08:00:36 local time BANGLADESH
* Labour leaders under intelligence watch:
The law enforcement agencies have beefed up security measures and vigilance in the garment factories to discover the mastermind behind recent violence across the country.
Members of the intelligence department have already gleaned information about hundreds of labour leaders. They are tracking cell phone records of those leaders. According to police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) officials, a group of influential people is trying to destroy the garments industry by misleading the workers. Intelligence agencies are also trying to identify the instigators through video footage of violence unleashed recently in Ashulia and others places of the country. And they said they had found evidence of outsiders’ involvement in those mayhem. A top official of police headquarters requesting anonymity said the law enforcement agencies have increased vigilance on the order of the home ministry at the request of the labour and employment ministry. read more.
* Mondol, Fateha, among many to reopen with worker’s questions unanswered:
After nervous days the factories shut due to worker protests have reopened with workers going back to gamble with their luck on the numerous crumbling buildings in Dhaka.
After the collapse of the Savar Rana Plaza, the panic of a possible building-collapse spread to two other apparel factories in Savar after a few days day. Several hundred workers of Mondol Fashion at Jirabo and Fateha Knit Wear at Sobhanbag rushed out of the factories in panic. The apparel factories in the area were declared shut after the incident. However, on reopening, it is again in the factory owner’s term – as they hold the priced bread of a workforce which cannot but work to earn food for their children more than for themselves.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association joint secretary (labour) M Rafikul Islam said the violence took place as the authorities directed to observe national mourning day kept the factories open. Mondol and Fateha were among such factories. read more.
* 20-30-50 RMG workers injured in Ahulia clash over minimum wage :
At least 20 people suffered injuries in a clash erupted this morning between garment workers and police at Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital.
“Several hundreds garment workers staged demonstration at Ashulia over increasing their wage this morning and we brought the situation under control after dispersing them firing teargas shells,” Director of Industrial Police, Ashuliya Mostafizur Rahman, told BSS.
The clash ensued around 9am when several hundreds of garment workers took to the streets at Narasinghapur demanding for Tk 8,000 minimum wages halting traffic movement on the Dhaka- Tangail Highway for half an hour, police and witnesses said.
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* RMG workers take to streets for wage hike:
At least 40 apparel workers were injured in clashes with police in Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital on Monday, forcing closure of at least 10 factories.
The agitated workers also blocked the busy Dhaka-Tangail highway halting traffic for about two hours to press their demands, including salary hike, wages for the three days from May 14 when the factories remained closed on an order by the BGMEA, workplace safety and removal of some factory officers.
At least 10 garment factories were shut after the protest broke out in the area.
Workers of a sweater factory at Panchabati in Narayanganj also clashed with police on Monday evening that left at least 10 people injured.
In Ashulia, witnesses and workers said that several thousand workers of Ha-Meem Group garment factories and Meddler Apparels at Narasinhapur took to the streets around 8:00am blocking traffic on the highway to press their demands.
* Massive Labor Unrest Surrounding Worker Beating in Hameen Group, Ashulia:
At least 50 workers have been severely injured in a factory of Hameem Group at Bipile, Ashulia. The worker’s blocked a highway for an hour before being facing Police baton which eventually dispersed them into small violent groups across the region.
The protest started when a female worker called on to the management demanding a raise in her wages. The furious management severely beat her when surrounding workers gathered to protect their fellow worker and prepared to stage an unrest. Hameen Group declared a shut down immediately. Later, as the workers protested and arranged a demonstration against the beating, local goons attacked them with sticks and injured dozens of workers severely.
* 20 RMG units at Ashulia shut production:
Several garment factories in Ashulia were again shut for Monday in the face of violent workers’ protest, demanding a hike in their monthly wages, owners and police said.
At least 30 workers were also injured when the protesters clashed with the law enforcers in the morning, resulting in suspension of production at the units two days after they resumed manufacturing of apparel products.
Police and witnesses said the fresh trouble erupted at about 8:20am when thousands of workers of Ha-Meem Group went out of its several factories and blockaded the Dhaka-Tangail Highway that connects the country’s northern districts with the capital.
Ha-Meem Group is one of the country’s major apparel producers with a workforce of around 12000.
Talking to the FE, Officer-in-Charge of Ashulia Police Station, Sheikh Md Badrul Alam, said workers of Ha-Meem Group entered into the factories in the morning.
* Labour unrest halts Ha-Meem:
Ha-Meem Group, a leading garment maker, and several other factories in Ashulia suspended operations yesterday after workers clashed with police, leaving 30 people injured.
At least 7,000 workers of Ha-Meem and other factories began demonstrating at Narasinghapur around 8am, demanding a hike in salaries, said Mohammad Moniruzzaman, deputy director of Industrial Police.
Police clubbed the workers and fired rubber bullets and teargas shells to control the situation, he said. Traffic on the Dhaka-Tangail highway came to a halt.
“We have suspended production due to labour unrest,” said AK Azad, managing director of Ha-Meem Group.
“Although I have accepted almost all the demands of the workers, unrest is still continuing,” he said. The company has already increased the attendance bonus to Tk 350 from Tk 300 previously, he added.
Although the government announced a new wage board for the workers last week, they are still demanding a salary hike, he said. “We will follow whatever decision the wage board gives us.” read more.
* RMG workers-cops clash in Ashulia:
At least 20 people were injured in a clash between garments workers and law enforcers in Narasinghapur of Ashulia on Tuesday morning.
Witnesses said that workers in the morning started protest demanding to open Medlar Garment, which was shut without any prior notice. read more.
* TU rights and apparel sector troubles:
The Rana Plaza collapse has again prompted experts and members of civil society to raise the demand for instituting a strong regulatory or controlling authority for the country’s apparel industry, robust in recent time but now under stress.
