in the news on-line, 7 May 2013

21:33:38 local time map of china CHINA

* China’s rising wages reach a critical milestone:

China has reached its ‘Lewis turning point’. This is a critical milestone for a developing economy, when urban factories, restaurants and other businesses have to start raising wages faster than the inflation rate to attract rural workers. Until that point, factory wages can remain flat and still attract farm workers living on subsistence incomes at home.

It will take years for China to reach the end of the turning point, when urban and rural wages are equal. In the meantime, real wage hikes for unskilled workers are here to stay.
The implications of rising wages are huge. Higher incomes help China move closer towards its goal of becoming a domestic consumption-driven economy and away from its current investment-dependent structure. At the same time, they leave companies across the Pearl River Delta facing three choices: move their factories inland, where labour costs are cheaper; shift plants overseas; or step up automation to save on labour costs. The majority of the companies in our survey say they plan to go for the third option, at least for now, although an increasing number are looking at the other two.
Although the rise in remuneration may be partly driven by minimum wage increases and stricter enforcement of social insurance contributions, the majority of our clients believe that growing labour shortages are the main cause. Fortunately, most companies also say that output per worker has risen faster than wages, a sign that wage growth is backed up by productivity.  read more.
daily star bd

20:33:38 local time map of viet_nam VIET NAM

* Workers join walk to highlight industrial safety:

Nearly 4,000 workers from industrial zones in the southern province of Binh Duong on May 5 joined a walk programme to highlight the importance of safety at work.

Co-organised by Better Work Vietnam, the International Labour Organisation, and the International Finance Corporation, the 2013 walking programme was themed “Fire and explosion safety.”
Deputy Chairman of Binh Duong provincial People’s Committee Huynh Van Nhi said the activity was very practical for popularising the important meaning of industrial safety among workers and labourers.

Also under the programme, the workers participated in other activities, such as watching films, answering questions and responding to supposed fire situations.

Almost 1,700 fires are reported in Vietnam each year, with many happening at factories. The fire at Ha Phong garment plant in the northern province of Bac Giang in early April burnt down all production facilities together with thousands of motorbikes and bikes of workers. to read.

* Shared Learning Seminars and a Fun Run to Celebrate OSH in Vietnam:

As part of its new shared learning offerings, Better Work Vietnam hosted “Safety Starts With Me” seminars in Ho Chi Minh, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Cu Chi provinces in March and April 2013.

Over 130 participants from 51 factories attended, learning about the history of garment factory fires worldwide, with a potlight on the tragic fire in Bangladesh last year. Attendees also learned about causes of fires, how to control fires and how to respond in case of emergency, drawing on best practice from around the world. As part of the session, each participant developed an action plan for their factory, which included steps such as:   read more.

20:33:38 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

 * Union calls for stable rent for workers:

The Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) urged all apartment landlords to not increase their rent because garment and footwear employees get only a basic salary of $80 per month.

A statement issued Monday said the wage increase from $61 per month to $80 will be implemented in late May, asking the landlords nearby the factories not to raise their rent due to the increase.
The statement added workers haven’t recieved their salaries yet but the apartments around the factories have raised their rent by 16 percent, and that will really affect factory employee’s livelihoods because their wages are still too low. read more.

* Cambodia statue highlights murder mystery:

A new statue in the centre of Cambodia’s capital stands as a reminder of one of the country’s most politically charged killings.

Unveiled last week across the street from where he was gunned down nine years ago, the stone sculpture of slain union leader Chea Vichea marks what many believe is a murder that has not been solved.
The killing of Chea has all the elements of a Hollywood thriller: A murdered political figure, assassins on a motorcycle, death threats, allegations of police corruption, witnesses claiming intimidation, and two men serving 20-year prison sentences for a crime few believe they committed.
Chea, whose death sparked an immediate outcry from rights groups and foreign diplomats, was killed on January 22, 2004, while he was reading The Cambodia Daily newspaper outside a news stand. Two men on a motorcycle drove up, one of whom dismounted and fatally shot the politician three times before driving off again.
read more.

21:33:38 local time map of indonesia INDONESIA

* Tangerang workers, locals attack factory, homes of owner and village head:

Angered by alleged “slavery” conditions at a kitchen utensils factory in Sepatan Timur, Tangerang, dozen of workers, assisted by local residents, attacked and damaged the factory’s facilities on Monday.

The workers, grouped under the Benteng Leather, Garment and Textile Workers Association (SPTSK) and the All-Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI), damaged production equipment in the factory and pulled down the factory fence.
The mob later damaged the home of Juki Irawan, the factory owner, next to the factory, before going on to target the home of Mursan, the village head, who is a relative of the factory owner.  read more.

* In Indonesia, Lessons on Safety at Work and at Home:

As part of its month-long focus on fire safety, on 18 April, Better Work Indonesia held a fire prevention training in KBN, a factory complex in North Jakarta.

