04:55:11 local time MONGOLIA
* CMTU to demonstrate for minimum monthly wage increases:
As part of the Trilateral National Committee on Labor and Social Consensus (TNCLSC), the minimum monthly wage was increased to 192,000 MNT on September 1.
However, wages still haven’t been increased and officials from the Confederation of Mongolian Trade Unions (CMTU) are set to hold a peaceful demonstration at the square in front of Independence Palace today.
CMTU has delivered a seven demand statement to the government of Mongolia and Parliament, urging them to publicly reply to their demands by September 20. The demands obligate government to quickly start talks to increase wages and the welfare allowance, enhance the government’s price sustainability program, improve the flexibility of commercial bank contract criteria for housing loans, swiftly finalize the current problems concerning Oyu Tolgoi project investment, and ensure occupational and social security, as well as a vacancy guarantee.
03:55:11 local time VIET NAM
* Firms may buy more US cotton:
US cotton exporters met with their Vietnamese customers in HCM City on Wednesday to discuss stepping up cooperation.
Garments and textiles are a key export item, so the demand for cotton in Viet Nam is quickly increasing. The country imported 420,000 tonnes of cotton last year, putting it in the top ten cotton users and top five cotton importers in the world. Between 40 and 50 per cent of Viet Nam’s cotton imports come from the US.
The Viet Nam Cotton and Spinning Association Secretary General Nguyen Hong Giang said mutual understanding between the US’s cotton sector and Viet Nam’s spinning industry plays an important role in boosting trade and reducing risks caused by changes in prices and markets.
The US Staple Cotton Cooperative Association has launched a programme to support Vietnamese customers, according to Hank Reichle, a representative from the organisation that met on Wednesday with the Viet Nam Cotton and Spinning Association and the Viet Nam Textile and Apparel Association. — VNS
03:55:11 local time THAILAND
* Struggle for imprisoned Thai labour activist continues:
Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, wife of the convicted labour and human rights activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, visited Geneva to meet with diplomatic missions and United Nations representatives.
Sukanya’s weeklong visit from 9 to 13 September has been organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to profile Somyot case as one of the many alarmingly increasing in the country and discuss possibilities of the international pressure in Somyot case She also participated in a panel discussion on freedom of expression in Southeast Asia, organized by FIDH in parallel to the 24th session of the Human Rights Council.
The case of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, represents an attack on human rights and freedom of speech. On 30 April 2011 Somyot was put in jail for alleged offences against monarchy. Thai criminal court found Somyot Prueksakasemsuk guilty of ‘lese majeste’ offences after publication of two articles supposedly critical of the monarchy in the magazine edited by Somyot and charged him with ten years of prison, five years for each publication.
Many observers notice inadequacy of the offence and the punishment and believe the sentence shows the real reason was an earlier expressed by Somyot support for a legal revision of the ‘lese-majeste’ law.
03:55:11 local time CAMBODIA
20130914 * Government to Consider New Minimum Wage:
The Ministry of Social Affairs on Friday established four sub-committees tasked with finding a new minimum wage for the country’s 300,000-plus garment factory workers, Minister Ith Sam Heng said on Friday.
“The sub-committees have a limited time of five weeks for research before they have to find a result,” Mr. Sam Heng said after a meeting with union representatives and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) on Friday, adding that a joint decision on a new minimum wage would be agreed upon in November.
Wages could be raised as early as January, the minister said.
The sub-committees, which will have members from the Labor Ministry, Social Affairs Ministry, GMAC and union representatives, will be tasked with researching the factories’ real production prices, garment worker incomes and current living expenses as well as working standards in factories.
“We have not set a limit for the minimum wage yet. We have sub-committees to research details, and they consider direct interviews with workers,” said Khoun Ranin, undersecretary of state with the Ministry of Social Affairs.
“We hope that they will provide a minimum wage of at least $147 to the garment workers,” Mr. Thorn said.
20130916 * Forward steps for garment salary raise:
Four subcommittees formed by the Ministry of Social Affairs met on Friday to begin establishing a new minimum wage for garment workers that will go into effect next year.
Following the meeting, Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng told reporters that factory production rates, garment worker income and employee living expenses would be used to determine a proposed wage rate.
“They have one month to research and submit [a proposal] for the new minimum wage,” Sam Heng said, adding it would be agreed upon by November and that the subcommittees include union representatives as well as members of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia.
* Cambodia garment workers fight for wages, safety, union:
In hard-fought battles, garment workers in Cambodia are pressing for higher wages, safer workplaces and union protection. The number of strikes are at record numbers and violent clashes between workers and repressive forces of the bosses and their government have been frequent.
Investment in Cambodia’s garment industry is surging. The sector accounts for 80 percent of the country’s total exports, which rose by 32 percent last year.
Singapore-owned SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd employs 6,000 workers in the capital Phnom Penh and produces for Gap, H&M and Levi’s.
On Aug. 12 workers struck the company demanding a monthly wage of $150, up from the present $80, the government-set minimum. Other demands included lunch stipend of $3, removal of military police inside the plant and the firing of a recently hired company adviser who had brought in the cops.
“We tried to negotiate, but the company didn’t listen,” Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, told the Militant Sept. 9 in a phone interview from Phnom Penh. The union is one of three in the plant.
