23:43:48 local time CHINA
* Compensation demanded for workers of Adidas supplier:
Dynamic Precision Ltd. is a Taiwanese company that produced golf clubs for Adidas at its factory in Guangzhou.
Due to the terrible health and safety conditions, over 100 workers have acquired injuries or illnesses like pneumoconiosis, deafness, and benzolism. Faced with claims by the workers for compensation, the company suddenly closed its operations, leaving the workers empty handed.
This week, protests in support of the Dynamic workers were held in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
* Cross-Straits Labor Organizations Demand Just Compensation for Guangzhou Workers Victimized by Taiwanese Owned Supplier to Adidas:
Dynamic Precision Ltd. is a Taiwanese company that, until March of this year, produced golf clubs at its factory in Guangzhou (Dynamic Casting Company Ltd.) a supplier for Adidas, the world renowned producer of recreational sports equipment.
Due to deplorable labor conditions, neglect of labor protec-tions, in all 110 workers contracted various occupational diseases including Pneumoconiosis,Deafness, Benzolism,and (constituting the greatest in number) Hand/Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAV).
These illnesses resulted in unavoidable and detrimental impacts on workers’ health. However, the Taiwanese owned Dynamic Precision Ltd., in an effort to save on costs associated with compensation, chose to compel workers to sever their labor relationship (i.e. give up any claims to future salary or com-pensation) in exchange for paying off workers with a one time ‘settlement’. Nonetheless, over a dozen workers have insisted on securing a just settlement in accordance with China’s legal statutes and proce-dures.
* Coordinated Actions against Adidas in Mainland China, HK, Taiwan and Indonesia:
Yesterday (15 July), labor groups in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan took coordinated actions against Adidas. The Indonesian groups staged their protest three days earlier.
Globalization monitor worked with more than 10 labor organizations, including Hong Kong Federation of Trade Union (HKCTU), ITUC/GUF Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO), Labor Education and Service Network (LESN), Student and scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), Labour Action China (LAC), Worker Empowerment (WE), Indonesia migrant groups and representatives of GSBI Indonesia, Left21 and China Labour Net to organize a protest action at Adidas’ Hong Kong Head office on Monday July 15.
At the same time Taiwan labor groups and unions and Chinese workers also organized similar protests at Adidas’ local flagship store and office. All the groups staged common demands to Adidas, including the demands that Adidas’ Taiwanese suppliers, Dynamic Casting and Stella Footwear, provide immediate compensation for their workers with occupational diseases, that Adidas improve the production environment of all its suppliers, that it implement industry reform, and take responsibility for its poor oversight.
* Turning point for labor:
The road to sustainable urbanization in China depends largely on the structural shift from manufacturing-fueled growth to the development of a knowledge economy, for which education and training plays a central role.
Across the country, migrant workers are flooding into city centers to provide an abundant labor pool. According to data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2012, China had about 262 million migrant workers, an increase of 37 million from 2008.
However, as China shifts gears to more high-tech and service industries, migrant workers will also need to upgrade their skills.
What makes this shift paramount is the fact that, even among young migrant Chinese workers under the age of 30, only 57.8 percent have been educated up to junior high school level (about 15 years old), according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
“Many younger migrant workers, commonly those born after 1980, aspire for an urban life. The one barrier they experience is the gap in skills between them and the urban population,” says Zhan Changzhi, a vocational education expert from Hainan University.
“Most of the job vacancies in the cities are in factories and services industries and, as such, not many migrant workers are equipped with the skills to fill these roles. This is why vocational education has big potential in China,” Zhan says.
23:43:48 local time PHILIPPINES
* SONA protest, march to Batasan on today, with or without permit:
“We are tired of hearing about so-called improvements in the economy when unemployment is increasing, wages are pressed down, prices are soaring, and social services are decaying and getting scarce. This so-called growth is felt not by the needy poor but by the greedy rich.” – Elmer Labog, Kilusang Mayo Uno
Street march and the “real SONA” would be asserted today despite the government’s attempts to muzzle and threaten it. Days prior to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s fourth state of the Nation Address (SONA), his administration has already announced the closure of parts of Commonwealth Avenue leading to the House of Representatives, where Aquino is to deliver his speech. The government has also refused to permit protesters to go near the Batasan Complex.
22:43:48 local time VIET NAM
* Workplace dialogue to minimise disputes:
Enterprise owners are now required to hold a regular dialogue with their employees at least once every three months and organise an annual workers meeting to hear their opinions and discuss issues.
The regulation was stated in the new decree on the enforcement of industrial democracy, which would come into effect on August 15, said Dang Duc San, director of the Legal Department under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.
“One major reason leading to disputes between employers and employees is that there is no mechanism requiring regular talks,” San said. “If the new law is well implemented, this might change.”
Decree 60 was expected to help promote stable, harmonious industrial relations by protecting and ensuring the rights of both employers and employees.
Its strength is the requirement to hold dialogues in different forms with specific rules on how they should be implemented, he said.
Nguyen Van Binh, national project co-ordinator from the International Labour Organisation’s office in Ha Noi, said the existing dialogue mechanism to promote industrial relations was practically ineffective because talks were not regularly conducted, lacked the active involvement of workers and were not made compulsory.
22:43:48 local time THAILAND
* Prospects high for fruitful end to Thailand-EU FTA talks:
Italian envoy cites long ties with Kingdom
Michelangelo Pipan, Italy’s ambassador to Thailand, is bullish on the prospects of a successful free trade agreement between Thailand and the European Union.
“On thenegotiations, of which Italy is a key EU member, I think there are fundamental factors supporting the work. First, Thailand is graduating from the GSP system of preferential tariff treatment for goods exported to the EU, so we need a new basis on bilateral trade.
