EXTRA Edition in the news on-line, 19 May 2013

12:40:49 local time map of cambodia CAMBODIA

* The Story: Three Cambodian Garment Workers Shot at Puma Supplier Factory:

In 2012, three garment workers were shot during a protest outside a Puma supplier factory in Cambodia. Despite their pain, the women have all returned to work.
Their shooter remains free.
See more (video).
CLEC

* We seek justice for Cambodian garment workers shot at Puma supplier factory:

Open Letter to CEOs Heads of Corporate Social Responsibility of Puma and Others:

Three Cambodian Garment Workers Shot at Puma Supplier Factory

To:
CEOs and Heads of Corporate Social Responsibility of Puma and Others,, PUMA

Dear CEOs and Heads of Corporate Social Responsibility of Puma and Others,

We write to you to demand justice for Cambodian garment workers Ms. Bun Chenda, Ms. Keo Nea and Ms. Nuth Sakhorn.

On 20 February 2012, an unidentified male approached a group of around 6,000 workers in Manhattan Special Economic Zone (MSEZ). They were protesting the poverty wages and exploitation that epitomize the Cambodian garment industry. That man shot three young women aged 18 to 23 for requesting a pay increase of 50 cents per day. During the shooting the police did not assist the victims. It was fellow workers who aided them onto motorbikes to be taken to the hospital. Police officers aided the  shooter’s escape by running alongside him to a neighbouring factory.We watched as one of those young women, Ms. Bun Chenda, 21, struggled for her life  at Calmette Hospital whilst money was thrown at her to buy her silence.
During the search for the shooter Minister of Interior, His Excellency Sar Kheng, came forward to proclaim “we know who the shooter is…We have evidence.” His Excellency identified the only suspect of the shooting as Bavet Governor, Mr. Chhouk Bandith.

Bandith was consequently removed from his position on 5 March 2012. Following this, Svay Rieng Provincial Prosecutor, Mr. Hing Bun Chea admitted Chhouk Bandith had confessed to the triple shooting, yet he was still not arrested. Eye witnesses such as police officer Mr. Long Phorn have been silenced and ignored.

The evidence against Chhouk Bandith is overwhelming yet he remains a free man, demonstrating that Cambodia is completely devoid of the rule of law. This  case and the powerful interests behind it make a mockery of the Cambodian judiciary and the standards of social responsibility that you claim to uphold.
read more. & please Sign!
CLEC

* Factory Collapse Deaths Called ‘Small Incident’:

Police questioned two people over the deadly building collapse on Thursday at a Taiwanese-owned shoe factory in Kompong Speu province that killed two people and left 11 injured, but released them the same day without charge.

A senior manager at the Wing Star factory, which produces sports shoes for Japanese brand Asics, said on Friday that his firm regretted the deaths of the two young workers, which he described as a “small incident” that did require an investigation to determine responsibility before the law. read more.
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* ILO statement on the Wing Star shoe factory building collapse:

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is saddened by the deaths and injuries resulting from the building collapse at the Wing Star shoe factory in Cambodia on Thursday (May 16th).

The ILO would like to express its condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, and to wish the injured workers a speedy recovery.

The cause of this accident is not yet clear; however the ILO believes that sound safety standards must be founded on effective social dialogue between workers and employers. The ILO calls for concrete action to guarantee a safe environment for factory workers in Cambodia.  to read.
International Labour Organization

11:40:49 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLADESH

* Ashulia RMG units reopen amid tight security:


Workers waiting to enter an RMG factory at Ashulia, as the units in the industrial belt reopened Friday. — FE Photo

Nearly 150 apparel units at Ashulia in Dhaka reopened Friday amid tight security as normalcy returned to the country’s key apparel belt after four days of production suspension.

Walking in file, thousands of workers streamed into the open factory gates early in the morning as police in bullet-proof vests and helmets stood by to stem any trouble.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) shut the factories, saying that the owners apprehended labour unrest in the area.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Workplace safety, trade union rights demanded:

Different labour rights bodies and organisations on Friday demanded that the government ensure safety of the workers at their workplaces and the workers’ right to trade union.

Saif-Ud-Dahar Smriti Rakkha Committee, fortnightly Sramik Awaj, Ganatantrik Ain O Sangbidhan Andolan and Garment Sramik Trade Union Kendra made the demand at separate programmes in the city.
Saif-Ud-Dahar Smriti Rakkha Committee, a platform formed in commemoration of Saif-Ud-Dahar, one the leaders of the communist movement in the subcontinent, organised a discussion meeting at Munir-Azad Conference room at Moni Singh-Farhad Smriti Trust on ‘Safety of the workers, their trade union rights and national interest.’
Addressing the meeting, economist Anu Muhammad said that the garment workers were being deprived of proper wages and trade union rights.
He called on the labour rights bodies to wage united movements to press home the demands of the workers.
Labour leader Shah Atiul Islam said that most of the workers in the country were being deprived of their rights.
read more.

* RMG workers agitate over retrenchment:

Workers of a garment factory staged demonstration protesting the retrenchment of their fellows in Ashulia on Saturday.

Police said workers of the factory ‘Gildren Shahriar’ at Bypile turned angry as they came to know that 75 workers of the factory have been retrenched.
Then they brought out a procession and ransacked the factory.
Later, they vandalised five vehicles on Nabinagar-Kaliakoir road and tried to block the road when police dispersed them.
Police said the authorities later closed the factory for the day.
to read.

* RMG workers stage demo at Ashulia:

Several hundred workers of a garment factory at Palashbari of Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital staged protests on Saturday against the termination of their co-workers a day after the factory reopened after a long workers’ unrest.

Witnesses and factory sources said the workers of Shahreer Garment became agitated after coming to know about the termination of 75 fellows. The protesters blocked the Nabinagar-Bipail road for an hour and vandalised at least five vehicles.
They said that about 2,000 workers went to the factory in the morning to join work but began protesting after they saw a notice on the main gate declaring termination of 75 workers.
Shahidul Islam, a worker of the factory, said the management often sacked workers without reason. He also accused the administrative officer of the factory of taking a hostile attitude towards the workers.
‘We demand termination of some factory officials, including the administrative officer who always misbehaves with the workers,’ he said.
Some other workers of the factory said they would continue their protest until the sacked workers were reappointed.
read more.

* Major reasons behind labour unrest at Ashulia:

Demand for wage-hike and a feeling of uncertainty over its timely implementation, coupled with workplace safety, are the major reasons behind the recent workers’ unrest at Ashulia after the deadly Savar disaster, labour activits claimed.

Garment workers and labour activists have suggested for making the award of a new wage board effective from May 1 last, following the government’s decision about its (board’s) formation, in order to help avert any further unrest in the country’s over $20 billion garment industry.
The ready-made garment (RMG) manufacturers are opposed to the demand for implementing the new wage-hike from May 1, although they said they were in favour of the wage-increase.
(…)
The demands of the workers in the RMG units (producing both woven and knitted apparel items) were made at a meeting between a number of labour rights’ organisations and the government held at the conference room of the ministry of labour at the Secretariat last Thursday.
(…)
Nazma Akhter, another laobur leader, said workers earn wages through labour and they should be well paid so that they could lead a decent life, not a luxurious one.
Shirin Akhter said, “We sat at the meeting to understand and analyse the present situation aiming to save the industry and bring back the trust of the owners and the workers in each other.
“The government and the garment unit owners need to look into the workers’ demands and rights to avert unrest at Ashulia,” she said adding the workers should be assured of their rights and given due respect. read more.

* Form trade union for own good:

Apparel makers have to introduce trade unions in their own initiative, as an effective union is a must to resolve workers’ unrest, experts said yesterday.

“A responsible trade union is good for any organisation. But garment workers cannot form it due to several obstacles by the owners,” said Former Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder.
The owners have to come forward to form the union by removing all the hurdles and workers will facilitate the initiative, he said at a roundtable.
Majumder’s comment came at a time when the cabinet has approved a ceiling to form a trade union in a recent amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006.
A representation of at least 30 percent of the workers in a factory will be required to form a trade union and the initiative has to come from the workers, according to the draft. read more.
daily star bd

* ILO, WB for labor changes in BD:

20130519 DAILYSTAR
The narrow, rusty and wobbly fire escape of garment factories housed in a dilapidated building at Chairmanbari of Banani in the capital. How the fire escape will hold in case of an emergency, when hundreds if not more than a thousand workers use it, beggars belief. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq– DailyStar

The International Labor Organization and World Bank have refused to let Bangladesh join a textile industry monitoring program until the country overhauls its labor laws and conditions for unions improve, according to a top ILO official.

The strict stance by the ILO and World Bank, which jointly run the global Better Work program, is part of an international drive that is gaining pace following a series of deadly industrial accidents in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest garment exporter and home to an estimated 5,000 textile plants.
read more. & read more.  & read more.
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* ILO, WB block Bangladesh from Better Work programme:

The International Labor Organization and the World Bank have refused to let Bangladesh join a textile industry monitoring programme until the country overhauls its labour laws and conditions for unions improve, reports The Washington Post quoting a top ILO official.

The strict stance by the ILO and World Bank, which jointly run the global Better Work programme, is part of an international drive that is gaining pace following a series of deadly industrial accidents in Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest garment exporter and home to an estimated 5,000 textile plants.
A group of visiting Bangladesh officials continued meetings in Washington on Friday with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and others, hoping to convince the United States they are serious about improving industrial conditions in the country.
(….)
Bangladesh asked last year to join the Better Work programme, which involves unannounced, independent inspections of participating textile plants by outside experts and technical help from the World Bank for managers and plant owners. But officials said the country’s labor laws are so weak, and the conditions for unions and workers so treacherous, that they have demanded major changes in advance of approving its participation.

