo gave the assurance during a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the VIP room of Osmani Memorial Auditorium after a May Day discussion.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Action can prevent further tragedy: ILO DG:
Director-General (DG) of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Guy Ryder has said the horror and regret following Savar building collapse must translate into urgent firm action to prevent further tragedy.
“Action now can prevent further tragedy. Inaction would mean that the next tragedy is simply a matter of time. The ILO urges the government of Bangladesh and employers and trade unions to make use of its support and ensure that the Rana Plaza tragedy is the last of its kind,” Ryder said in a message.
read more. & read more.
* Canadian retail council to update trade guidelines after Bangladesh disaster:
The Retail Council of Canada will develop an updated set of “responsible trade” guidelines in the aftermath of the tragedy in Bangladesh that left almost 390 people dead – mostly in garment factories housed in a building that collapsed last week.
The council’s statement on Tuesday evening came a day after Toronto-based Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said it would compensate people tied to victims of the disaster.
read more. & read more.
* Bangladeshis demand worker safety as toll tops 400:
Thousands of workers paraded through central Dhaka on May Day to demand safety at work and the death penalty for the owner of a garment factory building that collapsed last week in the country’s worst industrial disaster, killing at least 402 people and injuring 2,500.
A raucous procession of workers on foot, pickup trucks and motorcycles wound its way through central Dhaka on Wednesday. They waved the national flag and banners, beat drums and chanted “direct action!” and “death penalty!
”From a loudspeaker on the back of a truck, a participant spoke for the group: “My brother has died. My sister has died. Their blood will not be valueless.” read more.
* Bangladesh garment workers voice safety fears:
Factory employees speak to Al Jazeera about their concern for their own lives after latest incident to hit industry.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, shocked the country and lead the government to declare a national day of mourning.
Rescue teams are still working their way through the rubble of what used to be an eight-storey building, pulling out survivors and recovering the bodies of those less fortunate.
Several garment factories were located in the complex, and as reports emerge that managers ignored warnings to evacuate the buildings, anger is growing around the poor safety standards suffered by textile workers. read more.
* Europe action would have big impact:
If Bangladesh were to lose its preferential trading status with Europe over conditions in its garment factories, it could face hundreds of millions of dollars in duties and limits on access to its largest trading partner.
EU officials said on Wednesday they hoped the threat of action would be enough to make Bangladesh change its laws to secure a market which formed over a quarter of the south Asian state’s $40.5 billion annual exports in 2011. Any action would likely take more than a year.
“This is about firing a shot across the bows of Bangladesh to get them to engage on the issue,” an EU official told Reuters. “We want to turn up the diplomatic heat on them and get them to sit down and discuss this with us.”
The European Union said late on Tuesday the 27-country bloc would reconsider its status unless Bangladesh improves labour safety standards after a garment factory collapse killed hundreds last week. read more. & read more.
* Salvage campaign continues at Savar, 32 unclaimed bodies buried:
Rescuers today continued their operation with utmost sincerity and “honour” from thedebris of collapsed Rana Plaza at suburban Savar and 21 more bodies were retrieved raising the death toll to 412 so far.
“Our salvage campaign still continues ceaselessly . . . as the survey report conducted by the district administration claimed that some 149 people remained still missing till today. And we are trying to retrieve the bodies intact and with due honour”, commander of the salvage operations Major General Chowdhury Hassan Sarwardy told at a press briefing at the collapse site. He added: “It is very unlikely that someone is still alive under the rubble on the seventh day of the building collapse . . . but the almighty Allah knows better”.
Our Savar Correspondent reports: Rescuers recovered 21 bodies mostly decomposed which could not be identified while over 2,443 of them were rescued alive from under tonnes of concrete rubbles at Rana Plaza’s collapse site till today, the 8th day of the rescue operation.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* 11 more bodies retrieved- Death toll now 427:
Rescuers pulled out 11 more bodies removing the debris of Rana Plaza in Savar Thursday morning raising the death toll to 427 when the rescue operation stepped into ninth straight day.
Dhaka District control room which is opened to provide information on the Savar tragedy provided the fresh account.
No person was rescued alive in the last three days, keeping the figure of survivors unchanged at 2,437.