“The first round took place in Brussels recently, while the second round will take place in September, possibly in Chiang Mai. Theis a more comprehensive mechanism than the GSP [Generalised System of Preferences], making things easier for both sides, covering trade in goods and services as well as investment.
“The GSP is more like a unilateral thing, but an
22:43:48 local time CAMBODIA
* Bandith appeals while on the lam:
Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith has appealed — from hiding — his conviction for shooting three women at a protest earlier last year, his lawyer said.
Bandith was found guilty of causing unintentional injuries by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court last month for the non-fatal shootings outside a garment factory in February last year.
His attorney, Sun Bunnarith, said that he had filed the appeal about two weeks ago, and that Bandith’s sentence of 18 months in prison and 38 million riel (around $9,500) in compensation to the victims was unfair.
“In the hearing, the court did not summon critical witnesses to corroborate, so this hearing was not comprehensive,” he said.
Neither Bandith nor his attorneys attended last month’s trial, where multiple witnesses, including a police officer, fingered the former governor as the shooter. Bandith is currently on the run and has yet to be arrested.
* ILO Says Cambodia’s Factories Are ‘Chronically Non-Compliant’:
Half of Cambodia’s garment factories monitored between November and April are “chronically non-compliant” with the Labor Law and the industry has experienced deteriorating working conditions and fire safety records in the past three years, according to the latest report from the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) factory monitoring program.
The biannual report released Thursday by Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) comes after criticism was leveled at the ILO recently for not holding non-compliant factories responsible by naming them in its reports.
23:43:48 local time INDONESIA
* Employers Association proposes 20 pct increase of minimum wage in 2014:
The Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) has proposed a 20 percent increase of provincial minimum wage or UMP in 2014 in effort to balance the inflation that is expected to continue to rise.
“That`s only a benchmark if inflation plus. If it has not happened yet, this should be discussed to get tripartite agreement,” said Apindo chairman Sofyan Wanandi here on Friday.
Sofyan said proposal of the 20 percent increase of minimum wage was aimed to take back investment of the labor-intensive enterprises which have been more interested in investing abroad so far due to their objections by the amount of domestic UMP.
* Govt Seeks to Curb 2014 Wage Rise:
The Indonesian government plans to limit the monthly provincial minimum wage increase to 20 percent next year, instead of 50 percent as proposed by labor unions, as part of the effort to ease the burden on companies, a minister said.
Industry Minister M.S. Hidayat said on Friday that the government was drafting a regulation that calls for the minimum wage increase in the nation’s 34 provinces to be limited to a maximum of 20 percent in 2014.
“We will release a special policy so that the increase is set at 20 percent maximum. … We won’t be seeing a sharp rise next year as the economic situation is not favorable,” Hidayat said, referring to higher interest rates and inflation.
23:43:48 local time MALAYSIA
* Govt Urged To Exempt New Foreign Workers From Minimum Wage Ruling:
SMI Association of Malaysia (SMI) has urged the government to consider excluding new foreign workers who are on probation period from the minimum wage requirement.
Its President Teh Kee Sin said it was unfair for the local workers as the new foreign workers could enjoy the benefits when some of them are unskilled and need long learning period.
“In fact, the foreign workers should be given between three and six months before being given the minimum wage.
22:13:48 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* EU reopens preferential trade with Myanmar:
Myanmar is set to profit from a preferential trade agreement with the European Union (EU) starting on July 19, according to an EU press release.
“This has the potential to make a huge difference to the country’s economic development and to bring real benefits to the people of Myanmar,” said EU Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
“The EU is also going to help Myanmar to boost the capacity of both public and private firms to make use of these new opportunities,” he added.
According to that special privilege, Myanmar will gain duty-free and quota-free access to European markets under the terms of an ‘everything but arms’ trade agreement starting today.
The Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) has allowed developing countries to pay lower import tariffs on some or all of their exports to the EU. The EU has granted GSP’s to the 27 least developing nations of the world, with Myanmar now among them.
21:43:48 local time BANGLADESH
20130719-20 * Fire guts a garment factory in Gazipur:
Fire gutted a knitwear factory at Konabari Ambagh road in Gazipur industrial area early Friday.
No casualty was reported in the two-hour blaze, fire service officials and police said.
The fire service and civil defence sources said that the fire originated at the seventh floor of the MM Knitwear factory housed in an 8-storey building at about 6:30am and spread around rapidly. The blaze burnt valuables, including apparels and cartons that were ready for shipment.
Six fire fighting units from Gazipur and Kaliakair rushed in and battled for two hours to hose down the blaze.
Aktaruzzaman Liton, the deputy director of Gazipur fire station, said they were yet to ascertain the reason.
The loss caused by the fire could not be assessed yet, he added.
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20130720 * RMG factory shut amid workers unrest:
The authority of a readymade garment factory on Saturday shut their factory for indefinite period amid continuous workers’ unrest.
Workers of three readymade garment factories including Hanaro Fashion Limited have been staging agitation including work abstention demanding hike of salary-allowance in Ashulia industrial area, on outskirts of the city.
Workers of Hanaro Fashion Limited saw factory closure notices on the gate when came to join work in the morning.
Meanwhile, workers of Meddler Apparels limited went on strike demanding the punishment of factory admin G.M Shaheed, Admin Manager Hafiz and P.M Siddik for torturing female workers.
Earlier in the morning, sacked workers of the factory brought out a procession demanding their due salaries but police obstructed the procession.
On the other hand, the authority of Lusaka group in Ashulia Pukurpar area filed a case against its workers for alleged involvement in vandalism and violence.
Accused workers complained that we worked whole year amid owners oppression but authorities filed case against us in lieu of paying our due salaries and allowances ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
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* Mighty America has punished a poor nation like Bangladesh:
The Obama Administration has suspended tariff-free access of some Bangladeshi goods to the American market. Under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facilities, a few number of Bangladeshi goods used to get access to the US market such as ceramic wares, tobacco and plastic goods.
This GSP would give Bangladesh 1.0 per cent benefit of total US$ 24 billion worth export of Bangladesh. US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the goal is “to see Bangladeshi workers in safe, appropriate work situation.” Michael Froman has told it after suspending GSP of Bangladesh.
This has been told several times by the ambassador of America in Bangladesh Dan Mozena before suspension of GSP.
He first told it indirectly after a murder of a garment labourer, Aminul.
After the death of Aminul the press of Bangladesh came to know that he was a labourers’ leader in the garments sector.
However, the voice of American media and the officials have proved that he was well-known in America.
Regarding Aminul I asked one of the senior ministers of Bangladesh government Mrs Matia Chowdhury, “Why didn’t they provide security for Aminul?”
She told me, “Before his death, it was not known to us that he was a garment labourers’ leader.”
But, she said, now they had come to know that he was an underground labourers’ leader of the Islamic fundamentalist party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. However, she said it does not mean that the government will not do anything regarding his death.
The government has arrested some suspected persons and they are going to unearth the mystery of this murder case. Besides Aminul’s, another cause was presented in favour of suspended GSP.
In November 2012, workers at Tazreen Fashions were trapped behind locked doors when the factory caught fire in which at least 117 of them died. On April 24th a building called Rana Plaza collapsed in the industrial suburb of Savar. These two technical and manmade disasters proved that the safety of garment workers is needed in Bangladesh.
However, the GSP facility of America is not related with the garment and textile sector.
That is why, The Wall Street Journal has written, “The decision defies economic or moral logic. First, the US GSP program does not include textiles, the industry that has attracted the labour movement’s ire.
Garments account for more than 90 per cent of Bangladesh exports to the US, and these goods will continue to pay an average tariff of 15 per cent. Tariffs on clothes didn’t encourage better safety standards in the textile industry and higher tariffs on other products will squeeze those factories’ profits margins and possibly force them to cut corners on safety.”
* Garment sector: Acting on EU’s Compact:
The garment industry is the premier driver of the Bangladesh economy, which over the past two decades has helped cut core poverty from 60 per cent to 30 per cent of the population.
The garment industry employs about 4.0 million people (of which about 80 per cent are women) and indirectly supports the livelihoods of as many as 40 million – about a quarter of Bangladesh’s population. Hence, any issue that affects this industry, in turn affects the whole economy in a big way.
Following recurring small and medium accidents and also the fatal ones, like what happened at Spectrum and Tazreen factories, it all became an ‘all in a day’s work’ for our garment workers — ‘just to encounter’ an accident any moment during their working hours.
However, warnings from the buying nations kept on creeping up following the major disasters, though little heed seems to have been paid to them by the industry participants here in Bangladesh.
After the US measure, the European Union (EU) came up with a major global agreement for Bangladesh to improve the labour rights, working conditions, and factory safety in the country’s ready-made garment industry. The EU is Bangladesh’s leading trading partner.
Bangladesh’s total exports to the EU amounted to 9.2 billion in 2012, which represents about 10 per cent of Bangladesh’s GDP (gross domestic product). About 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports to the EU are ready-made garment (RMG) products which correspond to 60 per cent of Bangladesh’s total ready-made garment exports.
Therefore, the EU-initiated Compact can be considered a sound warning as they clarified the fact that no Least Developed Country (LDC) should take it for granted that they will continue to enjoy trade facilities forever no matter what they do.
The bottom-line is that it is high time that the government of Bangladesh looked deeply into the garment industry issue and started acting seriously. It is evident that this is going to be a very hard work.
* Labour leaders censure amended labour law:
Different labour organisations on Friday demanded that undemocratic sections of the lastly amended labour law must be crapped to make the law worker-friendly.
At different rallies in the city, they said that the amended law would not be worker-friendly and would serve the interests of the factory owners.
Parliament passed a bill in the just ended budget session brining amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006.
The Dhaka city unit of Samajtantrik Sramik Front and Garments Sramik Oikya Forum organised the rallies in front of the National Press Club demanding further amendment to the law.
Addressing the Oikya Forum rally, its president Mushrefa Mishu said that the amended law would not help the establishment of trade unions in the garment sector, the largest sector for workers.
‘Moreover,’ she said, ‘the amended law widens the scope of terminating the workers by the factory owners for raising protests.’
* Fresh move for building safety:
Hot on the heels of the Rana Plaza disaster in Savar, the government has made a move to enforce building safety standards accross the country.
As part of the move, the Rajuk is going to triple the number of its building construction (BC) committees, from eight to 24, to oversee approval and construction of buildings in its 1,528-square km master plan area.
Of the committees, eight will work on the outskirts of the master plan area.
The government has recently approved a new organogram for the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk), which will see the town planner’s total manpower hiked to 2,000 from the existing 1,087.
“We hope that the new recruitment would be complete in the next four months,” Rajuk Chairman Nurul Huda told The Daily Star.
* Protect workers to have GSP restored: US to Bangladesh:
The US government on Friday urged Bangladesh to take measures to protect workers’ rights and improve factory conditions if it wants to have trade benefits restored.
20130719 * Statement by the U.S. Government on Labor Rights and Factory Safety in Bangladesh:
The following is a joint statement from the Department of Labor, Office of the United States Trade Representative, and the State Department:
Today, the United States is outlining next steps in a longstanding effort to address in a meaningful way worker safety problems in Bangladesh — the severity of which were exemplified in the tragedies of the November 2012 Tazreen Fashions factory fire and the April 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse — and, more broadly, the ability of Bangladeshi workers to exercise their full range of labor rights.