“There were unacceptable risks of failure to starting a programme before these conditions are realized,” said Dan Rees, director of the Better Work programme, which currently monitors some textile factories in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere. “There is a lack of clarity in the law and we cannot as a programme get involved in monitoring factories and being seen as resolving conflicts when in fact we are not empowered to do that.”
read more.

* BGMEA to make database of workers in three months:

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) will create a database of each worker in all registered 3,200 garment factories to keep workers’ bio and service records.

“We’ll prepare a database of workers at factories in Dhaka first and gradually it would be expanded to Ashulia, Narayanganj and Chittagong within the next three months,” M Atiqul Islam, President of BGMEA, told BSS here today.
Atiqul, Managing Director of Islam Dresses Limited, said this would be a unique system to have records of garment workers in the country and the salient feature of the would-be database is that all service history of each and every worker would be kept.
Referring to the small and large Readymade Garment (RMG) factories, he said there is no exact data how many skilled, semi skilled and unskilled are now working in the industry.
read more. & read more. & readmore. & read more.
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* BGMEA-CDA jt inspection of Ctg RMG units starts:

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) started conducting joint inspection in all factories in the region from today (Friday) to detect durability, risks and other faults in the factory buildings.

The team comprising engineers of the CDA and directors of BGMEA Chittagong region will complete inspection within June 16 and submit its report with recommendations for taking necessary measures to remove the risk factors, a statement said.
read more.

* Inspection of Ctg RMG factories begins:

The Chittagong Development Authority and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association on Saturday started visiting readymade garment factories in the city to detect risky buildings with an aim to avert any further tragic accident in the RMG sector.

An eight-member vigilance team comprising four members from the CDA and four from the BGMEA visited five RMG factories – Banabethee Fashionwear Ltd, Pritty Dresses, Banalata Garments Ltd, Momin Apparels Ltd, Premier Style, and Asian Apparels Ltd – in the city’s Kotwali area on Saturday.
read more.

* Garment pact needs US retailers:

It’s a testament to globalization that the death of at least 1,127 people three weeks ago at the Rana Plaza garment plant continues to outrage Americans.

Seen from the USA, Bangladesh looks like one giant ongoing human tragedy. Poverty is extreme, wages paid at the factories that make clothes to be sold in richer nations are pitiful, and working conditions in them are hazardous. In November, 112 people died in a garment factory fire. Last week, eight lives were claimed in a fire.
There is no reason that things have to stay that way. In the years after World War II, counties like Taiwan and Singapore were similarly placed as low-cost producers with workplaces often well below Western standards. Today, they are economic success stories.

This is not to say that conditions in Bangladesh could turn around overnight. But they might gradually improve under the right circumstances — stable government, improvements in infrastructure and education, and continued investment by foreign companies.
Which brings us to the subject at hand? Calls for Western apparel companies to stop doing business in Bangladesh are counterproductive to the cause of improving the lives of workers in developing countries. read more.
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* Dutch to head global bid to reform BD textile sector:

The Netherlands is to co-chair a group of donor countries, businesses and civil society groups tackling rampant safety issues in Bangladesh’s textile sector, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The move comes after over 1,100 people died in a factory collapse in Bangladesh in April, prompting top Western retailers and global trade unions to promise to improve shocking factory conditions.
The Netherlands is giving nine million euros ($13 million) that together with funds from the textile sector will be put to improve “harrowing” work conditions, the foreign ministry said on its website.
read more. & read more. & read more.
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* Bangladesh factory tragedy prompts UK to finalize first ever ‘business and human rights policy’:

British companies setting up shop in Asian countries like India, China and Bangladesh will soon be bound by a new government policy to uphold safety and human rights of its workers.

The “Business and Human Rights policy” is being finalized jointly by Britain’s foreign and commonwealth office (FCO) and the department of communities.
FCO says it used £750,000 of “Human Rights and Democracy programme budget” in 2012 to sponsor projects promoting business and human rights in Burma, China, Colombia, Congo, India and Uganda.
British embassies and high commissions are being roped in to promote responsible business behaviour and best practice.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, senior minister at the FCO Baroness Sayeeda Warsi confirmed the move.
She told TOI “At present, business and human rights are considered two separate issues and hence many companies don’t have it as part of their worker’s policy. Businesses also don’t see human rights as an important issue to address. Several studies have confirmed that happy and well looked employees are more productive, better for business and take fewer sick leaves.”
read more.read more. & read more.
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* Aussie retailers reject BD safety plan:

Some of Australia`s top retailers have refused to sign an agreement to give workers in Bangladesh better wages and safety conditions just weeks after 1100 people were killed in an industrial accident.

Major retail chains including Woolworths, Kmart and Target, which operate factories in the country, will not sign the legally binding international agreement, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
read more.
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* Danish companies decline BD safety agreement:

A total of 31 multinational clothing companies have signed an international pact to improve safety standards for garment factory workers in Bangladesh, but no Danish companies have joined the agreement.