* BetterFactories Media updates 07-13 September 2013, Minimum wage panel sets a meet:
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2013-09-09 Factory fire in China sends memory chip prices soaring
2013-09-12 Survivors of Bangladesh factory collapse still suffering
* To read in the printed edition of the Koh Santepheap Daily (Khmer):
2013-09-11 1600 workers go on strike to demand for 10 issues to be improved
* To read in the printed edition of the Rasmei Kampuchea Daily (Khmer):
2013-09-07 CCNU calls for workers to be quiet
2013-09-12 Strike at SL ends after factory gets 736 workers back to work
2013-09-12 Tripartide meeting to discuss the increase of workers wages on 13 September
2013-09-13 Workers at P&P continues strikes for wages
04:55:11 local time INDONESIA
* 60 Textile Firms to Leave Jakarta, Trade Association Claims:
Around 60 textile companies currently operating in Jakarta are considering relocating in areas where the cost of labor is lower, according to the head of a textile group.
Textile companies, mostly of small to medium size, are planning to relocate factories to West Java and Central Java, where monthly wages are cheaper, said Ade Sudrajat, chairman of the Indonesian Textile Association (API), on Thursday.
“Relocation is to avoid something ineffective and inefficient,” Ade said, adding that the plant relocations would be done gradually to avoid major declines in production.
“Companies on this scale typically employ 1,000 to 2,000 employees. As the difference in regional minimum wages is quite significant, an investment of Rp 10 billion [$878,000] to move is not much of a barrier considering what they can gain in the long term,” he said.
According to government data, the minimum monthly wage in Jakarta is Rp 2.2 million, more double West Java’s minimum Rp 850,000 and Central Java’s Rp 830,000.
* Why the Minimum Wage Should Not Be Raised:
More than 20,000 workers in the capital and its satellite cities rallied earlier this month to demand a fifty percent increase in provincial minimum wage.
The labors asked for a wage hike to 3.7 million rupiah from 2.2 million rupiah per month.
Teguh Maianto of the All-Indonesian Workers Trade Union said that the increase was necessary because of increases in commodity and subsidized-fuel prices.
There are two factors to be weighed before deciding whether to raise the minimum wage or not; domestic and international considerations.
* View Point: Employers, workers need balancing act in new minimum wages:
The minimum wage in Indonesia has remained one of the most controversial policies in both public discourse and labor economics even though the policy is needed to protect the interests of workers whose bargaining position is weak, especially as unemployment and under-employment are very high.
Employers want profits, trade unions want a better life for workers and the government wants to maintain a conducive climate for investment. These objectives are interdependent as businesses are only sustainable when they remain reasonably profitable.
* BetterWork Indonesia media updates:
1. Coordinating Minister of Economy: Wage Council Will Prescribe Minimum Wage. Read the full article here
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
2. RI must address structural problems: Moody’s. Read the full article here.
3. Govt to raise power rates next year. Read the full article here.
4. Business enviroment still promising, Japan increases Indonesia’s rank.
Read the full article here
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
5. Here’s the detail calculation on why workers demand IDR3.7 million minimum wage next year. Read the full article here
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
6. Story of workers who face IDR2.04 Billion Law Suit for Leading Strike.
Read the full article here
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
7. Retailers’ meet begins in Geneva to negotiate $77mn compensation.
Read the full article here.
03:25:11 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* FDI in garment sector creates 20,000 new jobs in Myanmar:
02:40:11 local time NEPAL
* Carpet exports witness sharp decline last fiscal:
Export of Nepali hand-knotted carpets in 2012-13 observed an overall drop of 12.4 per cent as compared to the previous fiscal year. In 2011-12, total export of carpets had observed some relief with an increment of 42.7 per cent but the figures last fiscal year were quite unsatisfactory, claimed carpet exporters.
According to representatives of Nepali Carpet Exporters Association, the export of carpets has been decreasing every year, therefore, the government must be serious in keeping it under the priority sector for its development and promotion.
At present, there are around 200 carpet factories in the country with a few hundred thousand people being employed in the sector. During its heydays in 1993-94, the industry alone had created direct employment for around five lakh people.
02:55:11 local time BANGLADESH
20130915 * Garment factory catches fire & doused in capital- 3 hurt:
Fire broke out at Sisili Garments Factory Limited at Nandipara under Mothertek in the capital Sunday noon, fire service officials said.
The fire originated at about 12:35pm, Zia-ur-Rahman, fire service control room official said.
He said they were yet to ascertain the reason behind the blaze. The loss caused by the fire could not be assessed yet, he added.
No casualty was reported in the blaze till filling of this report at around 1:30pm.Phot
20130913 * Garment workers demand Tk 8,000 per month:
Politicians, academics and leaders of garment workers demanded fixing basic minimum wage for the garment workers at Tk 8000 per month, at separate rallies in the capital Friday morning.
Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) and Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati organised separate rallies in front of the National Press Club to press their demands of increasing wage and safety of garment workers at their workplaces.
Manzurul Ahsan Khan, labour leader and adviser to the GWTUC, said the garment workers were getting poor wages with which they could not support their families.