On June 27, 2013, President Obama announced his decision to suspend Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in view of insufficient progress by the Government of Bangladesh in affording Bangladeshi workers internationally recognized worker rights. That decision followed an extensive, interagency review under the GSP program of worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh during which the U.S. Government encouraged the Government of Bangladesh to implement needed reforms. At the time of the announcement, the Administration provided the Government of Bangladesh with an action plan which, if implemented, could provide a basis for the President to consider the reinstatement of GSP trade benefits.
Today, the Administration is making this action plan public as a means to reinforce and support the efforts of all international stakeholders to promote improved worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh. On the basis of this action plan, the United States looks forward to continuing to work with Bangladesh on the actions it needs to take in relation to potential reinstatement of GSP benefits.
The United States is also pleased to associate itself with the July 8, 2013 European Union (EU)-Bangladesh-International Labor Organization (ILO) Sustainability Compact for continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the ready-made garment and knitwear industry in Bangladesh (Compact). The United States looks forward to working as a full partner with the EU, Bangladesh, and the ILO to implement the goals of the Compact, many of which are broadly consistent with the GSP action plan we are releasing today. At the same time, the United States will pursue additional concrete actions required under the GSP action plan, such as increasing sanctions for labor violations sufficient to deter future misconduct, publicly reporting on the outcome of union registration applications, establishing an effective complaint mechanism for labor violations, and ending violence and harassment of labor activists and unions.
20130720- * US unveils BD Action Plan 2013:
The United States on Friday is outlining next steps in a longstanding effort to address in a meaningful way worker safety problems in Bangladesh.
The severity were exemplified in the tragedies of the November 2012 Tazreen Fashions factory fire and the April 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse – and, more broadly, the ability of Bangladeshi workers to exercise their full range of labor rights.
The United States looks forward to working as a full partner with the EU, Bangladesh, and the ILO to implement the goals of the Compact, many of which are broadly consistent with the GSP action plan we are releasing, the statement added.
At the same time, the United States will pursue additional concrete actions required under the GSP action plan, such as increasing sanctions for labor violations sufficient to deter future misconduct, publicly reporting on the outcome of union registration applications, establishing an effective complaint mechanism for labor violations, and ending violence and harassment of labor activists and unions.
In addition to these complementary, government-to-government efforts, the Administration recognizes the importance of efforts by retailers and brands to ensure that the factories from which they source are compliant with all fire and safety standards in Bangladesh. We urge the retailers and brands to take steps needed to help advance changes in the Bangladeshi garment sector and to work together and with other stakeholders to ensure that their efforts are coordinated and sustained.
The Administration looks forward to continuing its engagement with the Government of Bangladesh and all stakeholders in order to effect positive change for Bangladeshi workers and to help ensure that the recent tragedies we have witnessed do not recur.
BANGLADESH ACTION PLAN 2013:
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* US issues ‘action plan’ for ensuring workers’ rights, safety standards:
It asks for stiffer penalties for violations
The United States has asked Bangladesh to improve safety standards and ensure rights of workers to regain GSP (generalised system of preferences) facilities.
The GSP was suspended by President Barack Obama last month in the wake of collapse of Rana Plaza that killed 1,129 workers and maimed many late April.
It said safety standards could be improved by implementing the commitments made in the ‘National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety and Structural Integrity,’ signed among workers, owners and the government in presence of the representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Dhaka in May last.
* US shows ways to get it back:
The Obama administration is pressing Bangladesh to strengthen worker-safety standards as a condition for restoring trade benefits, known as Generalised System of Preferences.
The United States on Friday made public a series of steps Bangladesh needs to take. Foremost among the steps is that Bangladesh must take include a qualitative and quantitative increase in the number of labour, fire and building inspectors for effective inspections.
“The administration is making this action plan public as a means to reinforce and support the efforts of all international stakeholders to promote improve worker rights and worker safety in Bangladesh,” the labour and state departments and United States Trade Representative said in a joint statement.
* GSP REVIVAL- US sets 15-pt action plan:
The US government has set a 15-point plan of action for the Bangladesh government in readymade garment and knitwear sector, export processing zones and shrimp sector and provided a basis for restoring GSP facility for Bangladesh.
The plan of action was suggested in a joint statement by the department of state, the department of labour, and the office of the United States trade representative in Washington on Friday.
20130720 * New Bangladesh Law Fails Again to Protect Workers’ Rights:
Long-awaited amendments to Bangladesh’s Labour Act passed by the parliament earlier this week fail to protect workers’ rights to freedom of association, falling well short of international labour standards.
These obstacles to organising a union and bargaining collectively with employers will continue to make it exceedingly difficult for workers to negotiate for fair wages and safe and decent conditions.
The absence of unions in the vast majority of workplaces has up to now kept wages at poverty levels and has allowed employers to force workers to work in dangerous, even fatal conditions. The Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions disasters have shown how vulnerable workers can be without the protection of strong unions.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “Bangladesh’s workers and the international community had high expectations that the government would finally legislate to protect the rights of workers. It appears that once again factory owners triumphed over their employees through backroom lobbying and their own political power as members of parliament. While the new law does reflect some positive changes, including on occupational safety and health, the government largely failed to make good on its obligations to improve fundamental workers’ rights.”
* ITUC finds amended labour law far short of int’l standard :
The Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has criticised the amended Bangladesh Labour Act 2013, passed by the parliament last week, stating that it is ‘falling well short of international labour standards’.
The ITUC, an affiliation of 308 organisations of 153 countries and territories, called on the government of Bangladesh to be serious about enforcement of provisions of the act, including the ones against-anti-union discrimination as well as occupational and health safety.