Immediately after the Tazreen Fashion fire that had claimed 112 lives, there was a demand for setting up a controlling authority for the industry. Some have suggested putting in place a separate ministry while some others wanted an independent regulatory body having enough authority to punish the errant apparel units. However, with the passage of time such demands would lose steam and the business is most likely to become as usual.
Early last week, participants at a discussion meeting, organised by a vernacular financial daily in Dhaka, laid emphasis on the formation of a controlling authority on an urgent basis for the apparel sector.
There is no denying that the sector needs an effective authority to right many wrongs and address the future challenges. In fact the industry has never been under so much of national and international focus or scrutiny as it is now. The death of a record number of workers of garment units at the ill-fated Rana Plaza is the main reason behind this.
Never before did a US President or the Pope at the Vatican make any observation about the safety, security and wages of Bangladesh garment workers. The comment from the incumbent pope has been particularly damaging to the image of Bangladesh and its apparel industry. read more.
* Unions commend deal after Bangladesh collapse:
Labor groups representing 70 million workers worldwide have commended 31 mainly European retail chains for signing a deal to make Bangladesh’s garment factories safer. A factory collapse last month claimed 1,127 lives.
Two Swiss-based federations, UNI and IndustriALL Global Union, which for years have campaigned for drastic factory improvements in cheap-labor countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia, said a safety deal signed by Western retailers marked a step forward.
“This accord is a turning point,” said Philip Jennings, head of UNI Global Union. “We’ve smashed the window of self-regulation.”
“We are putting in place rules that mark the end of the race to the bottom in the global supply chain. This agreement is about life and death,” Jennings told the news agency AFP.
* Proposed Changes to Labour Law- Concerns still exist:
The proposed amendment to the labour law, expected to be finalised in June, claims to bring changes for workers — for the better. In reality, many of its provisions will have a contrary effect, particularly on those in the garment sector.
“In many important areas, the employers are being given undue benefits over the interests of workers,” said AKM Nasim, senior legal counsellor at the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity (ACILS).
Take for instance, the provision for owners to terminate workers for “arson, vandalism and obstruction to work”. No such words are present in the existing labour law.
Another new clause was put in the draft which empowers the owners to terminate a worker’s contract for leave of absence upwards of 10 days without notice. Under such circumstances, workers are not entitled to any compensation for termination of their contracts.
The government initiated the process of amending the current Labour Law 2006 after questions arose about the country’s continued eligibility for generalised system of preferences (GSP) for the US market, on accounts of its low labour standards and occupational safety.
But the scope for free formation of trade unions at factories, one of the prime demands of the advocacy parties the world over, however, was not addressed properly in the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act 2013.
The amendment maintains a provision that a worker will not be a member of trade union of a factory if he/she loses job. read more.
* Wage board by this week:
The government will form a new minimum wage board for garment workers within this week.
Mikail Shipar, secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, yesterday said, “We have asked for names of the owners’ representatives from the BGMEA and BKMEA today [yesterday] so that we can form the board within this week.”
Labour and Employment Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju, earlier in the day during a meeting at the Secretariat, discussed with the leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association how the new wage board could be formed.
* Mozena’s remark ‘provocative’: Textile minister:
Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddique on Monday sharply criticised the US Ambassador in Dhaka for his remark on trade union, and termed it as ‘obtrusive, disheartening and provocative’ for the host country.
“I simply wonder whether creating pressure on the readymade garment industry to introduce trade union does suit his status and diplomatic etiquette,” he said in a letter to Dan Mozena.
“Rather”, Latif said, “his remark is obtrusive, hurting and provocative for the government of the country.”
The letter was written following the remark by the US envoy during a public hearing on safety in the RMG sector held on Saturday last.
The minister in the beginning of his letter said, “My attention was drawn to a news item published in The Daily Janakantha of today (May 19, 2013) wherein (HE) Dan Mozena firmly called upon RMG factory owners of this country to allow trade union rights in their respective factory workers. Mozena reportedly said this while speaking in a public hearing organised by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the M/O Labour & Manpower.”
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* Mozena suggests actions for safer BD RMG units:
In view of the recent tragedies at readymade garment (RMG) manufacturing factories in Bangladesh, the US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena has suggested some immediate measures that need to be taken.
In his remarks at the ‘National Dialogue on the Savar Tragedy’, Mr. Mozena chalked out three major steps to be taken immediately to support the workers employed in hazardous environments at RMG units.
“Firstly, the RMG factory workers’ rights to freely organize (themselves) should be exercised to ensure there is never again a Tazreen or Rana Plaza,” the Ambassador said, according to a statement from the US Embassy in Dhaka.
According to him, the workers with a voice would not have gone into Rana Plaza factories, because they would not have been scared of losing their job. “They would be alive today had they had a voice,” the Ambassador said.
The US Ambassador added that the second major step should be related to fire safety in the RMG units of Bangladesh. “There needs to be a minimum standard of fire safety, based on the National Plan of Action, applied to all RMG factories with no exceptions.” read more.
* 37 global apparel brands, retailers sign deal :
A total of 37 apparel brands and retailers — 35 European, one US and one Chinese — have signed a deal aiming to make the Bangladesh apparel industry safe and sustainable under a new accord.
The brands and retailers are H&M, Inditex, C&A, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Primark, El Corte Inglés, jbc, Mango, Carrefour, KiK, Helly Hansen, G-Star, Aldi, New Look, Mothercare, Loblaws, Sainsbury’s, Benetton, N Brown Group, Stockmann, WE Europe, Esprit, Rewe, Next, Lidl, Hess Natur, Switcher, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bonmarche, John Lewis, Charles Vögele, V&D, Otto Group and s.Oliver.
Under the deal, the global brands and retailers have agreed to establish a fire and building safety programme in Bangladesh for a period of five years.
The programme will be based on the national action plan on fire safety (NAP), which expressly welcomes the development and implementation by any stakeholder of any other field that would constitute a meaningful contribution to improving fire safety in Bangladesh. read more.
