10:01:18 local time PHILIPPINES
* US urged to safeguard trade benefits for low-income countries:
A broad spectrum of interests are urging US lawmakers to extend a law offering trade preferences to developing countries, slated to expire at the end of the month.
US business lobbyists as well as development experts are stepping up calls to re-authorize the agreement, known as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), ahead of a July 31 deadline. Failure to do so, advocates warn, would cost US companies some $2 million per day and likely lead businesses to shift contracts away from some of the least-developed countries covered by the GSP agreement.
While a bill to extend this system was finally introduced on Wednesday in a House of Representatives committee, those pushing for an extension are warning that these consequences will still come to pass if Congress chooses to act after the deadline, as lawmakers have done repeatedly in the past.
10:01:18 local time CHINA
* Unions should help workers get allowances:
Trade unions should play a stronger role in protecting workers’ rights by helping them get hot-weather allowances, a labor rights expert said.
Few unions in corporations stand up for employees, and central, as well as local governments, should strive to get the allowances, said Chang Kai, director of Renmin University of China’s Institute for Labor Relations Studies.
10:01:18 local time MALAYSIA
* Malaysia Must Be More Aggressive In Penerating Lucrative American Market:
More must be done to promote Malaysia as a strong and quality exporter of upper-end products, in areas such as food and fashion textiles through participation in international trade shows and conferences, while companies can build their branding to penetrate the United States, the world’s largest consumer market.
Mohd Majid, a Penang-based supplier of textile accessories, told Bernama that since Malaysia was a much smaller country and has an export-dependent economy, it is all the more imperative for it to be present at such events.
He lamented that Malaysian textile companies have stopped showcasing their products at two of the world’s largest textile trade fairs, the Heimtextil (home-textiles and contract textiles) and TechTextil (non-woven, technical textiles) of Frankfurt.
He said the Malaysian textile industry’s argument that it has “outpriced itself” in the global market because of rising costs and labour shortage, does not hold water.
08:31:18 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Despite GSP, Myanmar faces hurdles exporting to Europe:
Myanmar exports still need to meet quality standards despite the trade privileges bestowed under the EU’s General System of Preferences (GSP), Myanmar businessman have told Mizzima.
Myanmar Fisheries Federation Vice-Chairman Hnin Oo said that being awarded preferential trading rights did not settle all issues. He said that it would help in reducing the import duty which was a benefit to home-based buyers. That, in turn, would mean cheaper imported goods and a knock-on effect that Myanmar importers would make more contacts with buyers in other countries.
08:01:18 local time BANGLADESH
* Huge fire at Feni jute mill:
5 sustain minor injuries while dousing fire
A devastating fire at a jute mill in BISIC Industrial area of Feni gutted large quantity of raw materials, jute products and machinery Tuesday morning.
Five people including three firefighters sustained minor injuries while dousing the flame, which originated at the tin-roofed Quality Jute Mill, built on 2.25 acres of land, around 4:10am.
On information, seven firefighting units from Feni and Noakhali rushed to the spot and doused the fire after around 10 hours, reports our Feni correspondent.
SM Iqbal, general manager of the factory, said the fire originated soon after workers turned on a machine early Tuesday.
The workers tried to put out the blaze immediately but it spread to the factory instantly, burning raw jute, thread and machines.
read more & see more (video report).
* Six injured as fire gutted Feni jute mill:
At least six persons including three fire fighters were injured while hosing down a fire that gutted ‘Quality Jute Mill’ in BSCIC industrial zone in Feni early Tuesday, police and fire service said.
General Manager of the mill SM Iqbal claimed the blaze destroyed assets worth Tk 18 crore. However, the mill properties were insured with Karnaphuli general insurance company, the GM said.
Five fire service units of Feni and two units of Noakhali together brought fire under control at about 2:00pm after intensive efforts, fire service officials said. Some 350 workers were in the production lines during the fire.
Police, fire service and mill workers said the fire originated from a spinning machine at about 4:00 am and quickly spread to two other units.
The flames caused two walls of the mill and the roof of its warehouse to collapse.
read more. & read more.
* Govt to increase vigilance in RMG factory areas:
The government has decided to increase vigilance in the garment industrial zones so that no untoward incidents could take place before Eid.
The decision was taken at a meeting of crisis management core committee of labour ministry on Monday in the wake of the apparel factory owners demand for increased vigilance against labour unrest instigators.
The government also decided to strictly monitor the situation as the workers of several garments have started demonstration demanding wages and benefits before Eid.
Following the decision the law enforcement agencies will increase vigilance on unregistered labour organisations, sources said.
