in the news on-line, 6 May 2013

23:22:19 local time map of philippines PHILIPPINES

* Progressive partylists cite solutions to low wages, unemployment:

There was a time when the first of May usually brought good news such as wage hikes. But nowadays, not only do workers not get a substantial wage hike, their hard-won wages are even being eroded and undercut by the government’s new wage policies.

“President Aquino has given big businesses and capitalists the imprimatur to further exploit Filipino workers by cutting and freezing wages through the Two-Tiered Wage System,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus. The new wage policy apparently adds to the wage-freeze capability of regionalized wage-setting. In Region 4, it has ordered a lower than minimum wage called “floor wage.”  read more.

* The best non-wage gift–ever:

President Aquino did not announce any wage increase and yet assured that the government will not stop looking for ways to improve the condition of workers through other non-wage benefits.

Mr. Aquino had already rejected workers’ appeal for more tax relief. He even announced an increase in members’ contribution to the Social Security System. So left to wonder what other non-wage benefit he has in mind, may we suggest something that will help ease the burdens of working Filipinos across all income levels, help the business sector grow and provide more jobs, as well as drive more foreign investments into the country.  read more.
businessmirrorPH

22:22:19 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

 * Statue of Slain Union Leader Unveiled Near Murder Site:

Free Trade Union leader Chea Mony stands with a statue of his late brother, Chea Vichea, the former FTU president, at the official unveiling in Phnom Penh on Friday. The statue is located just meters from the spot where Chea Vichea was assassinated in 2004. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)
Free Trade Union leader Chea Mony stands with a statue of his late brother, Chea Vichea, the former FTU president, at the official unveiling in Phnom Penh on Friday. The statue is located just meters from the spot where Chea Vichea was assassinated in 2004. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily

The plinth-mounted 1.68-meter statue was shrouded in red fabric prior to its unveiling, after which it was adorned with garlands of jasmine flowers by mourners.

The statue depicts the once-popular union leader—who was gunned down just meters away on January 22, 2004—holding a microphone with his right arm outstretched, as if to address an audience.And while the stone effigy bears very little resemblance to Chea Vichea, it is in fact the second attempt to create his likeness in statue form—the first by a Siem Reap-based sculptor was scrapped entirely after the FTU said it was not happy with the representation.  read more.
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23:22:19 local time map of indonesia INDONESIA

* Labor activists face rights struggle:

Khotiah, a factory worker, said she never expected her back-breaking work spanning 11 years at the Siliwangi Knitting Factory in North Jakarta to end with her dismissal for forming a labor union.

“We formed a labor union in April 2010. We demanded that the factory be responsible for our financial welfare,” she said.
The factory fired her on Dec. 28, 2010, after they had tried to persuade her to dissolve the union by offering her a “better position” as an assistant in the human resources department. “I refused the offer and chose to stay committed to the union,” Khotiah said. read more.
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* Quo vadis the minimum wage? :

Every time workers all over Indonesia mark International Workers’ Day, known as May Day, the issue of the minimum wage comes to the fore, this year was no different.

The minimum wage is the lowest monthly pay for a single worker with a working period of one year or less, the amount is determined by regional heads in accordance with the basic cost of living (KHL). Indicators of the KHL are determined by the government. Ideally, the minimum wage should at least equal KHL but according to the National Wage Council (2011) average minimum wages in the country cover less than 89 percent of basic living costs.
Although not obligatory, the Labor Law suggests that the government set the minimum wage by taking economic growth into account.  read more.
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21:22:19 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLADESH

THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE

* Death toll rises to 584:

The death toll rose to 584 in Savar Rana Plaza collapse with the recovery of 21 more bodies till 10:00am Sunday on the 12th day of the incident.

Of them, a total of 469 bodies were indentified and handed over to their families.
Confirming the death toll and body handover, Army control room said 21 more decomposed bodies were recovered from the debris between 6:00am to 10:00am.
Rescuers said they found some bodies at Phantom Garment housed at fourth floor of Rana Plaza around 10:00am. Of them, 12 bodies were recovered and more bodies remained trapped in that place.
read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Burnt rescuer dies in S’pore:

A rescuer, who sustained burn injuries while trying to rescue trapped garment worker Shaheena from Rana Plaza rubble on April 28, died at a Singapore hospital Saturday night.

Mohammad Ezazuddin Kaikobad, a volunteer aged around 35, breathed his last at 10:55pm (Bangladesh time), said Col Shayekh of ninth infantry division of Bangladesh Army told The Daily Star on Sunday.
Kaikobad was flown to Singapore for better treatment on the instructions of the prime minister on April 30.
Ezaz along with five other rescuers, including two army personnel, entered a tunnel inside the rubble of Rana Plaza on April 28 to pull out Shaheena, who got trapped behind a beam on the third floor.  read more. & read more.
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* Army starts verifying claims on missing victims:

As the confusion over the actual figures of those missing in the Savar tragedy spreads, the Bangladesh Army, which is spearheading the rescue operations, has started verification of missing persons.