The ITUC observed that entire categories of workers, such as hundreds of thousands employed in the country’s export processing zones, were still banned from forming trade unions and they are only allowed to form associations, which have little power in practice to improve the working conditions in the zones.
In its official website this week, the ITUC said the Rana Plaza and the Tazreen Fashions disasters have shown how vulnerable workers could be without the protection of strong unions. It added that the obstacles in the law to organising a union and bargaining collectively with employers would continue to make it exceedingly difficult for workers to negotiate for fair wages and safe and decent conditions.
* No plan yet to bring EPZs under Labour Law: Mikail Shipar:
Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar on Sunday said the government has no plan yet to bring Export Processing Zones (EPZs) under the Labour Law allowing them to engage in trade unionism.
“The issue of EPZ isn’t mentioned there (Labour law). The government has no plan yet to bring EPZs under the Labour Law. There’s an embargo till 2013,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Foreign Ministry.
On formulation of rules and regulation to effectively implement the Labour Law, Mikail Shipar said the government has taken necessary steps, and two committees — national and another subcommittee — will soon be formed in this regard.
Responding to a question, the Labour Secretary said there is a proposal to convert Labour Department into Labour Directorate with an increased workforce. “The proposal is now at the Public Administration Ministry.”
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* No decision on trade union in EPZ:
EU and the US pressure Bangladesh to establish trade union rights inside the EPZs
The government is yet to make a decision about allowing trade unionism in the export processing zones (EPZs) after 2013, says Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar.
“EPZ is operating under an act which will be expired at the end of 2013, and after that, workers are likely to get more rights related to freedom of association,” the secretary said at a press briefing held in the foreign ministry yesterday.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni called the press meet to apprise the journalists of recent diplomatic developments with regard to labour issues.
Bangladesh is currently under pressure from the European Union (EU) and the US to establish trade union rights inside the EPZs, in the same way they are to be established outside.
The labour secretary said two committees would be formed soon to formulate rules and regulations about the labour law amendment (2013).
“Before I came here [the press conference], I had a meeting with the director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). We are going to invite them (ILO) formally to help us formulate these rules and regulations,” he said.
* Signing up to safety laws does workers more harm than good:
A disaster is, as they say, too good to be wasted. Sadly, several western groups have exploited tragedies in the Bangladesh clothes-making industry to bamboozle their governments and global retail brands into actions that are self-serving, while attempting to disguise them as beneficial to the nation and its workers.
They also divert attention from a superior response that serves Bangladesh better.
So consumers have blamed those companies that buy “cheap”, often high-fashion, garments for the unsafe conditions in Bangladesh’s factories because low prices allegedly lead to skimping on safety. The EU has proposed that Europe’s future trade agreements accord “a more prominent place” to health and safety considerations. The US, under pressure from the labour unions, has suspended Bangladesh from the World Trade Organization’s Generalized System of Preferences until safety standards in factories are improved and wages are increased.
Already, responding to the refrain of the “high cost of cheap goods”, and intimidated by hundreds of thousands of protesting social-media signatures, many European brands have agreed to accept responsibility for safety lapses in Bangladeshi-owned and managed garment factories via the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
But such accords fly in the face of the fact, known to safety experts, that responsibility for maintaining standards lies with factory management and owners alone. Remember that exit doors existed but were closed by the management. And these managers are Bangladeshi. This is also why most US brands have correctly refused to sign agreements that pin legal liability on them if anything goes wrong.
Labour organisations, by pressurising suppliers to increase wages prematurely, will deprive Bangladesh of this advantage and render its products uncompetitive in global markets.
The Workers’ Rights Consortium, which has tried to muscle its way into the aftermath of the Bangladesh tragedies, argues that profits can simply be converted into higher wages. This is a fallacy, of course, since the garment industry worldwide is immensely competitive and does not have the excess profits that would absorb higher wages.
Again, there is no correlation between unionisation and safety. In the US, industrial fires have become rare while unionisation rates have fallen to negligible levels in the past four decades. The garment industries in Vietnam and China have experienced few fires, even though unions do not exist. In addition, the notion that union officials will become safety experts is quixotic.
* Disasters give a wake-up call to save the precious garments industry:
Several weeks after the catastrophic “Rana Plaza” disaster involving the deaths of so many garments workers, a series of mechanisms have been developed at both international and national levels to protect Bangladesh’s precious garments industry.
Despite the fact that the industry has many shortcomings including those related to safety methods and suitable compensation packages for the workers, things are looking bright for the industry. The international community also feels that this industry of Bangladesh must be assisted in all forms for its survival.
Consequently, the most tragic “Rana Plaza” incident has served as a wake-up call, although it has been too shocking and difficult to absorb. The shortcomings are being sought to be removed with a view to protecting the garments industry and some concrete steps have already taken place or are in the offing for the overall betterment of the conditions of the workers and the industry as a whole.
* RMG exports to new markets mark 28.75 % rise:
The country’s ready-made garments (RMG) exports to non-traditional markets rose significantly in the just concluded fiscal (2012-13), which industry insiders said, an encouraging sign to offset the sock of GSP suspension by the USA.
Industry sources attributed the reasons mainly to government incentives as well as private initiatives and better quality and competitive prices that attracted the new buyers to import Bangladeshi apparel. According to EPB statistics, exports to the non-traditional market (comprising11 new destinations) stood at US$ 2.974 billion in the just concluded fiscal as against $ 2.309 billion in the previous fiscal registering a growth of 28.75 per cent.
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* New investments in RMG sector decline last fiscal:
New investments in the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector dropped sharply in the last fiscal year.
Apart from being hit by some tragic incidents, the industry went through a protracted energy crisis in the year. Moreover, the economic turmoil in Europe and the United States left an adverse impact on the sector.