He called on garment workers’ right bodies to be united to compel the garment factory owners to agree to pay Tk 8,000 basic minimum wage per month.
20130914 * RMG workers demonstrate for Tk 8,000 as minimum basic wage:
Left leaning politicians, academics and garment worker leaders on Friday at rallies in the capital demanded that Tk 8,000 be fixed as the minimum basic wage for the garment workers.
The government has formed a minimum wage board for fixing the minimum wage of the garment workers.
Garment Workers Trade Union Centre and Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati organised the rallies in front of the National Press Club pressing for an increase in the wages and safety of the garment workers at their workplaces.
Addressing the Trade Union Centre rally, its adviser Manzurul Ahsan Khan, also a leader of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, said that the garment workers were getting poor wages by which they could not run their families.
He urged the garment worker organisations to unite to compel the garment factory owners to agree to pay Tk 8,000 as the monthly minimum basic wage.
20130914 * Tk8,000 wage for RMG workers demanded:
All the organisations working for garment workers agreed that the minimum wage should be increased
Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre (GWTUC) Friday urged all RMG workers to unite and join the movement to increase entry level minimum wage toTk8,000
At a rally organised by the Trade Union Centre in front of the National Press Club Friday, leaders said all the organisations working for garment workers agreed that the minimum wage should be increased to Tk8,000, so now they needed to act responsibly to move forward.
The rally was also attended by Manjurul Ahsan Khan of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), who said: “Following the deaths at Rana Plaza, people at home and abroad are becoming more vocal about workers’ wages and the state of their workplace.”
“Garment workers in Bangladesh are paid the lowest compared to workers in other countries,” said the CPB leader, and added: “Even those employed in other sectors in this country are paid higher wages then garment workers.”
Calling upon the prime minister to stand beside the workers instead of the factory owners, he said: “You won the election because hundreds of garment workers voted for you, not because of votes from Sohel Rana and factory owners.”
Labour leader Shahidullah Chowdhury said workers should stay alert of “fake” trade unions that are nothing more than the owners’ agents, and must carefully forge a united movement for the salary raise.
* A living wage is a human right- A wage you can live on:
We believe that all garment workers should be paid a wage they can live on; because having a job should mean being able to support yourself and your family.
Most of the world’s garments are made in Asia, and yet while the clothing industry continues to make millions in profits for the big brands the workers, predominantly women, producing the clothes across Asia are being paid the least.
Workers, trade unions, campaigners and consumers are coming together to call for a living wage for all workers.
What is a living wage?
A living wage, means that the wage a worker earns in a standard working week (never exceeding 48 hours) is enough to provide for them and their family’s basic needs – including housing, education and healthcare as well as some discretionary income for when the unexpected happens.
The Asia Floor Wage has calculated what a living wage should be for workers across the region. These calculations show the difference between the minimum wage in many countries and a living wage.
read more & read more.
20130914 * Typical BGMEA disregard for workers’ well-being:
The resolution of the extraordinary general meeting of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association on Thursday that they would propose not more than a 20 per cent increase in the minimum wage for workers to the six-member minimum wage board on September 17, as ‘this is consistent with the inflation’, and because their expenses have gone up on account of compliance and they ‘are now counting losses’, is hardly surprising but shocking nonetheless.
According to a report published in New Age on Friday, the factory owners resorted to their clichéd argument that any further increase in the workers’ minimum pay could lead to the closure of many factories and thus leave a large number of people helpless.
They also insisted that the minimum wage should be based on the socio-economic condition of the country and the efficiency of the industry — again, a cliché.
First of all, the RMG factory owners have hardly ever taken into consideration the socio-economic condition of the country when formulating the pay structure for the workers. If they had the minimum pay in the apparel sector, which happens to be the major foreign exchange earner for Bangladesh, would not have been Tk 3,000 a month, the lowest in the world.
Secondly, compliance of factories is the responsibility of the owners, and not the workers, and transferring its cost on the workers is simply unethical, more so because the workers have mostly paid, sometimes with their lives, for the non-compliance by many factories — the collapse of Rana Plaza at Savar and the fire at Tazreen Fashions at Ashulia are just two recent examples; there are many more.
Thirdly, the owners seem to be asking the workers to bear the burden of the losses but, notably, have hardly shared the profit with them when the business was booming.
* An improvement but not comprehensive (part 1):
A critique of the Labour Law-2013
Labour is not a commodity like an apple or a television set that can be negotiated for the highest profit or the lowest price.
Work is part of everyone’s daily life and is crucial to a person’s dignity, well-being and development as a human being. Economic development should include the creation of jobs and working conditions in which people can work in freedom, safety and dignity. Economic development is not undertaken for its own sake but to improve the lives of human beings.
The export-oriented apparel industry, popularly known as readymade garments (RMG) occupies a unique position in the economy of Bangladesh. It is the largest exporting industry, which experienced a phenomenal growth during the last three decades.
By taking advantage of cheap labour and quota-based market in the European Union (EU) under the provision of Multi-Fibre Arrangement (MFA) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), RMG attained a high profile in terms of economic growth of the country.
Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment exporter, has been under intense international pressure to overhaul labour laws in the wake of the Rana Plaza tragedy, one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
As many national and international rights organisations and foreign buyers expressed their serious concern over worker’s rights and safety, the government took steps to amend the Bangladesh Labour Law-2006 to ensure adequate rights for workers. Accordingly the Jatiya Sangsad passed the Bangladesh Labour Law (Amendment) Bill – 2013 on July15, 2013.
* It’s no use crying over spilled milk, time to act (part 2):
A critique of the Labour Law-2013
Despite government claim that the new labour law is a major advancement to establish worker’s rights which will bring stability in the industrial sector, critics expressed their concern, terming it “anti-worker” and “employer-friendly”.
Putting aside the balance of positives and negatives in the law, merely paper promises alone would not be sufficient. Safety regulations, minimum wage and labour laws have been consistently ignored for years. For instance, anti-union dismissal by the employers is widespread in Bangladesh.
Despite being illegal, this is the reality of working conditions, and disempowered workers have few options to resist. Given this context, consumer activism can make things happen. The consumers can initiate movements in pushing retailers to pressure producers to improve working standards.
Without organisation and empowerment, workers remain at the whim of the subcontracted employers. Whatever may be the letter of the law, in the context of gross asymmetries in power, the rules truly are made to be broken.
The empowerment of the worker is a powerful force for the creation of decent working conditions. Had the Rana Plaza workers been properly organised and their jobs secured, they would not have reported to work the day after cracks ominously developed in the building.
* Cases filed against 252 RMG units:
Official inspection teams have filed case against 252 readymade garment (RMG) units in the country for doing business without prior approval and with insufficient safety measures, people involved with the process said.
They have also given deadline to about 1,500 factories for improvement, they added.
The teams, comprising factory and shop inspectors, inspected about 2,462 RMG units from January 31 to August 31 to see whether they complied with the required safety standards especially regarding fire safety.
Among the 252 factories, located in the capital and Narayanganj, many were doing business without license, and the remaining units were found very risky regarding fire safety standards. Cases were filed against those units at the labour court.
Besides, a large number of factories were not fully compliant with fire safety standards. “We are giving them a deadline to improve, if they fail to comply, the teams will take action,” he added.
During inspection the teams followed a check-list that included basic information about a factory, such as registration or renewal of registration with the government authorities concerned, its main products, number of workers and officials, approval of building design, factory layout design, exit points and number of staircases, sources said.
The list also included other general information including workers’ appointment, service book, regular wage, holiday, trade union and life insurance facilities.
* Inspection of flaws in RMG factories being delayed:
The government’s scheduled inspection programme to check structural flaws in garment factories is being delayed mainly due to non-completion of required measures including project approval, common safety standards and factory list, officials said Saturday.
Earlier, the government on September 01 announced that it would launch a structural integrity and fire safety assessment of buildings housing RMG (readymade garment) factories from today (September 15) through thirty expert panels, led by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
The teams are expected to inspect 1,500-2,000 garment factory buildings in three months under a tripartite agreement between the government, trade unions and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“We are not able to launch the inspection progamme from tomorrow (Sunday) as announced earlier as the project is yet to get approval from the authority concerned,” Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar told the FE Saturday.
* Apparel factory inspection to be delayed:
The readymade garment factory inspection will be conducted under a foreign fund of $24m initiated by the ILO
The RMG factory inspection scheduled to be started today has been delayed as the government did not get lists of the factories from the “Accord” and “Alliance” and the approval to use the inspection fund.
The readymade garment factory inspection will be conducted under a foreign fund of $24m initiated by the ILO.
“It would not be possible to start the factory inspection from today as a common standard – the main instrument of the factory inspection is not yet ready,” Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar told the Dhaka Tribune Saturday.
He said the approval from the ERD is mandatory for using the foreign fund and the ILO has already submitted an application to ERD. It was not approved yet.
The North American Alliance and EU retail brands have not yet submitted their vendor lists and common check list on fire and building safety to the government, causing the delay in preparing the common standard for inspection, he added.
* Govt fails to begin RMG factory inspection:
The government fails to begin apparel factory inspection that was scheduled to start today as it has yet to obtain the approval of the Economic Relations Division to use the fund arranged by the International Labour Organisation and as no common standards for the inspection could be worked out till Saturday.
The inspection of structural integrity and fire safety of apparel factories is supposed to be conducted on a foreign funding of $24 million arranged by the ILO.
‘It will not be possible to begin the factory inspection on tomorrow as no common standards, the main instrument of the factory inspection, could be worked out,’ the labour secretary, Mikail Shipar, told New Age on Saturday.
An ERD approval is mandatory for using foreign fund and the ILO has already filed an application to the Economic Relations Division but no approval has as yet been obtained, he added.
The secretary said that two consortiums of North American and EU retail brands over the safety issue in the apparel sector in Bangladesh, Alliance and Accord, were yet to submit the lists of the supplying factories and the checklist for the inspection, causing delay in the framing of the common standards for inspection.
* Dangerous dithering over RMG factory inspections:
In the wake of the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza at Savar on April 24, which killed more than 1,100 people and took place within six months of the fire at Tazreen Fashion Limited on November 24, 2012, which left more than 100 people burnt alive, it was expected that the government would strengthen its factory inspection regime in respect of readymade garment manufacturing plans so as to ensure structural integrity and fire safety there.