From labour laws to equipment and prevention techniques, participants broadened their knowledge on what they need to do to contribute to safer workplaces.
“I’m going to analyze the lessons learned from today when I get back to the factory,” said Warlim Wibawa from PT CSITE TEXPIA. “I think as a whole, we need to assess everything.”  read more.

20:03:38 local time map of myanmar BURMA/MYANMAR

* CCC regrets premature and irresponsible lifting of EU sanctions on Burma:

Permanent lifting of sanctions are potentially damaging to the creation of sustainable garment industry.

The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), an international labour rights network, has expressed their sadness at the European Union’s (EU) decision to move ahead with removing the restrictions despite the failure of the Burmese state to meet many of the EU’s own benchmarks.

The move by the EU comes at a time when there is still not even minimum compliance with international standards nor a well functioning labour and trade union law in Burma.“It is deeply upsetting to see the EU put aside the need for due diligence in line with the UN’s Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business in favour of rewarding what even they consider to be unmet promises.”, said Dominique Muller from the CCC International Secretariat.

With no coherent labour law, or protection for trade unionists, the situation for the average Burmese worker remains dire. Wages in Burma are the lowest in the region while the operating costs are some of the highest – a situation which results in very little movement for the payment of higher wages.

Earlier this year, Thailand passed new minimum wage laws requiring employers to pay the daily rate of 300 bhat – around 10 US dollars a day. In contrast workers in Burma generally receive wages ranging from 300 to 1000 Burmese Kyat a day – 1.15 US dollars a day. Workers only receive this wage if they complete 100% attendance which means seven days a week, 30-31 days a month. Wage variations are huge and religious and ethnic discrimination over pay rates is endemic. Abuse of workers by supervisors, both verbal and physical is common as are extremely long working hours and low occupational health and safety standards.  read more.

* Lessons from Cambodia:

“What can you share with me about Cambodia’s experience on economic sanctions?”

This was one of the questions put to me by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when I had the privilege of meeting her early 2011 during a visit by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats and during another discussion that year with the National League for Democracy’s Women’s Wing.

International sanctions were imposed on Cambodia throughout the 1980s during the occupation of the country by Vietnam, which had ousted Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.
The answers to Daw Suu’s profound question came from what I have lived with as a citizen and a Cambodian opposition member. An immediate positive result of the lifting of sanctions in 1992 was the open contact that Cambodians were able to have with the outside world.

It allowed the return home of the members of the Cambodian diaspora like myself. It brought in an atmosphere of hope, of a new beginning. There was an immediate boom of non-governmental organizations, small and medium-sized businesses, and the local and international media made its re-appearance at newsstands and in the city’s cafes. People enjoyed the new sense of freedom.
It also allowed the UN to sponsor and conduct the 1993 election, which had over 98 percent of voter participation. The elections led to the victory of the royalist party Funcinpec over the Cambodian People’s Party (led by current Prime Minister Hun Sen).

The international community poured in significant amounts of aid for Cambodia’s physical reconstruction, including schools, health centers, roads and bridges. Currently, Cambodia receives more than US $1 billion in international aid annually with close to no conditions.
But what has since gone wrong in the Cambodian peace and democratization process? That was another question that Daw Suu asked.  read more.
The Irrawaddy Magazine

19:33:38 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLADESH


* Death toll from Savar collapse hits 679:

The death toll soared to 679 yesterday. Rescuers still expect more bodies from the rubble of Rana Plaza at Savar as many have remained missing since the country’s deadliest industrial disaster on April 24.

At least 46 bodies were recovered yesterday. The army team that has been leading the rescue operation is clueless about how many are now buried in the debris since the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has not yet published a comprehensive list of the workers who used to work at five garment factories in the nine-storey building.
The trade body had declared that it would pay salaries to the workers today but yesterday its leaders said they were skeptical about making it as the list had not been done yet.
read more  & read more.  & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
daily star bd  BSS     banglanews24 Logo  logo

* 2 Savar engineers sent to jail:

A Dhaka Court on Monday sent two Saver municipal engineers to jail as the police produced them after interrogation in custody for eight days in connection with the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 600 people.

Dhaka senior judicial magistrate Washim Shekh passed the order after the investigation officer in the case, Detective Branch inspector Mir Shahen Shah Parvez, told the court that Savar municipal executive engineer Imtemam Hossain, 46, and assistant engineer Alam Mia, 44, gave some important information during their interrogations.
The same court on April 27 remanded the two engineers in custody for eight days for interrogation.
On 24 April, the eight-storey Rana Plaza at Savar, housing five garment factories, a shopping complex and a branch of BRAC Bank, collapsed, leaving more than 600, mostly garments workers killed and scores injured.  to read.

* Testimony of Shapla, Left Arm Amputation and a Serious Head Injury:

“My name is Shapla and I am 20 years old.  I worked at the New Wave Style factory on the second floor of the Rana Plaza building.  My ID card is #12047.  We have a four-year-old son named Mursalin.  I was a sewing machine operator.