Only six RMG units have been listed with the Registrar, Joint Stock Companies and Firms in FY 2012-13, reflecting the uncertainty that has gripped the industry, which accounts for 80 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports worth US$ 27 billion.
* RMG accessories, packaging items export falls short of target:
Earnings from export of apparel accessories and packaging items fell short of the target by around 9.0 per cent in fiscal year (FY) 2012-13.
The country fetched US$ 4.10 billion from export of apparel accessories and packaging items in the last fiscal against the target of $ 4.50 billion, said a leader of Bangladesh Garment Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGAPMEA).
“The export of our sector is mainly hit due to political and labour unrest coupled with Tazreen Fashion blaze and Rana plaza tragedy and global recession,” BGAPMEA President Rafez Alam Chowdhury told the FE.
* Home minister tells apparel exporters to pay wages, festival bonuses to workers by August 6:
The government on Sunday asked the readymade garment factory owners to ensure payment of wages and festival bonuses by August 6, ahead of Eid-ul-Fitre.
‘All the apparel factory owners have been asked to pay wages and other allowances by August 6 so that no one can create any anarchy in the export oriented industry,’ Home affairs minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir told reporters in the secretariat after presiding over a meeting on readymade garment industry.
A 3-day public holiday on the occasion of Eid will begin on August 8 and there is another public holiday on the occasion of Shab-e-Qadr on August 6.
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* Garment TUC demands Tk 8,000 as minimum wage:
Garment Workers Trade Union Centre on Sunday called on government to fix Tk 8,000 as the minimum monthly wage for the garment workers.
The garment worker organisation made the demand at a rally in front of Minimum Wage Board office at Topkhana road.
The government formed the board to revise the wages of the garment workers recently. Addressing the rally, the organisation general secretary Kazi Ruhul Amin said that the garment workers were now getting only Tk 3,000 as minimum wage per month.
It is impossible to run their families with the wages in the face of the price hikes of the essential commodities, he said. The organisation handed over a memorandum to the chairman of the board pressing for the demand.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* BGMEA lists 1,107 Rana Plaza survivors for jobs:
A government agency recently provided the BGMEA with a list of 1,107 out of 2,438 survivors of Rana Plaza collapse, who were employees of the five garments factories housed in the building, asking the trade body to give the workers jobs.
In response, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association on Tuesday sent letters to its members, asking them to inform the trade body how many workers each of them would be able to employ in their factories. The trade body in the letter also mentioned 28 posts against which the workers to be recruited.
BGMEA vice-president Sahidullah Azim told New Age that they were committed to rehabilitating the survivors of Rana Plaza collapse and all of the workers would get jobs soon.
‘We have sent letters to the BGMEA member factories and already got good response from the factory owners,’ he said.
Azim said, ‘No worker (who is interested to work) will remain jobless as there is 25 per cent worker shortage in the garment sector.’
* Call for quick compensation for Rana Plaza victims:
The leaders of Garment Sramik Sangram Parishad, a platform of garment workers, yesterday demanded quick payment of compensation to the victims of Rana Plaza collapse in Savar on April 24 that killed 1,132 workers.
They also stressed the need for abolition of the amended labour law, which, they said, will fail to protect the interest of the workers.
“The amended labour law will only protect the interests of the owners,” said Rafiqul Islam Pathik, a coordinator of the platform, at a rally in front of the office of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Pathik also said many victims of the accident did not receive any compensation while some received Tk 1 lakh to Tk 3 lakh from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The wage board should fix Tk 8,000 as the monthly basic salary for garment workers at the entry level and Tk 12,000 as gross, he said.
* Rana Plaza survivors demonstrate with coffin:
Survivors of Rana Plaza collapse staged a rally carrying coffin in front the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association building at Karwan Bazar in the city on Sunday demanding immediate payment of their arrears and compensations.
Garments Sramik Sangram Parishad, a platform of garment workers, organised the protests.
The rally also pressed for implantation of the workers’ right to trade union at all garment factories and Tk 8,000 as the minimum monthly wage for garments workers.
Addressing the rally, Garments Sramik Sangram Parishad coordinator Rafiqul Islam Pathik said that the government showed sheer negligence regarding the payment of wages and compensations for the Rana Plaza survivors.
He said, It is the government’s duty to look after us, but they have shown a total negligence. When we go to the Savar upazila parishad, they show us district office; when we go there, they show the prime minister’s office, where we cannot go.’
* BGMEA yet to contribute to PM fund:
Different institutions and individuals donated Tk 127.67 crore to the prime minister’s relief and welfare fund between April 29 and July 8 for giving compensation to and rehabilitation of Rana Plaza victims but apparel factory owners owners have yet to contribute to the fund.
After the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24, which left more than 1,100 people dead, the prime minister urged all to come forward to help the victims and their families.
Responding to the call, government and non-government institutions including banks, insurance companies, schools, colleges and a large number of individuals donated Tk 127,67,33,349 to the fund, the agriculture minister, Matia Chowdhury, told the parliament in reply to a question of Muhibur Rahman Manik on July 14.
According to the list, no apparel factory owners or the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association has so far donated any money to the fund.
ASHULIA TAZREEN GARMENT FACTORY FIRE
* HC for compensation report by Jul 28:
The High Court on Sunday directed to submit report by July 28 with in detail over compensation provided to the victims of Tazreen Fashion fire.
An HC bench comprising Justice Kazi Rezaul Haq and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain passed the order.
Bangladesh Garment Manufactures & Exporters Association (BGMEA) and chief factory investigation officer of Ministry of Industries were asked to submit the reports mentioning in detail who were given compensation with how much money.