The agreement was developed by an international coalition of trade unions and NGOs after a building collapse in Dhaka last month killed over 1,100 people, many of whom were garment workers. The contract requires that clothing companies conduct independent safety inspections of their facilities, make public reports on the conditions of their factories, and cover necessary costs for safety repairs.
read more.
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* 14 USA retailers decline to sign safety pact:

The deadline to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh passed on Tuesday, and at least 14 major North American retailers declined to participate.

The agreement, which demands a five-year commitment from participating retailers to conduct independent safety inspections of factories and pay up to $500,000 per year toward safety improvements, has seen greater support abroad than in the U.S.
read more. & read more.
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* US, Canada retailers seek PM’s help in factory safety:

A collaboration of six leading US and Canadian apparel and retail trade associations has sent a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seeking cooperation to implement the Safer Factories Initiative (SAI) in Bangladesh.

The North American Bangladesh Workers Safety Working Group in the letter said: “….we understand that joint effort and cooperation of all parties – the Bangladesh government, factory owners, workers, buyers in North America and Europe, members of civil society, and organised labour-are essential to identify viable solutions and implement a successful and sustainable plan of corrective action.”
read more.

* Retailers seek transparency in Safe Factories Initiative:

The North American Bangladesh Worker Safety Working Group, a collaboration of six leading US and Canadian apparel and retail trade associations, sent a letter to the Prime Minster of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed regarding the serious worker safety issues in Bangladesh.

The letter, which included an attachment outlining specific requests on behalf of North American buyers, was hand-delivered to Bangladesh Labor Secretary Mr. Mikail Shipar during a meeting in Washington, D.C. between the secretaries and the working group. “We ask for your assurances that these positive steps will be part of an ongoing and sustained enforcement effort by the Bangladesh government,” the letter said, referring to steps the Bangladesh government has already taken in response to the recent tragedies in the region. read more.
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* Apparel sector under rubble:

After being pulled alive after 17 days, Reshma smiled and said: ‘Good to be out in the sun after so many days.’ This shows the strength of Bangladesh.

Since the collapse of Rana plaza, which left more than 1,000 people killed, with scores still unaccounted for, Bangladesh has been in media headlines, at home and abroad. There have been many such incidents in recent years. Each time, for a few days, we see both the electronic and print media analyse, interpret and, of course, blame the authorities and after a while things are back as usual.

Our economy of $110 billion is driven by three major sectors — agriculture, remittances and export. The readymade garments sector contributes 84 per cent of our total export earnings and around 5,000 RMG units create employment opportunities for four million people, of whom 85 per cent are women. In 2011-12, the country made $19 billion from garments and knitwear exports, the second largest in the world. Industrial experts predict that Bangladesh will become the largest readymade garments manufacturer, with an export volume of $36-42 billion and employing three million more people, in the next five years. read more.

* US shoppers feel little for Bangladesh:

The growing popularity of low-price clothing retailers is pushing retailers away from China in search of even lower-cost Asian suppliers for the labour-intensive work of apparel making.

Bangladesh is an example: It has moved from eighth biggest garment exporter in 2005 to the fourth in 2011, according to the most recent data available from the World Trade Organisation. Bangladesh accounted for 4.7 per cent of all the world clothing exports in 2011, up from 2.5 per cent in 2005, according to the USA Today.
But the pressure for lower costs has had a high price: factory fires and other disasters, including the April 24 Bangladesh factory collapse that killed 1,127 workers
H&M, Gap, Benetton, The Children’s Place and Walmart are among the names linked at different times to unsafe factories.
A consumer perception research firm YouGov survey found consumers’ ‘impression’ of Walmart started to drop right around May 10 when a rep said the chain wouldn’t comment about the Bangladesh incidents. Since then, YouGov’s BrandIndex shows their impression of Walmart has continued to drop.

When Walmart singled itself out (by saying it would solve factory problems on its own terms), ‘it called negative attention to itself,’ and consumers did not react favourably, says Ted Marzilli, global managing director for the BrandIndex.
But will such feeling about Walmart and other retailers last after the high-profile disaster fades from the headlines? Studies and interviews show that while consumers care, their zeal for deals may outweigh that in the long run.
read more.

* Your Favorite Stores Aren’t Signing the Bangladesh Safety Act:

20130519 ILRF

Labor groups urged massive clothing retailers including Gap and Wal-Mart to sign an international pact this week that would solidify safety standards and send a clear message that big brand names won’t allow another easily preventable tragedy like last month’s factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,000 people, to happen again.

Naturally, most U.S. companies that produce in Bangladesh refused to sign it.
read more.
JEZEBEL

THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE

* The Savar Tragedy:

It was on the 24th April 2013 that a building named “Rana Plaza” at Savar near the Bangladesh capital collapsed killing over thousand people and injuring another 2438.