Encouragingly, the international buyers of Bangladeshi apparel products, along with the International Labour Organisation, came forward with technical and financial assistance. Yet, almost five months into the Rana Plaza tragedy, the inspection, which was scheduled to begin on Sunday, could not get under way because, according to a report published in New Age on Sunday, the Economic Relations Division approval for the use of $24 million fund arranged by the ILO had not been secured and common standards for the inspection worked out till Saturday night.
The labour secretary blamed the failure to work out the common standards on the delay by Alliance and Accord, two consortiums of North American and European Union retail brands over safety issues, in submitting the list of the supplying factories and the checklist for the inspection, while the ILO country director claimed that the ERD approval had been sought about 10 days ago. It is worth noting here that Alliance and Accord are to inspect about 1,750 factories, with the government covering the rest with assistance of the ILO and 30 expert teams of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
Firming up of the government’s factory inspection regime has been long overdue, to say the least. It is common knowledge that a significant percentage of the apparel factories in Bangladesh operate with very little regard for workplace safety and structural soundness, and have done so for years now. While the Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen Fashions fire are two of the deadliest industrial disasters in recent history, they are by no means the only ones to have killed so many apparel workers.
Regrettably, however, even the public debate and discourse on industrial safety, especially structural integrity of, and fire safety at, factories have generally proved short-lived, starting in the wake of a fatal building collapse or fire and fading out once the media coverage and accompanied public outcry end. The less said about the efficacy and efficiency of the government’s post-disaster remedial measures, the better. Such episodic public awareness and government action tends to ultimately betray indifference of the society in general and the state in particular to the well-being of the working class.
* Factory survey faces hiccups:
The inspection that was supposed to begin today may be delayed by 7-10 days; stakeholders are yet to agree on a common action plan
After months of delays following the deadly Rana Plaza collapse in April, a comprehensive factory inspection was supposed to begin today to check structural flaws in buildings.
But the process is grappling with setbacks and may take another 7-10 days to kick off, as stakeholders are yet to agree on a common checklist for the inspection guideline, according to Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar.
Under the initiative, the labour and employment ministry in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation will inspect 2,250 factories by 30 teams of experts led by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
However, three separate platforms, including the one led by Buet, had earlier agreed in principle to follow a common action plan drawn by the government, but did not turn up later.
The other platforms are global initiatives—one led by IndustriALL, an international trade union, and the other is North American Alliance, a platform of 20 US-based retailers and brands.
Initially the platforms that emerged after the Rana Plaza building collapse had a plan to inspect the factories under their own guideline.
* Retailers too slow to fix factory problems:
On Tuesday, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety—made up of 20 US and Canadian apparel companies, including Wal-Mart, Gap, and Macy’s—quietly issued a statement saying that the group had achieved a series of “critical milestones” to improve conditions in Bangladeshi clothing factories.
To demonstrate its progress, the Alliance published a 55-page draft set of standards for fire safety and the structural integrity of buildings.
Examine the details, however, and it seems that the Alliance is short of some of its own goalposts.
In July, the group vowed publicly that, by this week, it would adopt a training curriculum on worker safety and “engage third parties to develop [a] training programme”; Tuesday’s statement said representatives are “working to identify third parties in Bangladesh that can implement these training programmes.”
The Alliance also promised to compile inventories of the factories they contract with in Bangladesh and send those lists to the Fair Factories Clearinghouse, an industry-funded nonprofit that helps apparel companies share data on factory audits.
On Tuesday, the group said it was “in the process” of meeting that milestone; the executive director of the clearinghouse, Peter Burrows, told me in an e-mail that he has received supplier lists from 17 members of the Alliance, and that new members have 60 days to comply.
Meanwhile, the building standards themselves are incomplete: the section on electrical safety is unfinished, and other important elements are missing, such as the allowed heights of buildings and a timeline for factories to install automatic sprinklers.
* Two British MPs call for RMG workplace safety:
Member of the British parliament (MP) Rushanara Ali has called for united efforts of all the stakeholders including the global brands, the factory owners and the government to ensure workplace safety in Bangladesh.
Ms Rushanara, who is also the opposition Labour Party spokesperson for international trade, expressed her disappointment over suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facilities for Bangladeshi products by the United States following the Rana Plaza collapse.
read more. & read more.
* UK experts to help prevent Bangladesh factory tragedies:
British experts will this weekend fly to Dhaka to help address the urgent need for improvement in safety and building standards in the country’s garment sector, Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening announced Saturday.
The visit follows the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Savar near Dhaka, in April this year in which over 1000 garment factory workers lost their lives, a press release of the British High Commission in Dhaka said.
The team of three UK experts, two from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and one from the Better Regulation Delivery Office, will be visiting at the request of the Bangladeshi building regulations agency to help tackle weaknesses in the industrial building inspection regime.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
& read more. & read more. & read more.
20130915 * NA Alliance team arrives in city today:
A team of the North American Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, is due in Dhaka today (Sunday) on a three-day visit to work out the detailed framework of the safety programme, sources said.
The 12-member delegation headed by its independent chair Ellen O’Kane Tauscher is accompanied by other board members including James F Moriarty, an Alliance board member and former US ambassador to Bangladesh.
