16:20:42 local time VIET NAM
* Thousands of workers go on strike in HCM City:
More than 1,000 workers from two companies in HCM City have stopped working to protest against poor policies from their managers.
The strikes occurred on July 10 at Thuan Phuong Embroidering Garment Limited Company in Binh Chanh District and Hoang Ngoc Truc Limited Company in Tan Binh District.
Some workers at the Hoang Ngoc Truc Company complained that since March any workers who took leave to deal with private issues suffered from pay cuts based on overtime wages instead of normal wages.
“Our normal wage is VND11,000 (USD0.52) per hour but when we take off work we are docked based on our overtime wage, which is from VND17,000-19,000 (USD0.80-USD0.90) per hour. Sometimes they even use the overtime hours we already worked to reimburse for our off days. It’s really unfair,” one worker said.
Another worker said that any workers who need time off because of health or family problems may have their pay level reduced.
“After all kinds of pay cuts, our salaries are very modest. Many of us get paid the same amount to work on weekends as on working days,” she added.
* At this rate, in 37 years Viet garment workers can live on their wages: WRC:
The Workers Rights Consortium has just released a report comparing wages paid and living-wage in 15 major apparel-exporting countries. The report, entitled “Global Wage Trends for Apparel Workers, 2001–2011 – July 2013″, can be downloaded here.
- Vietnam’s apparel workers’ wages rose 40% between 2001 and 2011 (page 11).
- This represents 29% of living wage (in 2001 it was 23%) (p.18).
- And at this rate, it will take 37 years – that is, the year 2048 – for Viet apparel workers’ wages to pay for minimum living expenses.
CHALLENGING THE ARGUMENTS OF PRO-SWEATSHOP ADVOCATES
On pages 1-2, the report summarised arguments by pro-sweatshop advocates and provided counterpoints:
* National wage council established:
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has recently signed a decision to establish the National Wage Council, headed by Deputy Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Minh Huan.
The council is in charge of analyzing the country’s socio-economic situation and living standards to identify and forecast the subsistence level of employees and their families.
It is also tasked to evaluate the regional implementation of minimum wage and wage levels in the labor market as well as businesses’ payment capacity in order to develop and suggest the Government on the regional minimum wage annually and periodically.
* Vietnam needs to control export volume to enjoy EU’s GSP:
Vietnam has been advised to take strict control over the export to the EU market in order to be the long term beneficiary from the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
According to Tran Ngoc Quan, Deputy Director of the European Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the EU would deprive the right of any country which has the export turnover of one category of products exceeding 17.5 percent of the total export turnover of all the GSP enjoyable countries in the same sector.
The threshold was 15 percent stipulated in the previous GSP.
Quan has warned that the limit would be a big challenge for Vietnam. Since many other countries would not be able to enjoy the EU’s GDP, the market share the Vietnamese goods hold in the EU would increase sharply. Therefore, many Vietnam’s categories of products may not be subject to the new GSP.
Vietnam’s footwear products once enjoyed the EU’s GSP prior to 2009. However, late the preferential tariff has been removed for footwear exports, because of the high export growth which has exceeded the limit for GSP granting.
* Garment group to perform IPO in the fourth quarter:
The Vietnam Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) has completed the audit and business valuation for its first issue of shares to the public (IPO) in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Vinatex’s Deputy General Director – Mr. Le Tien Truong, said at a meeting yesterday that so far this year the group replaced 38 officials who represented Vinatex’s capital at its subsidiaries because these officials failed to meet the group’s targets, and their age and qualification were no longer appropriate to the position.
“According to regulations, the manager whose company incurs losses for two consecutive years must be replaced, but we were stricter. For example, if a company is assigned to have dividend of 15 percent but it can reach only 10 percent for two consecutive years, its director will be dismissed,” said Truong.
read more. & read more.
* Textile-garment shipments to major markets surge:
Vietnam’s textile-garment export increased by 14.5% year-on-year in the year’s first half, with strong rises seen in shipments to major markets like the U.S., EU, Japan and South Korea, the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) reported.
Le Tien Truong, deputy general director of Vinatex cum vice chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas), said at a meeting on Tuesday that textile-garment exports in January-June generated some US$8.9 billion.
The U.S. market contributed the highest amount with US$3.94 billion, equivalent to 44.8% and up 12% from the same period last year.
Meanwhile, exports to EU, Japan and South Korea reached US$1.29 billion, US$1.1 billion and US$660 million respectively.
read more.& read more.
16:20:42 local time CAMBODIA
* Real Wages in Garment Sector Fell Over 10 Years:
Wages for Cambodian garment workers decreased by more than 20 percent in real terms between 2001 and 2011 despite the industry’s exponential increase in exports, which in 2012 were valued at more than $4 billion, according to a recent report by a U.S.-based workers advocacy group.
Studying purchasing power among garment workers in 15 countries, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) said that wages in Cambodia over the 10-year period to 2011 had experienced a “significant” drop when adjusted for inflation.
And read more- below in General.: * Global Wage Trends for Apparel Workers, 2001–2011
* Pro-CPP unions rally en masse:
Waving a Cambodian People’s Party flag and sporting stickers bearing the number four on each cheek, Yann Sothy, 23, joined an estimated 15,000 garment workers in a pro-CPP parade around the capital.
Shouting to make his voice heard over the thousands gathered for the rally’s launch on Koh Pich, Sothy said he would definitely vote for the ruling party, which is listed fourth on the ballot for the upcoming election.
CPP supporter and Free Trade Union member Hun Sophat, 30, said that although CPP support may have decreased from previous years due to young voters favouring other parties, he still expected the CPP to win.