* US religious groups urge brands to address Bangladesh plant safety:
Investors including Trillium Asset Management, U.S. pension funds and religious groups are putting additional pressure on retailers with suppliers in Bangladesh to disclose and improve safety in factories.
One group has written to retailers asking them to commit to an international safety agreement that’s supported by labor monitoring groups and signed by 37 brands. In a separate letter, investors including public pension funds are urging companies to know and make public their suppliers and to ensure compliance with safety standards.
A letter made public last week, draftd by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of faith-based investors and other organizations, is pressing retailers to sign on to the factory safety plan and has 123 signatories including, Trillium, the Presbyterian Church and the Unitarian Universalist Association. The group collectively controls $1.2 trillion in assets, according to the ICCR. read more.
* UN human rights chief welcomes the building and fire safety accord:
The United Nations human rights chief called for further actions to improve the working conditions of the country’s garment sector.
“We welcome the fact that dozens of international companies have made a legal commitment to improve safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories, in the wake of last month’s building collapse that killed more than 1,127 people,” Navanethem Pillay said.
So far, 37 companies including major retailers in Europe such as Inditex, Arcadia Group, Carrefour and H&M have signed on to the Accord on Building and Fire Safety.
The signatories committed “to the goal of a safe and sustainable Bangladeshi readymade garment industry in which no worker needs to fear fires, building collapses or other accidents that could be prevented with reasonable health and safety measures”, said the International Labour Organisation’s website. read more.
* Walmart ‘blacklists’ 250 RMG units:
Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, has barred about 250 Bangladeshi garment factories from producing products for it.
The US-based multinational retail corporation recently made the factories’ list public, which includes units owned by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) leaders and members.
However, many of the owners claimed that their factories are compliant and good ones. They claimed that Walmart did not hold any discussion before making the list public.
Besides, there are many factories that are not willing to work for or did not work with Walmart, and they informed the retailer about it.
Walmart in a statement said the company is committed to increased transparency in their supply chain. Transparency helps all stakeholders to improve workers’ standards. In keeping with that commitment, some factories in Bangladesh are barred from producing products for the company.
In addition to the regular audits that Walmart conducts under its Ethical Sourcing programme, the company recently announced that it will conduct more in-depth inspections in Bangladesh relating to electrical, fire and building safety measures of the RMG units.
These facility audits are conducted by accredited and internationally recognised auditing firms, it added.
BGMEA vice-president Reaz-Bin-Mahmood in this regard told the FE Sunday: “Most of the ‘blacklisted’ factories are no longer vendors of Walmart. They broke tie with the retailer one or two years back.”
The giant retailer has published the list for its own interest and without any prior discussion with the manufacturers. Walmart should not make public such a list, as most of the factories do not have any tie with the company. It is done at a time when the RMG industry needs all-out cooperation from all sides including the buyers, he added. read more.
* Factory banned by Wal-Mart still making Wrangler shirts:
A Bangladesh factory where Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Inditex SA inspectors spotted cracks in the wall this month is still making Wrangler shirts for the world’s largest apparel maker, US-based VF Corp.
VF confirmed on Saturday it was still using Liz Apparels to make its clothing following an inspection ordered by the factory owner, Nassa Group, on May 12. VF, whose other clothing brands include North Face, Timberland and Nautica, said its philosophy was to “stay and improve” working conditions.
“We are in daily contact with the facility and VF’s leadership is closely monitoring the status in this facility and others in our Bangladesh supply chain,” the company said in a statement to Reuters.
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* H&M looks for alternatives as Walmart blacklists 250 factories:
A leading European retailer is now searching for alternative sourcing destinations after US-based Walmart blacklisted 250 Bangladeshi garment factories.
H&M, the biggest buyer of Bangladeshi clothes in Europe, is rethinking its sourcing policy in the wake of factory collapse in Bangladesh on April 24 that killed 1,127 people, reports London-based Financial Times.
Quoting Karl-Johan Persson, the chief executive of H&M, the report said that Hennes & Mauritz was exploring sourcing clothes from Latin America and Africa for the first time.
Persson said they had to rethink their sourcing strategy because ‘it’s terrible, what’s happening in the Bangladesh.’
Publishing a ‘blacklist’ of 250 RMG units Walmart said in a statement that it was committed to increase transparency in their supply chain. Transparency helps all stakeholders improve worker standards. In keeping with that commitment, the listed factories in Bangladesh are barred from producing products for Walmart.
* Recent disasters in BD RMG sector -H&M rethinks sourcing policy:
Hennes & Mauritz is exploring sourcing clothes from Latin America and Africa for the first time as the world’s second-largest fashion retailer rethinks its production strategy following the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed more than 1,200 people.
Karl-Johan Persson, chief executive of H&M, the biggest buyer of clothes from Bangladesh, told that the Swedish brand was looking at countries such as Mexico and Brazil after opening its first store in the southern hemisphere this year in Chile.
“When that part of the world is growing, which it is, it becomes even more interesting to look at production in South America or Central America. So, we are exploring that opportunity,” he said in a rare in-depth interview.
“We’re looking at [Africa] as well,” he said. “Again, it goes back to quality, lead times, capacity, prices, sustainability and where we are present as well.”
Asked whether H&M was rethinking its sourcing strategy as the clothes industry scrambles for alternatives to Bangladesh, Persson pointed out that the company was not present in the Rana Plaza factory and that its code of conduct forbade it having a plant in a residential building. read more. & read more.
* Apparel industry under global scrutiny:
Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) industry has come under severe scrutiny by international buyers and western governments following the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza building at Savar on April 24.
The incident was followed by a fire at a garment factory at Mirpur on May 08 that cost the lives of Managing Director of Tung Hai sweater factory Mahbubur Rahman, a youth leader of ruling Awami League and seven others. These incidents were preceded by a devastating fire in Tazreen Fashions on November 24 last year. It took lives of 112 garment workers.