However, two senior Army officers, who were working at the control room, told The Independent on Friday night that they are only checking the list of 182 claims of missing persons, which was provided to them by the Dhaka district administration. According to the Army control room sources, among the 182 missing claims, the information of 17 claims are “incomplete” while eight were “unreachable” over telephone.
About the much-discussed list of Savar model police station, which earlier listed over 1,000 claims of missing persons, the Army personnel said: “We have communicated with the local police to obtain the list, but they have been dilly-dallying to hand over the list. We have not yet got the list from the police. We also sought the list of the readymade garments workers, who were working in the five garments factories at the devastated Rana Plaza, from the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). But they also gave us incomplete lists.”
read more.
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* Victim’s wife sues Rana, 2 others- Murder case filed:

The wife of a dead victim of Savar building collapse filed a murder case against Sohel Rana, the owner of the shattered Rana Plaza, and two others on Sunday.

The other accused are: Bazlus Samad Adnan, owner of New Wave Style which was housed in the collapsed building, and the chief engineer of Savar municipality.
The name of the engineer could not be known immediately.
Sheuli Akter, widow of Jahangir Alam who was killed in the building collapse, filed the case with the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate of Dhaka.
read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Bangladesh building owner faces murder complaint over collapse:

The wife of a Bangladeshi garment worker who was killed when a building collapsed filed a murder complaint against the building’s owner on Sunday as the death toll from the country’s worst industrial disaster climbed to 622.

Murder complaints were also filed against the owner of one of the garment factories inside the building and a municipal engineer in the suburb of the capital, Dhaka, where the factory was located.

The owner of the Rana Plaza building, Mohammed Sohel Rana, was arrested after a four-day hunt as he appeared to be trying to flee across the border to India.
He is one of nine people being held in connection with the April 24 disaster, which the government has blamed on the building’s faulty, illegal construction. read more.
reuters

* Rana Plaza architect says building was never meant for factories:

Four factories were installed at Rana Plaza regardless – one of which supplied Primark and Bonmarche, the British clothing retailers – and two unplanned storeys were also added, helping to precipitate its collapse.

Massood Reza, the architect who drew up the plan for Rana Plaza in 2004, said he was “asked to design a commercial shopping mall” with “three or four storeys for a market and then the upper two storeys were for offices”.
He said: “We did not design it for industrial use. At that time the garment belt was not there. There was no demand for industrial buildings. If I had known that it was to be an industrial building, as per the rules I would have taken other measures for the building.”  read more.

* Bangladesh clothing imports soar in NZ:

Bangladeshi-made clothing is flooding New Zealand and retailers claim they have control over the often appalling conditions in the factories supplying them.

The Warehouse and Kmart deny any of their clothing came from the eight-storey Rana Plaza that collapsed on April 24. More than 500 people are confirmed dead, with thousands injured.
Statistics New Zealand figures show that clothing imports from Bangladesh in 2011 (the latest available) jumped 51.3 per cent to $38 million worth including a 420.5 per cent jump in the value of women`s blouses and 148.6 per cent rise in male underwear. read more.
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20130506

* Death toll rises to 627:

The death toll rose to 626 in Savar Rana Plaza collapse with the recovery of 57 more bodies the debris till 9:00pm Sunday on the 12th day of the incident.

Of them, a total of 480 bodies were identified and handed over to their families.
Confirming the death toll and body handover, Army control room said most of the recovered bodies were decomposed.
Rescuers suspected that many bodies remained trapped under the collapsed building.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Rana Plaza: Of bondage, of the looser and the lost:

News - Rana Plaza: Of bondage, of the looser and the lost

Their dead bodies were found embracing one another, as if two sisters sleeping on one bed. The more surprising is that both had pillows under their heads.

It was about 7.45am on Sunday. Rescuers reached what they called yet another ‘mine’ of dead bodies at the backside of the third floor of the collapsed building. Removing some debris, they could see the dead bodies resting inside a cave-like section in the ruins.
The condition of the dead bodies speaks a lot. It was the 12th day of the collapse, but the dead bodies did not decompose at all.

Perhaps, they had survived five-six days trapped in the section, said the rescuer who pulled the first-two dead bodies out. There is no sign of injury in them, they might have died of hunger, he added.
More luckily, the identities of the two female workers were also made out from the vanity bags found there with the dead bodies.

There was a lunch box, a leaf of pills for stomach ache, a ribbon cutter, a bobbin, a prescription with a phone number written on it and another scrap paper with another phone number inside Farzana’s black vanity bag. Giving calls to one of the numbers, the Fire Service and Civil Defense (FSCD) officials identified her as the daughter of one Somed Ali in Dinajpur.  read more.