He added that the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s promise to increase the monthly minimum wage to $150 if victorious was not feasible because “employers would not agree”.
* Trade Unions Line Up Behind Parties Before National Election:
Trade unions on Sunday threw their support behind the two main parties for this month’s national election, with both sides claiming to have the allegiance of the majority of workers in Cambodia’s manufacturing sector.
As the Free Trade Union (FTU)—the country’s oldest union—officially declared its support for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a massive procession of about 500 trucks and 2,000 motorcycles carried throngs of workers through the streets of Phnom Penh in a pro-Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) rally.
* Thousands of Cambodian garment workers hold election campaign for ruling party:
Around 10,000 garment and footwear workers held a rally on Sunday to round up votes for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of incumbent Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of the fifth National Assembly elections on July 28.
The campaigners gathered at the capital’s Diamond Island complex in early morning before traveling by motorcycles and trucks to areas with garment and footwear factories around Phnom Penh City.
The event was organized by the Cambodian Labor Union Federation.
Speaking to the rally, Ith Samheng, CPP’s lawmaker-candidate for Phnom Penh City, said the campaign was to appeal to all garment workers to cast their ballots for the CPP.
read more. & read more.
* BetterFactories Media updates 06-12 July 2013, Garment exports booming despite concerns:
To read in printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:
2013-07-08 ASICS pays out victim’s families
2013-07-09 Factory alarm fails to stem demand for cheap fashion
2013-07-09 Safety accord follows disaster
2013-07-10 Stitching up an election
2013-07-11 Korea trade tops $1 billion
2013-07-11 Private citizens offer own Bandith reward
2013-07-12 Malnutrition still rampant
2013-07-12 No bail for Sabrina unionists
To read in printed edition The Cambodia Daily:
2013-07-06-07 Donors should see Cambodia’s election for what it is
2013-07-08 ASICS compensates killed workers’ families
2013-07-08 Cambodia falls short as international garment-industry model
2013-07-09 Factory collapse gives hope to Bangladesh’s leather workers
2013-07-09 Garment exports booming despite concerns
2013-07-10 Bangladeshi garment sales soar despite deaths
2013-07-10 Managers taught how to spot underage labor
2013-07-11 Group offers reward for clues leading to Bundith’s arrest
15:20:42 local time BANGLADESH
* ‘No serious efforts’ to improve factory safety:
No serious efforts have been made by the government, the factory owners and the relevant foreign firms to improve safety standard in Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) factories, even after the Rana Plaza tragedy, observed the leading British weekly The Economist on Friday.
The weekly also said a division among the leading brands and retailers in Europe and in North America, mainly the United States along with Canada, might hinder planned efforts to improve workers’ safety in Bangladesh.
It said despite repeated promises by foreign firms to do something to change working conditions in risky factories in Bangladesh, only a little has been done over the past 20 years.
“Now, as then, they will make significant progress only if the government and the factory owners undertake serious efforts to bring about a change. Lamentably, even after the tragedy at Rana Plaza there has been little sign of this,” said The Economist in its online version.
* RMG workers protest against wage cut:
Garment workers of Unilance factory on Friday staged protest against deduction from their wages at south Bhangnahati under Sreepur municipality in Gazipur.
The factory workers alleged that the authorities cut Tk 500 from their wages to pay income tax.
They also accused the authorities of misbehaviour that includes forced overtime and constant threat of termination.
On the first day of Ramadan, the workers worked from 9:30am till 6:00pm, yet were forced to work overnight, said one of the workers.
The administrative officials of the factory also snatched their identity cards and behaved roughly with some female workers.
* 16 hurt in Gazipur generator blast:
At least 16 workers were injured after a generator exploded and at a spinning mill in Sripur upazila of Gazipur Friday afternoon.
Police said the accident happened at Ishraq Spinning Mill around 3:30pm, reports our Gazipur correspondent.
The generator went off when workers were trying to put a gas connection into it for a new production unit of the factory, leaving six seriously inured, said Amir Hossain, officer-in-charge of Sripur Police Station.
Injured Ibrahim Azad, 45; Delwar Hossain, 40; Masum Mia, 50; Babul Hossain, 35; Noman Mia, 32 and Md Sujon, 30, were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
The rest 10 were injured in a stampede while hustling to leave the factory building.
to read. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* 20 hurt as apparel workers clash with police in Gazipur:
At least 20 people were injured when more than one thousand garment workers clashed with police in Gazipur on Saturday, police and witnesses said.
The workers of the Mashihara group were staging protests in Zirani Bazar area in Gazipur at about 10:00am demanding trial of those involved in beating some of their fellow workers by the hired goons of garment owners on Thursday.
The agitating workers blocked the Dhaka-Tangail highway for an hour which created a heavy tailback on the busy road.
Police rushed to the spot and used batons and tear gas shells to disperse the workers, leaving at least 20 workers injured.
Five apparel factories in Ashulia suspended their production …
* Production at 15-20 Gazipur RMG units halted:
Production at around 15 readymade garment factories in Gazipur on the outskirts of the capital was suspended for Saturday as the workers clashed with the law enforcers demanding punishment of factory authorities.
At least 20 people were injured during the clash that ensued around 10:45am at “Mashihara Group” when several thousand workers started demonstration blocking Dhaka-Tangail highway near Jirani and Ashulia areas Saturday morning, reported our Savar correspondent.
The demonstration is a sequel to an incident of Thursday.
On that day the authorities of “Mashihara Group” beat up some workers of their factory.
The workers on Saturday started demonstration demanding punishment of the authorities who beat up their fellow colleagues.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Workers-cops clash injures 50 in Ashulia:
At least 50 people were injured in a two and half hours long clash between law enforcers and garment workers in Ashulia, outskirts of the capital, on Saturday morning.
Hundreds of workers from 20 garment factories put barricade on Nabinagar-Kaliakair highway in Ashulia industrial area around 10:30am.
Local sources said workers of Machihata Group were protesting for last few days to meet their demands. Instigating by owners, some workers beat up a protester on Thursday.
* RMG workers block road in Gazipur:
Agitated readymade garments workers blocked a stretch of the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway in Gazipur on Saturday.
Workers of Blue Seal Textile Factory in Sreepur’s Mulaid were peeved by the sudden closure of the factory.
To give vent to their ire workers took to the road and blocked it for nearly an hour from around 9:30am.
They moved away after police assured to take up the matter with their employers.
Workers said their salaries for the month of June were paid on July 11. But when they came to work on July 13, they found a notice on the gate saying the factory had been shut indefinitely.
* Tailoring shop employees go on indefinite strike in Barisal:
Over 200 employees of 50 tailoring shops in the city went on an indefinite strike on Saturday demanding a hike in their wages.
“We went on the strike as the (tailoring) shop owners refused to increase our wage by 15 percent,” said Abdul Huq, a leader of Tailoring Shop Employees’ Association.
He alleged that the owners are depriving them of their due wages.
Brushing aside the allegation, M Babul Ahmed, president of the Tailoring Shops Owners’ Association, said the wages of the employees have been increased and that can not be raised further.
* Tailors lose business to readymade clothing stores ahead of eid:
The rise of readymade clothes shops and boutiques and the traffic congestion that discourages people from remote places to come to the tailors
Tailoring shops across the capital appear to have slowly lost ground to readymade clothing stores that are now brimming with the latest collections of dresses ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
Many tailors claim they are receiving fewer orders every year and this year they may have to continue taking orders even in the second half of Ramadan.
“We used to get this huge rush of clients in our store in the past. We used to get so overburdened with work that we had to stop taking new orders within the 10th of Ramadan.
But now we really don’t know when there would be enough orders,” said Saiful Islam, a tailor of Gulbag Tailors at New Market.
The slowdown in business is due to the rise in the number of readymade clothes shops and boutiques, and the traffic congestion that discourages people from remote places to come to the stores to place orders, Saiful said. Tailors on Elephant Road and in surrounding areas blamed the same reasons for the decline in their business.
* Garment workers demonstrate in front of BGMEA:
Garment workers on Sunday demonstrated in front of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association building at Karwan Bazar in the city protesting against the closure of a factory and demanding wages and benefits including festival allowance as per the law.
Several hundred workers of Pragati Fashion Wear Ltd, a sister concern of Palmal Group, staged the protests.
They alleged that the factory authority closed the factory on July 6 without any notice.
Nasrin Akter, an operator at the factory, said that the manager had announced the closure of the factory for a week, but on July 13 the authority announced that the unit would remain closed till July 20.
The second announcement caused agitations amongst the workers and they demanded immediate reopening of the factory, she said.
The workers also alleged that the authority told them that the factory might not reopen soon due the vulnerability of the building and asked them to join oher factories.
At the rally, the workers rejected the suggestion and demanded immediate payment of their wages and other benefits including festival allowance as per the law.
read more. & read more.
* Labour law amendment unlikely to benefit workers: Experts:
The government’s move to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 conflicts with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and is unlikely to bring any benefit to the workers, observed legal experts and rights activists here on Friday.
Addressing a roundtable discussion, they also demanded the government make an immediate review of the proposed amendments to the law and incorporate the provisions of the ILO conventions before placing it in parliament.
The roundtable was organised by World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), Bangladesh Committee at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU).
In his keynote presentation, WFTU (Bangladesh Committee) convener Wazedul Islam Khan said although the provision for allowing workers to form trade unions is included in the proposed amendment, the requirement for the participation of at least 30 percent of the workers in the trade union makes it virtually impossible to implement it in larger factories.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Govt urged to ensure workplace safety:
Leaders of labour rights group Bangladesh Trade Union Federation at a rally in the capital on Friday called on the Awami League-led government to ensure workplace safety.
The federation organised the rally in front of the National Press Club to push for 14-point demands, including workplace safety, exemplary punishment of the people responsible for the Rana Plaza collapse, the scrapping of undemocratic sections in the labour law and its implementation.
The federation president, Faezul Hakim Lala, at the rally said that the workers were mostly deprived as their wages were not sufficient.
He called on the government to implement the Labour law after dropping its undemocratic sections.
He demanded Tk.18,000 a month in minimum wage for workers considering the goods price increase.
* RMG workers must have union rights:
Labour leaders at The Daily Star-BILS roundtable press for inclusion of effective trade union in amended labour law, ensuring workers’ safety
Labour leaders have called for effective plant-level workers union in the garment sector and rejected the “participation committee” mentioned in the draft amendment to the labour law as it was no alternative to trade unions.
They expressed concern that the amended law due to be passed in parliament this week might not live up to the expectation of the country’s garment workers as they strive to get a large platform to voice their demands.
The participation committee mentioned in the draft is to be formed with all stakeholders, including labour leaders and garment workers.
The law is one of the key factors that might determine whether Bangladesh regains trade preferences in the US market or loses preferential market access to the European Union.
The parliament begins its session today with a task to stamp its approval on a number of bills including the Labour Law (amendment).
The workers’ concern came at a roundtable styled “Safe Workplace: Recent Experience and Way Forward” at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka yesterday.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), which promotes the causes of working people and trade unions, and The Daily Star, the country’s mass circulated English newspaper, jointly organised the programme.
BILS Secretary General Nazrul Islam Khan said ensuring workers’ safety should be a matter of utmost importance. It should be ensured for the country’s sake, not to bow to mounting pressure from abroad.
* Trade unionism to be set free:
JS to pass key amendment to labour law today
The parliament is set to pass a landmark amendment to the labour law today, a move that will bring in major changes in the way trade unions function in the country.
The amendment comes in a bid to appease the Obama administration to regain the duty benefits suspended by the US on June 27 on grounds of poor labour rights and unsafe working conditions.
A total of 87 sections of the 2006 labour law have been amended to make it time-befitting.
Firstly, the lack of freedom to associate, one of the sticking issues for Western countries and advocacy groups, has been dealt away with the amendment.
The modification to Section 178 means employees would no longer need approval from factory owners to form trade unions. From now, workers would just need to apply to the labour directorate for authorisation.
But AKM Nasim, senior legal counsellor at Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, is sceptical if it would have much success.
“Workers will still face difficulties in registration of trade unions as the director of labour will enjoy discretionary power.”
* Punish culprits behind factory tragedies:
Labour leaders and legal experts suggest at roundtable on workplace safety, organised by The Daily Star and BILS
Top labour leaders and legal experts yesterday called for increased manpower and clout for the labour department so that those responsible for factory tragedies do not go unpunished.
“The weakness of the labour department is well-known — the department is not accountable. The country has witnessed frequent industrial accidents due to failure of the labour directorate,” Abdur Razaque Khan, a senior advocate of Supreme Court, said.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of the local arm of IndustriALL, an international advocacy group, said the country’s garment sector has been struck with 56 incidents since 1990. “But no exemplary punishment was handed out.”
The comments came at a roundtable on safe workplace, organised by The Daily Star and Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.
Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said the requisite regulatory institutions did not develop in the country to keep pace with the garment sector’s phenomenal growth.
“The lack of exemplary punishment for offenders in the garment sector is very unfortunate. Merely arresting the culpable party wouldn’t do — they have to be sent to jail. But nobody was convicted — ever.”
* Wages of BD garment workers fall by 2.0 % :
Wages in Bangladesh’s readymade garment (RMG) sector fell more than 2.0 per cent in the last decade in terms of real purchasing power parity (PPP) for which the country has been the choice for relocation of textile industry, said The Washington Post on Friday.
Foreign investors have been relocating garment industry in Bangladesh over the last few years as wages started to rise in China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and some other garment producing and exporting countries.
“Measured on a real PPP basis – meaning wages were adjusted to account for the local cost of living – Bangladesh’s textile wages fell more than 2.0 per cent from 2001 to 2011, while in Mexico, they dropped nearly 30 per cent,” said the influential daily newspaper of the United States.
Wages for garment workers in Bangladesh are the lowest among 16 garment producing and exporting countries of the world.
And read more- below in General.: * Global Wage Trends for Apparel Workers, 2001–2011
* Secrets of BD garments boom:
If there is any doubt that the global apparel trade has involved a massive scramble to the bottom when it comes to wages and working conditions, the Center for American Progress and the anti-sweatshop Workers Rights Consortium would like to dispel it.
In a new study of textile industry wages in the world’s top garment exporters, new research concludes that on an inflation-adjusted basis, earnings for factory workers in most of the countries have been falling.
And read more- below in General.: * Global Wage Trends for Apparel Workers, 2001–2011
* Proposal to strengthen dept of factory inspection under govt consideration:
A proposal to strengthen the Department of Inspection of Factories and Establishment by increasing its manpower almost seven-fold and setting up offices in every district along with state-of-the-art instruments is now under consideration of the ministry of public administration.
The proposal has been mooted following some major industrial accidents including Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen garment factory fire, Md. Aminul Islam, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment and former chief inspector of the department told The FE.
According to the yet-to-be approved proposal, some 2,291 staffs are going to be added to the existing 294. The additional manpower would include 800 inspectors.
The department is responsible for supervision of health and safety issues in the country’s nearly 300,000 registered and unregistered factories including 5,000 garment units under the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006.
* US companies detail Bangladesh safety pact:
A group of 17 North American retailers and clothing makers has agreed to a five-year safety pact aimed at improving conditions at Bangladesh factories that calls for inspecting all factories that supply their garments within a year.
They also agreed to set up basic safety standards within three months and are requiring that the inspection results of the factories be made public.
As part of the agreement, the U.S. companies including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Gap Inc. and Target Corp. have provided a total of $42 million so far in funding and said that figure is growing.
* BD safety accord signing – 5 reasons of US retailers’ refusal:
Earlier this week Walmart, Gap and 15 other North American clothing companies were roundly criticized by labor groups after the retailers signed on to a plan meant to improve conditions for workers in Bangladesh.
Their agreement was separate from an earlier pact signed by fast fashion monolith H&M and 69 other mainly European retailers also meant to address problems in the developing nation after a catastrophic garment factory collapse killed 1,129 workers earlier this year.
The main sticking point for the Americans: The European agreement features a binding arbitration process, enforceable in the homes courts of each company.
“They are not similar at all,” Scott Nova, executive director of Worker Rights Consortium, told The Huffington Post of the two agreements. “One is an enforceable agreement under which retailers have to pay to make these death traps in to safe factories. Another is a public relations sham put forward by companies like Walmart, with a horrific track record on worker safety, under which there are no binding obligations to pay a single penny to make factories safer.”
Both Walmart and Gap, the two retailers leading the charge on the North American plan, downplayed the differences between the two agreements earlier this week. Jay Jorgensen, Senior Vice President & Global Chief Compliance Officer at Walmart, wrote in a statement Wednesday that the agreements offered “two strong plans.” While Gap executives said the goal of the North American treaty is create a program that “can create real change.”
* US reviews pact with Canada on Bangladesh factory safety:
The US government has said it is still reviewing the five-year safety pact signed by a group of 17 US and Canadian retailers to increase safety and working conditions in Bangladesh factories.
‘As you know, this agreement is between private sector companies. We’re
still reviewing that agreement. Broadly speaking, the United States strongly supports coordination between all parties, including buyers, manufacturers, government, civil society, and labour actors, to improve worker safety and labour rights in Bangladesh,’ a state department spokesperson said.
Jen Psaki at a regular press briefing in Washington on Thursday said, ‘We’ve also been very focused on this over the past couple of months and long before in terms of working with all parties to take steps to improve conditions on the ground.’
Jen made the remarks when a correspondent asked why the US-Canada is better for Bangladesh since the plan is not legally binding unlike the European plan.
* US retailers’ factory plan for Bangladesh derided as ‘toothless’:
North American retailers unveiled a five-year safety plan for Bangladesh garment factories on Wednesday that would include inspecting within a year every factory they use, following tragedies such as April’s deadly garment building collapse.
The North American plan was immediately criticized by groups that think a European-led plan is stronger.
The plan, announced in Washington by the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which includes 17 retailers and apparel companies, comes after 1,129 workers were killed in the collapse of a Bangladesh garment plant in April, and another 112 people perished in a fire at a Bangladesh factory in November.
A larger number of mainly European retailers that have signed what is known as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh announced a similar plan on Monday. Both plans include factory inspections, worker training and ways for workers to report safety concerns. The two groups also agreed not to use factories considered to be unsafe.
Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and long-term shareholders in apparel brands and retailers said the Alliance’s plan lacks sufficient worker protections and accountability mechanisms and called it a weaker alternative to the European-led accord.
* Retail group sets up $42 million BD fund:
Gap, Walmart and other North American retailers agreed to establish a $42 million fund to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh factories in the next five years.
The plan requires all factories working with the 17 retailers in the pact to be inspected within a year and for the results to be made public, the companies said Wednesday in a statement.
* Clothing firms in Bangladesh: Accord, alliance or disunity? :
A transatlantic divide among big companies may hinder efforts to improve workers’ safety in Bangladesh
The message was unequivocal from the bosses of 17 North American retail chains, including Walmart and Gap, when they launched the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety on July 10th. They called the record of Bangladeshi factories “unacceptable” and said that improving it “requires our collective effort”.
After 1,129 people died in a factory collapse at Rana Plaza on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24th, and subsequent reports that many other factories in Bangladesh were in a dangerous condition, the need for collective action seems clear. So why are North American retailers pursuing their own action plan, rather than joining the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, launched on May 13th and now supported by 72 big clothing retailers—mostly from the European Union?
In most respects the North American alliance’s promises differ little from those of the European accord. The alliance, brokered by two former senators, George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe, calls for all Bangladeshi factories used by the retailers to be inspected within a year, with the results published and a boycott imposed on any that failed their inspections. The factories’ workers will get safety training and a hotline to report any worries. So far the North American retailers have agreed to provide grants of $42m and $100m in low-interest loans to upgrade factories.
* BGMEA welcomes Western moves on RMG:
Leading international retail brands forged two separate agreements – Accord on Fire and Building Safety and North American alliance safety plan – in last week with a view to protect the interest of low-paid workers in the country’s garment industry.
A consortium of 70 retailers and apparel brands from EU has formed the “Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh” and announced its action plan in the Swiss city of Geneva on July 8.
Alternatively, the North American retailers’ alliance unveiled its five-year safety plan for Bangladesh garment factories on July 9 which will include inspecting within a year every factory they use for outsourcing clothing. Although separately, both the groups were formed with aims to help developing the country’s fledging readymade garment (RMG) industry hit hard by a series of tragic incidents over the last one year including the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse.
They say the European-led plan will make factories safer.
But only three US retailers have signed up to the EU plan. American firms are reportedly reluctant to join any industry accord that creates legally binding objectives.
According to sources, the small number of US signatories will disappoint advocates hoping for an end to hazardous conditions in Bangladesh’s multi-million pound garment industry.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), sources said, is now observing the situation keenly. “If factories, which are in real need of relocation but unable due to fund constraints, are dropped from the plan of the groups we will try to help those using fund from other sources like JICA,” said BGMEA vice president Reaz Bin Mahmod.
* Wal-Mart’s fear of commitment:
“Seeking an energetic person willing to drop everything when I call. Must be available 24/7, although I will make no long-term commitment to you.”
If this were a personal ad, we’d assume the writer would stay single forever. But this is essentially the help-wanted ad that Wal-Mart and other retailers are posting these days.
Retail workers who don’t have the benefit of a union contract are all too familiar with low pay, erratic part-time schedules and job insecurity. But industry standards sunk to a new low earlier this month, when Reuters reported that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has been hiring only temporary workers at many of its US stores.
These temporary workers must reapply for their jobs after 180 days. Meanwhile, existing full-time employees are seeing their hours cut to part-time, resulting in understaffed stores with long lines and un-stocked shelves.
Wages are low — roughly $10 per hour — and the part-time work schedules are irregular and unpredictable. Temporary part-time workers can’t make plans of any kind — for their weekends or their futures.