Rescuers gave up hope of finding any more alive eight days after the tragedy.
* EU considers trade action:
The European Union voiced strong concern over labour conditions in Bangladesh after a building collapse there killed hundreds of factory workers, and said it was considering action to encourage improvements, including the use of its trade preference system.
Anger has been growing since the illegally built structure collapsed on April 24, killing at least 402 people. Hundreds remain unaccounted for but rescue officials said on Tuesday they had given up hope of finding any more survivors.
It was the third deadly incident in six months to raise questions about worker safety and labour conditions in the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports. read more. & read more.
17:38:55 local time INDIA
* Powerloom workers on strike for wage hike:
Textile workers employed with powerloom units at Jholva industrial estate in Palsana, some 20 km away from the city, have started a protest for increase in the wages.
Over 80 per cent of powerloom units have been closed for the past two days following protest by the workers who are demanding a hike of 10 paise per metre.
There are more than 150 powerloom units at the estate which employ over 3000 textile workers, sources said. Powerloom unit owners said a few leaders of the textile workers have provoked the workers to disrupt the manufacturing of grey fabrics. Since the demand for grey fabric has increased ahead of the marriage season, the workers want to press for a wage hike. read more.
* Trade unions try to sensitise workers on labour issues:
CPI(M) and CITU activists taking out a May Day rally in Bangalore on Wednesday. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
In the midst of an election where the discourse on labour issues, or even those affecting the working class such as inflation and wage stagnation, is sorely absent, trade unions organised programmes in Bangalore to sensitise workers on these issues.
Rallies were held through the day and awareness building programmes were organised, drawing participation from workers across formal and informal sectors.
* Punjab govt increases minimum wages:
On the eve of May Day, the Punjab government today announced to increase the minimum wages of unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled workers with effect from March 1.
“The wages of labourers, working in various factories, offices and brick kilns have been revised,” Labour Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani said.
The wages of unskilled labourers like chowkidaar, peon, helpers have been revised from Rs 5,200 to Rs 5,695 per month.
Likewise, the wages of semi-skilled workers have been revised from Rs 5,980 to Rs 6,475 per month. read more.
* Textile traders take out victory rally:
The textile traders in the city took out a victory rally from Gollapudi to Vastralatha in One Town here on Wednesday.
The motorcycle rally culminated into a public meeting at Vastralatha wherein the traders felicitated MLAs Velampalli Srinivas and MLA Malladi Vishnu. The traders thanked the State government for withdrawing the Value Added Tax (VAT) on textiles. The textile traders expressed their gratitude to the State government for listening to their woes. “The MLAs and the ministers have supported the cause and used their good offices in withdrawing the VAT. It was for the first time in the country that a government withdrew the tax introduced,” they said.
The traders will be with the Congress government for understanding their plight and withdrawing the VAT, they said. The traders urged the MLAs to prevail upon the government to bring down the hike in rents being paid by them at Vastralatha.
17:38:55 local time SRI LANKA
* Millions attend May Day rallies in Sri Lanka:
Millions of Sri Lankans took to the streets in capital Colombo to celebrate May Day in style on Wednesday with President Mahinda Rajapaksa telling the nation that his policies have brought economic gains for the common people.
An estimated 2 million people flocked to Colombo, mostly ferried by government stuff using State-owned busses, which began their slow stroll in the afternoon to make their way to the Campbell Park and hear the President’s speech.
The impressive support comes at a time when the ruling party, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has faced strong criticism for high cost of living that culminated with an electricity price increase of 54 percent earlier this month.
* Leftists paved way for capitalist to celebrate May Day – FSP:
Breakaway JVP group, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), yesterday alleged that those masquerading as leftist had not performed their duties and thereby paved the way for capitalist political parties to celebrate the May Day.
“Workers fought to win an eight-hour work day in the past, but today workers have to work 12 to 16 hours or do double shifts to achieve the targets under the capitalist governments,” Koswatte said. read more.
17:08:55 local time PAKISTAN
* Garment demand: International retail chains switch focus to Pakistan:
Image Garments, based in Faisalabad, has planned to ramp up production in the face of growing demand from international store chains and other buyers as they switch to developing countries like Pakistan after labour becomes expensive in China.