* BUET teams to inspect factories not covered by US, EU buyers :
The government under a project, funded by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), will arrange inspection of the apparel manufacturing units that would remain beyond the safety coverage by top European and American buyers.
The project will aim to ensure greater safety and sustainability of the entire apparel industry, officials said.
The Labour and Employment Ministry, in association with the ILO will implement the project under which the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) will carry out the inspection, they added.
The safety programmes of European and American buyers will leave at least 50 per cent of the country’s apparel units outside the proposed inspection programme.
These factories are engaged in manufacturing and exporting activities, either in the form of direct shipment or through sub-contracting.
“The government with the support from ILO will do the inspection work which is expected to start after the Ramadan,” Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar told the FE.
According to the tripartite action plan formulated earlier on fire and building safety, the government was to inspect all the garment factories, he said adding: “But now we have decided to inspect factories beyond the coverage of the European and US buyers.”
Sources in the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said a large number of non-compliant factories — mainly the sub-contracting ones — might face shutdown after the inspection.
* Left leaders critical of new labour law:
Leaders of a left-leaning political party and a workers right body at separate protest rallies in the capital on Tuesday called on the Awami League-led government to amend the labour law bill passed in parliament to drop undemocratic sections of the law.
Meanwhile, Jatiya Sramik League, the labour front of the ruling Awami League, held a rally at Motijheel, welcoming the proposed law terming it as worker-friendly.
Jatiya Sangsad passed the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill-2013, on July 15 to formulate the law.
Jatiya Mukti Council, a left leaning political party, held a rally in front of the National Press Club, where the secretary of the party Faizul Hakim said that the proposed Bangladesh Labour Law-2013 would not be worker-friendly as it would serve the purposes of the factory owners.
Moreover, the proposed law would not ensure trade union rights of the workers and it would increase complications in implementing trade unions in the mills and factories, Faizul said.
Labour leaders Abdus Satter and Samiul Alam spoke at the rally.
The rally was followed by a protest procession that paraded different city roads.
* ILO for more labour law changes:
Amendments to the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 is the first step towards fulfilling government responsibilities, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said, reports bdnews24.com.
Owners reopen RMG factories In a press statement on Monday, the UN agency said it was a positive move to ensure workers’ freedom of association, collective bargaining rights and addressing the need to boost occupational safety and health.
Later this year, the ILO will review the amended legislation to ascertain its compatibility with the international labour standards ratified by Bangla-desh.
However, the ILO said its initial review suggests that despite addressing some of its specific concerns, the amendments fall short of “several important steps called for by the ILO supervisory system to bring the law into conformity with ratified international labour standards”.
“Bangladesh has ratified ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association and collective bargaining and is, thus, required to protect the rights contained therein,” said the statement.
read more. & read more.
* Are stronger Bangladeshi Unions good for economics and politics? – a perspective:
The fallout from the April 24 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh has had severe domestic and international reactions.
The international buyers and governments have responded vehemently to these events. Careful reappraisal of labor issues has been universally identified as a key area of reform.
The objective is to ensure workers’ safety and workers’ rights. Poor labor standards can adversely affect Bangladesh’s overall reputation in the exporting sector.
The government has been pressured to take a series of measures to improve workers’ safety. Representatives of the Bangladesh government, the European Union and the International Labor Organization met in Geneva on July 8, 2013 to promote improved labor standards and responsible business conduct in Bangladesh’s garment industry.
Following up on the commitments made in Geneva, Bangladesh’s legislature recently amended the Bangladesh Labor Law to provide improved protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the rights to collective bargaining, among others.
Are these good economics and good politics now and in the future?
As economists we know, in most situations, unions create economic distortions by pushing the wages of their members up relative to non-unionized employees.
Such wage increases have asymmetric impact on labor—the insiders benefit and the outsiders lose out. Unions may also create other distortions like discouraging employers from adopting certain technologies and efficiency-enhancing practices. On these grounds, reducing the power of unions is often mainstream economic advice.
The counterarguments rooted in economic theory typically refer either to the role of unions in securing a more equal distribution of income, especially by improving the pay of lower-grade workers, or to counterbalance the monopsony power firms may have in setting wages.
* Apparel leaders to sit Sunday next to set GSP strategy:
The parliament recently passed the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill 2013, incorporating some provisions including allowing formation of trade unions without informing the factory owners
On new labour law, he said it is hard to implement it, but “we are obliged to do so.”