The team will sit together with its board members at a city hotel in the morning Sunday while the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Atiqul Islam and Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, managing director of BRAC Enterprises and Investments will also be present there as the board members.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* N A Alliance assures of completing RMG factory inspection on time:
The visiting delegation of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety reiterated Sunday its commitment to completing the proposed inspection of Bangladesh ready-made garment (RMG) factories within the stipulated timeframe.
The comment came at their meetings with senior government officials and stakeholders in the city.
A 12-member Alliance delegation headed by its president Jeffrey Krilla arrived in Dhaka to work out the detailed framework of the safety programme including development of a common safety standard.
The coalition of North American apparel companies and retailers, industry associations and non-government organisations was established in July last to improve workers’ safety at Bangladeshi garment factories.
“The Alliance members informed us that they would inspect about 500 garment factories by July 2014,” labour secretary Mikail Shipar, who attended the meeting, told the FE.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Apparel exports to US defy safety concerns:
Apparel exports to the US market recorded a 9.0 per cent growth in the first seven months of the current calendar year (CY) compared to that of the same period of 2012, indicating that the factory safety issues had no negative impact on orders so far.
According to the US official figure, the apparel export from Bangladesh witnessed an increase of 9.0 per cent during the seven months until July last compared to that of the corresponding period of the last CY.
The country exported apparel products worth US$ 3.10 billion during the January-July period against US$ 2.84 billion during the corresponding period of the last CY, according to the US Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA).
* Tetul theory discourages women to join RMG industry: Shahjahan:
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said “Tetul Theory” has been provided to refrain the women from working at garments sector to ruin the industry.
“Not only that, vandalism and arson have been conducted to destroy the industry,” he said while inaugurating a new model of Chassis exported from India by Tata at a city hotel.
Nitol-Niloy group organized the function with its chairman Matlub Ahmed in the chair.
The minister said the country earns its 77 percent of foreign exchange from garment industry.
Khan said 52 organizations of garments industry would jointly organize a grand rally at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan on September 21 to save the industry.
* Skilled manpower shortage forces local entrepreneurs to hire foreign experts:
Shortage of skilled manpower has forced local entrepreneurs to hire foreign experts, prompting the government to increase the number of work permits every year, insiders said.
More than 32,000 foreigners are now working in different sectors in Bangladesh, up from around 12,253 in 2007, data showed.
“I have employed two Sri Lankan and one Indian experts, as people with relevant expertise are not available locally,” Managing Director of R N Denims Ltd Minar-ul-Islam told the FE.
He also said, “We cannot solely depend on local experts as they are prone to shifting to another factory if they are offered higher perks, throwing us into serious trouble.”
However, ex-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Md Abdus Salam Murshedy urged the government to increase the number of technical education institutes to provide training to the students of textiles colleges and other institutions.
“Most of the foreigners we employ are experts in production and in the fields of technology and management which we hardly get locally,” Chairman and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Ha-Meem Group, A K Azad said.
However an official at the BUFT (BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology) said, “The local entrepreneurs want readymade experts. They do not give scope to the local talents to grow up for which the industry is still lagging far behind of its needs after a journey of more than thirty years in garment trade.”
* Doing Business in Bangladesh:
The owner of a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was at New York University last week to meet with clothing industry executives, labor activists and American and European government officials to talk about the Bangladeshi garment industry, the world’s second-biggest exporter of clothes after China.
The workplace disasters in this business have grabbed the world’s attention, and for the past year, Western retailers that outsource their clothing production to Bangladesh have tried to come up with reforms. But there are big obstacles to improving safety in an industry driven by low profits and constant upheaval.
I met with the businessman and another factory owner; both would speak only on the condition that they not be identified because they feared offending their customers.
A central problem, the first owner told me, is the rapid turnaround big retailers like Walmart demand when they put in orders for tens of thousands of T-shirts or shorts. Since his factory isn’t able to make all the garments in time, he has to send some of the work to smaller producers. “I can’t do it officially,” he said, “but unofficially, I can.”
* Earnings from knitwear products boost:
According to the latest Bangladesh based Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, in July this year knitwear products fetched $1.25 billion, registering a 25.24% growth over the same period last year.
Of the total export earnings, knitwear items fetched $2.10 billion during the first two months of the current fiscal year, which is an increase of 17.19% since the last year. Earnings from knit items surpassed the target by 5.69%.
The Bureau reports that the export earnings stood at $2.01 billion in August this year marking a growth of 3.18% compared to that of the same month in 2012.
“Earnings vary from month to month but the trend is good,” EPB Vice Chairman Shubhashish Bose commented.
* Commerce ministry to review labour standard issues:
The government will review progresses on labour rights, workers’ health and safety – issues that US President Barack Obama cited in his letter of suspension of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the generalised system of preferences (GSP).
Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed will have a review meeting with the stakeholders on September 19, said a senior official at the ministry.
The commerce secretary on Sunday told the Dhaka Tribune that the government had already taken initiatives to convince the US government to withdraw the GSP suspension.As per the initiatives,the number of factory inspectors has been increased along with amending the labour law. “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be informed of the progress in labour standards,” Mahbub said.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Rana Plaza victims get assistance:
A total of 20 Rana Plaza building collapse survivors were given Tk 20,000 each from Meril-Prothom Alo Savar Assistance Fund at the daily’s office in the capital yesterday.
