in the news on-line EXTRA, 5 May 2013

21:01:11 local time map of philippines PHILIPPINES

* Workers’ separation pay hike sought:

A lawmaker is seeking an increase in the separation pay of workers given the pink slip due to sickness.

Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza (Party-list, Trade Union Congress Party) said employees terminated due to disease should be treated with compassion. He said their cases should also be handled differently.
“The reason is obvious. An employee terminated due to such a disease will no longer be able to find gainful employment as compared to those who were terminated due to redundancy and related causes,” Mendoza said.
The solon cited Article 283 of the Labor Code of the Philippines which states that the employer may terminate employment or reduce the total number of personnel due to installation of labor saving devices, among others.  read more.
MB2

19:01:11 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLADESH

THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE

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* Savar building collapse death toll passes 500:

The death toll from the last week’s horrific building collapse in Savar passed 500 on Friday.

Rescue workers retrieved 23 more bodies from the rubble of the eight-story ruinous building Rana Plaza on Friday morning as the 2nd phase of the rescue operation continued for the 4th consecutive day, raising the death toll in the ruinous building collapse to 501.
Earlier on Tuesday, General Officer Commanding of the 9th Infantry Division Major General Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardi, who is in charge of coordinating the rescue operation, said so far 2,437 people were pulled out alive from the debris of the commercial building.
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* Bangladesh building death toll tops 500:

Police arrest engineer who warned of Savar factory complex’s dangers and urged evacuation the day before its collapse.

More than 500 bodies have been recovered from the Bangladesh garment-factory building that collapsed last week, authorities said after arresting an engineer who said the building was unsafe but is accused of helping the owner add three illegal floors to the structure.

The arrest on Friday of Rana Plaza consultant Adbur Razzak brought to nine the number of people held over the April 24 disaster, which has put the spotlight on the many Western clothing retailers who use Bangladesh as a source of cheap goods.
Bangladesh’s government has come under fire over its handling of the disaster, as relatives of those trapped in the rubble of the building in Savar, about 30km north-west of Dhaka, searched for loved ones without a central list to track the rescued or dead. read & see more (video).
aljazeera

* Traumatized Savar survivors need psychological intervention: experts:

Mental health experts stressed for extending psychological support along with providing better treatment for the survivors of Savar building collapse for returning to normal life.

“It is very important to ventilate their (survivors of Savar catastrophe) bitter experiences to overcome their trauma which is
called acute stress reaction and return to normal life,” said Prof Dr M S I Mullick Chairman, Department of Psychiatry of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
The traumatic condition will continue for 28 to 30 days. If none help them to overcome the situation, it would permanently lock in their brain and they will re-experience the original trauma(s) through flashbacks, hallucinations or nightmares, said the mental health expert.
read more.
BSS

* ILO expects a way forward, roadmap by Saturday: Gilbert Houngbo:

Visiting Deputy Director General (DDG) for Field Operations and Partnerships, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo said on Friday that they are expecting a way forward after Savar tragedy and a roadmap will be there by Saturday to address safety issues.

“I’m looking forward in a very positive way. We’ve to consider this tragedy as a new beginning. You have to use it as a (positive) catalyst,” he told a meeting at the conference hall of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI).
He said they would continue to discuss with the authorities concerned and workers’ bodies and owners today. “I’m very confident by tomorrow (Saturday) we’ll have a final way forward in terms of roadmap with all the commitments laid down.”
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* Bangladesh is reforming its garment industry: PM:

Mentioning that condition now in Bangladesh is good for investment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government is moving rapidly to fix the existing problems of the readymade garment (RMG) sector.

“There are some problems in the RMG sector. But, we have been trying our best to improve the situation,” she said this in an interview with CNN on Thursday eight days after a nine-storey building collapsed at Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka.
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* Disaster not ‘really serious’: Muhith:

Bangladesh’s finance minister downplayed the impact of last week’s factory-building collapse on his country’s garment industry, saying he didn’t think it was “really serious” Friday, hours after the 500th body was pulled from the debris.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith spoke as the government cracked down on those it blamed for the disaster in the Dhaka suburb of Savar. It suspended Savar’s mayor and arrested an engineer who had called for the building’s evacuation last week, but was also accused of helping the owner add three illegal floors to the eight-story structure. The building owner was arrested earlier.
The government appears to be attempting to fend off accusations that it is in part to blame for the tragedy because of weak oversight of the building’s construction.

During a visit to the Indian capital New Delhi, Muhith said the disaster would not harm Bangladesh’s garment industry, which is by far the country’s biggest source of export income.

“The present difficulties… well, I don’t think it is really serious… it’s an accident,” he said. “And the steps that we have taken in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen, they are quite elaborate and I believe that it will be appreciated by all.”
read more. & read more.
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SpecialTop

* Loblaw sticks with BD, but plans changes:

Canadian retailer Loblaw Cos., whose brightly colored Joe Fresh clothing was pulled last week from the rubble of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh, said it plans to continue to source clothing from that developing country.

But, after an outcry over working conditions in Bangladesh, the supermarket chain and its iconic clothing brand Thursday outlined a plan to change the way it does business there.
The company will require that products bearing the Joe Fresh label be made in factories that adhere to all local construction and building codes, and it will put Loblaw employees on the ground to make sure those operations “reflect Canadian values and Canadian standards,” Loblaw Executive Chairman Galen Weston said Thursday in a joint news conference with Joe Fresh Creative Director Joe Mimran.
read more.  & read more.
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* Disney’s BD exit puts pressure on other retailers:

Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s decision to pull out of Bangladesh is fueling debate over whether other manufacturers should leave the country or stay put to improve workplace conditions in the South Asian nation.

Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, removed Bangladesh in March from a list of countries where it authorizes partners to produce clothing and merchandise, according to a letter to licensees released yesterday. Belarus, Ecuador, Pakistan and Venezuela were also taken off the list, which cut the number of acceptable nations to 172 from 215, Disney said.  read more.
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* Bangladesh Fears an Exodus of Apparel Firms:

A day after the Walt Disney Company disclosed that it was ending apparel production in Bangladesh, that country’s garment manufacturers expressed alarm that other Western corporations might follow Disney’s lead.

They feared that could bring about a potential mass exodus that would devastate Bangladesh’s economy and threaten the livelihoods of millions of people.

Mohammad Fazlul Azim, a member of the Bangladesh Parliament and an influential garment factory owner, implored brands not to leave Bangladesh, noting that many factories did comply with safety standards.
“The whole nation should not be made to suffer,” he said. “This industry is very important to us. Fourteen million families depend on this. It is a huge number of people who are dependent on this industry.”  read more.
NYT

* How textile kings weave a hold on Bangladesh:

Bangladesh’s garment boom has made Mohammad Fazlul Azim a wealthy man. Over three decades his empire has grown from a single factory to a string of plants that employ 26,000 workers and clock up an annual turnover of about $200 million.

Azim, who is also a member of parliament, has benefited from government policies to grow the industry into a global powerhouse. His elegant home here in Dhaka is a haven of luxury with an outdoor swimming pool, walled off from the chaos of the capital’s streets.

But he has a complaint: His costs have almost doubled over the past several years. It’s now time for the big Western brands he supplies to pay more for their clothes, and stop squeezing his margins, he declares.
The buyers have not given anything. They just say ‘increase your productivity’,” Azim said in an interview. read more. & read more.
reuters logo

* Were Rana Plaza Workers Sewing Clothes for Benetton when Building Collapsed? :

Documents found in rubble contradict Benetton statement it had cut links with garment factories

Benetton documents (BGIWF/BCWS)Finishing audit report – 23 March 2013 (BGIWF/BCWS)

Documents found in the rubble of the collapsed Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh show that Italian fashion giant Benetton was still producing clothes in Dhaka garment factories right up to the disaster.

The company had earlier denied any involvement with manufacturers in the building but later recognised a “one-time order” that was completed and shipped several weeks before the tragedy. It said the manufacturer “had been permanently removed from the list of potential direct or indirect suppliers [as it] no longer met the stringent standards that made it eligible to even potentially work for us”.
Benetton “strongly reiterated” that none of the Rana Plaza manufacturers supplied any of the group’s brands. “We have since established that one of our suppliers had occasionally subcontracted orders to one of these Dhaka-based manufacturers,” Benetton said.  read more.
International Business Times UK

* German co. KIK surprised as sample found in Rana Plaza:

A German clothing company says it is “surprised, shocked and appalled” after samples of its textiles were reportedly found in the remains of a Bangladesh garment factory that collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka last week.

German news portal Spiegel Online reported Thursday that rescuers found t-shirts and tops for KiK’s house brand ‘okay’ amid the rubble.
Authorities say more than 500 people died in the disaster.
Discount brand KiK says it hasn’t had any direct business relations with suppliers based in the Rana Plaza building since 2008. read more.
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* Never ending mourning at Rana Plaza:

It seems the mourning for the missing of Rana Plaza will never end on the premises of Adhar Chandra High School in Savar. Dead bodies recovered from the ruins are still arriving in numbers there on the 10th day of the rescue, keeping up hopes of the relatives to get the earthly remains of the loved ones.

“We’ve finished searching out all the hospitals where the injured people were taken after the rescue. Now, there is no much hope that he would come back alive among us… we could only get his dead body,” said Panna Begum, wife of missing worker Mohammad Rafique, on Friday morning.

Rafique used to work on the third floor of Rana Plaza, he took the job on the 22nd of the last month, just two days before the collapse. Rafique’s two sons –- Jubaer, 7, and Siam, 4 — and his mother have also been staying at the school-ground along with Panna for the most part of the days.

Asked about his father, the elder son said, “Father left home in the morning…we’ve come to find him out.”  read more.

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* Death toll soars to 518:

Death toll from nine-storey Rana Plaza collapse reaches to 518 on Friday evening as rescuers pulled 70 more bodies out of the concrete rubble 10th day into the collapse.

According to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) control room, the number of people rescued alive remained unchanged at 2,437.
The frantic search for the missing people is going on in full swing as the rescuers have been using heavy equipment to remove the concrete slabs from the ruins.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Tk 100 cr fund for Savar victims:

Commercial banks will constitute a Tk 1 billion fund to extend financial support to the families of the Savar building collapse victims, reports bdnews24.com.

President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed made the announcement at a press briefing at the Federation building in the capital on Friday.
At least 516 people have been confirmed dead after the nine-storey Rana Plaza collapsed on Apr 24. More than 2,000 other people were rescued from the debris.
Akram said: “Discussions with Bangladesh Bank have already been held. This Tk 1 billion will be deposited at the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund under the supervision of Bangladesh Bank. The families of those killed and injured will be given assistance from there.”
read more. & read more. & read more.
newstodayBD  bdnews24 

* BD reforming its garment industry, PM tells CNN:

Bangladesh’s prime minister acknowledged Thursday that her nation’s garment industry is beset with problems, but said her government is moving rapidly to fix them, reports Tom Watkins of CNN.

“Bangladesh now is a place for good conditions for the investment,” Sheikh Hasina told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour eight days after a nine-story building collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 437 people (until the time of the interview), most of them garment workers. She said 2,437 survivors were pulled from the rubble, where recovery work was continuing.
(…)
But at least one company has pulled out of Bangladesh, citing a spate of fatal factory accidents, the report added.
The Walt Disney Company sent a letter in March to vendors and licensees to transition production out of the “highest-risk countries,” such as Bangladesh, in order to bolster safety standards in its supply chain.
Disney will halt production in four other countries: Ecuador, Venezuela, Belarus and Pakistan, by April 2014.

The decision was made before last month’s building collapse. It was prompted by the November fire at the Tazreen Fashions Factory in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka that killed 112 people, and another fire in Pakistan that killed 262 garment workers last September.

Asked about reports that only 18 inspectors are responsible for overseeing safety conditions in more than 100,000 garment factories in and around the capital city, Hasina said, “We don’t depend on only … those inspectors.”  read more.

* Top buyers least focused on working conditions:

Top buyers’ ignorance about garment factories’ compliance standards is one of the main reasons behind the tragic incidents in the sector, sources said.

The accidents, especially the Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions tragedies, claimed lives of hundreds of poor workers.
The deaths could be averted, if the top buyers like the Danish H&M, the USA’s Walmart and UK’s Tesco also would have focused their attention on the working conditions, readymade garment (RMG) unit owners said.

The buyers focus only on the profit margins, lead time and the quality of products, not on the working conditions, they added. read more.

* Canadian buyer pledges help:

Vows to continue buying apparels from Bangladesh

Loblaw, a major Canadian retailer, has vowed to keep sourcing apparel products from Bangladesh and help the country raise the standards for building codes.
The assurance came in the wake of the recent garment factory disaster in Savar that killed more than 500 people.

Galen G Weston, chairman of Loblaw, said his company wanted more rigorous factory inspections that would, for the first time, examine structural integrity of buildings that house these garment factories.
He also said Loblaw, which owns discount clothing chain, was trying to figure out what more it could do to improve workplace conditions, according to the CBC News website.
Weston made the comments while addressing the press along with Joe Mimran, the fashion retailer who founded Loblaw’s Joe Fresh line, on Thursday to discuss the Rana Plaza tragedy.  read more.
daily star bd

* The Rana Plaza tragedy:

The catastrophe that took place at Savar due to carelessness of the owner of the plaza and of the garment unit owners.

The death toll is the highest ever. When other organizations decided to close down their institutions, the garments were opened in order to minimize the loss of persistent hartals. The fateful employees were forced to enter the building. Local authority said that there was nothing to worry. How did the local government body assure that without inspection?  read more.

* Rana Plaza tragedy sends shockwaves across the world:

A great man-made tragedy has befallen Bangladesh following deaths of so many readymade garment (RMG) workers after the collapse of an eight-storey Rana Plaza at Savar recently.

More than 400 garment workers were killed. As many as five garment factories were located in the plaza. This man-made disaster took place at a time when apparel industry in Bangladesh is having serious scrutiny of the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). The safety and working conditions of workers in garment industry has raised questions in western countries, particularly in the United States. A 15-member Bangladesh delegation, led by Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmad, briefed the USTR at a hearing in Washington on March 28 on the measures undertaken by the government for improvement of the conditions in garment industry in Bangladesh.  read more.

* Hard lessons from Savar tragedy:

The catastrophic eight-storey building collapse in Bangladesh on April 24 has put on trial the country’s readiness to face a disaster, natural or man-made.

The great tragedy that had befallen on over 4,000/5,000 poor garment workers, mostly women, has sent shockwaves through the length and breadth of the world. The world press, particularly the media in Europe and the United States has focused prominently the tragedy which almost all agree to call man-made. It was not an accident: it was a work of a few individuals who gave more importance to money-making than the safety of the workers.

The poor workers, who had initially refused to enter the massive building earlier declared by appropriate authorities as dangerous, were simply herded into the factories that were housed there.
The Savar tragedy, as it is called, gave an eloquent testimony to a great fund of sympathy and fellow-feelings the Bangladeshis, particularly, the poor segment, nurture in their hearts.  read more.

* Savar death toll may shoot up:

522 bodies recovered so far; rescuers see many bodies as they dig through debris

The death toll of the Rana Plaza disaster soared to 522 yesterday as heavy equipment continue to remove large chunks of rubble only to discover bodies underneath.

Between 12:10am and 10:10pm yesterday, 77 bodies were found, the highest since the second phase of the rescue operation began on April 28 night with heavy equipment and sniffer dogs.
More bodies are thought to be buried under the debris of the nine-storey Rana Plaza and rescuers fear the toll could rise sharply as they go deeper into the rubble pile.
The rescuers were seen removing the roof of the top floor yesterday using cranes. The concrete roof was being removed in sections.
Rana Plaza, which housed several garment factories, came crashing down on April 24 after owners forced several thousand workers to work there despite cracks had developed on some pillars and floors the day before. It is still unclear how many workers were there on that fateful day.  read more.
daily star bd

* Death toll from Rana Plaza collapse reaches 544:

The death toll from the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse reached 544 on Saturday morning with the recovery of 30 more bodies from the ruins of the collapsed eight-storey building.

Rescuers retrieved 30 bodies from the wreckage of the collapsed building from 12 am to 11:30 am today (Saturday), said Officer-in-Charge Asaduzzaman of Savar Model Police Station.
Of the recovered bodies, 444 bodies were handed over to their families while the rest have been kept on the Savar Adhar Chandra Model High School ground and at the morgues of Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Dhaka Mitford Hospital.
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* 3 RMG factories shut as cracks found:

The authorities of three garments including Vertex Ltd shut their factories as cracks found in buildings at Tetuljhora in Savar of the city.

Already three factories were closed and another will be closed anytime for safety where workers were protesting on Saturday morning.
Workers got panicked seeing cracks at finishing section of the first floor in Vertex factory on Friday.
Meanwhile the authority convinced workers to join work but next day the workers protested again seeing developed cracks on Saturday morning.
Later, agitated workers protested in front of the factory for safe working environment.
read more. & read more.
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* EU warns of trade action:

Wants measures to ensure safety standards of factories in Bangladesh; experts see bad signal for export

The European Union, the largest destination for the country’s garment items, plans to take trade actions against Bangladesh, which the industry insiders think will have a negative impact on apparel exports.

The bloc of 27 countries is considering taking action to oblige Bangladesh to improve safety standards in factories as a way of preventing frequent accidents, following the death of more than 400 garment workers in the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar.
The EU has voiced concern over labour conditions, including health and safety provisions, established for workers in factories across the country.
“The EU is presently considering appropriate action, including through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) — through which Bangladesh currently receives duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market under the ‘Everything But Arms’ scheme — in order to incentivise responsible management of supply chains involving developing countries,” it said in a joint statement on April 30.
read more. & read more.
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* Dhaka urges no harsh EU measures:

Bangladesh has urged the European Union (EU), the largest export destination of the nation, not to take any harsh trade action, as the government is taking necessary measures to ensure occupational safety in the factories.

The commerce ministry sent a letter to the Bangladesh ambassador in the EU on May 2 explaining the latest situation of the RanaPlaza tragedy and the government’s action plans for ensuring the safety standards in the garment factories.
“In the letter, we explained the tragedy. We have also said the government is very sincere for the safety of the garment workers, as it has already formed different committees after the incident,” Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told The Daily Star by phone on Saturday.
As the ministry has replied to the recent statement of the EU, Bangladeshi officials in the Europe will lobby through their diplomatic channels so that the EU does not take any actions against Bangladesh, Ahmed said.
read more. & read more.
daily star bd 

* Tragedy won’t affect RMG export: Muhith:

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith believes the Savar building collapse killing over 500 people will not hurt readymade garment export.

“This is tragic. Many of our workers have been killed and injured. All of us are grief-struck,” he said on Friday at a programme in the Indian capital New Delhi.

Nine-storey Rana Plaza, housing five readymade garment factories, caved in on Apr 24 with over 3,000 workers, mostly women, at work there. So far, 523 have been confirmed dead. Thousands others have been injured in the worst ever industrial disaster in the world. These factories manufactured clothing for renowned European and American brands.  read more.
bdnews24

* Loblaw to stay, help in Bangladesh:

Loblaw says it will continue manufacturing Joe Fresh clothing in Bangladesh and also take new steps to ensure the structural integrity of the factories in the wake of the collapse of a building that housed one of its suppliers.

“We must do a better job to enforce the safety of workers producing our products in Bangladesh and around the world,” Joe Mimran, who founded the clothing brand Joe Fresh, said Thursday.
More than 400 people died when the illegally constructed, eight-storey building collapsed last week. One of the factories in the building produced items for Loblaw`s Joe Fresh clothing line, but numerous other clothing makers were also in the complex.  read more.
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* Disney Ditches Bangladesh as Factory Death Toll Passes 500:

In the wake of the April 24 factory collapse that killed more than 500 workers near Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Walt Disney Company has decided to stop production of its products in the impoverished South Asian country.

The company’s decision was condemned by some anti-sweatshop activists.

Liana Foxvog and Judy Gearhart of the International Labor Rights Forum wrote in The New York Times Thursday that the decision “validates and justifies many factory owners’ practice of hiding their real problems from the global brands.”
Disney’s pull-out “is shameful and should not be emulated,” wrote the activists, who recommended “contractual commitment[s]” to the safety of workers.
read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Pressure on Bangladesh, retailers to fix factories:

A clothes tag lies in the rubble of a garments factory that collapsed in Savar near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, May 3. Photo: AP

In the aftermath of a building collapse that killed more than 530 people, Bangladesh’s garment manufacturers may face a choice of reform or perish.

Home to five factories that supplied clothing to retailers in Europe and the United States, the shoddily constructed building’s collapse has put a focus on the high human price paid when Bangladeshi government ineptitude, Western consumer apathy and global retailing’s drive for the lowest cost of production intersect.
read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Brands revisit concerns over BD after building collapse:

Apparel companies are weighing their options in the wake of a factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 500 people, choosing between improving facilities there or pulling out of the country altogether.

But even before last week’s incident, brands were already showing cold feet over maintaining production in Bangladesh.
Walt Disney Company (DIS), the world’s largest licenser, revealed on its website this week that in March it put a stop to production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh, following a factory fire last year that killed 112 people.
Boxes of licensed sweatshirts set to be shipped to Wal-Mart’s (WMT) stores were found at the factory that had a fire. Walmart said the products were moved there for storage without its knowledge.  read more.
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* Factory Collapse Could Force Rethink for Garment Industry:

The tragedy of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh has prompted a wave of fury across the world.
There is anger that profits were put above the lives of the thousands of people who worked long hours for minimal pay, and anger at international buyers that give little thought to health and safety.

Employees were forced to continue working in the building near the capital, Dhaka, despite it having been condemned as unsafe just the day before it collapsed. By Friday, the death toll had exceeded 500.
But John Hilary, executive director of the campaigning group War on Want, said the terrible scenes at Rana Plaza had become a “defining moment” in raising people`s consciousness.

“The link between poverty and cheap clothes made in Bangladesh has been well established,” says Hilary. “What is important about this tragedy is that is has thrown into stark relief the fact that this is an industry where the workers are not just exploited and forced to work in an environment of harassment, violence and abuse, but where basic guarantees of safety have been thrown to the wind, where corners have been cut to the extent that a building can collapse on top of thousands of workers.”  read more.
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* Trauma robs survivor of sleep:

Luck seemed to have favoured Sherpur’s Nazmul Rashid Faruk more than it did his colleagues at Rana Plaza.

Rescuers had lifted them out of the ruins two days after the ill-built high-rise collapsed in a heap on its over 3000 workers in Savar .
The moment of that fateful collapse, fragmented memory of 60 hours spent in the darkness of death, voices of his wounded colleagues along with the putrid smell of death has left him without sleep.

The trauma haunts Nazmul every time he closes his eyes and the hundreds crying for their lives flock his vision. The stench from the rotting dead strikes away his sleep but he finds himself safe in his bed.

Nazmul who worked as a quality controller for Phantom Apparels was talking to bdnews24.com at his residence in Uttara.
“I can’t sleep at night. I keep hearing them screaming for water … and to be rescued. A girl writhing in pain under a fallen beam. I feel they are calling me”
read more.
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* Death toll from Rana Plaza collapse reaches 553:


Armymen and firefighters engaged on the 11th consecutive day to pull out more bodies from under the debris of collapsed Rana Plaza on Saturday. NN photo

The death toll from the disastrous Rana Plaza collapse reached 553 on Saturday night with the recovery of 20 more bodies from the debris of the collapsed eight-storey building.

Rescuers retrieved 20 bodies from the wreckage of the collapsed building from 12 am to 9pm today (Saturday), said officer-in-charge of Dhaka district Detective Branch of police Wahiduzzaman.
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* Robbery after tragedy:

Robbers early yesterday looted the burial money for a Savar tragedy victim when the deceased’s family was bringing the body home in Parbatipur upazila of Dinajpur district.

The body of Khadiza Begum, 30, wife of Yunus Ali of Taznagar village in the upazila, was recovered Friday afternoon, 10 days into the devastating collapse of Rana Plaza that killed more than 550 people.
She was a mother of two.
According to Khadiza’s husband Yunus, the authorities concerned handed the body over to them in the afternoon. At the same time they gave him Tk 30,000 for Khadiza’s burial, he added.
The very evening, the family hired a microbus and started for home.  read more.
daily star bd

* With agony, they wait for bodies:

The agonising wait at Adhar Chandra High School in Savar seems endless to Anwar Zahid. He knows his wife is dead by now but he can at least have the body to bury by himself.

“No matter how decomposed her body is, I shall recognise Nasrin,” said Zahid, a diploma engineer and an operator of an effluent treatment plant at a nearby industry.
Every time a body was recovered from the mangled wreckage of nine-storey Rana Plaza a kilometer away and brought there yesterday, Zahid rushed to check if it was of Nasrin Anwar, 22, mother of his child.
For the last 12 days since the deadliest man-made industrial disaster in the country, hundreds of men, women and children have been waiting at the school ground to see their dear ones dead or alive.
At night, some of them sleep in the open, some in small tents while some others take shelter at the residences of their relatives who fell victim to the building collapse. Local volunteers are providing them with three meals and potable water every day.

“I am looking for the body of my daughter,” someone would say carrying a picture of a young woman. “I am looking for my son’s,” someone else would rush in to add.
read more.
daily star bd

* …Unending wait for dear ones:

Families of the people who could not be traced 11 days into the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24 were still waiting at the site and nearby Adhar Chandra School ground at Savar with the hope they would get the bodies of their dear ones as rescue operation continued.

Hundreds of relatives are crowding the site though most of the bodies being recovered from the debris have decomposed beyond recognition and are being taken to hospital mortuaries.
With the number of unclaimed bodies growing, rescuers said it would be a miracle if anyone was found still alive inside the rubble 11 days after the disaster.
‘We are pulling out the decomposed bodies carefully so that they could at least be recognised,’ army major Khijir Khan, who was engaged in rescue operation, told New Age on Saturday.    read more.

* Rescue goes at slow pace:

Eleven days into the country’s deadliest building collapse in Savar, the official rescuers are clueless about how many bodies are still locked in the mammoth concrete wreckage and how long it may take to remove the piles.

Just one-fifth of the rubble has been removed over the past one week, officials say. Some ground workers estimate it would take at least two more weeks to clear the debris of nine-storey Rana Plaza.
There is an estimated 9,000 tonnes of wreckage, including machines, 2,000 tonnes of which have so far been removed, said Major Moazzem of army engineers’ corps.
Bodies are still found in the building’s rear staircase, he said. It seems there are still quite a number of bodies in the rubble.  read more.
daily star bd

* Rights groups blast Muhith:

Rights groups blasted finance minister AMA Muhith’s for describing the recent factory disaster at Savar which killed hundreds of apparel workers as ‘an accident.’
None but a mental patient can make such remarks, they said.

Everyone at home and abroad is convinced that the apparel workers became victims of murder, they said.
Collapse of Rana Plaza which housed five apparel factories killed more than 500 workers, left over 2,000 crippled or maimed and several others traceless.
The civil rights and workers’ rights groups said that they could not understand in what mental state the finance minister could make such cruel remarks following the footsteps of his cabinet colleague Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir who said that the multi-storied Rana Plaza was pulled down by the opposition activists.  read more.

* BGMEA to set up a database of garment workers:

Garment industry leaders sit with editors of newspapers

The garment sector’s apex trade body plans to prepare a central database of garment workers for ease of verification during crises.

“People always question the casualty numbers quoted during any tragedy in the garment sector, as the trade body does not have any central database of the 3.6 million workers,” Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
“We will sign an agreement with the ILO [International Labour Organisation] soon to prepare a central database of workers,” he added. read more.
daily star bd

* Editors advise BGMEA to win back credibility:

The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association needs to win back its credibility at home and abroad in the interest of the country’s apparel sector, editors of national daily newspapers said in a programme on Saturday.

The editors at an exchange of views at the BGMEA office in the wake of Rana Plaza collapse also said that the association had to make some pragmatic measures for the welfare of the workers which could help them to earn back the confidence of workers and buyers.
(…)
Zaglul Ahmed said that the Rana Plaza disaster left a negative impact on the Bangladesh’s apparel sector on the international market.
Asking the BGMEA about initiatives it took in a number of accidents in the apparel sector that took place earlier, he suggested long-term safety and rehabilitation programmes.
Riazuddin suggested that the BGMEA should launch a damage control campaign at the international level.
He said that the BGMEA would need to set up monitoring committee involving factory owners, workers, the International Labour Organisation, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha and law enforcers to avoid the recurrence of such incidents. He also suggested the establishment of a well-equipped permanent rescue team.
Motiur Rahman said that the BGMEA should send a business delegation to major markets such as the United States and the European countries for a campaign to maintain the apparel sector growth after the building collapse that negatively impacted the country’s apparel sector.
read more. & read more.
  

* Analysis- A difficult bridge to cross:

The picture is pretty clear now. A few are blaming the building owner, a few think the manufacturers ought to be ‘hanged’; a few are holding the retailers responsible for not paying enough and for not having imposed strict compliance codes; a few even think that nothing will be affected.

The real picture is far from any of this. No matter how much Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) tries and brings the entire sector under scrutiny, not much will change.
No matter how much the government tries to rein in safety measures and tough clauses, manufacturers will always find a loophole and use it as an exit point. No matter what anyone says or pledges, buyers will continue to buy from this country as competitive prices as they are not here for charity.  read more.

* BGMEA lingers probe report submission:

Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) asked its probe body to submit the report on Savar Rana Plaza collapse within 10-day after the completion of rescue operation.

Wishing anonymity, a member of the probe body said, “A letter has been issued to us in this regard. read more.
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* Loblaw condemns ‘deafening silence’:

In the aftermath of a deadly collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, one North American retail giant whose products have been made there is accusing the global industry of failing to properly respond.

“I am troubled by the deafening silence from other apparel retailers on this issue,” Galen Weston, the executive chairman of Loblaw, a Canadian apparel brand that used the Rana Plaza factory to manufacture its goods, said in Toronto on Thursday, during his company’s annual meeting. “As many as 30 international apparel brands were having goods manufactured in this building, yet only two have come forward and publicly commented.”
Weston announced that Loblaw will enact new rules aimed at preventing future tragedies. The company will now examine the structural integrity of factory buildings when it conducts audits of suppliers, and it will deploy employees to facilities that make its goods and have them send reports directly to corporate. The company is also forming a relief fund for the Rana Plaza victims and their families.
read more.
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* The global garment trail : From Bangladesh to a mall near you:

As foreign retailers embraced Bangladesh’s cheap and speedy garment-making prowess, Bazlus Samad Adnan sensed there was a moment to be seized.

“There’s money in the air,” friends of the entrepreneur recall him saying. “You just need to know how to grab it.”
Adnan and a friend set up a small garment factory, New Wave Style, behind a slum outside Dhaka in 2006, just as foreign clothing giants swept into Bangladesh, enticed by rock-bottom labor costs. Within a few years, his company was doing work for top international brands, such as Italian retailer Benetton Group SpA.
By then, New Wave Style had moved to the sixth and seventh floors of Rana Plaza, one of myriad factory buildings to sprout amid the nation’s once-in-a-generation economic flowering.  read more.
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* Action plan to protect workers safety in line with ILO:

Tripartite partners-government, employers and workers have taken an action plan under consultation with International Labour Organization (ILO) to prevent any tragedies like Rana Plaza.

The action plan was announced at a press briefing at the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the conclusion of Dhaka visit of  an ILO delegation led by its Deputy Director General (DDG)  Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo.

The ILO delegation visited Bangladesh from May 1 and May 4 to  convey the solidarity of the ILO with those affected by the  tragic events, the partners from government, labour and the  industry.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Bangladesh collapse toll at 550, ILO urges closure of unsafe units:

The UN’s labour agency urged Bangladesh to close unsafe factories as search teams today pulled more bodies from the wreckage of the nation’s worst industrial disaster, pushing the death toll to at least 550.

The collapse of the eight-storey garment factory complex outside Dhaka last week was the latest in a string of catastrophes to befall the USD 20 billion textile industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports.
Action is needed to ensure such “avoidable accidents”, that tarnish the image of Bangladesh’s industrial image never recur, said Gilbert Houngbo, field operations deputy director-general at the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The government must “make sure all factories are inspected and any remedial action necessary is put in place,” Houngbo told AFP.  read more.
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* ILO against boycotting of Bangladeshi RMG:

Against the backdrop of the Savar tragedy, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) voiced its opposition against boycotting of Bangladeshi readymade garments by the international buyers.

“I want to make a plea to resist the temptation for boycott or sanction. We have to keep that away from the situation provided that we act and we act now in the country,” Deputy Director-General of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo told a press conference at the Foreign Ministry on Saturday afternoon before leaving Dhaka on completion of his visit to Bangladesh.
“I met some of the representatives of the buyers during my stay here. My understanding is that there is a serious will by the international brands to contribute. It is a matter of global organisations how do we orchestrate everything to make it happen. Be it prior security dimensions or the overall supply dimension,” he said.
read more.
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* Call to make comprehensive plan for RMG industry:

Editors and journalists of different media today laid emphasis on making a comprehensive plan taking opinions from stakeholders of the Readymade Garment (RMG) industry to restore the country’s image both at home and abroad.

The Savar building collapse and the frequent fire incidents  in the multi-billion dollar garment industry have hampered the image of the country and put its RMG industry at stake.
They were exchanging views with leaders of Bangladesh Garment  Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) at the BGMEA  Bhaban in the city.
They said a committee should be formed immediately involving  the stakeholders to make the comprehensive plan for the RMG  industry.
read more. & read more.
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* Disaster in Bangladesh rags in the ruins:

As production shifts from China, Bangladesh expects to become the world’s largest exporter of clothing. Buyers are unlikely to abandon it. Some firms linked to the Savar disaster have promised compensation for victims, said The Economist in its print edition on Saturday.

The European Union (EU) says it will push for higher standards. America, which had also been negotiating duty-free access for Bangladeshi goods, had already insisted on better conditions, said the London-based prestigious weekly. read more.

* BD for donors’ support for safety standards of RMG factories:

Bangladesh has sought help from the international community and the development partners for reinforcing the government’s efforts to ensure occupational safety and improve working conditions in apparel factories.

The ministry of commerce (MoC) sent letters last Thursday to some major development partners including the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU), seeking their assistance to this end.

“Following the tragic incident at Savar in Dhaka, the government is committed to redoubling its efforts to ensure occupational safety and improve working conditions in the factories,” the MoC wrote in its letter. It was intended to apprise the development partners of the steps taken so far by the government after the Rana Plaza collapse.  read more.

* Factory collapse a catalyst for workers’ rights:

Since the collapse last week of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza much of the focus has been on international retailers and what they can do to ensure the safety of the 3.6m Bangladeshis working in a $19bn industry focused on producing clothes for cost-conscious western consumers.

But Bangladeshi labour rights activists, and their international supporters, say the tragedy at Rana Plaza — which left more than 500 dead after garment workers were forced back to the production lines even after the building developed cracks — has highlighted a simple truth.
They argue that Bangladesh’s garment workers, mostly women from poor rural backgrounds, need to organise labour unions that can effectively represent their interests, including their fundamental interest in a safe workplace. read more.
daily star bd

* Conspiracy to destroy garments industry: How far tenable? :

When widespread unrest flared up in apparel hubs of Ashulia, Gazipur and Narayanganj after the tragic Rana Plaza incident, industry leaders came up with a renewed plea that a ‘vested quarter’ was out to destroy the country’s readymade garment (RMG) industry by creating anarchy and unrest.

They said a vested group is instigating the workers for creating unrest in the apparel industry. As the sector is already undergoing a critical time following Savar tragedy, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) called upon all workers to refrain from agitation and join the factories and resume production for ‘the betterment of the sector and to make timely shipment of the products’.
Now the question remains — how far this ‘conspiracy theory’ is tenable?
read more.

* Long-term Solution for Recurrence of Savar type Disaster:

In a notice Dr. Syed Tarique-Uz-Zaman (Coordinator, SAPRODEW) writes:

Guy Rider, ILO DG is right saying two weaknesses responsible for recurrences of accidents in Bangladesh Garment factories; 1. is not allowing factory level union formation by the authority (law in favour of union is there, but authority willfully is not allowing), and 2. is weak Inspectorate of Factories.

In case of presence of union at factory level, then someone from the workers side could also point out OSH problem to the owners/ management, participate in monitoring.
Now, in the absence of union and representative of the workers no one is there to look after the workers safety problems inside factory.

That day in an interview Chief Inspector of Factories said that now the number of Inspector in their Institution is less than what they had in 1970, though number of factories is many folds. When an accident takes places Govt., form a “High power committee”, then after some days after some meetings and decisions (but no implementation and follow up) its function ceased to continue.
Instead of this type of adhoc measures we need Strengthening of this Institution and sufficient skilled manpower along with legal authority to take actions against the rule violators.   This institutionalisation would be a permanent measure.

Two more important steps are necessary: one is sufficient compensation package for dead and injured workers.
Now as per existing law it is BDT 100.000 (Equivalent to about Euro 1000), but time to time if the scale of disaster is big (like Tazrin factory) and nation wise hue and cry is there govt., BGMEA give more (for Tazrin Tk. 600.000) per worker.
But that is adhoc basis step. If in another factory one or two workers die then compensation would be just Tk. 100.000, not more.
So official compensation package must be raised depending on logical analysis, how much a workers would earn in his life time if s/he remains alive.
Now in Bangladesh all TUs and civil society people are demanding compensation on that basis, though calculations varies from one to other,
of which minimum comes to Tk. 1.000.000 (about Euro 10,000) and maximum Tk
3.000.000 (Euro 30,000).
This is logical demand not only helpful to solve immediate rehabilitation of workers (if alive with disability) and their families (if dead) but also will work as a deterrent for further accident as the owners will be cautious about safety of their factories in order to avoid big compensation money.

Next is legal actions as per building code as well as criminal code against the owners, negligence of whom caused so many deaths, this is just willful killing according to people from all sections. If that kind of punishment is ensured all other owners will be very much cautious about safety of their factories.
There can be other steps, but these 4 are fundamental.
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* Factory owners ignore safety as buyers refuse to share costs:

Factory owners in Bangladesh have failed to spend money for workers’ safety and their welfare as the buyers are not sharing such expenses despite doubling of production costs, stakeholders say.

They said depreciation of US dollar against Bangladesh taka, increased production costs and stiff competition among the factory owners to get work orders at almost cost price have squeezed their profits.
President of Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB) Abdus Salam Murshedy told the FE Saturday more than a hundred woven and knitwear items are being exported from Bangladesh.

He said during the last one year, production costs of these items have doubled.
“But instead of sharing the costs, the buyers are paying less than earlier,” he alleged.
read more.

MORE AND OTHER NEWS:

* Labour courts inadequate:

Only seven courts in operation, largely beyond workers’ reach

The labour and employment ministry cannot ensure justice to workers countywide due to a severe shortage of labour courts under the ministry, said officials concerned.

The seven existing labour courts established under the labour law remain largely out of workers’ reach since these are located at divisional headquarters — three courts in Dhaka, two in Chittagong and one each in Rajshahi and Khulna.
This means workers in different districts must go to the divisional headquarters to file cases with the labour courts, which is impossible for many, said officials in the labour ministry and labour courts.
Even there is no labour court at three divisional headquarters–Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur. Workers living in Barisal division are more unfortunate than those working in Rangpur and Sylhet divisions. There are three circuit labour courts in Sylhet, Bogra and Rangpur where the judge from a neighbouring division’s labour court sits occasionally to dispose of cases filed by workers.  read more.
daily star bd

* Trade union right still illusive:

Only 3.88pc of the workers unionised

Trade union rights for workers in Bangladesh remain illusive as only 3.88 per cent of the employed workforce in the country are unionised.

Legal barrier to informal sector workers, wholesale privatisation, strong opposition of owners, opportunism, undue political interference, workers’ disunity and ideological divide among the leaders have stalled the trade union movement in Bangladesh for decades, allowing the workers’ rights to be trampled, said analysts and activists.
The absence of constructive unionism has imperilled the workers in both formal and informal sectors as they lack the basic rights of a national minimum wage, appropriate working atmosphere, safety, health facilities, leave and mechanism for dispute settlement, they added.
‘The trade union rights were crippled when de-nationalisation started and the private sector patronised in the country. The owners of private mills and factories deprived the workers of their rights to trade union,’ said Sramik Karmachari Oikya Parishad coordinator Wajed-ul Islam Khan. read more.

* US reviewed Bangladesh trade status before collapse:

Months before a garment-factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 500 people, the US government said it was considering revoking the nation’s preferred trade status over treatment of workers.

The US Trade Representative’s office said in a January 8 notice in the Federal Register that “the lack of progress by the government of Bangladesh in addressing worker rights issues in the country warrants consideration of possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation Bangladesh’s trade benefits.”
The office said an inter-agency panel had concluded that the plight of workers may justify ending Bangladesh’s participation in a program known as the Generalized System of Preferences. That status lowers or eliminates tariffs on some products imported into the US. The USTR is scheduled to decide in June whether to pursue the matter further.  read more.
daily star bd

18:31:11 local time map of india INDIA

* ‘Working class must protect right to form unions’:

Members of the CITU and the AITUC taking out a rally in the city on Wednesday. Photo: S. JamesMembers of the CITU and the AITUC taking out a rally in the city on Wednesday. Photo: S. James

Leaders of political parties and trade unions appealed to the working class to put up a united fight for keeping alive the right to form unions and for continued implementation of labour laws.

Addressing a public meeting jointly organised by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and the All India Trade Union Congress in connection with 128 May Day celebration, CITU functionary and leader of Communist Party of India K. alanichamy said no demand of the working class had been met without a series of struggles.
Communist Party of India MLA A.Lazar said the election to cooperative societies in the State was not conducted in a free and fair manner in many places. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, as a responsible opposition party, should have taken part in the election, he said.  read more.
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SAVAR COLLAPSE: under “special reports you can find an overview of articlles.

HEADLINES:

PHILIPPINES
* Workers’ separation pay hike sought

BANGLADESH
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE

20130503
* Savar building collapse death toll passes 500
* Bangladesh building death toll tops 500
* Traumatized Savar survivors need psychological intervention: experts
* ILO expects a way forward, roadmap by Saturday: Gilbert Houngbo
* Bangladesh is reforming its garment industry: PM
* Disaster not ‘really serious’: Muhith
* Loblaw sticks with BD, but plans changes
* Disney’s BD exit puts pressure on other retailers
* Bangladesh Fears an Exodus of Apparel Firms
* How textile kings weave a hold on Bangladesh

* Were Rana Plaza Workers Sewing Clothes for Benetton when Building Collapsed?
* German co. KIK surprised as sample found in Rana Plaza
* Never ending mourning at Rana Plaza

20130504

* Death toll soars to 518
* Tk 100 cr fund for Savar victims
* BD reforming its garment industry, PM tells CNN
* Top buyers least focused on working conditions
* Canadian buyer pledges help
* The Rana Plaza tragedy
* Rana Plaza tragedy sends shockwaves across the world
* Hard lessons from Savar tragedy
* Savar death toll may shoot up

* Death toll from Rana Plaza collapse reaches 544
* 3 RMG factories shut as cracks found
* EU warns of trade action
* Tragedy won’t affect RMG export: Muhith
* Loblaw to stay, help in Bangladesh
* Disney Ditches Bangladesh as Factory Death Toll Passes 500
* Pressure on Bangladesh, retailers to fix factories
* Brands revisit concerns over BD after building collapse
* Factory Collapse Could Force Rethink for Garment Industry
* Trauma robs survivor of sleep

* Death toll from Rana Plaza collapse reaches 553
* Robbery after tragedy
* With agony, they wait for bodies
* …Unending wait for dear ones
* Rescue goes at slow pace
* Rights groups blast Muhith
* BGMEA to set up a database of garment workers
* Editors advise BGMEA to win back credibility
* Analysis- A difficult bridge to cross
* BGMEA lingers probe report submission
* Loblaw condemns ‘deafening silence’
* The global garment trail : From Bangladesh to a mall near you
* Action plan to protect workers safety in line with ILO
* Bangladesh collapse toll at 550, ILO urges closure of unsafe units
* ILO against boycotting of Bangladeshi RMG
* Call to make comprehensive plan for RMG industry
* Disaster in Bangladesh rags in the ruins
* BD for donors’ support for safety standards of RMG factories
* Factory collapse a catalyst for workers’ rights
* Conspiracy to destroy garments industry: How far tenable?
* Long-term Solution for Recurrence of Savar type Disaster
* Factory owners ignore safety as buyers refuse to share costs

* MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Labour courts inadequate
* Trade union right still illusive
* US reviewed Bangladesh trade status before collapse

INDIA
* ‘Working class must protect right to form unions’

latest tweets (& news)

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand

What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
    David Crosby

I wonder who they are
The people who are buying these clothes
I'd like to know what they've paid for it
How much the makers have paid for this
Fairer income is not an awful lot to ask
Better working conditions is not an awful lot to ask
    A. Searcher

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2