10:35:05 local time PHILIPPINES
* Opportunity for Philippine manufacturing in 5-10 years:
The Philippine manufacturing sector should be ready in five to 10 years as an alternative site because China, Thailand and neighboring countries will raise their wages.
The World Bank said that the Philippines should focus on agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure to increase jobs as countries like China, Thailand and Indonesia will raise their minimum wages in five to 10 years that will lead to investors searching for other potential markets or investment sites.
World Bank Philippines Senior Economist Karl Chua told reporters that the Philippines should improve its manufacturing and agricultural sectors, so that investors would look at the country as a potential manufacturing hub in the next five to 10 years.
09:35:05 local time THAILAND
* Free trade has a heavy price:
Government officials are currently holding serious negotiations with Europeans on a possible EU-Thailand Free Trade Agreement.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pushed for progress while in Europe last week. The problem is that serious, even insurmountable, problems remain between the bargaining sessions and a future, fair FTA with positive results all around.
The problem with FTAs _ all of them _ is that, by definition, some parties are hurt. “Free trade” exposes to competition industries, businesses and individuals who are protected. But that is actually the easy part. The hard part is that FTAs also threaten national interest. And, once again, that is the sticking point of the proposed free trade agreement with Europe.
09:35:05 local time CAMBODIA
* Cambodian textile workers who supply UK clothing stores ‘starving’ and suffering ‘mass faintings’:
By the time London Fashion Week comes to a close, 58 high-end designers will have shown their collections. Rail-thin models will have walked the runways. Debate will have raged over size zero.
In Cambodia, meanwhile, garment workers stitching clothes that supply the UK high street are malnourished to the point of collapse.
According to a study released on Monday, a third of Cambodian garment workers producing clothes sold in the UK by global brands, including clothing giant H&M, are not getting enough food. Some 25 per cent are so underweight they would be classified as anorexic were they diagnosed in the UK.
The findings of the report by worker rights group Labour Behind the Label follow a spate of mass faintings over recent years, when groups of up to 300 at a time have passed out.
Researchers attributed the incidents to the “serious” malnourishment of the industry’s 400,000-plus mostly female employees who work for a monthly minimum wage of around $80 (£50) – too little to fund an adequate diet, the researchers say.
One of the workers interviewed for the study said she and fellow workers at a factory near the capital, Phnom Penh, were “constantly on the point of fainting”. “We are tired and we are weak. It takes only a few small things to tip us over the edge,” she said.
* Shuttered schools, factories:
With only about 10 per cent of its 1,000-person workforce at their stations by 8am yesterday, management at Hoyear (Cambodia) Garment Ltd cut its losses and announced that the factory would close for the next two days.
In his time working as Hoyear’s human resources manager, Em Socheat had never seen such a large absence of employees, he said. But then, clashes between military police and pro-opposition demonstrators that left one dead and several severely injured the previous day put Phnom Penh in a state of alert rarely seen in recent years.
In addition to Hoyear Garments, Kin Tai Garment Co Ltd and Tae Young (Cambodia) Co Ltd shut their doors yesterday due to sparse attendance, Yang Sophorn, president of Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said. But not all workers who stayed home did so out of fear, Sophorn said.
10:35:05 local time INDONESIA
* Indonesian trade unions demand 50% wage increase:
30 000 workers demonstrated against new presidential regulations in front of the State Palace in Jakarta, demanding a wage increase of at least 50% for 2014. There were also protests in Bandung, Cinahi and Subang.
The mass rallies on 5 September in Jakarta come as a response to increased living costs after the Indonesian government increased the fuel price. While the government has suggested a maximum increase of the current minimum wage of 20%, trade unions are demanding that it is at least doubled in order to maintain purchasing power.
There are fears that the new regulation is a return to a regime of cheap labour, with Indonesian workers’ salaries already being below the average salaries in neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.
* Jakarta Bosses Hint Minimum Wage Rise Will Fall Short of Union Demands:
Jakarta’s business lobby said companies may only be able to increase the minimum wage by up to 15 percent next year, as firms battle with other rising costs.
That sum is less than a quarter of labor unions demand for a 68 percent increase for 2014, following a 44 percent rise this year.
Previously, both the government and business associations had rejected the unions demand.
Sarman Simanjorang, vice chairman of the Jakarta branch of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), said many companies had been struggling to pay employees after the last wage increase while rising costs in fuel and electricity had increased their overheads.