* France won’t withdraw GSP benefit: Envoy:
French Ambassador in Dhaka Michel Trinquier on Saturday said Bangladesh is heading towards an important time of its political history with the upcoming general election, and hoped that all the parties will be able to hold a fruitful dialogue paving the way for holding credible elections.
“We strongly hope all the parties will be able to hold a fruitful dialogue, which would allow holding free, fair and credible elections,” the envoy said. The French envoy made the remark in a message marking French National Day.
On GSP issue, Michel Trinquier said the GSP facility that Bangladesh benefits in its economic relations with the European Union is an incentive to undertake the necessary reforms as soon as possible and according to a precise roadmap. “Taking into account, the efforts undertaken so far by the government of Bangladesh in our opinion it should not be suspended or withdrawn.”
* Better prices may change factory conditions:
German MPs urge retailers to pay more for Bangladesh garments
International buyers should offer Bangladeshi garment manufacturers a better deal for enhancement of factory conditions and workers’ living standards, two German lawmakers said recently.
“The workers in the garment industry here do not earn enough money,” Renate Künast and Uwe Kekeritz said in a joint written interview.
“The profits should not only be shared by international fashion labels and the factory owners — workers should also benefit.”
To ensure that the money reaches the textile workers, they called for higher minimum wages.
* GSP cancellation cruel: US Heritage Foundation:
The GSP promotes growth and employment in developing countries
The cancellation of GSP facility will not help Bangladesh’s poor people and will have little impact on workers’ rights, according to a report by the US-based conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation.
“The Administration’s punitive move is ineffective and cruel,” said the foundation’s Director Terry Miller and Research Associate Ryan Olson, in the report titled: “Punitive Trade Sanctions on Bangladesh, Not the Way to Improve Labour Conditions,” published last week.
* Six Danish retail brands sign Bangladesh Safety deal:
Denmark’s brands Bestseller, IC Companys, DK Company, PWT Group, COOP Denmark, and Danish Supermarket agree to sign up to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord which now is backed by more than 60 global brands.
In the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse on April 24 this year, the Danish trade Minister Pia Olsen Dyhr urged the companies to add their names to the agreement which aims to improve safety conditions in Bangladesh’s garment factories.
The Accord brokered by IndustriALL and UNI Global Union in a strong alliance…
read more. & read more.
* Jute exports grow 6.54pc in FY’13:
Export earnings from jute and jute goods in the fiscal year 2012-2013 showed an increase of 6.54 percent over the previous year, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data.
Earnings from the jute sector were US$ 1.01 billion during July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 period.
The data indicated that the export of jute bags and sacks increased by 28.16 percent year-on-year to fetch US$ 237.42 million in foreign exchange for Bangladesh.
* Jute export stressed:
A BSS reports says: Speakers at the certificate distribution ceremony of a five-day workshop-cum training course here yesterday afternoon stressed promoting jute-based handloom industries for enhancing exports of the country’s jute products.
Multipurpose Jute Industries Entrepreneurs’ Service Centre of Jute Diversification Promotion Centre (JDPC) under the Ministry of Textiles and Jute organised the programme for unemployed women.
Executive director of JDPC Mokhlesur Rahman attended the ceremony as the chief guest and distributed certificates among 22 trainee women with Rangpur Centre-in-Charge of Multipurpose Jute Industries Entrepreneurs’ Service Centre Meher Hussaine in the chair.
* Bangladesh is king when it comes to price:
Indian and Southeast Asian apparel manufacturers had hoped the orders would come flooding in, after the deadly collapse of a Bangladesh garment factory complex this year galvanised global brands to consider relocating production
With knitwear exports of over $2bn a year, India’s garment manufacturing hub Tirupur has earned the nickname “Dollar City,” but its allure for price-conscious global retailers obsessed by discounts of as little as one US cent pales before Bangladesh.
Indian and Southeast Asian apparel manufacturers had hoped the orders would come flooding in, after the deadly collapse of a Bangladesh garment factory complex this year galvanised global brands such as Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) to consider relocating production.
* No time for complacency:
While we are pleased with the remarkable performance of the RMG sector, we must not get complacent
It is encouraging to see that Bangladesh’s largest export sector has grown close to 13% in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Despite being under constant international criticism, scrutiny and pressure, the ready-made-garments industry has almost doubled its growth compared to the 2011-12 growth of 6.6%.
Taken into account that most of our major buyers are still in recession, and the industry has to deal with consumer backlash, this is surely cause for celebration and congratulation.
But while we are pleased with the remarkable performance of the RMG sector, we would like to remind all concerned that we must not get complacent.
The negative effects of lost goodwill or the suspension of US GSP will be more accurately evident in figures of next year and later, so it is too early to declare victory. There is still a lot of work to be done, and the biggest mistake the industry could make would be to think that it can return to business as usual.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* PM relief fund receives Tk 128cr:
The Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury categorically said Prime Minister’s relief fund has received a total of Tk 127.67 crore as donation to help Rana Plaza victims.
She came up with the information while replying to a question from lawmaker Muhibur Rahman Manik at Jatiya Sangsad on Sunday.
* Portraits of Pain:
It’s not an easy picture to look at. A man clings to the arched body of a woman, her back bent as if gasping for air.
He seems asleep amid the debris, except that his mouth is packed with dirt, and a tear of blood runs down the side of his nose.
The image, shot by Bangladeshi photographer Taslima Akhter, captures in one poignant frame the human cost of the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza garment-factory complex in the Dhaka subdistrict of Savar. At least 1,129 workers died in what is probably the worst apparel-industry accident ever.
As the photo of the pair went viral, people worldwide messaged Akhter: Who were they? How were they related? Where did they come from? What were their lives like?
The collapse of Rana Plaza, a structurally deficient eight-story building, was a local disaster with global implications. Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest manufacturer of ready-made garments (RMG) after China.
The industry is responsible for nearly 80% of the country’s exports, earning $19 billion annually, or about 13% of its GDP. Some 4 million Bangladeshis — mostly undereducated villagers — toil anonymously in the country’s RMG trade, making T-shirts and jeans for top international brands like Mango, H&M and Primark.
Akhter’s picture put an intimate face on what is, in Bangladesh, a crucial but poorly regulated and often dangerous industry. In early June, six weeks after Rana Plaza fell, Akhter and I teamed up to trace the backstories of the Rana Plaza survivors and victims to try to learn how they lived, and died. Perhaps, along the way, we would discover the identities of the man and woman whom the world witnessed in their final embrace.
* Poverty, trauma tags Rana Plaza survivor:
Aklima Begum survived the deadly Rana Plaza factory building collapse, but the suffering she undergoes now with poverty and trauma is even more painful.
Pocketing the Tk 20,000 she got as compensation after the April 24 collapse, her husband Ismail left Aklima and their 18-month-old son without a trace.
“I have lost everything…my earning source, husband and physical and mental fitness,” an ailing Aklima, 26, told The Daily Star recently. She is now being treated at Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital, Barisal (SBMCH,B).
On the day of the tragic collapse that killed 1,130 plus workers and left hundreds of others injured, Aklima went to the gate of New Star Garments, housed in Rana Plaza, around 7:30am to receive her salary.
She hesitated entering the factory, as she was informed of cracks in the building. But the factory supervisor assured that everything was alright and that the salary would be paid after they had worked till afternoon.
The building collapsed in an hour.
“I was pressed under a machine and a beam and saw many dying. I became unconscious,” she said, adding that she discovered herself in a nearby clinic a few hours later.
After eight days of treatment, Aklima went back to her Padma village residence in Mathbaria, Barguna, along with the compensation. This is when Ismail, a Savar shop employee, left with the money.
14:50:42 local time INDIA
* Tannery trade unions to go on strike from month-end:
Members of various trade unions attached to leather tanneries in the district announced an indefinite strike from the end of the month, seeking wage hike and bonus benefits, among other demands.
A decision to this effect was taken at the consultative meeting held on Wednesday, chaired by the the district president of CITU M P Ramachandran.
Representatives of AITUC, INTUC, ATP and other trade unions took part in the meeting. Ramachandran said despite talks with the labour department in Chennai on over 10 occasions, tannery owners had not accepted their demands.
* Bangladesh’s factory collapse cause of concern for India:
Shopaholic, fashion victim, style guru? Why Bangladesh’s clothing-factory deathtraps should worry your wardrobe
The Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,129 workers by last count, has brought back intensified focus on how global clothing brands source their ‘cheap chic’.
But it’s really the developed world’s problem – we are a sweatshop keeper ourself, and supply to the sequined, glitzy garment chain that serves the dollar-doling, label-loving first-world fashionista. Why, the ‘Made in India’ disclaimer stuck on the stylish stock of many a hip boutique establishes us firmly in the position of the exploited, and not the contributor to such forces… Does it, really?
True, garment factories in the subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – have been in and out of conscientious news outlets on their use of children, poor working conditions and what they should be paid by the global brands they make clothes for.
However, none of them are infamous for a mortality rate quite as high as Bangladesh’s.
Also, a quick look through the hangers at many such labels that sell in India throws up the ‘Made in Bangladesh’ tag far more often than an India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka one. That’s because Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest apparel exporter after China.
By sheer dint of numbers, if you’re a high-street addict and like to re-invent your wardrobe often, it’s far more likely that you’ll end up wearing something that was made in Bangladesh than in India. It’s also likely that something in your closet was made in a garment factory inside the rubble that is now Rana Plaza.
* Surat Municipal Corporation stops water supply in textile mills:
Production of the finished fabrics in the country’s biggest man-made fabric (MMF) industry has come to a grinding halt as the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has decided to stop the supply of water to the textile dyeing and printing mills for two days starting from Saturday.
Official sources in the SMC said that the industrial water supply in the city, especially to the dyeing and printing mills, has been discontinued since Friday evening after the intake well at Katargam experienced technical snag following the huge presence of mud, algae, hyacinth etc in the upstream of Tapi river.
However, the civic authorities decided to discontinue the supply of water to the industrial units in order to give water preference to the residents. The water supply for the residential use has been decreased by almost 30 per cent.
* Plea to set up apparel park:
The Chennai Apparel Association (CAA) on Friday urged the Chief Minister to set up an apparel park and wholesale market near Chennai and provide tax rebate for products manufactured by women entrepreneurs so that it would it benefit several lakhs of people.
Briefing newsmen, CAA vice president G. Ravi Kumar said most of the apparel units were located in the outskirts due to factors such as non-availability of space and high rentals. This forced women workers to discontinue their jobs. Hence, the State government should consider setting up an exclusive park and wholesale market under one roof as was done in the neighbouring states, as the apparel sector provided jobs to 90 per cent of women.
* Exports revive at Tirupur:
Firms confident of 15-20% growth over last year, with diversion of Bangladesh garment orders, recovery in main markets
After a sharp decline, exports from the textile town of Tirupur have bounced back. The town in west-central Tamil Nadu, 50 km from Coimbatore and 460 km from here, has reported a 10 per cent growth in order flow in the past two months.
Exporters from the textile hub have told the Union minister of textiles that they will clock around Rs 15,000 crore in 2013-14, an increase of 15-20 per cent over last year. The Union ministry has already raised the annual export target to $43 billion (Rs 25,750 crore) from $36 bn (Rs 21,500 crore) last year for the apparel industry, as part of a plan to leverage the sharp rupee depreciation to lift textile exports.
* A quiz on textiles:
Event Do you know enough about textiles to win handsome prizes? If you do, here is your chance
Kasthuri Srinivasan Cultural Centre holds an inter-collegiate textile quiz. The competition is open to all students doing a degree or diploma in textiles. Each team should comprise of two students from the same college.
The winners will receive the Kasthuri Srinivasan Shield. The prize money for the first three places will be Rs. 15,000, Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 6,000, respectively.
The organisers will bear the travel and accommodation expenses of participants travelling from beyond 75 km. You can also register online at www.kasthurisreenivasanartgallery.com. The last date for registration is July 17.
For more details, call 0422-2574110 or 94421-60895.
Kasthuri Sreenivasan Trust, Avanashi Road; July 27; from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
14:20:42 local time PAKISTAN
* Hazardous chemicals: Warehouse fire threatens to choke Walled City:
Rescue officials said that the cause of the fire had not been ascertained. They said that they had received a call about the fire in a godown near Shah Muhammad Ghaus at 7:15pm. They later found out that chemicals were kept at the godown. A proper operation to extinguish the fire began at around 10pm, they said.
They said fire fighters and Rescue teams managed to control the fire after hectic efforts of more than nine hours.
Rescue officials said that they had initially used water to douse the fire but it had reacted with some of the chemicals and fed the fire. “Chemical fires are not easy to extinguish. Foam was used later to put it out,” a Rescue official said. The neighbouring godowns in the area were emptied of chemicals that could feed the fire, they said. As many as 12 fire fighting vehicles and 70 Rescuers were part of the operation.
Amir and Imran told police that the fire had erupted in the section of the warehouse where chemicals used in the textile industry, Glover salt (sodium sulphate) and sodium hydro sulphite, were kept. Other chemicals at the warehouse were acetic acid, citric acid, sulphur black and hydrogen peroxide.
* Tanners demand special govt attention:
Pakistan, a country rich in livestock has just 0.76% global market share in export of leather products against global share of 37.50%, 13%, 6%, and 3.50% for China, Italy, Vietnam and India, respectively.
Chairman Pakistan Tanners Association Agha Saiddain told media here on Sunday. He said that total exports of Leather Sector of Pakistan were US$ 1.220 billion during 2007-08, which reduced to US$ 1.048 billion during 2011-12. “The global share of Pakistan was 1.25% during 2007-08 in total global market size of US$ 98 billion. The global market has grown to US$ 137.96 billion during 2011-12 whereas Pakistan exports reduced by 14% during this period”, he said.
Energy crisis, export of Wet Blue Leather and absence of subsidies and incentives are the reasons behind poor share of exports of the leather sector of the country, he said.
* STPF 2012-15: government to incorporate textile industry”s input:
The government has decided to review the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2012-15 to incorporate the input of textile industry to enhance textile exports, well-placed sources told Business Recorder.
The new government, contrary to the previous government has started negotiations with all stakeholders to enhance textile export of the country, said sources, adding that in this regard as a first initiative STPF (2012-15) would be reviewed where the input of textile industry would be incorporated, which was ignored in the past.
The Commerce Division has approached the Textile Division and sought their input for the remaining period of STPF (2012-15), sources added. The decision would also help textile industry to get maximum benefits from the proposed European Union”s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus. Pakistan is seeking GSP-Plus status to secure greater access to the EU markets, sources added.
* Global Wage Trends for Apparel Workers, 2001–2011:
When images of poor labor conditions in the garment industries of leading apparel-exporting countries reach the global news media, it is often because those conditions seem uniquely and unjustifiably extreme.
Malnourished workers working 14-hour days faint by the hundreds in Cambodian garment plants. Hundreds more are killed in deadly factory fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan by owners who lock exit doors when fires start—presumably because they fear that fleeing workers will stop to steal clothes.
Yet these images reflect a common basic reality: Garment workers in many of the leading apparel-exporting countries earn little more than subsistence wages for the long hours of labor that they perform. And in many of these countries, as this report discusses, the buying power of these wages is going down, not up.
Critics of antisweatshop advocates often argue that concern over poor labor conditions in apparel-exporting countries is misplaced and counterproductive. According to their argument, jobs in garment factories, no matter how low the wages or how difficult the conditions, benefit low-skilled workers because they provide better conditions and compensation than jobs in the informal and agricultural sectors of developing countries. Moreover, they posit, export-apparel manufacturing offers these workers—and, by extension, developing countries—a “route out of poverty” through the expansion of the manufacturing sector.
read more. & you can download the report here: 20130711 WRC RealWageStudy-3
* Expert moots ‘Global Fund’ to avoid Bangla-like tragedies:
Toby Webb, founder of Ethical Corporation, said that a fund set up and governed by an independent board of individuals whose reputations and motivations were beyond question could run training, capacity building and monitoring programmes for areas such as customs reform, buildings and health and safety inspection.
Ethical Corporation’s annual Responsible Business Summit in London saw business leaders and NGOs raise questions about effective factory auditing regimes, building safety standards and the role of brands, governments and NGOs in ensuring this sort of tragedy doesn’t occur again.
Mr Webb said: “A global fund could fill a gap and target specific areas where funding is weak, for example, the training of institutions in emerging economies is often an area where expertise is lacking.