As the lifestyle improves in China – the second largest economy of the world – so do the wages of labourers, making the cost of stitching, cutting and spinning unsustainable. For these works, garment buyers are searching for new markets with Pakistan and Bangladesh becoming most preferable destinations. read more.
* Labourers salary upped to 9,000 per month:
The Prime Minister Azad Jammu and Kashmir has announced to hold labor convention in AJK adding that every laborer would get Rs.9000 as salary per month from July first this year, a pension and one hundred thousand rupee grant for their daughters’ wedding .
The Prime Minister announced these incentives while addressing gathering on International Labors’ Day here in Central Press Club Muzaffarabad on Wednesday.
AJK ministers Syed Bazil Ali Naqvi, Srdar Javed Ayub, Chairman Developmetn Aurthority Muzaffarabad Asad Habib Awan, Administrator Municipal Corporation Mubarak Haider, President PSF Syed Ali Raza, Media Advisor Shokat Javed, Shaiq Gillani and others has addressed. Chief organizer labor wing Shujat kazmi presided over the ceremony. read more.
The workers Wednesday staged demonstrations in connection with the May Day and demand the government to increase minimum wage of the workers.
Activists of the Pakistan Workers Federation, Wapda Hydro Union, Pakistan Railways Workers Union and Khyber Rickshaw Union gathered outside the Peshawar Press Club. Holding banners and posters, the workers chanted slogans in favour of their demands. Gohar Taj, Ishfaq Bacha and Murad Khan led the rallies.
Addressing the rally, they said it is high time to unite as the industrialists and feudal class were not ready to give rights to workers. The speakers said the capitalist system had badly affected the poor people of the society and the only way to get rid of this system is to get united and keep struggle.
They said due to poor law and order situation, hundreds of industries had been closed, rendering thousands of workers jobless in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They demanded the government to announce special package for the revival of sick industries and reinstatement of jobless people. They also demanded increase in the wages of factory workers and daily wagers. read more.
Labourers celebrated May Day in different parts of the city and their representatives demanded implementation of basic facilities including issuance of appointment letters, registration with Sindh Employees’ Social Security Institute (SESSI) and suitable living wages, in a bid to improve working conditions.
Workers from different sectors carrying red flags attended the gathering at the Labour Square in SITE area to commemorate the “International Labour Day” in respect of the Martyrs of Chicago who sacrificed their lives for the well-being of the working class.
The meeting was organised by the National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan (NTUF) and presided over by Muhammad Rafiq Baloch, president NTUF.
* ‘Only three per cent workers enjoy right to form unions’:
Pakistani labourers today brave worse conditions than the Chicago workers of 1886, says a prominent labour leader on the eve of May Day.
Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of National Trade Union Federation, said as the world observed the 127th May Day this year amid a global capitalist crisis and social turmoil, Pakistan’s industrial workers and farm labourers were facing even worse conditions as compared to Chicago workers of the yore.
He said there were no fixed working hours for the workers and industrial and commercial organisations not only usurped their economic rights but also their political and constitutional rights.
Today in Pakistan, hardly three per cent workers enjoyed right to union making and just five per cent were registered with the state’s social security institutions, he said.
* ‘Shifting of industries to other countries worrying’:
The executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) on Wednesday said that chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-N Mian Nawaz Sharif had announced Rs300,000 compensation for each family member affected by the Baldia garment factory fire, but he had still not fulfilled this promise despite the passage of several months.
PILER chief Karamat Ali also expressed concern over shifting of industries to other countries and said that it was injustice with workers and this trend should be stopped because thousands of labourers had been deprived of jobs in a few years.
He expressed these views while addressing a press conference organised by the Sindh Hosiery and Garment Workers General Union in collaboration with Piler and Labour Education Foundation on World Labour Day at the Karachi Press Club.
“A team of international lawyers will approach the court after the general elections 2013 against the institution that had permitted the Ali Enterprises to operate in violation against labour laws,” he added.
He called for proper health safety laws for workers at national and provincial levels and demanded that labourers were trained in health safety measures at workplace.