Hundred more survivors will get assistance from the fund, said the organisers.
One survivor, Shahida Akhter, who is now jobless and facing health problems, said she did not get any aid from any government fund.
Prothom Alo Associate Editor Abdul Quayum and Madonna Group Chairman Md Akhteruzzaman, who donated the money, also spoke.
* Strategies developed to boost rehab of Rana Plaza victims, families:
Stakeholders in Bangladesh’s garment industry have developed strategies to strengthen the rehabilitation of garment factory workers and their families affected by the Rana Plaza building collapse, said a press release.
Delegates at an information sharing session on Saturday in Dhaka were presented the results of a needs assessment of more than 2,200 affected people. These will guide future rehabilitation work.
This initiative was supported by the Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards (PSES), a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. PSES, in collaboration with International Labour Organization (ILO) engaged Action Aid Bangladesh to carry out the needs assessment.
The strategies focus on three key areas: health and rehabilitation; livelihoods, skills development and employment; and education justice and empowerment. Responsibility for implementation will be shared among members of the government, employers, trade unions, NGOs, civil society bodies, international buyers and research units.
“We will be working in close cooperation with industry associations and organizations to ensure reintegration of victims and injured workers who have acquired disabilities due to this incident,” said Olaf Handloegten, Country Director, GIZ.
Tariq-ul-Islam, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, Government of Bangladesh added, “The government has already paid compensation to the families of 782 deceased workers in the last 100 days and payment for other commitments are underway.”
ILO Country Director, Srinivas Reddy, said, “This needs assessment will be used to guide our continuing response. Bringing the range of involved organizations together for well-coordinated rehabilitation efforts will avoid duplication and ensure coverage.”
Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, Farah Kabir, stressed, “We need to implement these commitments as soon as possible.”
read more. & read more.
* Little change for Bangladesh factory workers:
Safety questions remain, months after the world’s deadliest garment factory fire killed more than 1,000.
What once was her right arm is now just a stub lying limp next to her torso. She sits with a far-away look in her eyes and a sad smile. Morium Begum was working insidewhen it collapsed, in what has been dubbed the deadliest garment factory accident in history.
“I was stuck in the rubble for three days,” said the 30-year-old. “There were about 10 of us in one place. At first, no-one outside could hear us. We couldn’t tell if it was night or day. I could feel the blood falling from my arm. It was already severed and hanging by the skin.”
More than 1,000 people died, and a further 2,000 were injured, on April 24 in the Savar sub-district of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. The scale of the accident prompted a massive rescue effort and tremendous media attention, but many questions remain about where the responsibility for such calamities lies, and if anything has really changed.
02:25:11 local time INDIA
* Fire destroys garments:
Saris, chudidhar materials, knitwear products and readymade garments stocked in a marriage hall at Salai Street here for sale, were destroyed in a fire on Sunday morning.
Fire and Rescue Services sources said the fire broke out at around 7 a.m. allegedly due to electric short-circuit in the ground floor of the marriage hall. Headed by Assistant Divisional Fire Officer K. Hakkim Basha, two fire service units from Ramanathapuram and Vazhuthur put out the fire after fighting it for two hours, Station Fire Officer A.Samiraj said.
He said materials worth about Rs.3 lakh would have been damaged in the fire, while the fire service personnel saved garments worth Rs.2.5 lakh. He said G.Sankar, hailing from Arur in Dharamapuri district, had put up a temporary stall at the marriage hall and was selling saris and readymade garments.
Sankar was sitting outside the marriage hall when he heard loud burst at 7 a.m. Suddenly the fire broke out and spread fast.
* Cotton sector seeks raw material protection policy:
The Union Government should come out with a scheme to ensure raw material availability to the domestic textile mills, according to J. Thulasidharan, president of Indian Cotton Federation.
At the annual general meeting of the association here on Friday, he said that the Bangladesh Government had come out with a raw material protection programme. The Indian Government was reported to have made a quantitative commitment of 1.5 million bales of cotton export to Bangladesh. This was following the “Textile Raw Material Protection Policy” of the Bangladesh Government.
02:25:11 local time SRI LANKA
* Workshop on crafts, textiles and livelihood:
LOLC Micro Credit Ltd (LOMC), the microfinance arm of the LOLC Group and the SANASA Development Bank (SDB) sponsored a three-day workshop on Crafts, Textiles and Livelihood, recently at the Centre for Banking Studies of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in Rajagiriya, ahead of the fifth annual South Asia Women’s Network (SWAN) Conference which concluded in Colombo last week.
SWAN was set up to meet specific concerns relating to women and gender through art and literature, crafts and textiles, education, environment, health, media, microcredit and peacemaking by a collaborative regional network set up among nine South Asian countries – Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives, Pakistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan. ‘Gender Equity for Peace and Sustainable Development for the Women of South Asia’ was this year’s theme.
The pre-conference workshop conducted a ‘Train the Trainers’ session for the Crafts and Textiles group and the Livelihood component of SWAN. 18 foreign delegates representing member countries with 20 Sri Lankan delegates including a panel of eminent resource persons and experts were present.