“On Wednesday, April 24, 2013, we started working at 8:00 a.m.  After about an hour, the back side of the building caved in.  Like other workers, I ran to the stairs to escape.  But a large concrete pillar fell on me.  My left arm was crushed and pinned under the pillar.  I was in extreme pain.  I felt like my arm and head were cut from my body.  At 9:30 a.m., within 30 minutes of the collapse, a rescue team pulled me out of the ruins and took me to the Rebeya Clinic in Savar.

“A doctor stitched my head wound and referred me to the Dhaka Orthopedic Hospital to try to save my left arm.  I was brought to Dhaka on April 25.  My left arm was so badly crushed that the doctor said they would have to amputate.  My arm below the elbow was cut off.  I still have severe headaches.  I had 10 to 15 stitches.  No one can realize such pain, who has not had to face it.  It is beyond our endurance.

“I wanted to live for my son, but not like the way I must now live.  There is no chance that I can lead a normal life.  I can’t think how bad my future might be.  The doctor did not say how long I will need to stay in the hospital.  It may take two months, or six months.  read more.

* Last Hope in Ruins: Bangladesh’s Race to Save Shaheena:

The rescuers discovered her by a faint, distant sound. They had spent four days crawling through the wreckage of Rana Plaza, tons of concrete and steel pressing down, saving hundreds of people. Now only the dead remained. Except for a lone woman, a garment worker.

She was trapped behind a fallen pillar, in a suffocating crevice maybe two feet high. First, the rescuers could see only her fingertips pressing through a tiny opening. After hours spent chipping a small hole, they could see her face. Her name was Shaheena. She was 32. She begged to see her young son.

The story of Shaheena, involving a heroic if ultimately doomed rescue operation, offered the last bit of hope of finding anyone alive in what is now considered the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry. For hours on April 28, as television reporters broadcast updates, rescuing Shaheena became a national priority. She would be trapped for more than 100 hours.  read more.

* While earning the least, they suffer the most!:

Plight of the RMG workers

The size of the Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) industry is USD 13 billion and it is the second-largest source of foreign exchange earnings after remittances.

This has happened due to the so-called competitive edge, i.e., cheap labour, but how cheap is that? Some workers earn even as low as Tk 3,000/4,000 per month, which is even much less compared to the workers in the neighbhouring countries like India and Pakistan. Hence, the competitive edge has been attained only by paying less to the workers, who work almost every day, and for long hours.

These people, being attracted by the urban glitter, come from their villages to try their luck in Dhaka. However, most of these people receive very little and find their lives very miserable. Once they join the garment industries, their dreams start to evaporate, leaving them in a state of dissatisfaction.
Day by day, they realise that things are not as rosy as they had thought to be. These industries absorb all their energy but what they receive is in no way worth their contributions, which have led to the hefty profits of the owners and a steady growth of the country.  read more.

* BGMEA demands special budgetary allocation:

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Monday demanded a special allocation in next budget to help apparel manufacturers for rehabilitation of their factories.

“The fund will be used for providing loan to readymade garment (RMG) manufacturers, who wish to rehabilitate their units, on easy terms,” said BGMEA president Atiqul Islam while addressing a press briefing at BGMEA Bhaban on Monday.
Stressing the need for relocating the factories outside the capital city, the BGMEA president demanded 500 acres of land out of 2000 acres earmarked for Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Mirsharai in Chittagong. “This will help build up a compliant, risk free RMG industrial zone,” said the BGMEA president adding that there is no alternative to relocate the factories in industrial or special economic zones.
In case of relocating the factories in their own lands, the BGMEA leader demanded immediate connection of power and gas supply. If necessary, he suggested transferring the existing connections to the new places to ensure early and smooth production.  read more.

* PM to receive donations for Savar victims Tuesday:

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will receive donations for the ‘Prime Minister’s Relief and Welfare Fund’ on Tuesday to provide assistance for the Savar building collapse victims.

PM’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad has said the Prime Minister will receive cheques for the fund at her office (PMO) from 12 noon on the day.
Those  interested to donate to the Prime Minister’s Relief and Welfare Fund for the ill-fated families of those killed and injured in the Savar building collapse have been requested to hand over cheques at the PMO on the day. to read.

* German government to provide Taka 50 lakh for Savar victims:

The German government has committed to provide Taka 50 lakh support to some of the victims of the Savar building collapse who lost limbs or were injured seriously.

The aim is to help the disabled persons regain their mobility, enabling them to lead a life in dignity and again work for their living, a German embassy press release said here today.
Besides, financial assistance will also be given to victims of the tragedy or their families for accommodation, food and transport cost.
The German Red Cross (DRK) together with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will implement the project.
read more. & read more.

* India to provide artificial limbs to Savar victims:

India says it will rehabilitate the Savar survivors who have lost their limbs using ‘world renowned expertise’ available in the country.