The death toll due to the collapse of Rana Plaza building, where five garment factories were in operation, stood at 1,126. More than 2,000 workers as of May 10 were injured. These man-made tragedies could have been averted had there been strong labour unions formed without any patronisation of owners or the government of Bangladesh and proper inspection of the buildings where these factories were located. Independent labour unions could perform as ears and eyes of the garment workers and as collective bargaining agents. read more.
* The stakeholders in RMG:
Whenever unrest flares up or an accident occurs in the RMG (ready-made garment sector) sector resulting in loss of life the accusing finger is immediately pointed at the owner(s).
This knee-jerk reaction is natural and not unexpected as the primary responsibility for keeping the garment workers contented and safe from accidents lie with them. But as there are more than one stakeholder in the RMG sector. Their role and responsibility also need to be under spotlight. Sometimes others, particularly the government’s role is taken into account and commented on. But most of the time a few important stakeholders are exempted from criticism that follows a law and order incident or a devastating accident. In the absence of considering the fuller picture of the RMG sector its problems cannot be analysed adequately, far less resolved.
For the first time a holistic view has been taken of the RMG sector in the backdrop of the Rana Plaza tragedy and the credit for this goes to a group of American and Canadian retail trade associations for the correct approach to the issue. In a recent letter to the Bangladesh Prime Minister the North American Bangladesh Workers Safety Group has said, ‘We understand that joint effort and co-operation of all parties in 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.’
Here the word ‘buyers’ need to be qualified by ‘buyers from all countries’ as they now cover countries other than North America and Europe though not as substantially as the latter. The one serious omission in this list of stakeholder is governments in the countries of the buyers. They are stakeholders in two capacities. Firstly, the governments provide some incentives like GSP facilities to exporters of RMG from Bangladesh and other developing countries and secondly, they are responsible for passing laws regulating the activities of commercial firms operating in their territory.
* The RMG BRIDGE: The ultimate test of our conscience:
I am only one of the 4800 in this country. I have no control over what is written in the media. I have no idea how to reach out to the millions in the West to tell them that we are not a blood-sucking community with qualms about labour.
I have no tool to convince local media not to hound us down. But I do have the sanity to claim responsibility for all that we have done so far. That includes the growth and the tears.
But I know one fact for sure. If we lose this industry, we give up on our tomorrow. Apart from the US$20 billion that we refer to when we speak of the readymade garment (RMG) exports, there are many supporting industries that thrive on RMG and many other sectors that are direct beneficiaries. For example, only in fiscal year (FY) 2010-2011, from the garments sector, the banking sector received $141.5, shipping businesses- another $254 million, inland transport industry: $107.5 million, and $102 million were spent as office and garage rent only. read more.
* Know the garment sector right:
The tragic incident of building collapse that killed more than 1,100 people in Savar last month shocked the entire world. Reactions poured in from around the globe, including the Pope, the International Labour Organisation, the US government, the European Union and many others.
US President Barack Obama expressed his deepest concern about the incident and prayed for the salvation of the departed souls.
The Pope has condemned as “slave labour” the working conditions of the garment workers.
The Pope further said: “Not paying a just wage, not giving work, only because one is looking at the bottom line, at the budget of the company, seeking only profit — that is against God.”
The Pope’s words were his toughest on workers’ rights.
We respect his intention. Yet, I should say the comment does not exactly reflect the true status of the workers in the industry.
The last two pay scales given by government in 2006 and 2010 were strictly implemented by all factories. Today, more than 90 percent of the workers are paid over the prevailing scale. This will go up further due to interaction of demand and supply, which like other commodities determine the price of the labour as well. Workers are not easily available now, even at the entry level.
The EU, consisting of 27 countries and importing 60 percent of total exports of garments from Bangladesh and allowing 12.5 percent duty rebate, too reacted very sharply. An EU official said, “The EU is considering appropriate action, including through the generalised system of preferences, through which Bangladesh receives duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market.” read more.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Bangladesh Seamstress: ‘I Had No Choice but to Go to Work’:
A survivor of the recent factory building collapse in Bangladesh describes the day of the tragedy and the constant pressure to work faster under horrible conditions. Her story provides a glimpse at the difficult and impoverished lives of those who produce inexpensive clothing for the West.
Mushamat Sokina Begum, 27, was at her sewing machine in a fifth-floor factory when the Rana Plaza building where she worked in Savar near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhakaon the morning of April 24 , killing over 1,000 people. Begum was pulled from the rubble three hours later with an injured leg. She spoke to SPIEGEL ONLINE editor Hasnain Kazim about her hopes for her future and those of her two children.
I don’t really want to start working again. Most people here feel the same way. We’re afraid. I just heard about another factory where there are cracks in the walls. And I know of another unsound building that’s also said to belong to Mohammed Sohel Rana (the owner of the Rana Plaza building). Last week there was another factory fire and people died. Things like this happen constantly. I believe God wants to punish us for something. I just don’t know what yet.
* ‘Rana Plaza land for the victims’:
A government-commissioned investigation committee will recommend confiscation of the land the collapsed Sohel Rana was built on and provide financial support to the families of the dead and injured workers.
The panel will also propose the maximum penalty of life or fine or both for the building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and the owners of five readymade garment factories housed in the nine-storey commercial building as per the Section 304 of the Bangladesh Penal Code.
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* Double blow for a mother:
For Hazera Khatun, the news of the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar meant making urgent arrangements to go there, from her home in Kotchadpur village in Jhenidah.
Hazera’s daughter Maya Rani worked in the building. With no news of her daughter, Hazera endured the agonising wait at Adhar Chandra High School, which ended after twelve days, with the return of her daughter’s body.
But Hazera had fears not only for her daughter, but also for her two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter Rouza, who lived with her mother in a slum.