The fire service and civil defense also ordered to submit reports about their activities during the deadly fire.
Delwar Hossain, owner of the Tazreen Fashions, was present before the court during the hearing.
On April 28, a writ petition was filed with the High Court seeking arrest of the owner of Tazreen Fashions Limited for his ignorance.
A devastating fire broke out at the Tazreen Fashions Ltd and killed 112 people in November of 2012.
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* Govt, BGMEA warned over inaction:
The High Court yesterday once again expressed its dissatisfaction with the government and the BGMEA for their failure to submit before it the reports on compensations given to the Tazreen fire victims.
The court also showed its disappointment, as it was yet to get the DNA test reports of relatives of the people who went missing in the fire incident on November 24 last year.
During a hearing on a writ petition, the HC ordered the government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association to submit the reports on July 28.
The court said it would take actions against the government and the BGMEA officials concerned if they fail to submit the reports on the day.
On June 19, the HC ordered secretaries to the ministries of home, and labour, the inspector general of police, and the president of the BGMEA to submit the reports on July 18.
In this regard, Deputy Attorney General Bishwojit Roy told the court that his office had not got any reports from the government or the BGMEA, and none of them had contacted his office.
21:13:48 local time INDIA
* 39 kids on way to Gujarat cotton fields rescued:
At least 39 children were rescued by Udaipur police who were on their way
to Gujarat to work as child labourers in Bt cotton fields on Sunday.
The police also arrested three persons for child trafficking and they were booked under sections 23 and 26 of Juvenile Justice Act and 370 (5) of IPC for child trafficking.
The three accused have been sent to judicial custody. Udaipur Child Welfare Committee (CWC) member DharmeshJain said,
“There were 20 boys and 19 girls among the children who were in the age
bracket of 12-14 years.”
The police intercepted the SUV vehicles in which the children were travelling along with three child traffickers at Jadol in Udaipur district. When they questioned the passengers, the police found that the children were being taken to Gujarat to work in Bt cotton fields.
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* 80 textile mills shut down in 2 years in Surat:
All is not well in the textile processing sector of the country’s biggest man-made fabric (MMF) hub in the city.
In the last two years, around 80 textile dyeing and printing mills in the city’s industrial hubs in Pandesara, Sachin and Khatodara areas shut down their operations, industry sources said.
There are numerous factors responsible for the collapse of city’s textile processing sector. Among them are 10 to 15 per cent rise in raw material prices such as chemical and dyes and hike in input costs like electricity, natural gas and coal etc. The unavailability of skilled textile labourers due to NREGA scheme and the dwindling demand of polyester fabrics from the domestic and international markets are also other reasons that affected the mills’ operations.
It seems the textile processing sector, which contributes to about 40 per cent of the finished fabric demand in the country, is gasping for breath.
If the industry leaders are to be believed, then around 47 mills have downed their shutters in the last one year. Most of them have started selling their machineries and equipment in scrap.
* ‘Apparel industry needs transformation to reach $200bn size’:
To attain projected figure, phenomenal impetus and radical transformation in sector and lots of hard work needed
Indian textile and apparel industry would have to work hard and address issues on timely delivery so as to reach four-fold increase in size to $200 billion by 2025 as recently claimed by a survey, industry experts said.
To attain the projected figure, phenomenal impetus and radical transformation in the sector and lots of hard work is needed, experts said. More over productivity of the work force of the industry would have to be increased.
* Indian apparel market to grow over 4-fold to $200 billion: Report:
The Indian apparel market will grow over four-fold to attain a staggering size of $ 200 billion by 2025 with the country becoming the fastest growing market along with China, according to a report by management consultancy firm Wazir.
According to the report, the combined size of Chinese and Indian apparel markets will become bigger than that of the US and European Union, as the per capita spend on apparel in these two developed markets will rise at a much slower rate.
In 2012, the size of the Indian apparel market was $ 45 billion. India and China will be the fastest growing markets, growing in double digits and would become the biggest consumer market with a mammoth share of 27 per cent, it said.
* Quarterly apparel sales grow 10% on stable cotton price, removal of excise duty:
Readymade apparel sales have bounced back after two years of flat growth with brands, retailers, manufacturers reporting more than 10% growth in last quarter.
A stable cotton pricing coupled with removal of 10% excise duty has worked in favour of apparel industry bringing consumers back to the market at a time when inflationary pressure and rising product prices are pinching their pockets.
The rising domestic demand has prompted the country’s textile industry to increase production of apparel and also look at Bangladesh to build up sufficient inventory for the festive season which is expected to drive sales further in the second half of the current fiscal.
* Walmart violated RBI, Fema norms: CBI:
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said Walmart, the multinational retail giant, violated the RBI guidelines and Fema regulations in 2010.
V N Verma, superintendent of police, CBI, in a communication sent to Rajya Sabha member M P Achuthan, said a scrutiny of Walmart’s investments in Bharti Group has revealed violation of RBI guidelines and Fema regulations.
Verma stated that since the violation of Fema regulations does not fall under CBI’s purview, it cannot investigate the matter. However, Walmart had earlier denied allegations of Fema violation.
“Walmart had invested $100 million in Cedar Support Service of Bharti in March 2010. This investment was diverted to retail trade. At that time, FDI in multi-brand retail trade was considered illegal,” said Achuthan.
20:43:48 local time PAKISTAN
* Textile sector to improve tremendously during 2013-14:
Textile sector is expected to grow at a good pace as European Union (EU) has supported Pakistan’s effort to integrate into the global economy by granting Pakistan’s export EU-reduced tariffs under the EU’s Generalised System of Preference (GSP) during the year 2013-14.