Chairman of National Craft Council, Buddhi Keerthisena inaugurated the workshop.
01:55:11 local time PAKISTAN
THE KARACHI-BALDIA FIRE
* Woman asks ex-husband to give due share of compensation:
A woman has approached the Sindh High Court for recovery of money from her ex-husband which was paid as compensation over the death of her young son in the Baldia factory fire tragedy.
Farida’s son, Danish, was among those workers who perished in the fire at the garment factory, Ali Enterprises, on September 11, 2012.
The federal government, provincial government, factory owners and their foreign buyers had pledged monetary compensation for all the victims and survivors. Thus, a court-appointed commission distributed more than 0.6 million among the legal heirs of each victim. Farida told the judges that her husband, Liaquat Ali, had left her a few years ago. Since then, the children, including Danish, had been living with the mother.
According to her, after Danish’s death, her ex-husband submitted his claim with the compensation commission and received Rs500,000. She claimed that he only gave her one-sixth of the total amount, which is against the Shariah laws according to which a mother is entitled to one-third of the amount.
MORE AND OTHER NEWS:
* Endangered craft: Cashmere, Pashmina industries fading in Kashmir:
In his two-room wooden house high in the beautiful Grace Valley in Azad Kashmir, Hidayatullah weaves at a manual paddle loom. Asked how he learned the craft, he gestures to a frail, wizened old man coughing on a bed in the corner.
“I got this skill from my father, but now my son is not taking up this profession. He prefers to work in the fields and sometimes also works as a labourer — it’s better money than the loom,” Hidayat told AFP.
Weavers have produced exquisite shawls in Kashmir for centuries, but their craft risks dying out in the face of cheap foreign imports and a young generation uninterested in mastering the skill.
Kashmir gave its name to the soft cashmere wool that commands huge prices in the West, but in Hidayat’s village there are now only 10 paddle looms, known as khadis, where once there were 100.
read more. & read more.
* Workshop on garment sector held:
Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) in collaboration with the Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) arranged a one-day workshop on ‘Skills Need Assessment for the Garments Sector’ here on Thursday to identify the areas where trained and skilled manpower is needed to enhance share of Pakistan in the global garments export market.
Speaking on this occasion, PSDF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ali Sarfraz said Punjab government keeping in view the potential of garments sector for enhancing national exports decided to meet the shortage of skilled manpower for this sector.
It has constituted a core committee led by special adviser to Punjab government Dr Ijaz Nabi and Chairman Planning and Development Board Punjab Irfan Elahi.
Various working groups under this core committee are working to assess the requirement for different sectors such as energy, transport, access of local produce to international markets, trade policy and industrial zone developments.
01:55:11 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Tashkent to Allow Cotton Harvest Monitoring:
Giving in to sustained international pressure, authoritarian Uzbekistan is opening up its cotton fields to international monitors this fall.
The International Labor Organization has confirmed to EurasiaNet.org that it is sending a mission to monitor the Uzbek cotton harvest, which starts in mid-September. “The ILO will be involved in the monitoring of the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan with the aim of preventing the use of child labor,” spokesman Hans von Rohland confirmed by email on September 12. Monitoring will start “in the next few days.”
Uzbekistan has been the target in recent years of international criticism and a widespread commercial boycott over its reliance on child and forced labor to reap the cash crop. Earlier this year, the US State Department assailed Uzbekistan on the forced labor issue.
* Tashkent doctors have gone to work the fields:
Surgeries scheduled in advance are being canceled in Tashkent, while hospitals and visiting hours for emergency care has been cut – medical personnel have been taken to the cotton fields.
The First Republican Hospital (former Glavtashkentstroj Hospital) stopped receiving patients in the beginning of this week and those who were already at the hospital were sent home. People who have been scheduled for surgery have also been affected. The reason – not enough medical personnel are available.
“Everybody is being forced to go to the cotton fields – even the surgeons and emergency services personnel. The hospitals are left with about 30 percent from their normal staff,” reports a medical professional from the First Republican Hospital anonymously.
* Asian Economic Miracle needs New Social Path:
UNI Apro Finance Conference responded with resounding “YES” for Philip Jennings call at the recently concluded conference in Bangkok on 29-30 August 2013.
“Unprecedented growth rates and rising levels of inequality in Asia are not sustainable,” said Philip Jennings UNI Global Union General Secretary. “We need to stand for value creation, strong labour unions to secure full time jobs, and a fair distribution of income.”
“We will not allow the new “Fast Food” type business models into the finance industry. Neither will we allow a management culture that attempts to shred social contract in Asia & Pacific,” stressed Philip who was speaking at the 4th UNI Apro Finance Sector conference held in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Finance sector activities has proved its relevance to the membership by drawing over 140 participants for the conference in Bangkok representing 29 affiliates from 14 countries in the region. The UNI Apro Finance Conference endorsed a work plan put forward which had a new goal to step up financial inclusions in society as a priority to create jobs and reduce income in-equality.
“Trade unions should take the lead in providing financial services to SMEs and marginalized, thus creating jobs in the whole economy,” said John West ED of Asian Century Institute who did a background paper for the conference titled Towards fair, inclusive and stable finance in Asia– Advancing a trade union agenda.