According to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, the government would “sponsor, facilitate and arrange for the rehabilitation of those victims.”
They expressed their ‘deep regret and condolence’ over the April 24 nine-story building collapse that killed more than 650, mostly garment workers.
More than 1000 have been injured with scores losing legs and hands.
read more. & read more. & read more.
bdnews24    banglanews24 Logo

* Rana Plaza’s 2 RMG factories had 2,141 workers: BGMEA:

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on Monday claimed there were 2,141 workers in two of the five readymade garment (RMG) factories housed in the collapsed Rana Plaza.

At a press conference at BGMEA Bhaban, its president Atiqul Islam said 1,543 workers were employed by New Wave Style Ltd, while 598 by New Wave Bottoms Ltd.
“We hope we’ll be able to make out the list of workers employed by the remaining three factories – Ether Tex Ltd., Phantom Apparels Ltd. and Phantom Tac Ltd.,” he said.
The BGMEA will start paying the wages and allocations of the workers once the list is completed, he added.
to read. & read more.
daily star bd

* Payment of wages to Savar RMG workers to take some more days:

Payment of wages to the workers of the five apparel factories housed in collapsed Rana Plaza at Savar will take some more days as the BGMEA is yet to collect list of all the workers.

Earlier, the BGMEA said it will pay all the wages and arrears of the workers by May 7.
“We could only prepare workers’ list of two factories-New Wave Style Ltd and New Wave Bottoms Ltd where 1543 and 598 respectively were employed,” Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Atiqul Islam told reporters at a press conference held at its headquarters in the city Monday.
We need two or three days more to prepare the workers’ list of the rest three factories and immediately after that, we will clear all the wages and arrears of workers, he said.  read more. & read more.


* Death toll rises to 696:

The death toll rose to 696 in Savar Rana Plaza collapse with the recovery of six more bodies the debris till 10:00am Tuesday on the 14th day of the incident.

Of them, a total of 684 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.
Earlier, fire fighters, Red Crescent men led-by Army recovered 57 more bodies from the debris from early Monday to midnight.  read more. & read more.
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* Japan wants to help survey buildings housing RMG units:

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is keen to transfer renowned Japanese building measuring technology here by conducting a survey and giving remedial to country’s all RMG factories for avoiding repetition of Savar tragedy, reports BSS.

“If BGMEA proposes us through Bangladesh government, we are keen to extend our necessary cooperation to conduct the survey in line with the experience of Japan to assess and ensure the safety of vulnerable buildings,” Chief Representative of JICA Bangladesh Dr Takao Toda told BSS here Monday.

After the Savar incident, BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturing and Exporters Association) has declared that they would conduct a survey to its all running 2000 out of the total 3200 RMG factories in Dhaka and Chittagong districts for assessing building vulnerability. read more. & read more.

* Brands hit by troubles in garment industry:

Global clothing brands involved in Bangladesh’s troubled garment industry responded in starkly different ways to the building collapse that killed more than 600 people.

Some quickly acknowledged their links to the tragedy and promised compensation. Others denied they authorised work at factories in the building even when their labels were found in the rubble.
The first approach seems to deserve plaudits for honesty and compassion. The second seems calculated to minimise damage to a brand by maximising distance from the disaster.
Communications professionals say both are public relations strategies and neither may be enough to protect companies from the stain of doing business in Bangladesh.
Such experts say that with several deadly disasters and fires in Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry in the past six months, possibly the only way retailers and clothing brands can protect their reputations is to visibly and genuinely work to overhaul safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories.
read more. & read more.
daily star bd 

* Rebuilding the image for ‘Made in Bangladesh’:

When marketing ‘guru’ Philip Kotler was here in Bangladesh, he was asked what the branding strategy for Bangladesh should be. His instant reply was Bangladesh should be branding its apparel industry.

Yes, it is true. `Made in Bangladesh’ in 1978 and that in 2013 do not carry the same meaning or significance to anyone in the ‘value chain’. Nor is it always a story of cheap labour only. Bangladesh’s apparel industry over the last 34 years did come across a long way. It also speaks of core competence attained by our labour force, diversity and scale the industry has achieved over the years and more importantly, the work ethics of our workers and entrepreneurship in this sector.

Yes, some unfortunate incidents over the last 12/13 years, especially the `Rana Plaza’ collapse, which took away more than 650 valuable lives, did add definite slur on this ‘opportunity space’ for this emerging trading nation named Bangladesh. However, I do not think all has gone ‘into the drain’ or ‘the Bay of Bengal’. We can still stand up and tighten our belt provided we, in togetherness, are ready to say ‘enough is enough’.  read more.

* Bangladesh: Sanctions for safety:

Will new trade policies encourage world’s second-largest manufacturer of clothing to improve conditions for its workers?

As funerals for the more than 400 garment workers killed in a building collapse last week continue, the European Union has threatened Bangladesh’s garment industry with trade sanctions to encourage improvements in safety for the 3.6m people employed in the still growing industry.