“After Rani was abandoned by her husband six months ago, she fled to Dhaka with her daughter and joined the garment factory,” said Hazera. “She told me over the phone that she paid someone in the slum Tk 500 per month to look after Rouza while she worked,” Hazera said in tears.
The only clue Hazera had about the location of her daughter’s accommodation was that it cost Rani Tk 7 to get to work by bus.
Having buried her daughter at her Roudrapur village, Hazera, an estranged housewife herself for ten years, worked for a few days in a restaurant kitchen and returned to Dhaka with her small savings to look for Rouza, the only link between her and her dead daughter. read more.
* Families of the missing in financial crisis:
Relatives of missing workers of the garment units housed in Rana Plaza are going through an acute financial crisis as they have yet not received any help since the April 24 deadly building collapse.
Many voluntary organisations had provided meals and shelters to them for a few days after the collapse but for the past few days there has been no voluntary activity at the site.
The family members of the missing apparel workers coming from across the country are still waiting at Savar clinging to the hope of getting the body of their near and dear ones.
On Saturday, rickshaw puller Dukhu Miah, 40, was seen waiting with his children Sagarika and Sagor for the body of his wife Zahanara, 32. He has been looking here and there for the past 24 days for his missing wife.
He said, ‘I have done all that the management told me to do but I am still uncertain whether I will get the remains of my wife.’ read more.
* Rana remanded again:
Sohel Rana, owner of the collapsed building in Savar, has been placed on a five-day fresh remand in a case filed for building code violation.
At least 1,127 people have died and hundreds sustained injuries after the nine-story Rana Plaza collapsed on April 24 near the capital.
On Monday, a court of Senior Judicial Magistrate in Dhaka granted the remand after the Detective Branch of Police produced Rana before the court.
Following the country’s worst industrial disaster, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakhya (Rajuk) filed the case accusing several people including Rana.
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MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Employee database for Ashulia factories mandatory by August 30:
All RMG factories, situated in Ashulia belt, are instructed to prepare their database containing all basic information of workers within August 30, 2013.
Otherwise the apex body – BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) – warned to stop its services to the factories. “BGMEA is going to stop providing services to the factories, which will fail to implement the programme by the deadline,” said BGMEA president Atiqul Islam while addressing a training workshop for mid-level workers on database and service book implementation.
The BGMEA president also urged all concerned to introduce the Service Book system simultaneously which he
said would help to indemnify the real workers and solve many problems during the crisis period.
The programme held at the city’s BGMEA Bhaban was also addressed among others by Labour and manpower minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju, chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour & Employment Ministry Israfil Alam, BGMEA vice president SM Mannan Kochi and vice president (finance) Reaz Bin Mahmood.
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* BGMEA warns factories of stopping providing service:
For failure to ensure workers’ database within timeframe
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) warned its member factories Monday that it would stop providing service to those failing to ensure workers’ database within the given timeframe.
Earlier, BGMEA set August 30 as the deadline for all the readymade garment (RMG) factories to introduce service books and workers’ database at their factories.
“BGMEA took such initiatives many times but it is yet to ensure their full implementation as there was no such deadline,” BGMEA president Atiqul Islam said at the inaugural of a training programme organised by the association at its headquarters in the city. read more.
* GSP withdrawal to have signaling impact: Prof Mustafizur:
As the prospect of retaining GSP facility in the US market is apparently becoming bleak, a prominent economist on Monday said it will have a ‘signaling impact’ on the US buyers and their investment in Bangladesh.
“Actually, I’m still hopeful of retaining the GSP facility. But, if it turns negative, it’ll certainly have a signaling impact, and the US buyers and investors will think of it (afresh),” Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Prof Mustafizur Rahman told UNB.
Responding to a question, he said it is a ‘political decision’ and they will consider many things before taking the final decision. “I don’t think the US has taken the final decision yet.”
Prof Rahman said the European Union and Canada have already issued warning messages but he does not think they will take any serious decision that will hurt Bangladesh’s interests. read more.
* Prospect of GSP very bleak:
The prospects of Bangladesh retaining the generalised system of preferences in the US market are bleak, according to Commerce Minister GM Quader.
“After the Rana Plaza collapse, expecting a positive result from the USTR hearing has become difficult,” Quader told The Daily Star yesterday.
“I cannot exactly say whether the outcome will be positive,” he said.
But US Ambassador Dan W Mozena relayed a “grim” feedback from the United States Trade Representative, according to Quader.
Mozena held a meeting with the minister yesterday at the latter’s secretariat in Dhaka.
USTR, the body responsible for developing US’s trade policy, is scheduled to give out the decision on Bangladesh’s GSP status early next month.
Under the GSP scheme, a host of Bangladeshi products enjoy duty-free entry into the US market at present.
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* How important is GSP status? :
What makes Bangladeshi readymade garments so attractive to the Western countries? The EU alone is gobbling up 60 percent of our garment exports and the US comes in second with 26 percent. Are our products made with a magical concoction that makes it irresistible to the Westerners?
The answer is yes. For any good creation, we need an impeccable mix of fine ingredients. Our ingredients in this case are price, capacity and the EU’s GSP status.
Price is a key element which draws buyers closer. Since wages are low, it gives the country a competitive edge in low costs of production. Capacity is our second ingredient and a total of 5,400 factories make the country’s capacity higher than that of rivals like Indonesia and Vietnam.
However, the final ingredient which gives our garments that extra zing is GSP status. GSP is an instrument by which developed nations help the poorer countries foster more trade. For instance, with the EU’s GSP status, Bangladeshi garment products can enter the European market duty free; in its absence, it has to pay 12 percent import duties for most products. This status helps decrease the cost per unit of garments, causing the demand to rise. This not only helps the garment industry but also the entire economy. Increased trade means higher export earnings which help promote further industrialisation, leading to higher economic growth. read more.