* US traders, consumers seek GSP renewal as it expires July 31:
Traders and consumers in the United States (US) have urged their lawmakers to renew GSP (generalised system of preferences) benefits for poor countries, which is due to expire at the end of the current month, according to a US business coalition.
The Coalition for GSP, a Washington-based group of US businesses, trade associations, and consumer organisations called for renewal of the benefits given to developing and least developed countries since mid 1970s, in the interest of both the traders and the consumers in the US.
* Dhaka sends Ticfa draft to Washington for approval:
Dhaka and Washington are likely to ink the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement in the coming weeks as Bangladesh has sent the cabinet endorsed draft text of the deal for US approval.
“We have sent them a copy of the draft Ticfa, which the cabinet has endorsed, along with the Bangla version. The US side will look into it for approval,” Mahfuzur Rahman, director general of the Americas desk at the foreign ministry told the Dhaka Tribune.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Rana Plaza tragedy: victims form human chain demanding compensation:
The surviving workers of collapsed Rana Plaza of Savar formed a human chain Tuesday morning at Savar bus stand demanding proper compensation for the victims.
The human chain organisers threatened for larger programmes if their demand for immediate compensation were not met before Eid-ul-Fitr. ‘We will lay siege to the BGMEA building if our demands are not realised,’ said Tuhin Chowdhury, one of the speakers.
Tuhin and many others got united under Garment Workers Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) to realise compensation and other demands.
The programme was addressed, among others by GWTUC general secretary K.M. Mintu, leaders Sheuly Akter and Emdadul Islam.
* Victim families survivors, still rally for damages:
The survivors of Rana Plaza collapse and the families of the workers killed in the incident still are rallying for proper compensation and rehabilitation even after three months inside the collapse.
Many workers are still suffering from trauma and injuries at hospital and houses while the Criminal Investigation Department of police is yet to complete the investigation into the case filed following the biggest factory disaster, in terms of causalities.
The eight-storey Rana Plaza at Savar that housed five garment factories collapsed on April 24 leaving more than 1,132 people, mostly garment workers, killed and more than 2,400 injured.
Thirty-six of the injured workers were maimed. Later two of them died and nine were paralysed.
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 the compensation and rehabilitation of Rana Plaza victims, the agriculture minister, Matia Chowdhury, told parliament in reply to a question 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.
* Compensation- Not Charity- for Bangladesh Factory Fire and Collapse
Today, exactly eight months after a fire at the Tazreen Fashions factory and three months after the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, the Clean Clothes Campaign calls on companies involved in the disasters to attend meetings aimed at providing compensation to survivors and the families of those killed.
The meetings, organised by IndustriALL Global Union, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council and global allies, are due to take place on the 11th and 12th of August in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The meetings aim to bring together the companies who placed orders at the two factories where a lack of decent health and safety standards left 1243 dead and thousands more injured. Brands that have been invited to attend include Benetton, Mango, Walmart, Primark, The Walt Disney Company and international agent Li & Fung, all of whom had orders placed at factories located in the Rana Plaza building or at Tazreen Fashions.
The meetings will focus on a collaborative process for establishing compensation figures and distributing payments to those whose family life, economic well-being and health have been severely harmed as a result of both these tragedies. The process will be based on an existing framework established following previous tragedies in the Bangladeshi garment industry.
Discussions based on this compensation framework have already begun in relation to the Tazreen victims and survivors. Some of the Tazreen buyers had committed to making compensation payments, but the process was stalled in April as the parties dealt with the fallout from Rana Plaza and establishing the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. It is hoped these negotiations will now continue.
The meeting on Rana Plaza will mark the first meeting on compensation in this case. Only Primark has publicly stated it will pay long-term compensation to the victims of Rana Plaza in line with the existing compensation framework. Other international brands have failed to announce similar concrete steps, choosing instead to announce charitable programmes.
Reports from the ground indicate that many workers and families are facing desperate situations as they are unable to pay medical bills, rent, or afford food and daily expenses.
A woman who lost her husband in the collapse in April, told Clean Clothes Campaign that his body is still missing. Her husband worked on the fifth floor at Phantom Tec factory as a sewing operator and earned 4800Taka (47 Euro) per month. She is the sole carer of a seven month old baby and her elderly father, who is in poor health. She has been offered a sewing machine and been give 1000tTaka (10 Euros) by the
BGMEA, the Bangladesh exporters’ association, but has not received her husband’s salary or any further compensation.
“We hope that all brands associated with these disasters will make attendance at this meeting a priority”, says Liz Parker from the Clean Clothes Campaign. “Charity projects such as training or psychological support are totally insufficient. These families need full and fair compensation so they can start to rebuild their lives in a manner of their own choosing.