Worth an annual $20bn, Bangladesh’s garment industry is the world’s second-largest clothing exporter after China. But 80 percent of the more than three million people employed as garment workers are women working six days a week for up to 12 hours per day. In some cases, children have been known to be employed by the companies that provide the global supply of cheaply-made clothes. Many of the factories pay as little as $38 per month.

Recent events have brought the dangers inherent in the working conditions in the 4,000 factories across the country – where overcrowding and locked fire doors are common sites – to the fore.
In November, a factory fire on the outskirts of the Bangaldeshi capital, Dhaka, killed scores of garment workers. The 112 people who died in the nine-storey factory operated by Tazreen Fashions represented the country’s worst factory fire.

Joining Mike Hanna on this Inside Story, to discuss the possibilities for reform of a $20b industry are : Dipu Moni, Bangladesh’ minister of foreign affairs; Ben Vanpeperstraete, international policy officer for Clean Clothes Campaign; and Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Bangladesh garment manufacturers and exporters assocation.  read & see more (video).

* EU warns, again:

BGMEA proposes wage board for workers; PM backs

Garment makers yesterday proposed forming a wage board to review the wages of workers as the European Union warned of suspending preferential trade access for Bangladesh if it did not take immediate steps to improve labour standards.

“The wages of the garment workers should increase every year at a certain percentage rationally to better their living standards,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) after a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office in Dhaka.
He said the garment makers increase the wages of workers every year but the hikes are not the same at all the factories across the country.
“Through a wage board, the annual pay rise can be implemented nationally,” he told The Daily Star.
The prime minister backed the proposal and urged the BGMEA leaders to develop an institutional mechanism to hike the salaries of garment workers every year to help them maintain a decent life, according to PM’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad.
The country’s garment workers, mostly women from rural villages, are some of the lowest paid in the world, with monthly minimum wages of a mere Tk 3,000.
read more.
daily star bd

* EU trade ban a bad idea:

The full ramifications of the Rana Plaza building collapse and subsequent confirmed dead of 500+ workers has sent shockwaves across the world.

Bangladesh is now being touted by a section of international fashion industry as a “dirty country” to do business in. Dirty words like “slave labour” are being made synonymous with the country’s readymade garments (RMG) sector. True, there are systemic faults that both industry and regulators suffer from. Again it is foolhardy to think that remedial measures being discussed today — some of which will be enacted into law in the coming months — will bear fruit immediately. Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, the UN agency’s deputy director-general for field operations, who recently led a high level meeting to Bangladesh, has unveiled a roadmap to help improve labour standards and make factories safer for workers.

The joint communiqué issued by the tripartite partners of ILO including the government, employers and workers have laid out a series of actions in the near and mid-term. Among them, submission of a labour law reform package to the parliament in its next session.
Enactment would oversee institutionalising workers’ unions — a longstanding demand of RMG workers; recruiting some 200 additional inspectors over the next 6 months who will assess structural integrity of existing factories by 2013 end and who will work under the Department of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Establishments that will be upgraded to a full Directorate replete with separate budget.  read more.
daily star bd

* EU must push for fundamental rights in Bangladesh garment sector:

The global union movement has welcomed the European Commission’s commitment to press Bangladesh to meet international labour standards.

European Commissioners Catherine Ashton and Karel De Gucht made the pledge in a joint statement following the horrific building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh that has claimed some 600 lives and left many more seriously injured in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.

The threat of EU action under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), rarely invoked, further underscores the concern.
“The EU should use its considerable leverage to encourage brands sourcing from Bangladesh to sign up to a binding and enforceable agreement on fire and building safety, in which workers and trade unions play an active role,” said Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

“The industry’s promotion of corporate auditing to identify and remedy problems is yet again revealed as a cruel hoax, as corporate auditor BSCI had recently certified factories operating in the Rana Plaza building,” said Raina. “A voluntary approach that relies merely on corporate goodwill – which has been largely absent – would be a mistake.   Promotion of more corporate auditing is no solution to the problem,” said Raina.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Once again, workers have paid with their lives for the cosy but ultimately lethal relationships between global brands, ruthless suppliers and corrupt politicians in Bangladesh.  The EU must follow through on its pledge, and act to stop the sham corporate CSR industry doing any more damage.”  read more.

* Minister to head panel to oversee working condition in RMG sector:

The cabinet approved Monday some changes in the committee formed by the government to be headed by a minister instead of a state minister as decided earlier to oversee the country’s readymade garment (RMG) industry’s working conditions and workers welfare.

With this end in view the government has issued a circular on the day. read more.

* Body formed to review RMG infrastructures, safety measures:

The government on Monday formed a high-powered committee, headed by Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddiqui, to review the infrastructures and other safety measures in RMG factories across the country through physical inspection.