* Bangladesh not allowed to join global programme:
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Bank (WB) 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.
Referring to the collapse of the Rana Plaza textile center last month, Kerry said the United States “shared the agony” of the tragedy and that the incident “will be able to help all of us cooperate on the issue of labour and labour standards.”
The Obama administration is working with Bangladesh to improve its safety inspection systems, while also pressuring the country with a threatened cutoff of trade tax breaks granted for some of the country’s exports.
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* Jute cultivation decreases:
Cultivation of Jute-the ‘Golden fibre of Bangladesh’ has been gradually decreasing in the district over the years owing to the fall of price and also due to lack of water body in the area which is very much essential for the extraction of the fibre.
The farmers who cultivated jute last year told The Independent that they did not get the fair price of their produce and so, out of frustration, they refrained from cultivating jute in the current season. The farmers also informed that for last few years they have been facing problem in processing the jute due lack of water body in rural areas. read more.
* WB team meets BGMEA:
A delegation of World Bank is holding a meeting with senior officials of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on Sunday afternoon.
The participants of the meeting, which started at 1:00pm, are discussing over Economic Zone of Bangladesh, ongoing situation in country’s garment sector, GSP facility, said a concerned source.
BGMEA vice-president Shahidullah Azim, just before the meeting started, said, “Economic Zone issue will be tabled in the meeting.”
* BUET experts find major faults in tested buildings:
Experts of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) have found major faults in the buildings they tested and warned of more devastating collapse than Rana Plaza, if preventive measures are not taken immediately.
“We have found major structural faults in the tested buildings and asked the highly risky building owners to evacuate their houses soon,” said Prof Dr Mujibur Rahman, head of Civil Engineering Department of BUET.
Dr Rahman said the owners of less vulnerable buildings were asked to minimise the existing load or do necessary repairing work.
“A number of illegal multi-storied buildings were found, the owners of which do not even have approval from the authority concerned or they constructed more floors than approved,” he added. read more.
* WB to assist BD for RMG industrial park:
The World Bank (WB) will propose to Bangladesh within 7-10 days regarding financial and technical assistance for construction of garment industrial park.
After a meeting with World Bank delegation, Vice-Chairman of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) SM Mannan Kachi made the disclosure while talking to journalists on Sunday.
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* Relocating garment factories in garment pallis:
I have read the thought-provoking pieces by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and Dr Muhammad Yunus. They have made specific proposals in the context of the Savar tragedy, which need to be acted upon nationally and internationally.
If we cannot ensure the safety and security of the lives of millions of our garment workers, it would be most ungrateful of our nation. This is particularly so because of the heavy dependence of the country and the people on the income from garment exports and the remittance income, all from the hard and skilful acts of our poor, neglected workers. The economic improvements we have seen in the country in recent years and the financing of many mega projects have been made possible by the contributions of these two sectors.
* Need to create greater responsibility in the RMG sector:
The Rana Plaza disaster has caused the death of more than 1125 workers and permanent disabilities for scores of others.
Hope has also been generated with the miraculous recovery of garment worker Reshma after seventeen days underneath the rubble. It has also reiterated the need for the relevant authorities to re-examine not only their available resources but also the on-going coordination between the different stakeholders and the measures that need to be undertaken to enhance security for workers in these 4,000 plus factories.
The leadership of the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) and the BKMEA (Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association) has hopefully realised that they are walking a very taut clothesline, with every possibility of losing their toehold in the market abroad in the face of consumer anger. read more.
* The garment sector: strength, prospects and challenges:
The world set the spotlight on Bangladesh and strongly questioned the integrity of the garment industry after the country’s one of the most shocking tragedies on April 24.
Fear of GSP cancellation by the EU made the business mood gloomy and anxiety increased as the country’s industrial backbone and mightiest pillar of foreign exchange came under threat. Is the garment industry strong enough to endure this pressure? Are the problems toxic enough to jeopardise the future health of the industry? What are the prospects and scopes of improvement? Let’s have a look.
The industry generates a total of $19 billion in exports and employs 3.6 million workers dispersed among 5,400 factories. Currently the sector accounts for 78 percent of exports and contributes 16 percent to the gross domestic product.
Expectations of rapid industrialisation in future years invariably indicate further growth of the garment sector.
This is also because China, the largest exporter of manufactured garments in the world, is losing its appeal in the apparel realm due to labour shortages and higher wages. A McKinsey report suggests that 86 percent of the chief purchasing officers in their survey wanted to move out of China, and Bangladesh is their next preferred destination. The country is expected to gain much of China’s share in the cut-throat apparel terrain.
Cheap labour is abundant, some of them willing to work at a wage rate of $0.20 an hour. This is less than a fifth of the labour costs in China. Capacity is another primary advantage. With a total of 5,400 factories, Bangladesh is clearly ahead of other garment suppliers, for instance, Indonesia has 2,450 factories, Vietnam 2,000 and Cambodia 260. read more.
* ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE:
* Tazreen owner can`t go abroad: HC:
The High Court on Sunday directed the government to take necessary steps to bar Delwar Hossain, owner of the Tazreen Fashion, from leaving the country for abroad.
An HC bench comprising Justice kazi Rezaul Haq and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain passed the order.
The court also summoned him on May 30 and asked Home Ministry’s probe body to submit report. read more.
* HC orders arrest of Tazreen owner:
The High Court on Sunday directed the government to immediately arrest the owner of Tazreen Fashion Ltd and produce him before it on May 30 to explain his stance on the factory fire incident that left 112 people dead in November last year.
The HC came with the direction in response to a writ petition and also asked the government to issue red alert at all the land ports and airports of the country so that Delwar Hossain, the owner of the factory, could not leave the country.
The HC bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain also issued a rule upon the government to explain in four weeks why it should not be directed to arrest Delwar for his alleged negligence in protecting the garments workers from fire. read more.