This allows almost 20 percent of Pakistani exports to enter the EU at zero tariff while a further 70 percent is allowed to enter at preferential tariff. Pakistan’s exports are dominated by textile and clothing, up to the value of 2.6 billion euros while EU imports textiles and clothing with a value of 3.5 billion euros annually therefore, chances of growth of textile sector are bright. As far as financial progress of textile sector is concerned, an allocation of Rs 315 million has been appropriated for textile sector for financial year 2013-14 for the five projects.
* 10,000 linesmen trained to meet int’l safety standards in all DISCOs:
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Power Distribution Program, Saturday, reached a milestone by completing the first phase of training in government-owned power distribution companies (DISCOs).
The Quick Impact Safety Training Program has been designed to reduce fatal and non-fatal accidents of linemen in DISCOs in Pakistan. In this first phase, around 10,000 linemen from all nine DISCOs have been trained to meet quality and safety standards. The USAID Power Distribution Program trained 1,500 of these linemen directly while USAID-trained trainers trained 8,500 linemen.
* Export of textile, clothing rises:
Pakistan’s export of textile and clothing witnessed a growth of over five per cent in the outgoing fiscal year (2012-13) from a year ago.
This marginal increase in exports is the outcome of temporary improvement in supply of gas to the sectors in the last quarter of the outgoing fiscal year.
A slight improvement in demand from Pakistan’s key markets of Europe and US also led to improvement in export proceeds from these sectors.
In absolute terms, export proceeds of textile and clothing reached $13.064 billion in 2012-13 from $12.336bn over the previous year, suggested data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics issued on Friday.
THE KARACHI-BALDIA FIRE
* European lawyers fight for Baldia fire compensation:
As the bereaved families of the Baldia factory fire lose hope of getting justice for losing over 250 relatives in the country’s worst industrial disaster, the legal eagles of Italy, France and Spain are eyeing the international certifying body to determine its role in the tragedy.
The legion of lawyers – Stefano Bertone, Marco Bona, Jean-Pierre Bellecave and Carlos Villacorta – who have successfully won compensation for the survivors of at least 40 aviation disasters, plan to sue an Italy-based firm, Rina Services, which had declared that the international standards for workers were enforced at Ali Enterprises.
In August 2012, Rina Services had certified Ali Enterprises and the factory under the SA-8000 standard after an audit, which started on June 22, that year and was completed by July 5. A 10-member team spent the same number of days on the site and issued a certificate on August 20.
Twenty-one days later, a massive fire swept through the double-storey building of the garment factory, killing at least 259 workers in Baldia industrial area on September 11. “We don’t know what ignited the fire…but we understand that it was a cage not a place of work,” claimed Bertone, an Italian lawyer, during a visit to Karachi. “The Baldia factory looked like a cage made with cement and iron.”
* ‘Compensation should equal the price of what the workers produced’:
A commission constituted by the Sindh High Court on the request of the German KIK Texilion has almost disbursed all of the compensation money among the claimants, confirmed the commission’s registrar. The European lawyers’ groups is, however, not satisfied with the amount of money being offered to the survivors and the victims’ legal heirs. “It is not fair that they pay the wrongs with peanuts,” said Marco Bona.
They say that the only purpose of taking Rina to the Italian courts is get the victims’ families a handsome amount in compensation, which is at least in proportion to the value of the products produced by the deceased workers in the European market.
20130719 * Garment workers making less money than 10 years ago, report shows:
The wages of garment workers toiling away in squalid conditions are not improving as retail brands increase their orders — they are getting worse.
More orders placed by big brands in nations such as Bangladesh and Cambodia do not necessarily translate into financial gains — or even a living wage — for workers there, said Ben Hensler, deputy director and general counsel of the Worker Rights Consortium.
The consortium, an independent labour-rights monitoring organization, conducted a 10-year-long investigation into workers’ wage trends around the world. The research was published by the Center for American Progress, an independent policy think-tank.
“Workers’ wages are lower now than 10 years ago in most of these countries,” Hensler said. “While garment work may provide better wages than the informal sector or agricultural labour, it provides far less than an actual living wage, a mere fraction of a living wage.”
The consortium is supported by 180 affiliated universities and colleges including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and the University of Toronto.
It’s clear the garment industry does not provide a route out of poverty for factory workers, many of whom are women. The report found that in 15 of the top 21 apparel-exporting countries, the average wage for garment workers was only 36.8 per cent of what a family needs to survive.
Among the top four clothing exporters to the United States, prevailing wages (pay before taxes and excluding overtime) in 2011 for garment workers in China, Vietnam and Indonesia were 36 per cent, 22 per cent and 29 per cent of an actual living wage, respectively, the report said.
But in Bangladesh — which has become a flashpoint for the garment industry after the Rana Plaza factory collapse killed 1,129 in April — prevailing wages provided workers just 14 per cent of a living wage.
These incomes do not provide families with adequate nutrition, decent housing or the minimum necessities needed for a humane and dignified existence, Hensler said.
“The only way workers can even hope to close a portion of the gap between their regular wages and what they need for their families is to work extremely long hours of overtime, and they still end up in poverty,” he said, adding that the industry is notorious for failing to pay legally required overtime.
Wages are also dropping in most of the leading apparel exporters, from Mexico to Honduras to Cambodia, according to the consortium’s research.
The leaders in the race to the bottom — a competition of who can pay the least while producing the most — are Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cambodia, according to the report.
Workers in these nations saw the largest dip in wages between 2001 and 2011. Wages fell by 28.9 per cent in Mexico, 23.74 per cent in the Dominican Republic and 19.2 per cent in Cambodia, the report showed.
Orders surged into the Mexican garment industry after the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect, Hensler said, but then the global system of import quotas expired in the middle of the last decade and production shifted rapidly to China and other lower-wage countries.