The decision was taken at the regular weekly meeting of the Cabinet held at Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair to avert the recurrence of any catastrophe in RMG factories in the future.
After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the committee would submit a report with its observations and recommendations to the existing Cabinet Committee on RMG within three months.
read more. & read more. & read more.
bdnews24  newstodayBD

*  The crux of crisis in RMG industry:

Buyers always look for low cost in the production process so that they can buy readymade garments (RMG) at lower prices.

The RMG manufacturing is a comparatively low-tech industry but it is highly cost-driven. It looks for the place where production is possible at a minimum cost. Similarly, it leaves the places where cost is no more competitive. Since it is a labour- intensive industry, the major cost goes to production as wages. The RMG industry will be located or relocated at places where wages are low.

In general, an industry grows in response to the demand of that product or service in its local market first. When it gets a solid foundation, the industry looks for overseas market, where the competition is tougher. read more.

* Bangladesh agrees on action plan to improve working conditions, ILO says:

Bangladeshi lawmakers will receive an agreed upon labour reform package as soon as next month to improve the nation’s working conditions, the United Nations labour organization today said wrapping up a high-level visit to the South Asian country still reeling from the deadly collapse of a garment factory.

The package “would improve protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health,” the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a joint statement issued also on behalf of the tripartite partners, who include representatives of the Government, employers and workers.
read more.

* Conclusions of the ILO’s high level mission to Bangladesh:

The tripartite partners (Government, employers and workers) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) express their great sadness at the immense loss of life and serious injuries caused by the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Savar on April 24 2013, as well as the recent factory fires at Tazreen Fashions Limited and Smart Export Garments. All partners extend their condolences to the bereaved families of the victims and convey our sympathy to those injured due to these terrible events.

From 1-4 May, a high level delegation of the ILO, led by Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, Mr. Gilbert Houngbo, visited Bangladesh to convey the solidarity of the ILO with those affected by these tragic events, the partners from government, labour, and industry, and to the nation as a whole. The Mission engaged with the tripartite partners and other stakeholders to identify what needs to be done to prevent any such future tragedies.

The tripartite partners stand united in their resolve to do everything possible to prevent further tragedy. In this respect, the tripartite partners and the ILO have agreed on the necessity to develop an action plan focusing on the following short and medium term steps:  read more.

* Tripartite agreement on saving RMG:

At a time when people at home and abroad were keeping their fingers crossed in the aftermath of the Savar garments tragedy about the future of the country’s apparel sector, something positive has really happened suddenly.

This concerns a tripartite agreement in presence of the representative from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on short-and medium-term measures. The measures are aimed at helping the wobbling garments sector back on its feet.
Of the many measures, the most salient ones are the incorporation of ‘freedom of association and collective bargaining’ into the labour law. Occupational safety and workers’ health also feature as issues of priority.
This is significant that the garments leaders have made the commitment after a series of discussions and meetings, courtesy of mediation by the highest international labour body. What is needed to be done is more or less known; how it has to be done is what really matters.
The garments business has come under close scrutiny of national and international media as well as right groups. They will have to put their acts together. This will serve their interest as well as that of the country. They must adopt the policy of ‘survive and let others survive’.
In this case, their survival depends on the well-being of their employees as well.
read more.

* Mini garment factory, big help to poor women:

Set up in remote char, it employs them when male members do not have jobs

Ultra-poor women of remote Galna char in Phulchhari upazila of Gaibandha work at the mini garment factory set up by a local voluntary body. PHOTO: STAR
Ultra-poor women of remote Galna char in Phulchhari upazila of Gaibandha work at the mini garment factory set up by a local voluntary body. PHOTO: STAR

Dozens of underprivileged women at Galna char (landmass emerged from riverbed) of the Jamuna River in Phulchhari upazila under the district have gained self-reliance through working at a mini garment factory, thanks to the initiative of local voluntary organisation SKS Foundation.

Around 900 people belonging to 200 families in the remote char island live very poor life, depending on fishing, collecting firewood, and seasonal work as farm labourer.
Often male members of the families go to other places in search of work like that of farm labourer and rickshaw puller.
In 2010, SKS Foundation arranged training on garments production for 20 poor women and provided loan of Tk 2 lakh 88 thousand to form a cooperative and set up a mini garment factory at Golana.
The factory started producing different clothes for women and children and with the marketing facilities provided by SKS Foundation, the items have already gained popularity in char areas of Jamapur district and Phulchhari, Saghata and Sadar upazilas of Gaibandha district.  read more.
daily star bd


* 37 TAZREEN FIRE VICTIMS- PM to hand over cheques today:

The family members of 37 Tazreen Fashions fire victims, who were buried unnamed and later had been identified through DNA profiling, will receive compensation money today, after six months of the tragic incident.

The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, will hand over cheques of Tk 7 lakh to each victim’s family at her office today, said Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association vice-president Shahidullah Azim.
At least 112 workers were killed in the fire at Tazreen Fashions at Ashulia on November 24, 2012 and 53 of them were buried unidentified at Jurain graveyard as they were burnt beyond recognition.  read more.