* Arrest Tazreen owner forthwith: HC:
The High Court on Sunday asked the government to immediately arrest the owner of Tazreen Fashions Ltd and produce him before it on May 30 in connection with the fire incident at the factory that killed 112 of its workers in November last year.
Passing the order, the HC bench comprising Justice Quazi Rezaul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain also issued a rule upon the government to explain in four weeks as to why it should not be directed to arrest Tazreen owner Delwar Hossain for his alleged negligence in protecting the workers from the fire.
It also asked the government to explain its inaction in taking legal action against the factory owner after the fire incident.
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07:30:36 local time INDIA
* Weavers worried over acute shortage of textile workers:
Marriage and festival season are weighing heavy on powerloom weavers in the country’s biggest man-made fabric hub in the city. They are facing acute shortage of textile workers even as there is an increase in the demand for fabrics, including saris and dress materials.
Most of the migrant textile workers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have not returned from their home towns after the expiry of their leaves.
Industry leaders say at least 30 per cent of workforce is yet to return. The weavers have been forced to cut down on fabric manufacturing due to shortage of workers.
Ashok Jirawala, president, Federation of Gujarat Weavers Association (FOGWA), told TOI, “Many workers had gone to their home towns a month ago to attend marriages. The weavers are worried should they not return how will they cope up with the situation. The demand for saris and dress material is good compared to last year. Shortly industry will face shortage of fabrics due to workers’ issue.”
The powerloom industry employs around 5 lakh workers. Around 3 crore metre of fabric is weaved per day by 6.5 lakh powerloom machines in the city.
* Wages Act amendment to bring revolutionary change, says Minister:
Amendment to the Minimum Wages Act will usher in revolutionary change in the country by ensuring minimum wages for all workers, Union Minister of State for Labour Kodikkunnil Suresh has said.
He was addressing a meeting to inaugurate a career guidance programme conducted by the Kerala Viswakarma Sabha here on Sunday.
“Once the Act is amended, the reported exploitation of workers in the organised and unorganised sector will end,” he said.
He said the Union government was formulating a scheme to provide job skill training for 50 crore youths. read more.
* Differences hit textile industry operation:
A fight for supremacy is on between two textile segments in the country’s biggest man-made fabric industry. Traders have unanimously decided not to pick up finished fabrics from Thursday from the units of textile processors after their refusal to collect unfinished fabrics from the textile markets due to traffic issues.
Powerloom weavers deliver grey fabrics to textile markets, which are picked up by textile processors. The finished fabrics dyed and printed by the textile processors are delivered to the textile traders. Market sources said grey and finished fabrics worth Rs 150 crore are dumped in the 140 textile markets, housing over 55,000 textile shops, every day. These are transported to the textile dyeing and printing mills for final finishing. Once the finished fabrics are ready, the textile processors deliver the goods to the markets again. read more.
* Govt mulling universal social security cover for workers: PM Manmohan Singh:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government was at an advance stage of considering a universal social security cover for workers while acknowledging that there could be “no disagreement” on issues raised by trade unions during the February general strike.
Noting that the coverage would extend to workers in both the organised and unorganised sectors, he said the government was also considering creation of a national social security fund, fixing a national floor-level minimum wage and a minimum pension of Rs 1000 per month under Employees’ Pension Scheme.
“The recent two-day strike by trade unions focused on a number of issues relating to the welfare not only of the working classes but also the people at large. These include demands on which there can be no disagreement,” he said inaugurating the 45th Indian Labour Conference here. read more.
* Demands of unions under study, says PM:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said some of the demands raised by the various central trade unions, for which they organised a nationwide general strike for two days in February, were in advanced stage of consideration of the government.
Those demands include universal social security cover for workers in both organised and unorganised sectors and the creation of a National Social Security Fund, fixing a National Floor Level Minimum Wage (NFLMW) and provision of a minimum pension of Rs. 1000 a month under the Employees Pension Scheme.
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* Govt assures support to apparel sector:
The government today assured the apparel industry that it would address issues relating to skill development and availability of credit to boost garment exports.
These issues came up for discussion at inter-ministerial workshop which was held here under the Chairmanship of Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth.
In the meeting, garment exporters apprised the Cabinet Secretary about the issues hindering the industry’s growth.
These include high interest rates, costly raw materials, lack of skilled workforce, rigid labour laws and high customs duty on synthetic fabric.
“The apparel exporters have apprised us about a wide range of issues and made suggestions for the same. We would like to take up issues like skilling, improving the scale of operations, building consensus on labour reforms and import duties,” Cabinet Secretary Ajit Kumar Seth said after the meeting here. read more.
* Demand for right to work legislation, social security coverage at ILC:
The Indian Labour Conference today pushed for sops to working class such as a minimum assured pension of Rs 1000 per month, universal social security coverage and enactment of a legislation on right to work on the lines of right to information and right to education.
The conference also recommended minimum wages for workers employed in central government schemes such as Anganwadi, Mid Day Meal and Asha and recognising them as “workers” instead of voluntary workers.read more.
* Tripartite panel to examine labour laws in MSMEs proposed:
A Labour Ministry panel has proposed a tripartite committee to examine all aspects of labour laws affecting the working of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The proposed committee would have representatives of the Central and State Governments, employers’ organisations and trade unions.
The recommendations of the panel, headed by H. Singh, Labour Minister of Manipur, have been submitted to the Indian Labour Conference held here recently.Labour law exemption
The recommendations are significant in the backdrop of reports that the MSME Ministry is pushing for labour law exemption for enterprises employing less than 50 workers, as the employers complain of difficulties in complying with ‘multiple laws’. The MSME sector, considered the ‘engine of growth’ in India, employs close to 70 million people in 26 million enterprises. The sector contributes 8 per cent to the country’s GDP. According to a Planning Commission report, about 50 per cent of MSME owners belong to the disadvantaged groups. read more.