* Victims of Rana Plaza laid to rest in Chandpur:

After missing for ten days in the Savar tragedy the body of Selina Akter, 20, a staff of a garments factory on the 6th floor of Rana Plaza and also a resident of Upadhi village under Faridganj Upazila of the district was recovered on last Saturday morning from under the rubbles.

She was identified by her relatives at Audhorchondra High School ground. The body was taken to the village home on Saturday afternoon and then she was laid to rest in the family graveyard at around 3 p.m. Selina and her sister Aklima worked together on the 6th floor of Rana Plaza in a garments factory and with their income their poor family by far and less had a decent life. But this accident has shattered this family’s dream forever.
Deceased Selina was the daughter of late Sirajul Islam. Of the four daughters, Selina was the eldest. Last year, Selina along with her younger sister Aklima, 18, both worked in a garments factory in Rana plaza. They used to stay in their aunt Hosne Ara’s house at Savar. to read. & read more.
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* As if two sisters sleeping on one bed:

Their dead bodies were found embracing one another, as if two sisters sleeping on one bed. The more surprising is that both had pillows under their heads, reports UNB.

It was about 7.45am on Sunday. Rescuers reached what they called yet another ‘mine’ of dead bodies at the backside of the third floor of the collapsed building. Removing some debris, they could see the dead bodies resting inside a cave-like section in the ruins.
The condition of the dead bodies speaks a lot. It was the 12th day of the collapse, but the dead bodies did not decompose at all.
Perhaps, they had survived five-six days trapped in the section, said the rescuer who pulled the first-two dead bodies out. There is no sign of injury in them, they might have died of hunger, he added.  read more.

* PM receives Tk 10.14 cr in donation for Savar victims:

More organisations and individuals donated cheques worth over Tk 10.14 crore to the Prime Minister’s Relief and Welfare Fund on Sunday for assisting the families of those killed and injured in the tragic ‘Rana Plaza’ collapse on April 24.

PM’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters that Sheikh Hasina received cheques worth Tk 10,14,40,721 from 38 different organisations and individuals at her office. read more. & read more.

* Disney’s Disgrace:

Disney’s decision to pull out of Bangladesh is shameful and should not be emulated. Global companies have made huge profits by using Bangladeshi factories for years. Now is not the time to walk away.

If more companies left, it would be catastrophic for the country’s garment workers, who are already impoverished and have few other job options.
Although Disney may not have had that much production in Bangladesh, their policy change may lead to an exodus of other brands. What’s worse, Disney’s decision validates and justifies many factory owners’ practice of hiding their real problems from the global brands.

Corporate supply chain monitoring programs actually fuel the corruption that every brand representative in Bangladesh is bound to complain about. Their monitoring systems place additional requirements on factories without ensuring the financing needed to meet them, thereby encouraging factories to keep secret any safety risks they may have – precisely because they know brands are likely to walk away if they find out. If global brands want to ensure safety in their supply chains, they need to make a commitment – a contractual commitment – to the safety of the workers making their product.  read more.
NYT

* Benetton On Bangladesh Tragedy: No One In The Industry Should Feel Above It:

Italian apparel retailer Benetton initially denied any connection to the factory that collapsed in Bangladesh killing more than 500 people, but since then photos of the brand’s clothing in the building’s rubble have emerged.

“This is such a tragedy that no one in the industry should feel above it,” Benetton CEO Biagio Chiarolanza said in a statement to The Huffington Post on Friday. “As such, Benetton will make funds available to the victims of the families as every member of our industry has a moral obligation to intervene in their support.”
Benetton said it’s working with global non-profit organizations like the International Labor Organization to figure out how to facilitate a “significant and lasting improvement” in workers’ conditions in Bangladesh.  read more.
huffpost

* BGMEA factory reformation move leaves loopholes:

On the aftermath of the Savar Tragedy and while rescue teams toil in the rubble for bodies of victims, the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) declared that it would take a proactive action in reforming the factories through a thorough investigation and other accountability measures.

On May 1, 2013, the BGMEA released a message to its long list of garment factories and advertised it on the most widely circulated National Dailies of Bangladesh. An image of the message as published in the leading Bangla news broadsheet “Prothom Alo” on May 1, 2013, is attached in this report.
BGMEA_prothom Alo_1 may 2013
The message of the BGMEA is translated:

The respected members of the BGMEA are hereby informed that, the Structural Design and Soil Test Report of all the garment factories must be submitted to the BGMEA within 30 May, 2013. If the above mentioned Design Drawing are not available then the natural condition of factory building, i.e.  slab, column, beam and foundation size, number of rods and Soil Test Report, must be made by some certified engineering firm and submitted to the BGMEA in the mentioned time above.

As per this information provided by the BGMEA, it is quite natural for anyone to feel that a loophole remains in this process. Corruption in Bangladesh can easily allow factory owners to get themselves a certificate and submit it to the BGMEA, the same goes for the soil test. Although we do hope that none will go to the forbidden land of corruption, however, that is the most common place for some of our unfortunate garment owners as they most often fail to understand the relation that sustainability has with greater stake holder integration in the market.  read more.

* Savar tragedy and exodus of foreign buyers:

The Savar tragedy raises questions about the living standard and workplace condition of garments workers. Fixing higher standards, engaging the global buying houses in the rehabilitation programme and compensating the victims of the tragedy are some appropriate answers.

Here I must turn towards Bangladesh’s problems associated with governance and corruption. The Savar tragedy has occurred as a consequence of corruption in inspecting the building standard, in grabbing land illegally, getting political back up and using low grade material in the construction work by Sohel Rana, the owner of the complex.  read more.

* EU threatens of trade status suspension:

Urges immediate action by govt

European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has called for “immediate” action by the Bangladesh government to improve health and safety conditions in the nation’s garment industry after a factory collapse last month killed more than 500 people.

The government of Bangladesh must “change something,” De Gucht said on Sunday on RTBF radio.
“Otherwise I am ready to launch an investigation, which may lead to the suspension” of Bangladesh’s trade status with the EU, he said.
“If the result of this is that the price of T-shirts and jeans increases a bit, well that’s the way it is,” De Gucht said.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
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* B’desh trade status reviewed by US before collapse:

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

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said in a Jan. 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.”  read more.

* Apparel exporters to appoint lobbyists to retain GSP:

Apparel exporters have once again decided to appoint lobbyists to retain a trade benefit –generalised system of preferences — and get duty- and quota-free access for their products to the US market.

Two trade bodies in the sector have jointly taken the decision after the government advised them to do so following the fire at Tazreen Fashions and building collapse in Savar.
“We’re trying to appoint lobbyists; negotiations are going on,” said Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, the immediate past president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Mohiuddin attended the latest GSP hearing before the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in March as Bangladesh’s workplace safety came under severe criticism.  read more.
daily star bd

* Unsafe BD factories must close: UN:

The United Nation`s labour agency urged Bangladesh to close unsafe factories as rescuers pulled more bodies from the wreckage of the nation`s worst industrial disaster in which at least 548 have died.

The collapse of the eight-storey garment factory complex outside Dhaka last week was the latest in a string of catastrophes to befall the country`s $US20 billion ($A19.6 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 Organisation.  read more.
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* No one knows how many were trapped:

Twelve days into the biggest industrial disaster in the country’s history, claiming at least 629 lives, there have been no moves to determine the actual number of people who were trapped inside Rana Plaza.

Although the BGMEA has been claiming that 3,122 workers were employed in the five factories at the nine-storey building in Savar, the trade body yesterday admitted to The Daily Star that the list was not an updated one.
Already the number of people rescued dead and alive has reached 3,066 (2,437 were rescued alive), with many more bodies still believed to be buried under the rubble.
BGMEA President Atiqul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday that looking at the old list it was impossible to say exactly how many people were inside the building at the time of the collapse on April 24.
“As far as I can remember, the list for two of the factories was updated at the end of 2012 and the rest were updated in February of this year,” he said.
This means the list does not include the names of workers who were employed in those factories over the last few months. read more.
daily star bd

MORE AND OTHER NEWS:

* PM for yearly salary hike of RMG workers:

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday urged the BGMEA leaders to evolve an institutional mechanism to enhance the salaries of garment workers by a certain percentage every year to help them maintain a descent life.

“The RMG workers’ salaries need to be increased by a certain percentage each year, and a mechanism to this end should have to be developed,” she said.
The Prime Minister made the call when the leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) met her at her office. BGMEA president Md Atiqul Islam led the delegation.

During the meeting, she put emphasis on creating a congenial working environment, including setting up of dormitories, ensuring Medicare facilities and daycare centers for the welfare of the workers as well as their children to utilise their maximum productivity and quality products.

Besides, she suggested the owners of the RMG factories to beef up their security measures and keep a strong vigil.
Suggesting the garment factory owners to relocate their factories outside Dhaka city, especially in the northern region, assuring them of all-out government support to this end, Hasina said, “You (factory owners) could relocate the factories outside Dhaka considering cheap land, labour and tax holiday facilities.”
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
  newstodayBD logo

* Apparel units will be closed if any more disaster takes place:

The LGRD and cooperatives minister, Syed Ashraful Islam, on Sunday said that all apparel units would be closed if any incidents such as the Rana Plaza collapse or fire in Tazreen Fashions Ltd took place again.

‘We may absorb the shock of the Rana Plaza collapse. But the apparel sector will be ruined if one more incident such as the Rana Plaza collapse or r Tazreen Fashions fire takes place,’ Ashraful said at a press conference at the office the Awami League president at Dhanmondi.
Asharful, also the Awami League’s general secretary, made the remarks as the government and apparel manufacturers and exporters are facing a growing pressure after the collapse of Rana Plaza, which housed five clothing factories. The building collapse has left At least 626 people, mostly apparel workers, dead by Sunday evening.  read more.