19:03:38 local time map of india INDIA

* Manmohan Singh forms GoM to hear trade unions’ demands:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has constituted a group of ministers to discuss outstanding labour issues with all Central trade unions, which had launched a two-day nationwide strike in February to protest the government’s failure in responding to their demands.

The group of ministers, led by defence minister AK Antony, also includes Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Mallikarjun Kharge, the minister in charge of labour and employment. The first meeting of the ministerial group is scheduled to take place on May 14 in the defence minister’s office.
“I met the PM last week, who has agreed to set up a sub-committee of the Cabinet to discuss the issues raised by trade unions,” G Sanjeeva Reddy, the president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress or INTUC, told ET. INTUC is the trade union arm of the ruling Congress party.  read more.
The Economic Times

 * ‘Cotton output likely to be 340 lakh bales this season’:

The Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) has projected 340 lakh bales of cotton production in 2012-13 season and expects exports to be at 81 lakh bales in the same period, Parliament was informed today.

The Cotton season runs from October to September. “The CAB in its meeting on April 17, 2013, estimated a crop size of 340 lakh bales (170 kg each), consumption of 270 lakh bales and exports of 81 lakh bales,” Minister of State for Textiles Panabaaka Lakshmi said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
There is adequate cotton available in the country for domestic consumption, cotton prices remain stable and no supply side disruptions have been observed, she added.
In the last cotton season, the natural fibre production stood at 352 lakh bales and exports were to the tune of about 127 lakh bales.  read more.
The Economic Times

* Organic clothes yet to catch Patnaites’ fancy:

Fabrics are the latest addition to the “Go green” mantra of the era, and organic clothes are fast becoming a rage in metropolitan cities.

However, the trend is yet to pick up in the state capital as city stores do not stock organic clothesline or hardly receive any inquiries about it. But Patnaites interested in flaunting organic attires can always log on to some popular websites to meet their demand.
Organic clothes are just like any other clothing, but are free of chemicals. They are made of materials like cotton, jute, silk or wool, grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards without using herbicides, pesticides, or genetically modified seeds.  read more.

19:03:38 local time map of sri_lanka SRI LANKA

* Magistrate rules in favour of workers:

Galle Additional Magistrate and Chairperson of Galle Labour Tribunal, E.A.D.M.L. Ekanayake, ordered the management of a garment factory in the Elpitiya area to pay Rs 4,798,495 as compensation to 47 workers who had lost their jobs.

The compensation case was filed against the Casual Trends Ltd., Ketendola, Elpitiya, by 47 employees of the factory who had been transferred to another factory at Koggala.
However, since they had not reported for duty at the new factory, they had been deemed to have vacated their posts, and their services had been terminated from 1 September 2009.

The workers had filed the case at Galle Labour Courts.
The management of the factory was ordered to pay three months’ salary for each year as compensation to the 47 workers, and also to pay each worker Rs 5,000 as Court charges. read more.

18:33:38 local time map of pakistan PAKISTAN

* Pakistan workers confederation for reforms in budget:

The Caretaker government should introduce economic and social reforms in the forthcoming federal budget by taking measures to overcome serious electricity and gas loadshedding and raising cheaper sources of generation of electricity through hydel and coal fired thermal power stations as well as adopt National Economic Self Reliance Policy to develop national industries and agriculture for raising employment opportunity and allocatiqn 8pc GDP for human resources development and providing free and uniform education to each child irrespective status of the their parents and maintenance law and order and recovering of the plundered national wealth from the elite and imposing heavy taxes upon feudal lords and capitalists and freezing prices of essential commodities of daily use.

These proposals have been forwarded by Khurshid Ahmad, General Secretary,
Pakistan Workers Confederation to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and
Advisor for Finance to Prime Minister. The govternment should raise the
wages and salaries and pension of the employees working in the public and
private sector, government and semi-government agencies commensurate with
price-hike and fix minimum wages Rs.18,000 as well as raise house rent and
conveyance allowance for providing adequate facilities to the senior
citizen.  to read.

* Textile hub warns of economic meltdown:

In this photograph taken on April 19, 2013, Pakistani workers carry out their daily work at the Kohinoor textiles factory in Rawalpindi. PHOTO: AFP

Businessmen of Pakistan textile hub Faisalabad warn of economic meltdown in four days, if the power outage situation persists in the area where they say that the city is facing up to 20 hours of load-shedding.

On Monday in a press statement, Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mian Zahid Aslam expressed concerns over the present power situation.
He said Pakistan’s economy had taken the brunt of the energy crisis handicapping the economy by 3% growth annually. The root problem was not the lower generation capacity but mismanagement in the power sector.
The circular debt had swelled to Rs537 billion in 2012 from Rs144 billion in 2008, reflecting an increase of 272% in the period due to the government’s inability to tackle the problem.
On the other hand, severe power outages have caused a halt in production causing delays in export shipments. A problem is also being faced on the domestic front as demand has risen with the beginning of the summer season.
Working hours in the textile industry had already been considerably shortened and the unemployment caused as a result of it will take the law and order situation from bad to worse and the economy cannot absorb any more of the unemployed workforce.  read more.
The Express Tribune

* Textile exporters” claims: deadline extended:

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has extended the deadline for all banks/DFIs to submit claims of textile exporters against Payment of Export Finance Mark-Up Rate Facility and Mark up Rate Support for textile sector against long term loans from April 15 to May 20, according to a circular issued by SBP to all banks/DFIs on Monday.

The Circular further noted that other instructions on the subject shall remain unchanged. to read.


* Textile exporters irked over pending ST returns:

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.

map of asia  ASIA- general

* Adidas: Asia laborers can file complaints by SMS:

German sports gear maker Adidas says it is encouraging workers in factories of its Asian suppliers to anonymously share possible grievances directly with the company via text message.

Adidas AG, which also owns the Reebok brand, said Monday the SMS hotline will help bridge the communication gap between management and workers, enabling employees to “simply send an SMS when they feel their rights are breached.”
read more.
The Economic Times

* Wal-Mart Stores takes back top spot in Fortune 500:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. once again leads Fortune‘s list of the 500 biggest U.S. companies by revenue, as the world’s largest retailer succeeded in posting strong growth despite a challenging economy for its shoppers.

The Bentonville, Ark., company’s revenue grew nearly 6 percent in 2012 to $469.2 billion. read more. & read more.

* 10 Popular Retailers With Dark Labor Histories:

Promoting a socially responsible image is one way brands try to up their cool. But do brands really sacrifice their bottom line in order to stay true to a so-called progressive image? Not so much, according to experts.

Almost all major apparel retailers rely on sweatshop labor in some form, Liana Foxvog, organizing director at the International Labor Rights Forum, told The Huffington Post.
Take, for example, the fashion house Benetton, which at first denied and later admitted to its association with the Bangladeshi factory that collapsed killing more than 500 people last week. The company is just one of many “cool” brands to preach ideological values such as world peace while pushing products made in un-cool working conditions.

Ultimately, it’s up to the companies to define “progressive,” Scott Nova, the executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, which independently monitors workers’ rights worldwide, told The Huffington Post. Western retailers typically have a large degree of autonomy in deciding the standards of their supply chains, and that allows retailers to make unclear and hard-to-measure promises about worker safety.
read more.


map of Asia


* China’s rising wages reach a critical milestone

* Workers join walk to highlight industrial safety
* Shared Learning Seminars and a Fun Run to Celebrate OSH in Vietnam

* Union calls for stable rent for workers
* Cambodia statue highlights murder mystery

* Tangerang workers, locals attack factory, homes of owner and village head
* In Indonesia, Lessons on Safety at Work and at Home

* CCC regrets premature and irresponsible lifting of EU sanctions on Burma
* Lessons from Cambodia

* Death toll from Savar collapse hits 677
* 2 Savar engineers sent to jail
* Testimony of Shapla, Left Arm Amputation and a Serious Head Injury
* Last Hope in Ruins: Bangladesh’s Race to Save Shaheena
* While earning the least, they suffer the most!
* BGMEA demands special budgetary allocation
* PM to receive donations for Savar victims Tuesday
* German government to provide Taka 50 lakh for Savar victims
* India to provide artificial limbs to Savar victims
* Rana Plaza’s 2 RMG factories had 2,141 workers: BGMEA
* Payment of wages to Savar RMG workers to take some more days

* Death toll rises to 696


* Japan wants to help survey buildings housing RMG units
* Brands hit by troubles in garment industry
* Rebuilding the image for ‘Made in Bangladesh’
* Bangladesh: Sanctions for safety
* EU warns, again
* EU trade ban a bad idea
* EU must push for fundamental rights in Bangladesh garment sector
* Minister to head panel to oversee working condition in RMG sector
* Body formed to review RMG infrastructures, safety measures
* The crux of crisis in RMG industry
* Bangladesh agrees on action plan to improve working conditions, ILO says
* Conclusions of the ILO’s high level mission to Bangladesh
* Tripartite agreement on saving RMG
* Mini garment factory, big help to poor women

* 37 TAZREEN FIRE VICTIMS- PM to hand over cheques today

* Manmohan Singh forms GoM to hear trade unions’ demands
* ‘Cotton output likely to be 340 lakh bales this season’
* Organic clothes yet to catch Patnaites’ fancy

* Magistrate rules in favour of workers

* Pakistan workers confederation for reforms in budget
* Textile hub warns of economic meltdown
* Textile exporters” claims: deadline extended
* Textile exporters irked over pending ST returns

ASIA- general
* Adidas: Asia laborers can file complaints by SMS
* Wal-Mart Stores takes back top spot in Fortune 500
* 10 Popular Retailers With Dark Labor Histories

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