* FICCI, textile cos laud West Bengal’s draft textile policy:
FICCI had submitted detailed policy suggestions to the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in December 2012 and since then has been consistently working with state government on the policy.
“While the State has a long history and tradition in textiles, but there was a need for a policy roadmap which will revive, modernize and broad base the West Bengal textiles industry and integrate it with the global market”, said Mr Sidharth Birla, senior vice president, Ficci.
Other states have come up with very competitive textile policy and attracted significant investments as a result in the last few years and it was important that the state comes up with an ambitious policy to attract investments and revive this sector, Mr Birla added. read more.
* Wal-Mart lobbying case ‘closed’ due to lack of evidence: Report:
India’s investigation into whether Wal-Mart may have bribed Indian officials to gain wider access to the country’s vast market has been “closed” due to lack of evidence, a report said on Saturday.
The one-man committee of retired justice Mukul Mudgal probing the matter is likely to submit a report to the government next week saying there was no “adequate” evidence to suggest Wal-Mart was involved in any unlawful activity in India, the Business Standard reported, quoting unnamed sources.
There was no immediate comment available from Wal-Mart or the government.
Wal-Mart said in a routine disclosure report to the US Senate last year that it spent $25 million over four years on issues related to “enhanced market access for investment in India”.
The report stirred a ruckus in India with opposition members who oppose the chain’s entry, saying it will hurt local “mom and pop” stores, demanding an inquiry into whether Walmart made any illegal payments as part of its lobbying.
* Bangladesh woes bring hope for Surat synthetic textile industry:
While on one hand the recent recent incidents of fire at and collapse of factory buildings in the garment exporters’ hub of Bangladesh might have led to international brands expressing doubts of continuing business, the Surat-based synthetic textile industry is hopeful of increased business.
According to Devkishan Manghani, president of Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA), about 7-8 per cent of 30 million metres per day of synthetic fabric from Surat, especially polyester is shipped to West Bengal from where 60-70 per cent used to be exported to Bangladesh for garment conversion. read more.
07:00:36 local time PAKISTAN
* Textile mill blaze destroys goods worth millions:
A major fire broke out at a textile mill located along Super Highway in Nooriabad on Sunday, reducing goods worth millions to ashes.
The Central Fire Station said at 5pm, a short circuit triggered a fire at the Dr Ikhtiar Baig Textile Mills and within minutes, the factory was engulfed in flames.
Sixteen fire engines of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation reached the scene to douse the blaze. Firefighter also used a snorkel and rescued many factory workers.
The fire sent smoke billowing into the sky that could be seen from other areas of the city. Police cordoned off the area and the Edhi ambulances also rushed to the scene. The fire also caused a massive traffic jam on the Super Highway. read more.
* 18 hours’ load shedding hampers textile industry:
Around 16-18 hours load shedding has seriously affected the production of textile industry causing huge damages to export orders and precious foreign exchange, said All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Chairman Ahsan Bashir on Monday.
Expressing his concern over energy crisis prevailing since last one week, which was likely to linger on until the new government was in place the mills were being exposed to 16 to 18 hours per day load shedding of electricity despite the fact there was a complete exemption last year at this time from electricity load shedding to the textile industry on independent feeders. read more.
* Industry continues to suffer up to 18 hours power breakdowns:
Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Ahsan Bashir has expressed concern over energy crisis prevailing since last one week, which is likely to linger on until the new government is in place.
The mills are being exposed to 16 to 18 hours per day load shedding of electricity despite the fact that there was a complete exemption last year at this time from electricity load shedding to the textile industry on independent feeders. He said the non-availability of gas and electricity is causing adverse impact on industry’s sustainability and growth, contributing 9 percent to the country’s GDP. This contribution may add further 3 percent in case textile exports are taken to $22 billion from existing level of $12 billion. However, the energy shortage, which is primarily haunting the growth of Punjab-based textile industry, is ultimately ruining the growth potential, as 70 percent. read more.
* APTMA chairman expresses concern over energy crisis:
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Chairman Ahsan Bashir has expressed concern over energy crisis prevailing since last one week, which is likely to linger on until the new government is in place.
He said mills were being exposed to 16 to 18 hours per day loadshedding of electricity despite the fact that there was a complete exemption last year at this time from electricity loadshedding to the textile industry on independent feeders.
The non-availability of gas and electricity is causing adverse impact on industry’s sustainability and growth, contributing nine percent to the country’s GDP, he said, adding that contribution might add further three percent in case textile exports were taken to $22 billion from existing level of $12 billion. However, the energy shortage, which is primarily haunting the growth of Punjab-based textile industry, is ultimately ruining the growth potential, as 70 percent of the industry is located in Punjab.
* PTEA slams massive power loadshedding:
Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) have strongly criticised the massive power loadshedding of 12 to 14 hours on daily basis coupled with four days a week gas suspension that has brought the industrial wheel to a halt and industrial productions have nose-dived to alarmingly low levels.
Talking to newsmen, Asghar Ali Chairman and Muhammad Asif, Vice Chairman of PTEA have expressed serious concerns over the poor response of the government towards unprecedented energy shortage for the textile industry. They said industrialists had knocked every door for the provision of gas and electricity to the industrial sector but unfortunately there was no let up in the gas and power outages. Electricity loadshedding was not only depriving the industrial workers of their livelihood but also causing considerable financial loss to the industry as a whole. read more.
* PTA expresses concerns over new power tariff:
With the highest cost of business in the region the tanning sector is already under pressure while the Nepra decision to make huge increase in power tariff will prove last nail in the industry’s coffin.
Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) Chairman Agha Saiddain while talking to Business Recorder said the industry was already facing loadshedding of eight-to-10 hours which has added to miseries and huge raise of power tariff was unbearable and most of tanning units had decided to close their operations if the decision was implemented. read more.