The 9-storied building housed shopping centre, bank, garment factories and other commercial offices. It is estimated that on an average, near about four thousand people used to work in the building. Till May 12 evening, 1117 dead bodies were reported to have recovered and 2438 rescued alive. This makes the incident worst industrial tragedy only second to the Union Carbide disaster in Bhupal, India.

In today’s world of technological advances such an incident should not have happened. It is now for the government to find those responsible for lapses, omissions and negligence and bring them to justice so that it becomes a good deterrent. We failed to stop the incident but we must not fail to learn lessons so that similar disasters never happen again. For this we have to conduct a post-mortem of the incident and analyse them from every possible angle.
read more.

* Factory licences given, renewed despite faults:

The chief factory inspector’s office had granted licences to four garment factories at Rana Plaza and renewed those every year since 2008 though the factory floors of the nine-story building were built illegally and the units lacked safety standards.

Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) authorities had also issued fire licences to the factories and renewed those every year.
The high rise at Savar collapsed on April 24 due to structural faults, said eminent civil engineers. Over 1,100 people perished in the collapse, which turned out to be the deadliest man-made industrial disaster in the country’s history.
As per the law, building owner Sohel Rana was supposed to get its design approved by the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha. Though he had approval from Savar Municipality for raising a five-storey structure, he built four stories more and rented out the top floors to garment factories. read more.
daily star bd

* Lost in despair:

 Adhir Das does not mourn his wife anymore.
He has lost his job. His eldest daughter 18-year-old Arati has been taking treatment at a hospital with her right leg cut off. At home, his three children — Lovely, 9, Lucky, 7, and Akhi, 2, await their father to get food for them.

“God only knows how they [the children] will survive. I don’t know how I will take care of them,” he says while talking to The Daily Star yesterday.
Worries seem to have taken over the loss of his wife Titon Bala Das, a garment worker, who died in the collapse of Rana Plaza at Savar outside Dhaka on April 24.
A construction worker, Adhir, 45, who was working on the rooftop of the nine-storey building that day, narrowly escaped the disaster with minor injuries. He saw his three fellow workers die while another one broke one leg.
Both Adhir’s wife Titon, 40, and daughter Arati worked at New Wave Style on the sixth floor of Rana Plaza. Three days into the crash, he found Titon’s body at Adhar Chandra High School, a kilometre from the building, where the dead were being brought for identification. read more.
daily star bd

* 12 Savar tragedy victims receive financial support:

Radio Padma, a Rajshahi-based Community Radio, handed over bank cheques worth Taka one lakh to the family members of 12 victims of Savar tragedy at a simple ceremony here today.

Earlier, the authorities of the radio collected money from its listeners and wellwishers in an effort to help the victims and extended support to the seriously wounded persons of Rajshahi region.
Radio Padma Friends Forum organized the cheque-distribution  programme at Master Chef Restaurant where artists and listeners of the radio, family members of the affected families and some  local journalists attended.
read more.
BSS

* Relief for victims of Savar tragedy:

It is good that banks are disbursing funds for the Rana Plaza victims.
The government has already handed over payments to the bereaved families and also requested the banks to cash their checks.
The donations from banks stands Tk 8.0 billion.

What needed now is to arrange prompt payment for the victims. The target should be to complete paying all the victims before this financial year ends. No excuse for delays will be acceptable. The government should form a supervision team consisting of reliable persons to do the job speedily. The disbursement may be done by BGMEA but they need to be strictly monitored by the government so that no one is missed out and deprived under any circumstances. This immediate financial relief should be a matter of top priority. read more.

* NBR to look into bonded warehouse facility for Rana Plaza factories:

The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has moved to look into the state of the bonded warehouse facility enjoyed by the owners of five garment factories housed in the collapsed Rana Plaza at Savar.

The building collapsed last month, killing, at least, 1,127 people. The worst-ever tragedy in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector sent a shockwave across the world.
NBR member Md Nasir Uddin, who heads the bonded warehouse facility wing, instructed the bond commissionerate in Dhaka to form a committee to this end. The committee will look into justification of the bonded warehouse facilities that the affected garment factories enjoyed.  read more.

MORE AND OTHER NEWS:

* Move on to divert Western buyers from Bangladesh:

BGMEA confident of overcoming shocks
Several ready-made garment (RMG) producing countries including Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia are trying to lure western apparel buyers away from Bangladesh.The latest development came as Bangladesh is now struggling to overcome a severe jolt caused by a building collapse that killed 1,127 workers and maimed many at Savar recently, industry sources said.
If the western buyers choose other countries as sources for their merchandise, it is likely to extend a severe blow to Bangladesh, the second largest RMG exporter of the world after China, traders said.
(..)
However, according to international trade sources, like Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia and Pakistan have developed expertise to make high quality RMG products including shirts, blouses, jackets and trousers and acquired efficiency to make and supply tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousand pieces to global retailers within weeks of receiving orders.As the prices of RMG products made in China are going up due to higher labour costs, other garment producing countries are now offering lucrative offers with an aim to divert the global brands from Bangladesh.  read more.

* BD-US partnership talks on May 26-28 Trade issues, labour rights, TICFA, poll-time govt may top agenda:

Dhaka and Washington will hold a comprehensive partnership dialogue in the city on May 26-28 next to discuss trade, security and development issues concerning the two countries, diplomatic sources said.

The ongoing political turmoil affecting business and economy, the next poll-time government and the safety standards and labour issues in the garment sector are likely to figure prominently in the dialogue, the sources said.
read more.

* U.S. may strip Bangladesh of tariff breaks:

The Obama administration may strip Bangladesh of import breaks following deadly accidents in the country’s textile industry, another sign of the pressure building on the southeast Asian nation to improve labor conditions, USA-based newspaper The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The move was prompted partly by a fire late last year that killed 112 people and gained momentum after the recent factory collapse that claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Business, labor and advocacy groups are all struggling over how to respond to the April 24 incident — the worst-ever in the textile industry but an event that could produce meaningful change in a nation on its way to becoming the world’s largest garment exporter.

A group of mostly European nations has signed on to a binding inspection program. U.S. firms such as Wal-Mart have declined, but political backlash may be building. On Thursday, a group of senators wrote to major U.S. retailers urging them to reconsider, and the Obama administration is also debating how to get American firms more constructively engaged.
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* Apparel factory disasters worry US:

The Obama administration may strip Bangladesh of import breaks following deadly accidents in the country’s textile industry, another sign of the pressure building on the southeast Asian nation to improve labour conditions.

The move was prompted partly by a fire late last year that killed 112 people and gained momentum after the recent factory collapse that claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Business, labour and advocacy groups are all struggling over how to respond to the April 24 incident — the worst-ever in the textile industry but an event that could produce meaningful change in a nation on its way to becoming the world’s largest garment exporter.
A group of mostly European nations has signed on to a binding inspection programme. US firms such as Wal-Mart have declined, but political backlash may be building. On Thursday, a group of senators wrote to major US retailers urging them to reconsider, and the Obama administration is also debating how to get American firms more constructively engaged. read more.
daily star bd

* US lawmakers urge PM to ensure labour rights:

Twenty-five United States Congressmen have written a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urging the Bangladeshi authorities to join in a comprehensive, concrete, and coordinated plan to ensure workers’ safety and rights.

The Congressmen include Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Bangladesh Joseph Crowley, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin.
“As friends of the Bangladeshi people, we strongly urge Bangladesh’s authorities to join in a comprehensive, concrete and coordinated plan to ensure worker safety and secure workers’ rights in Bangladesh.
Only months after the Tazreen fire, the collapse of the Rana Plaza building further underlines the importance of taking such action without delay,” said the letter dated May 15 that was sent to the Prime minister through Bangladesh Embassy in Washington. “In recent years, a number of us have raised issues directly with the Bangladesh authorities regarding worker safety and rights in Bangladesh.
This includes, among other issues, the unresolved killing of Aminul Islam, fire safety, worker safety, the right to organise and charges against labour rights organisations, it said.
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* US wants rapid progress on building safety issue:

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged rapid progress both on fire and building safety inspection issues in Bangladesh and on quick passage of labour law amendments.

He also emphasised the importance of the war crimes trials in the International Crimes Tribunals being conducted in a fair, transparent manner in accordance with international standards.
Kerry said this during a meeting with Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni at the US Department of State in Washington on Friday, according to a message received here on Saturday.
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* US vows help to Bangladesh after factory disaster:

The United States has praised Bangladesh performance in disaster management saying Washington wanted to work with Dhaka on workers’ rights and safety in the wake of the deadly factory collapse, and offered help after a killer storm.

“Our hearts go out to the families” of the 1,127 people killed (in the Savar collapse). . . we hope that this will be able to help all of us cooperate on the issue of labour and labour standards and workers and workers’ rights,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said as his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni met him at a meeting at his office.
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* US praises Bangladesh steps for factory safety, promises assistance:

The United States today appreciated Bangladesh initiatives to ensure labour safety with government leaders and Congressmen promising to work on workers’ rights and safety in the wake of the deadly factory collapse in this South Asian country.

“We hope that this (Savar collapse) will be able to help all  of us cooperate on the issue of labor and labor standards and workers and workers’ rights,” US secretary of state John Kerry told his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni during their first
official meeting in the US capital, according to a foreign office statement issued here today.
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* BD delegation defends trade status in Washington:

Officials from Bangladesh are lobbying US President Barack Obama’s administration not to revoke trade preferences as it reviews worker-safety conditions in the Asian nation.

A delegation from Bangladesh met with officials from the US Trade Representative’s office on May 15 to discuss the agency’s study of the trade benefits, agency spokeswoman Kate Villarreal said Saturday in an e-mail.
The April 24 collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,000 people, has highlighted the nation’s worker-safety conditions.
The trade representative’s office said in a January 8 notice in the Federal Register that “the lack of progress by the government of Bangladesh in addressing worker rights issues in the country warrants consideration of possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation Bangladesh’s trade benefits.”
read more.
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* Apparel factory disasters worry US:

Obama admin ‘may strip Bangladesh of import breaks’

The Obama administration may strip Bangladesh of import breaks following deadly accidents in the country’s textile industry, another sign of the pressure building on the southeast Asian nation to improve labour conditions.

The move was prompted partly by a fire late last year that killed 112 people and gained momentum after the recent factory collapse that claimed more than 1,100 lives.
Business, labour and advocacy groups are all struggling over how to respond to the April 24 incident — the worst-ever in the textile industry but an event that could produce meaningful change in a nation on its way to becoming the world’s largest garment exporter.
A group of mostly European nations has signed on to a binding inspection programme. US firms such as Wal-Mart have declined, but political backlash may be building. On Thursday, a group of senators wrote to major US retailers urging them to reconsider, and the Obama administration is also debating how to get American firms more constructively engaged.
read more.
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* Mozena links GSP to trade union:

US Ambassador Dan W Mozena on Saturday said Bangladesh has to ensure workers’ rights to association to get generalised system of preferences (GSP) in the US market.

The US envoy said this while attending a mass hearing titled “Safe environment for garment workers: experience and doable.”
Parliamentary standing committee on labour and employment organised the hearing at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
Apart from the US envoy, representatives from international labour organisations, European Union, UK and Canada attended the session.
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* US-EU joint efforts needed to reform garment sector:

Absence of a regulatory body to supervise the garment sector has led to frequent  disasters and widespread discriminations to garment workers and the government should take immediate steps to set up such a body, experts said.

Moreover, lack of coordination between the government, BGMEA and workers bodies and the corruption and inefficiency of government officials who are always friendly to garment factory owners at the cost of workers have led to sever trouble and destabilization in the sector, they suggested.
The garment industry belong to the nation and the government and the industry owners must work together to save it by pursing a worker friendly policy instead of using police to subdue workers who are suffering from low wage.
Prof Yunus has outlined a plan how the country’s garment industry can be saved and rather further strengthen it. But since the government is not having a good working relation with him, garment owners may also remain reluctant to use his services, the sources said laying emphasis on forging unity at all levels to overcome the crisis. read more.
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* RMG sector and the myths of back-to-back LCs:

Bangladesh entered the readymade garment (RMG) export market in the late eighties when its foreign exchange reserve had reached nearly its nadir.

There was not enough foreign exchange in the kitty to import fabrics and other accessories to execute export orders. The government came to the rescue with a novel plan to allow the garment units with bonded warehouse facility to import the inputs on credit terms under the system of what is known as back-to-back letters of credit. Although the kind of back-to-back letters of credit used for these imports did not conform to its definition in the foreign exchange parlance, the name, nevertheless, stuck and continued to play an important part to bring garment exports to a level that the authors of the scheme had not foreseen. read more.

* Export orders for RMG accessories mark fall due to political turmoil:

Export orders for country’s readymade garment (RMG) accessories have dropped significantly due to frequent shutdown of factories and political turmoil now prevailing in the country.

Industry insiders said although present statistics show an 8 per cent nominal growth in garment accessories shipment decline in recent export orders will hit the sector in financial year 2013-2014.
They also expressed their view that the ‘Rana Plaza tragedy’ has come as a thunder bolt to the exporters. read more.

* Salvaging the reputation of the garment industry:

Liton Chandro Sarkar in the first of a two-part article, ‘Savar tragedy and fight for Bangladesh garment industry’s reputation’

Bangladesh is growing every day in terms of economy and business expansion. The ready-made garment (RMG) sector has a greater potential than any other sector in contributing to the reduction of poverty in the country. The sector is very important in terms of employment, foreign exchange earnings and its contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The clothing industry has emerged as the lifeblood of the Bangladesh economy. It is the most prominent source of income and local jobs, especially for the illiterate people and villagers. More than 5.0 million, mostly the illiterate women, are involved directly and, about 15 million indirectly, for their livelihood in this sector. It has brought benefits and blessings for millions of people in the country. This industry has played a significant role in elevating the economic and living standards of millions of families all over the country.
(…)
Following is a list of big fire and building collapse disasters in Bangladesh during the period of 1990 to 2013:

1990: 32 killed at Sareka Garments (fire incident)
1996: 2 killed at Lusaka Garments (fire incident)
1997: 22 died at Rahman & Rahman Apparels; 27 died at Tamanna Garments (fire incident)
2000: 53 killed at Choudury Knitwear (fire incident)
2001: 24 killed at Maico Sweater (fire incident)
2002: 12 killed at Global Knitting (fire incident)
2004: 9 killed at Misco Supermarket Building and 64 died (3 incidents) in different locations (fire incident and stampede)
2005: 23 killed at Shan Knitting, Godnail, in January; 64 killed at Spectrum garment factory in April (building collapse)
2006: 67 killed at KTS Chittagong; 6 died at Jamuna Spinning Mill, and 22 died at Phoenix Garments (building collapse)
2010: 21 killed at Garib & Garib in February and 29 killed in December at That’s It Sportswear, a unit of the Hameem group (fire incident)
2011: 2 killed after a boiler explosion at Eurotex (fire incident)
2012: 124 are reported dead at Tazreen Fashions (fire incident)
2013: More than 1.100  are reported dead at Rana Plaza in Savar (building collapse), and 8 died at Tung Hai Sweater (fire incident)

Accidents or ‘murders’: More than eleven hundred workers were killed when the garment factory collapsed in Savar on April 24, 2013.  read more.

* Promoting the image of ‘Made in Bangladesh’:

Liton Chandro Sarkar concluding his two-part article, ‘Savar tragedy and fight for Bangladesh garment industry’s reputation’

The words `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 a long way. As an emerging economy, we owe a ‘great deal’ to our development partners for the economic progress attained so far or the reforms made in many sectors. We cannot avoid the development partners much if we want to get into a ‘sustainable journey’ for our apparel sector too. Be it workers’ safety, workplace security, labour force development, compliance with acceptable production standards, delineating appropriate laws or guidelines or even managerial, supervisory or entrepreneurship development — the development partners can come up with appropriate ‘know-how’ or strategies.

More importantly, we should prepare a `laundry list’ for our apparel sector and clean those with all sincerity. All is not lost. We need to go ‘beyond the box’ to take this industry to the next possible trajectory and help ourselves in attaining the status of a respectable and `well-governed’ state.
read more.

10:40:49 local time map of uzbekistan UZBEKISTAN

* Uzbek schoolchildren forced to weed cotton fields:

School children in Karakalpakstan’s Amudarya district have been forced to weed cotton fields since early May.

All schoolchildren beginning in the fourth grade have been forced to weed cotton fields, residents of Karakalpakstan’s Amudarya district report.
Children are sent to cotton fields through schools. School principals and teachers are responsible for the quality of their pupils labour.
Local residents said that children were forced to work on orders from the head of Amudarya district, Rajabboy Yuldashev.  read more.
UZnews

 

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INFO:

The next newsletter and news bulletin will be published 21 (!) May 2013,

Unless events require an extra edition.

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

HEADLINES:

CAMBODIA
* The Story: Three Cambodian Garment Workers Shot at Puma Supplier Factory
* We seek justice for Cambodian garment workers shot at Puma supplier factory
* Factory Collapse Deaths Called ‘Small Incident’
* ILO statement on the Wing Star shoe factory building collapse

BANGLADESH
* Ashulia RMG units reopen amid tight security
* Workplace safety, trade union rights demanded
* RMG workers agitate over retrenchment
* RMG workers stage demo at Ashulia
* Major reasons behind labour unrest at Ashulia
* Form trade union for own good
* ILO, WB for labor changes in BD
* ILO, WB block Bangladesh from Better Work programme
* BGMEA to make database of workers in three months
* BGMEA-CDA jt inspection of Ctg RMG units starts
* Inspection of Ctg RMG factories begins
* Garment pact needs US retailers
* Dutch to head global bid to reform BD textile sector
* Bangladesh factory tragedy prompts UK to finalize first ever ‘business and human rights policy’
* Aussie retailers reject BD safety plan
* Danish companies decline BD safety agreement
* 14 USA retailers decline to sign safety pact
* US, Canada retailers seek PM’s help in factory safety
* Retailers seek transparency in Safe Factories Initiative
* Apparel sector under rubble
* US shoppers feel little for Bangladesh
* Your Favorite Stores Aren’t Signing the Bangladesh Safety Act
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* The Savar Tragedy
* Factory licences given, renewed despite faults
* Lost in despair
* 12 Savar tragedy victims receive financial support
* Relief for victims of Savar tragedy
* NBR to look into bonded warehouse facility for Rana Plaza factories
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Move on to divert Western buyers from Bangladesh
* BD-US partnership talks on May 26-28 Trade issues, labour rights, TICFA, poll-time govt may top agenda
* U.S. may strip Bangladesh of tariff breaks
* Apparel factory disasters worry US
* US lawmakers urge PM to ensure labour rights
* US wants rapid progress on building safety issue
* US vows help to Bangladesh after factory disaster
* US praises Bangladesh steps for factory safety, promises assistance
* BD delegation defends trade status in Washington
* Apparel factory disasters worry US
* Mozena links GSP to trade union
* US-EU joint efforts needed to reform garment sector
* RMG sector and the myths of back-to-back LCs
* Export orders for RMG accessories mark fall due to political turmoil
* Salvaging the reputation of the garment industry
* Promoting the image of ‘Made in Bangladesh’

UZBEKISTAN
* Uzbek schoolchildren forced to weed cotton fields

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