They have paid a heavy price for the failure of brands and retailers, the industry and the government to guarantee a safe workplace. They will never get their loved ones back, but decent compensation will help relieve some of their suffering.”
07:31:18 local time INDIA
* Do wage shares have to fall with globalisation?:
It is now evident that the period of globalisation has been one of increasing inequality, partly manifested in the decline of labour incomes as shares of the national income in many parts of the world. Are these declines inevitable because of current economic tendencies?
The past three decades have witnessed significant increases in inequality of both assets and incomes, particularly within countries. It is also becoming evident that such inequalities are socially and politically damaging, in addition to being economically unjust. Several analysts have linked this to the economic processes unleashed by capitalist globalisation.
But it should be noted that this evidence runs counter to the perception that was widely prevalent among economists in the 20th century, that the long run process of economic growth first enhances and then reduces tendencies for greater inequality.
This stemmed from the argument made by Simon Kuznets in 1955, that inequality would be low at early stages of development, when societies are mostly agricultural and per capita incomes are also low. As industry develops, countries urbanise and economies grow faster, inequalities increase. Then, as countries develop further, the growing political power of lower income groups creates pressures to improve their income share and enables the introduction of broad-based policies for education and social protection.
* India seeks US GSP renewal:
Indian commerce minister Anand Sharma, during his recent visit to the US, has already pushed Washington to continue with GSP benefits to India amid rising chorus in the US that India should no longer get these benefits.
The GSP system seeks to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products.
Among developing countries, India was the top GSP-beneficiary in 2011 with $3.7 billion in imports entering the US duty free.
Anand Sharma highlighted its significance for the labour intensive small and medium enterprises mostly employing women in India.
07:01:18 local time PAKISTAN
* PWC demans raise in minimum wages:
Pakistan workers federation has urged the Prime Minister of Pakistan to introduce economic, social, agriculture reforms and raise the minimum wages of semi-skilled Workers in accordance with the Minimum Wages Ordinance 1961 and get raised the old age pension of the industrial and commercial workers commensurate with price hike.
These demands were highlighted in a resolution passed in the meeting of Pakistan Workers Confederation” Punjab Chapter held on Monday. The meeting was presided over by WC Ms. Rubeena Jameel.
* Textile exports up 6% in on-going fiscal:
Despite challenges of energy shortage, the textile sector of the country performed well during the fiscal year 2012-13 as its exports increased by 5.90 percent when compared to the exports of the corresponding period of last year.
The textile exports during July-June (2012-13) were recorded at $13.064 billion against the exports of $12.336 billion in July-June (2011-12), according to the latest data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
* Successful textile trends look set to continue in FY14:
In terms of sales and profits FY13 was one of the ‘better years’ for Pakistan’s textile sector, analysts said, adding that this trend looked to continue in FY14.
This trend was also reflected in a more than 100 percent price performance of some of the listed sample textile firms with a market capitalisation of above Rs 250 million in FY13, the analysts added.
“Though the energy crisis kept on adversely affecting the industry, especially in the winters, a four-time jump in the profits of the sample was attributed chiefly to the stable cotton prices and solid regional demand,” Topline Research’s Zeeshan Afzal said.
Furthermore, he said that the continuous depreciation of the rupee and cheaper financing also enhanced the profits.
read more. & read more.
* PTA presents 14-point formula aimed at boosting exports:
Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) Chairman Agha Saiddain has presented a 14-point formula before the Federal Ministry of Commerce to give a boost to the exports of leather and leather made-ups.
While talking to Business Recorder, Agha Saiddain said that leather sector exports are witnessing downward trend due to unfavourable conditions like load shedding, worsening law and order, rising tariffs, scarcity of raw materials, and increasing cost of business.
If corrective measures were not taken, the industry would reach to the verge of collapse, he said.
* Kenyan Government Hopes To Create 500,000 New Jobs In Textile Sector:
The Kenyan government plans to create more than 500,000 new jobs in the textile industry within the next two years by addressing challenges currently affecting the sector, says Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary (Minister) Adan Mohamed.
He said here Monday that his ministry was spearheading a raft of new measures aimed at boosting local textile production, curbing the threat of Mitumba (second hand) imports and addressing hurdles hindering investments in the sector.
Speaking at the Export Processing Zones Complex in Athi River near here, Adan said 35,000 people were currently employed in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ), which had the potential to create half a million jobs across the entire value chain if the right mix of policy interventions were implemented.
* Global apparel market to cross $2trillion in 2025: Report: