* Unionists from Asia and the Pacific share same stories of attacks on workers’ rights:
“In Indonesia, when workers demand a wage hike, employers threaten them: ‘We would relocate to China.’ In China, employers threaten workers that they would relocate their factory to Vietnam. In Vietnam, employers threaten workers they would relocate to Cambodia. In Cambodia, employers threaten workers that they would relocate to Bangladesh.” – Asia Monitor Resource Center
More than 50 unionists from Asia-Pacific countries and the USA met for a two-day conference in Manila last week to share experiences in wage and other union struggles. On the first day of their meeting, they noted similar findings: on paper, workers and employees are free to speak out and form associations, but in reality, to enjoy those rights they have to engage in fierce, nonstop struggle.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), “freedom of association”, along with freedom of expression and assembly, guarantees protection against discrimination, interference and harassment. All these are said to be fundamental rights, which are at the foundation of democracy.
13:25:40 local time THAILAND
* Wage policy to claim 80,000 SME victims:
About 80,000 SMEs across the country will be shut down this year due to the minimum wage hike, according to a survey by Dhurakit Bundit University.
DPU research centre director Kiat-anan Luankaew said that in the first half of this year, about 50,000-70,000 have already closed shops.
He said that most of them are small manufacturers and operate small retail businesses that hire fewer than 50 workers. They have witnessed the 20 per cent increase in average operating cost.
The countrywide Bt300 minimum wage took effect on January 1, 2013.
13:25:40 local time CAMBODIA
* Fear keeps workers at home:
When the garment factory that employs her opened its doors yesterday for the first time since Sunday’s election, Chan Neoun was about 130 kilometres away, at home in Svay Rieng province.
“I did not go to work because my father did not allow me come to Phnom Penh,” said Neoun, 25, who works at Orange Trading Co in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. “His neighbour told him that there were a lot of police and soldiers standing guard in Phnom Penh and some main roads were blocked.”
Injae Garment Co’s workforce was missing about 20 per cent of its staff when it opened yesterday, said owner Nam-Shik Kang. On holidays like Khmer New Year and the Water Festival, less than 15 per cent typically come back late, he added.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, also attributed the high level of garment worker absences to fears of election-related violence.
“They heard news about Phnom Penh, that there are soldiers and police blocking the road,” Chhun said.
Ken Loo, the secretary general of the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia, said the level of absenteeism happens after any extended holiday weekend. He guessed the majority of workers who missed their shifts yesterday were simply unable to secure transportation.
14:25:40 local time INDONESIA
* Indonesian workers battle high prices, low wages despite producing oil, registering growth rates:
The spate of increases is driving Indonesian workers to take to the streets, conduct strikes and file demands for wage increases.
Emelia Yanti Siahaan, 38, Indonesian labor leader, visited the Philippines for a few days last week to attend an international workers’ conference on ‘freedom of association.
’ Like the Philippines, but much larger, Indonesia is a resource-rich Southeast Asian country reporting positive economic growth rates yet being challenged by peoples’ protests.
As in the Philippines, more Indonesian people today are grappling with rising prices, led by spikes in prices of oil products despite the country being an oil producer, Yanti said. Since 2004 when SBY (Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) became president of Indonesia, he has had a total of seven opportunities to increase oil prices.
* BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates:
1. New rule mulled for wage rise reference. Read the full article here.
2. Wage Formula are crashed by local politicians.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia).
3. National scene: Labor to be given voice in APEC summit .Read the full article here.
4. President Yudhoyono announces May 1st as national holiday.
Read the full article here.
5. Majalengka will be a Textile Industry Area.
Read the full article here(Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
6. 44.000 footwear workers gets laid off.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia).
7. Government Gets Optimistic On 6.5% Growth Of Manufacture Industry.
Read the full article here
12:25:40 local time BANGLADESH
* CID issued 2nd letter inquiring probe progress:
LABOUR LEADER AMINUL KILLING
The home ministry has asked Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police to inform it in seven days the progress of investigation into the killing of labour rights activist Aminul Islam.
The directives followed a similar order issued 11 days ago which failed to move the CID to act.
A trade union organiser with the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity (BCWS), Islam, 39, disappeared from Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital on April 4, 2012. His body was discovered two days later in Tangail, almost 100 kilometres from where he was last seen.
Despite pressure by rights activists home and abroad, no headway has been made in the probe in almost 15 months into the murder.
read more. & read more.
* BGIUWC for democratic labour law in line with ILO Convention:
Garment workers’ leaders on Tuesday urged the government to announce a democratic labour law in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 and 98 by reviewing the newly passed Labour Bill (Amendment) 2013.
The demand came from a press conference organised by Bangladesh Garment and Industry Workers Unity Council (BGIWUC) at the Dhaka Reporters Unity.
In a written statement, BGIWUC president advocate Delwar Hossain Khan said the Labour Bill (Amendment) 2013 has been passed by the parliament recently.
“We think, the bill is against the interest of the workers. The bill was not passed following the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87 and 98. We request the President not to give his assent to the bill,” he said.
* Workers’ interest ignored to protect interest of industries: Labour Secy:
Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar on Tuesday admitted that the government had to ignore to some extent the interest the workers in favour of the industries in the recent amendment of the labour law.
“The interest of the workers had to be ignored to some extent to protect the interest of the industries,” he said at the 53rd meeting of the Tripartite Consultative Committee (TCC) on labour affairs.
The TCC meeting was presided over by Labour Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu.
“There was tremendous time-bound international pressure for the amendment of the labour law,” Shipar said, adding that even a session of parliament had to be postponed to pass the recently amended law within the timeline.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, who was present in the meeting, equally regretted the haste in passing the labour law.
He admitted that the law was passed despite that fact that many issues were left unresolved in the previous TCC meeting.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Retailers launch talks to fix Bangladesh factories:
Top retailers launched talks on Tuesday with Bangladesh factory owners and the government as part of a safety accord signed earlier this month following a deadly factory collapse.
Around 80 mainly European retailers, including Inditex and H&M, signed the legally-binding agreement, which stipulates inspection of all of their factory suppliers in Bangladesh to ensure they comply with safety standards.
A team of retailers and international unions are now visiting Dhaka to meet government officials, factory owners and professors of a top Bangladesh engineering university to lay the groundwork for the inspections, an official said.
“We’re talking with all the stakeholders in an effort to implement the accord,” Roy Ramesh, a member of the pact’s steering committee, told AFP.
“We want input from the Bangladesh government, experts and the factory owners. There are a lot of technical, legal and logistical issues to discuss,” said Ramesh, general secretary of Swiss-based IndustriALL.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Europe retailers agree to join US buyers under unified action plan:
European retailers on Tuesday agreed to work together with North American buyers to ensure safe and sustainable garment industry in Bangladesh under a unified code of conduct for garment units.
The visiting delegation of EU Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a joint action plan of 84 EU retailers that stipulates inspection of all of their factory suppliers in Bangladesh to ensure they comply with safety standards, gave the assurance with leaders of Bangladesh garment industry at a meeting at BGMEA building in the capital.
The garment leaders requested the delegation, which came to Bangladesh to chalk out a plan of action for factory safety, to work together with US retailers under a unified code of conduct incorporating recommendations of all retailers and the country’s National Action Plan.
The EU retailers formed the Accord after the Rana Plaza collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers at Savar but the US retailers refused to join hands with EU buyers and formed an alliance of 17 retailers of US and Canada with separate plan of action for garment industry safety.
After the meeting with the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Employers Federation Accord member Roy Ramesh Chandra said, ‘We will try to ensure unified code of conduct with the North American Alliance or any other initiatives may come and also with the National Action Plan. But that needs to be ensured through discussion’.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* European buyers agree to work on unified code of conduct:
The visiting delegation representing the European buyers and stakeholders in the fire and building safety accord, agreed Tuesday to work on a unified code of conduct with other stakeholders including the US alliance for the safe and sustainable garment industry in Bangladesh.
“We will try to ensure unified code of conduct with North American alliance and many initiatives that may come and also with the national action plan (NAP) for a sustainable garment industry,” Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council said after a meeting with apparel sector leaders.
But that needs to be ensured through discussion and co-ordinated discussion, he added.
The meeting was attended by Philip Chamberlain of C&A, Aleix Gonzalez of Inditex, Christy Hoffman of UNI and Monika Kemperle of IndustriALL while Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Atiqul Islam and its former president Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) first Vice President Md Hatem, President of Bangladesh Employers Federation Fazlul Hoque and President of Exporters Association of Bangladesh Abdus Salam Murshedy, among others, were present.
Mr Ramesh said the meeting discussed many issues and they agreed on some points. “We will remain engaged for long term for a responsible, sustainable business,” he said adding: “We will all work together to make sure that the garment industry is safe for workers and safe for working.”
read more. & read more.
* Index soon to rank garment units: Yunus:
A process is underway to prepare an index to rank Bangladesh’s garment factories on the basis of their fire and building safety conditions and working environment, Noble laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus said yesterday.
“The ranking will spur healthy competition among garment manufacturers,” he said in his speech at a meeting of Bangladesh MBA Association at Gulshan Club in the capital.
The association organised the programme to honour Prof Hafiz GA Siddiqui, former vice chancellor of North South University, for his contribution to business education over the last five decades.
Yunus said the Garment Industry Transparency Index (GITI) would be formulated in the model of the Transparency International’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
The first meeting of the GITI is expected to take place in Berlin in late August or early September.
“Transparency International has shown interest to help formulate the index,” he said.
EITI is an international standard that ensures transparency around countries’ oil, gas and mineral resources.
read more. & read more.
* Garment makers chase growth despite factory disasters:
Three months after the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed, crushing more than 1,100 people to death, garment makers in the nearby industrial zone of Gazipur appear as busy as ever in an industry that employs 4m Bangladeshis and accounts for most of the country’s exports.
Labels on the lacy, plum-coloured tank-tops produced by some of the 7,000 workers at the Echotex factory in Gazipur are already printed with Christmas greetings and will be shipped to the UK next month. They are among the millions of garments made each year by the factory for retailers such as JSainsbury, New Look and Fat Face.
Each line of workers produces about five completed items of clothing a minute, and Echotex is planning to expand the factory from 50 lines to 70.
“There’s no negative impact on export orders,” says Atiur Rahman, governor of Bangladesh Bank, the central bank, when asked about the state of the garment industry after one of the world’s worst-ever industrial disasters. “In fact, export orders may have increased.”
* Tk 5.0b SoB credit for jute mills this week :
Government-run jute mills will get Tk 5.0 billion in cash credit this week from four state-owned commercial banks (SoBs) to buy raw materials for the current fiscal year and meet other needs, sources said.
The Sonali Bank and the Janata Bank will provide Tk 1.5 billion each while Agrani Bank and Rupali Bank will provide Tk 1.0 billion each to the mills run by the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC), they added.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Bangladesh factory collapse victims get help to cope with trauma:
Wounded survivors of Bangladesh factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 suffering from fear, flashbacks, nightmares and guilt — because they can no longer support their families.
When she went to work, Amrita said a grim goodbye to her three children and asked relatives to take care of them if she didn’t come back. She felt as though she were going to her death.
That was April 24, the blackest day in the history of Bangladesh’s garment industry: 1,127 people were killed when the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka collapsed. An inspector had warned it was unsafe; nevertheless, factory bosses ordered the workers back to their machines.
Amrita — not her real name — obeyed. Now a jobless double amputee, the young mother is going through the most wrenching experience of her 22 years, deeply traumatized and struggling to salvage what is left of her life.
She is one of 170 emotionally and physically shattered survivors who have received counselling from teams trained by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). Dozens of others will also receive help.
* Missing workers’ families block highway:
The families of the garment workers who went missing following the Rana Plaza collapse blocked Dhaka-Aricha highway at Savar for two hours on Tuesday demanding compensation before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Several hundred people from the families of the workers missing and injured blocked the highway for two
hours from 9:45am, formed a human chain beside the collapsed Rana Plaza site and laid siege to Savar upazila complex.
The families of the missing workers said that they were starving as the earning members of the families went missing and they got neither any compensation nor the wages of the missing workers, who were yet to be identified.
Abdus Salam, father of Liza Akter, 18, a missing worker of New Wave Style, one of the five garment factories housed in Rana Plaza, said that they was passing days with acute mental and financial problems.
11:55:40 local time INDIA
* Trade union members block roads, court arrest:
Road blockades by trade unions affiliated to all major political parties resulted in mass arrests in Tuticorin district on Tuesday.
A total of 1,120 activists, including 383 women, from various trade unions courted arrest following road rokos at different places.
The protestors sought the intervention of the State government to ensure that their demands were met.
State committee member of the CITU M.Rajangam led the agitators in the city.
According to CITU town convener M.Murugan, workers faced the prospect of losing a day’s wage or salary in view of the stipulation that they needed to be present during enrolment as members of labour welfare organisations.
* ‘Labour movement dramatically undermined’:
The labour movement has been dramatically undermined and the Left parties are “atrophying” in the country, said Jairus Banaji, professor at the Department of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
Prof. Banaji who came to deliver a lecture on “Fascism, Maoism and the Democratic Left,” at the Acharya Nagarjuna University talking to The Hindu said that the labour market was dominated by contract labour.
He said that the undermining of the labour movement began even before the introduction of liberalisation and introduction of the new economic policies.
Managements seeing workers as a threat in large units of production, break those units of production up into smaller units. In Mumbai the employers fought for control of the labour market and they won total control by 1980s. The defeat of textile strikes may have been a turning point.
“Though it is referred to as the Textile Strikes we have to see it as lockouts,” he said. The employers came up with outsourcing and development of parallel production facilities to weaken the unions. In 1991 the Finance Ministry sent a circular to all managements saying that they would be given tax-breaks if they went for Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). The State lent capital to the employers encouraging them to shed labour, he said.
With the failure of the textile strikes the managements of the other big private companies also hardened their stand against the unions. VRS was the last nail in the coffin of the employees and workers unions.
* Hosiery Inc’s fate hangs by thread:
The strike of yarn dealers in the city over e-trip policy of the government has broken the backbone of the hosiery industry, which is reeling under heavy production losses ever since the protest began.
The industry representatives felt that if the strike of the yarn dealers continues, the hosiery industry would be on a verge of a collapse in the absence of yarn supply. “Different associations of yarn dealers in the city are on a strike against the notification of the e-trip policy of the government. Supply of yarn has taken a hit. Except some few big industrial units in the city, most of the hosiery units are barely managing,” said Vishal Bhutani of Pratham Yarns.
* UP mulls transport subsidy to textile exporters:
In order to give a fillip to exports from the state, the state government is mulling transport subsidy to textiles exporters. The proposal has been included in the textiles industry policy 2013 of the state.
Accordingly, the government would provide transport subsidy for transporting textiles goods meant for export from factories to the ports. Besides this, the state government has also decided to provide seven per cent interest subsidy on working capital to textiles entrepreneurs. The ceiling on such subsidy would be increased to Rs one crore from Rs 50 lakh at present.
* Uttar Pradesh govt mulls new textiles policy:
11:25:40 local time PAKISTAN
* Hourly-based gas supply to textile industry proves successful:
Hourly-based gas supply to the textile industry has proved a successful experiment so far, as the industry has taken a deep sigh of relief with 24/7 production activity.
It may be noted that All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) had suggested the SNGPL as well as the Chief Minister Punjab to distribute gas supply to the mills on hourly-based instead of fixing it to specific days, ie three days a week.
Under the new arrangement, said Shahzad Ali Khan, Chairman APTMA Punjab also driving force behind the idea, the mills are getting 10 hours a day gas supply to keep production activity operational during the electricity load shedding. The textile industry is being exposed to 10 hours a day electricity loadshedding at present, which is likely to be reduced to six hours a day at the end of Ramazan.
* ‘Textile mills getting staggered gas supplies’ :
Government orders regarding the supply of gas to textile mills during 10-hour periods of outages have been partially implemented but supplies at many places could not be streamlined partly due to resistance from gas distribution staff.
Sources in the SNGPL said staggered supplies will ensure that the mills operate 24 hours a day. The mills will use Pepco load for 14 hours and produce their own power through gas during the 10-hour outages.
The All-Pakistan Textile Mills Association has given the assurance to the federal government that such measures will boost textile exports by at least $3 billion in this fiscal. Different solutions for the entire textile chain were proposed by the apex textile trade body and all of them were accepted as none required any additional gas or electricity supply.
* Pakistan’s Punjab govt to help garment sector revival:
* Punjab Bank moves against textile companies:
The Bank of Punjab has filed corruption cases with NAB against Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, his son Moonis Elahi and Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain for alleged illegal sanctioning of huge BoP loan to the company of a sitting director of the bank and its (loan’s) diversion to purchase the Phalia Sugar Mills of the Chaudhrys of Punjab.
The BoP has informed the Supreme Court that all this had happened during the tenure of Pervez Elahi as Chief Minister Punjab. Some separate complaints of alleged illegal loans of billions, sanctioned during the same tenure, have also been sent to the NAB by BoP against the leading business entities Colony Group, Amtex Group, Chenab Group and Ejaz Group.