* Economists, experts for tagging cash incentive to workplace safety:

Economists and trade experts Sunday suggested tagging the government cash incentive with workplace safety as a tool to make garment factories compliant.

They said the government should not provide any cash incentive if any apparel factory is not compliant. Besides, the economists suggested allocating those funds to provide health insurance for workers, and their workplace safety and other benefits.
“The government can evolve a mechanism so that cash incentive can be attached to factory compliance,” Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) told the FE.
He said both the government and the garment manufacturers need to focus on removing the safety loopholes remaining in the factories to sustain in the global market.  read more.

* RMG and industrialisation: Safety with profitability:

The tragedy in Savar has given rise to much soul searching and pointing out blame. Much of the criticism is justified. Humanitarianism will do much good, but it is not as steady a force as the urge for profits.

Profits are not bad, it is the urge to make profits now that is the issue. It is the desperation with which profits are sought as fast as possible which leads to the many shady activities that eventually harm our long-run self-interest. If we want a more sustainable, longer-term, solution we have to have long-term aims. Of course we want profits, but they need not be profits right now.
Bangladesh has the potential to become, as the news channels put it, “tailor to the world.” There are no guarantees. Some one or two or five poorer countries may suddenly coordinate their policies so effectively that the growth of RMG in Bangladesh is no longer number one. read more.
daily star bd

* Ensure safety to garment workers:

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has demanded a far reaching action programme in Bangladesh’s garment industry to ensure safety and other improved working condition to workers and said it must be quickly implemented.

Its visiting deputy director general (DDG) Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, who came on an unscheduled visit here following the Savar tragedy, ended the trip yesterday with putting together an action plan for better work place in the industry.
BGMEA, BKMEA, the government and representatives of the workers unions adopted action plan and presented it as a
joint statement at a press conference after Houngbo’s wrap up meeting with Foreign Secretary at his office. read more.
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* Action plan for workers’ safety unveiled:

Representatives of Bangladesh government, industry and workers issued a joint statement Saturday laying out an “action plan” to improve worker safety in the wake of a series of disasters that have beset the industry in the past six months.

Under the plan:
— A labor law reform package is to be submitted to Parliament during its next session, which is expected to be called in June, to boost protection “for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health.”

— By the end of the year, garment factories whose products are intended for export are to be inspected and repairs begun for those that need them. The plan calls for the International Labour Organization, which has sent a delegation to Bangladesh, to help mobilize the technical know-how and money needed to carry out the assessment.  read more.
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* Worker safety and beyond:

Mass exodus of Western firms from Bangladesh is not the answer

The death toll from the collapse of a building in Bangladesh that housed several garment factories now stands at more than 500, with many still missing. While staggering, this tragedy is, sadly, not rare.

Hundreds of women and men have been burned, suffocated and crushed to death in recent years as the country’s garment industry has boomed, with Western clothing brands and retailers making a big shift to Bangladesh from China, where labour costs are rising. These deaths have focused attention on regulations in Bangladesh as well as the responsibility of Western companies that buy clothes from suppliers there.

At least one big brand, Disney, has said that its branded merchandise will no longer be made in Bangladesh. But a mass exodus of Western companies from Bangladesh is not the answer. What is needed is direct action by international companies to improve working conditions for the more than 3.5 million Bangladeshi workers — 80 percent of them women — who toil in clothing factories.
The garment industry serves as one of the few ladders out of poverty in Bangladesh. While the pay is meagre — the minimum wage is just $37 a month — that is still far higher than wages of farmers or maids. Increased employment opportunities for women have had positive effects. One study found that the presence of garment factories was strongly correlated with higher numbers of girls going to school and delaying marriage and childbirth.  read more.
daily star bd

*  Unions can save lives:

Exactly ten days ago the Rana Plaza complex collapsed in Savar, some thirty kilometers outside Dhaka. The building had located five garment factories, and on the ground floor a shopping center plus a bank.

The day before the building was evacuated because it was shaken to its foundations
and cracked. But that fateful Wednesday – according to figures from BGMEA, the powerful employers’ organization in the garment sector – about 3,112 workers, mostly women, went back to work. Not voluntary, but forced.
Because, according to many witnesses, those who didn’t go to work would lose their job, even the back wages that have not been paid. Moreover, the owners, without waiting for an expertise, stated that there was nothing seriously wrong. With fear in the heart, and under the threat of beatings, the owners demand to enter the workplace has been followed.

Hundreds would pay for it with their lives. An even greater number of colleagues got
injured. Because less than an hour later the building collapsed like a house of cards. Murder, headlined some newspapers. “If unions had beenactive here,  this disaster could have been prevented. At least they could have refused to start to work again in such circumstances.” This opinionis increasingly shared, also supported by other (economic) actors involved in the garment industry.

This is evident, people from Europe and US will say – because they are familiar with (yet still) relatively high unionisation among the working population. Why not organize people in Bangladesh, one can hear asking.
Aren’t there unions active in the country, characterized by a huge labormarket (especially very cheap labor). The answer is more complicated than the question.

Bangladesh has sufficient legislation that proclaims organising in unions is possible. So that’s not the problem. The international labor standards (freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively) are supported. But the problems are (and that’s maybe an euphemism) in the translation into practice.

First, it is extremely difficult to obtain from  the Ministry of Labour a trade union registration. On the other hand, the regulations provide that the application for registration, should include the names of the leaders and members. The Ministry forwards these lists to the employers to check.
The company dismiss the workers concerned before effective trade union registration is given. This method of course is in favour of the garment employers end makes real  trade union work in the sector quite impossible.
Dismissal and harassment are rife.
Workers often have no written contract, so it is very difficult to come up for your rights. When in addition the employer refuses to pay in time your already small wage, then you’re as a prisoner. Refreshing the complete workforce is another strategy followed to avoid workers participation. According to this approach, no worker works more than five years in your factory. Moreover, the company avoids that way they would have to pay gratuity. And some owners even don’t hesitate to close their business and restart some months later with new workers.

According to law, worker’s participation however is mandatory. But at the end of 2012 only 134 out of more than five thousand garment factories had a worker’s committee. In reality, only 20 of them are working effectively.
In other places, the management itself created such committee without election by the workers, which is mandatory. These are so-called ‘pocket committees’ to mislead the outside world, including the brands. These committees do not play a significant role, even not in respect of safe working conditions.

Trade union work particularly in the garment industry is difficult. It happens mostly outside the factories. And that’s not easy at all, e.g. since a lot of workers change frequently their workplace, forced to do so.
Law foresee the working of unions, but in reality you risk to lose your income, and you (and your family) face harassment or physical violence. No wonder there are not really that strong unions to raise voice and to defend workers. (Most unions are small with only 1,000 to 1,500 members; NGWF, the largest union and also a member of the international Clean Clothes Campaign, has 37,000 members.). No wonder workers see stray violence as the only way out to be heard and to show their anger and demands.

That’s exactly why the threat of the EU (to revise its preferential regime – GSP – for apparel from Bangladesh) is welcomed by the unions. That’s exactly why the international pressure from consumers, for the right to be organised as a trade union, is appreciated. That’s exactly why the unions and workers are pleased that the high ILO delegation in recent days came forwards with an explicit plea to make trade unions and collective bargaining reality in this sector.
The ILO rightly expect that politicians, who used to look the other way when better and safer working conditions are on the agenda, take up their responsibility in this regard.
Because the fear is present with many people that Bangladesh counts no one, but a huge number of Rana’s, with a real risk that more disasters are not excluded,
Jef Van Hecken – World Solidarity Asia. Dhaka – May 4, 2013.
WSM

* No more of this slavery! :

The Biblical book of Ecclesiastes records Solomon, the wise king of the ancient Israelite people, as saying: “One sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18). How true is this wise saying! The death of so many garments workers in Rana Plaza at Savar, and other many such recent man-made disasters, are living commentaries of that adage.

Words cannot describe the pangs, the sorrows of thousands of people who lost their dear ones in the rubble of that monument of greed. Millions of people will remember this horrendous crime against humanity for many years to come. This will remain as a classical example of corruption of some people, who lay behind this man-made disaster of epochal proportion.
This kind of corruption eats into the vitals of our life and our God-given identity and dignity as the crown of creation of God, ‘ashraful maklukath’ as it is termed in Islamic teaching. Human rights of the poorly paid and ill-nourished labourers have been violated in the garment industry in Bangladesh ever since this industry drew the attention of the world market. They are abused, exploited as cheap labour. Garment industry is but a kind of slavery!
I am reminded of the Mine Engineering French Professor Le Pley, who asked his students: “What is the most valuable thing that comes out of the mine?” Some students replied: “It is gold”; some said: “It is diamond,” etc. etc. “No”, replied the teacher, “it is the human person, the mining labourer, who goes underground and come back alive, who is most valuable.”

Many of our garments factories have proved to be death traps for the workers. Because of the insatiable greed for more and more money owners compel the poor workers to work virtually like slaves in most abject and vulnerable conditions. Saraka Garments fire in 1993 cost 17 lives (all women), Spectrum Garments in 2005 cost 64, Tazneen Garments tragedy in 2012 killed 112 people, and Rana Plaza has taken almost 600 lives, most of whom were women.  read more.
daily star bd

20:52:19 local time map of india INDIA

* Garment workers too hit the campaign trail for cash, break:

A BONUS: The extra income is useful for a large number of garment employees forced to shoulder familial responsibilities. File Photo
A BONUS: The extra income is useful for a large number of garment employees forced to shoulder familial responsibilities. File Photo

The elections have been a boon to the garment workers of Hegganahalli near Peenya on the outskirts of the city. For 43-year-old Renuka N., who works in a garment unit, the brief period spent in canvassing for a candidate, she admits she really does not care about, has fetched her twice what her tedious job brings her.

Some 10,000 garment workers live and work around Hegganahalli, and many women said they took a week off to campaign. Susheelamma (46) said the wages she lost were more than compensated by campaigning. Workers, who usually earned Rs. 150 to Rs. 210 a day, were paid Rs. 350 to Rs. 400 for canvassing for a few hours a day. Men were paid Rs. 500.  read more.
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* Economic Survey 2013: Overall employment rose by 6.94 lakh:

Overall employment in the last one year to June 2012 increased by nearly by 7 lakh led by the IT and BPO sector that accounted for almost half of the increase.

“Upward trend in employment since July 2009 continues despite the economic slowdown,” the Economic Survey for the year 2012-13 tabled in the Lok Sabha today by the Finance Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.
(…)
A sector wise analysis shows that the textiles sector including apparels saw 1.70 lakh job additions, followed by transport sector (0.45 lakh), metals (0.26 lakh), gems and jewellery (0.19 lakh) and automobiles (0.11 lakh) in June 2012 over June 2011.
On the other hand, employment in handloom/powerloom and leather sectors has marginally declined during this period, the survey said. There has been a sustained and consecutive increase in employment in both the public and private sectors covered at overall level during the last eleven quarters with a total addition of 30.73 lakh employment during this recovery period, the survey added.  read more.
The Economic Times

20:52:19 local time map of sri_lanka SRI LANKA

* Electrocuting Sri Lanka’s Garments? :

20130506

The increase in electricity tariffs further burdens the apparel industry workers who are already facing great hardships. The apparel factory owners are also serious about moving their factories to countries more lucrative to their business such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam.

According to garment factory workers, who are mostly from outstation areas, following the electricity tariffs increase, boarding fees has also increased leaving them nothing to take back home.
However, when the workers took their grievances to their employers and requested them to increase salaries, they declined claiming that even running factories in this condition is doubtful. They claim that having been hit very badly by the GSP plus removal, the increase in electricity tariffs is practically the final nail in the coffin because it is impossible to operate companies and be competitive in the field with such high costs.  read more.
sunday-leader

* Govt. considering employing migrant workers:

The government is considering allowing the apparel industry based in the Investment Promotion Zones (IPZ) to employ migrant workers, in order to address crippling shortage and mass exodus of local workers in the apparel industry.

The government is considering allowing the apparel industry based in the Investment Promotion Zones (IPZ) to employ migrant workers, in order to address crippling shortage and mass exodus of local workers in the apparel industry.  to read.

* Sri Lanka’s exports, trade gap down in Feb, apparel up:

Sri Lanka’s exports fell 2.9 percent to 797.5 million rupees in February 2013 from a year earlier but apparel exports rose 8.8 percent to 371.6 million US dollars, the Central Bank said.

Rubber product exports were down 12 percent to 66.1 million US dollars and agricultural exports were down 5.9 percent to 174.5 million US dollars.
(….)
Textile and textile articles rose 18.3 percent to 163 million US dollars indicating stronger demand for future apparel exports.  read more.
INDEPENDENT SL

* USAID’s budget cut may affect Sri Lankan garment sector:

The decision of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to reduce its budget to Sri Lanka from 2014 could affect the garment industry in the country.
“USAID has made its decision to reduce its footprints in Sri Lanka due to the mounting concerns over reconciliation and governance in the country coupled with its continuing economic growth,” an USAID official told fibre2fashion.  read more.
fibre2fashion

20:22:19 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* ‘Tax refunds can flourish textile sector’:

The textile industry can pick up the steam if the government pays out billions of rupees outstanding tax refunds to exporters in order to increase textile exports significantly.

In a statement on Friday, Pakistan Textile Exporters Association Chairman Asghar Ali said the huge amounts of value-added textile exporters were stuck up in sales tax, local taxes drawbacks, customs rebate, and federal excise duty refund regimes creating severe financial crunch.
“If these amounts are released, exporters can divert that capital towards their businesses, which will help enhance Pakistan’s export earning,” he added. He said the severe shortage of energy had already devastated the manufacturing and industrial sectors rendering export units dysfunctional and the situation was resulting in the loss of production, he said.  read more.
dawn

* Pending sales tax refunds irk textile exporters:

Asghar Ali, Chairman and Muhammad Asif, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) said that huge amounts of value-added textile exporters are stuck up in sales tax, local taxes drawbacks, customs rebate, and federal excise duty refund regimes creating severe financial crunch and if that amounts are released, exporters can invest that capital towards expanding their businesses, which in turn will help Pakistan’s export earnings grow.

Severe shortage of energy has already devastating the manufacturing and industrial sectors rendering export units dysfunctional and the situation is resulting in the loss of production, they added.  read more.

 

* PRGMEA concerned over ‘weak’ economic agendas:

Pakistan Ready-made Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association(PRGMEA), expressing disappointment over weak economic agenda of political parties, has observed that no national level party has given any plan for revival of the export-oriented industry, particularly the value-added textile sector, which is constantly facing closure.

PRGMEA Central Chairman Sajid Saleem Minhas urged all political parties to share their economic agenda particularly of promotion of the garment industry which contributes more than 60 percent to country’s total export. “With general elections ahead, every leading political party claims to have the solution for the country’s chronic economic problems in their economic agenda. While some parties have revealed their economic agendas in the last few months, many have not bothered to fulfil this basic formality.  read more.

 

* Business activity slows down further after PCGA report:

Trading activity came down further on the cotton market on Saturday after Pakistan (cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) report, dealers said. The official spot rate was flat at Rs 6,500, they said. In the ready business, over 1000 bales of cotton changed hands between Rs 4700-6300, they said.

Cotton analyst, Naseem Usman said that trading was thin as traders were busy in election preparations, it is expected that business activity may come down further in the near future, other brokers said. They also said that activity is still down despite cotton production fell below the 13 million bales target. read more.

 

* Gas loadshedding in hot season beyond comprehension: APTPMA:

 Due to increase of gas demand in winter season, its load shedding is somehow sensible, but in hot season, its load shedding for value-added, export-oriented and labour-intensive textile processing industry for up to four days in a week is not understandable. In these critical conditions, how is it possible to run the industry and increase the day-to-day dwindling trend of exports? How will it be possible for labourers to meet their daily home expenses?

Talking to newsmen, Ajmal Farooq, Central Chairman, All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPMA) said that the value-added textile industry is not in a position to survive in international market; how will caretaker govt run governmental regime till the establishment of next govt after coming election. How will political parties and independent candidates fulfil their commitments, which are now promising and assuring a brighter future in their election campaigns, he added.
read more.

 

* Cotton target missed:

Pakistan has missed cotton production target by 1.08 million bales, mainly because of a decrease in harvest area and rising cost of production.

According to final cotton production figures compiled by Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) for 2012-13, the country produced 12,915,585 bales against last year’s output of 14,813,779 bales, depicting an overall decrease of 13 percent or 1,898,194 bales less than the previous year.
The federal government had set a cotton production target of 14 million bales for 2012-2013, but the target was not achieved by a wide margin owing to poor government policies, market players said.
read more.  & read more. & read more.
PAKOBSERVER   tribune

 

 

map of Asia

INFO:

SAVAR COLLAPSE: under “special reports you can find an overview of articlles.

HEADLINES:

PHILIPPINES
* Progressive partylists cite solutions to low wages, unemployment
* The best non-wage gift–ever

CAMBODIA
* Statue of Slain Union Leader Unveiled Near Murder Site

INDONESIA
* Labor activists face rights struggle
* Quo vadis the minimum wage?

BANGLADESH
* Death toll rises to 584
* Burnt rescuer dies in S’pore
* Army starts verifying claims on missing victims
* Victim’s wife sues Rana, 2 others- Murder case filed
* Rana Plaza architect says building was never meant for factories
* Rana Plaza architect says building was never meant for factories
* Bangladesh clothing imports soar in NZ

20130506

* Death toll rises to 627
* Rana Plaza: Of bondage, of the looser and the lost
* Victims of Rana Plaza laid to rest in Chandpur
* As if two sisters sleeping on one bed
* PM receives Tk 10.14 cr in donation for Savar victims
* Disney’s Disgrace
* Benetton On Bangladesh Tragedy: No One In The Industry Should Feel Above It
* BGMEA factory reformation move leaves loopholes
* Savar tragedy and exodus of foreign buyers
* EU threatens of trade status suspension
* B’desh trade status reviewed by US before collapse
* Apparel exporters to appoint lobbyists to retain GSP
* Unsafe BD factories must close: UN
* No one knows how many were trapped
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* PM for yearly salary hike of RMG workers
* Apparel units will be closed if any more disaster takes place
* Economists, experts for tagging cash incentive to workplace safety
* RMG and industrialisation: Safety with profitability
* Ensure safety to garment workers
* Action plan for workers’ safety unveiled
* Worker safety and beyond
* Unions can save lives
* No more of this slavery!

INDIA
* Garment workers too hit the campaign trail for cash, break
* Economic Survey 2013: Overall employment rose by 6.94 lakh

SRI LANKA
* Electrocuting Sri Lanka’s Garments?
* Govt. considering employing migrant workers
* Sri Lanka’s exports, trade gap down in Feb, apparel up
* USAID’s budget cut may affect Sri Lankan garment sector

PAKISTAN
* ‘Tax refunds can flourish textile sector
* Pending sales tax refunds irk textile exporters
* PRGMEA concerned over ‘weak’ economic agendas
* Business activity slows down further after PCGA report
* Gas loadshedding in hot season beyond comprehension: APTPMA
* Cotton target missed

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