“Historically, minimum wage increases before 2012 were between 10 to 15 percent,” Sarman said. “Under current conditions, an increase of that size is the most reasonable for employers.”
* Fixing the minimum wage hike: Does it matter? :
If labor unions and employers’ organizations find it difficult to agree on the minimum wage, which will improve welfare and business sustainability, the recently signed presidential instruction that sets a new structure for labor-intensive minimum wages should have settled the dispute.
The workers had initially demanded a 50 percent pay hike, while employers expressed concern about their ability to pay the new wages without affecting investment sustainability. The instruction requires local authorities to set minimum wages at the regional level and pegs the hike at 5-10 percent, on top of inflation.
The instruction has received a warm welcome from a number of employers, but was rejected by major trade unions who threatened to take to the streets or hold a mass strike if the 50 percent hike demand went unheeded.
09:05:05 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Myanmar approves new foreign investments in power and garment sectors:
Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) gave approval to some new foreign businesses to carry out hundred-percent foreign investments in power production and garment manufacturing.
Singapore-based power companies, UPP Holdings Ltd and UPP Greentech Pte Ltd, were given approval for producing and selling electricity as wholly-owned businesses at Ywama power station in Yangon Region.
Two garment factories, one from Hong Kong and another from the UK, were also approved as hundred-percent foreign investments to engage in cutting, making and packing (CMP) clothes.
08:35:05 local time BANGLADESH
* Garment makers place wage hike proposal today:
Leaders of the country’s garment manufacturers are likely to place their proposal of a 20% wage hike for workers at today’s (Tuesday) meeting of the Wage Board.
Arshad Jamal Dipu, who is representing the owners’ side, will place the proposal, industry insiders said adding that the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) has made its proposal in line with the opinions of garment owners.
* Factory owners to propose 20 per cent rise in wages:
Factory owners are likely to submit a proposal with a 20 per cent increase, on an average, in wages for apparel workers, to the wage board at its fifth meeting Tuesday.
‘We have discussed the proposal several times with the garment owners and decided to propose 20 per cent hike, with around Tk 4,000 as minimum wage,’ Arshad Jamal Dipu, the owners’ representative to the wage board, told New Age.
Dipu confirmed that the proposal of the factory owners will be submitted to the wage board tomorrow.
The last wage board on July 27, 2010, increased the monthly minimum wage to Tk 3,000 from Tk 1,662.50, when workers demanded Tk 5,000.
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* Minimum wage in RMG sector: A quagmire:
Whenever the topic of discussion is the readymade garment (RMG) sector of Bangladesh, almost everyone has something to say in the country.
This simply shows how important and enormous is the sector relative of the size of our overall economy. The sector employs more than 3.5 million workers. Probably every family has a member or a close kin directly or indirectly involved in the production of readymade garments in Bangladesh.
This sector caters the clothing demand of the western consumers.
Bangladesh is the second largest RMG exporter of the world. Whatever happens in this sector, its impacts travel thousands miles to affect John and Dan living in the USA and Europe, in addition to affecting the families of Selina and Kulsum living in Teknaf and Tetulia.
Despite rendering this service to home and abroad, the sector never fails to provide reasons to draw attention of local and international media for incidents that build a negative image of the sector and the country.
Currently, one of the much-talked-about issues is the low wage of garments workers. If a perfectly competitive product and labour market exist, a worker will be paid a wage equal to his/her contribution to production with slight deduction as profit for the entrepreneur.
As the competitive market in either case is far from reality in Bangladesh, the wages in the RMG sector is determined by the institutional factors rather than competitive forces.
The widespread perception in the country is that these wages are very low, which leads to riotous labour protest and vandalism in the factory from time to time. This necessitates an active government role in setting the wages in this sector.
The government sets up a minimum wage board (commission) whenever there is felt need to revise the existing minimum wage. Setting the minimum wages for the RMG workers is not an easy task.
In the process of setting the minimum wage, the government has to balance between the demand of the workers and the willingness of the entrepreneurs. Besides, along with the economic factors, government has to take account of the political pressure.
* Further amendment to labour law demanded:
Bangladesh Sanjukta Sramik Federation, a labour rights body, on Monday demanded further amendment to the Bangladesh Labour Act to repeal undemocratic provisions.
The federation leaders at a press conference at its Topkhana road office accused the ruling Awami League of betraying the workers of the country by amending the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006 in 2013 to serve the interests of the owners of mills and factories.
In the 2008 election manifesto, the ruling Awami League had pledged to amnd the labour law to make it worker friendly, but it had amended the law keeping and making undemocratic provisions that would serve the interest of the owners, said the federation general secretary Mohammad Mokkadem Hossain.
The federation announced series of programmes pressing for further amendment to the labour law.
* Retailer under pressure to sign safety deal:
The clothing retailer River Island is under increasing pressure to sign a factory safety deal in Bangladesh set up in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster after its rival Arcadia thinned the ranks of refuseniks by backing the accord.
The Global Poverty Project is calling on its 30,000 British members to write to River Island after Arcadia, the owner of Topshop, finally signed up to the international deal on Friday, nearly five months after 1,129 people died when the Rana Plaza factory building near Dhaka collapsed.
As the fashion world descends on London for this season’s catwalk shows, Arcadia joins more than 50 brands which have signed up to the legally binding building safety agreement, pledging to contribute up to $500,000 (325,000) a year towards rigorous independent factory inspections and the installation of fire safety measures.
River Island said it agreed with the “principle and intent” of the accord but still had queries to clear up. The company said in a statement: “River Island is committed to ensuring safe conditions for those working in the factories which supply our products. We have good and long-term relationships with all of our suppliers in Bangladesh and the team has recently visited every one of the factories that we use in the region.”
* Need to adhere to environmental laws in factories stressed:
A pilot course has been introduced to develop expertise in key environmental engineering positions to address the increasing need to adhere to environmental laws and regulations in factories that produce waste water, reports UNB.
Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES), a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in close cooperation with international buyer IKEA collated this 60-hours certificate course offered at the National Institute of Textile Engineering & Research (NITER).
* Alliance wants ‘meaningful change’ in garment sector:
Representatives of the North American Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety Initiative on Monday said they would inspect the garment factories in Bangladesh in a transparent way to ensure sustainable change in the garment sector.
The members of the Alliance have submitted their list of factories that they contract with in Bangladesh and shared that information with the Fair Factories Clearinghouse, Jeffrey Krilla, the president and chief executive officer of the Alliance said at a media briefing after the meeting with the apparel sector leaders at the BGMEA office.
‘We will be sharing this information with the government of Bangladesh,’ he said.
Jeffrey said that the alliance will introduce latest technology in Bangladesh during the garment factory inspection.
‘We support democratically elected workers participation committee in the garment factories with an aim to raise the voice of the workers on the safety issues,’ he said.
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* Alliance wishes transparent inspection of RMG factories:
North American retailers’ alliance — Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety – Monday expressed its willingness to carry out a transparent and sustainable inspection of RMG factories and wants to work with all stakeholders to ensure safety measures and labour rights in the country’s apparel sector.
“We are here to further our goal of improving workers safety in Bangladesh RMG sector,” said Ellen Tauscher, chair of Bangladesh worker safety group, seeking cooperation of all stakeholders, especially the government and civil-society to make their venture a success.
The safety group chairperson met the press after a formal meeting with leaders of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) saying that the alliance would be encouraged by the shared sense of responsibility. “We all are working to improve the lives of workers in Bangladesh by bringing rapid and meaningful change,” she added.
The safety chief, who was accompanied by a number of alliance leaders including Jeff Krilla, executive director of Alliance, said that they had prepared a common set of fire and building safety standards for Bangladesh RMG sector and will soon submit a list of the factories to the government which they will inspect.
These standards align with Bangladesh National Building Code and also support the National Tripartite Pan of Action.
* Alliance identifies 500 RMG factories for inspection:
The US-based Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety will submit to the government a list of 500 factories that manufacture readymade garment (RMG) products for 22 North American buyers and retailers to harmonise the inspection programme.
The disclosure came at a meeting held at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) headquarters on Monday between the garment industry leaders and the visiting 15-member delegation now in Dhaka for a three-day visit for detailed discussion on the safety programme.
* North American alliance agrees to follow national building code:
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a coalition of 22 North American retailers to improve factory conditions in Bangladesh, yesterday agreed to follow the Bangladesh National Building Code in its garment factory inspections.
“We have prepared a common set of fire and building safety standards for garment factories in Bangladesh by working with experts,” Ellen O’Kane Tauscher, chairperson of the alliance, said at a media briefing. The standards align with the Bangladesh National Building Code and also support the National Tripartite Plan of Action.
* ‘RMG sector needs support, not sanctions’:
They have stressed on concerted efforts to purge the industry of the crisis that arose after the April collapse of Rana Plaza that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly workers.
“This is the time to show support, not sanctions and support should be coming as much from the major buyers of Bangladesh,” said Nick de Bois, a ruling conservative MP, who is also the vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bangladesh, on Monday.
Six MPs of the group led by its Chair ruling conservative MP Anne Main concluded their week-long visit in the wake of the Rana Plaza incident.
At a press briefing before leaving Dhaka on Tuesday morning, they said they would report back to the UK Parliament.
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* Foreign currency loan for export competitiveness:
An apparel industry owner met me the other day and expressed his desperateness to get some foreign currency (FCY) loan for a period ranging from three to five years.
He is under tremendous pressure to relocate his factory to an independent building outside Dhaka city, procure more plant machinery as well as invest in safety and security equipment.
Courtesy Rana Plaza building collapse, the good buyers are reportedly cancelling orders right and left to import apparels from the direct exporters from Bangladesh, not to talk about their increasing reservation to pick up clothes stitched by a sub-contracted factory, he mentioned.
According to him, investment in new compliant factories and production lines has become a necessity for many apparel producers in Bangladesh now. Such investment is also seen as ‘survival kit’ for the factory owners to maintain their price competitiveness.
But locally borrowed fund is far more expensive than that sourced from abroad. The interest rate of local bank loans is 15 to 17 per cent against that of foreign currency loans at 6.0 to 7.0 per cent.
He also thought steady export receipts in foreign currency should provide him a natural hedge against exchange rate fluctuations or even tenor mismatches.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Rana Plaza victims still await compensation:
Brands fail to show up for an International Labour Organisation-chaired meeting due to decide on long-term compensation for thousands affected by April’s factory collapse in Dhaka
Victims of the world’s worst garment factory disaster at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh are still no closer to compensation after a meeting called to mediate demands was deemed a failure by organisers.
Global labor union IndustriALL slammed retailers after only a third of the brands that used the Dhaka manufacturing hub, which collapsed on April 24, turned up in Geneva on Thursday.
“Consumers will be shocked that almost a half-year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster with only one brand so far providing any compensation to the disaster’s victim,” IndustriALL assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle stated. “I respect those brands that came to these meetings. But I cannot understand brands that are not around the table.”
IndustriALL, which represents 50 million workers in the mining, energy and manufacturing sectors, arranged the meeting with the International Labour Organi-zation as a neutral chair. Their framework for assessing long-term compensation stems from a disaster similar to Rana Plaza in 2005, when the eight-story Spectrum factory outside of the Bangladeshi capital collapsed. Surviving victims and families of the 62 fatalities were compensated for lost income, pain and suffering up to 25 years after the incident.
08:05:05 local time INDIA
* Factory fire victims to get compensation:
Holding the state government and a private firm liable for the death of 14 people in a factory fire in January 2011, the Delhi high court has asked them to pay compensation to the families of those who died and those who were injured.
Justice Vipin Sanghi directed the government and M/s Amazing Creation Garment Export Factory, Tughlakabad, to pay compensation of Rs 7 lakh to 13 lakh (based on monthly salary drawn by the victims) to the families of seven workers who died in the accident and Rs 6.26 lakhs to those who were injured.
“Had the state been vigilant, the factory could not have been set up or operated in a residential area. Fire protection mechanisms, proper fire escape, clear passages and ventilation would have been ensured.
The firm would not have been permitted to store highly inflammable substances without licence. Neither of the respondents paid heed to these aspects, which is what led to the incident,” HC said. The court said it is clear that the factory was carrying out “an inherently dangerous/ hazardous activity” and applied the principle of “strict liability”.
* Government to aid textle start-ups via equity fund model:
In a move that aims to replicate the success of India’s IT entrepreneurs, the government is planning to fund and provide workspace to start-ups in labour intensive sectors.
The idea is to give a boost to manufacturing and ensure steady supply of skilled workforce in sectors that have huge export potential, a senior government official told ET on condition of anonymity. The official said the start-ups will be funded through a dedicated equity fund on pure venture capital model. The project will be tested in the textile sector where space will be provided to entrepreneurs at textile parks while funds will be given through the state-supported Textile Equity Fund.
* National Textile Corporation to invest Rs. 464 cr. in State:
The National Textiles Corporation will invest Rs. 464 crore in processing a spinning and weaving project in the State.
The Union Textile Ministry has agreed to sanction proposals for 40 new projects under group approach and 15 under cluster approach in areas not covered earlier. A mega cluster under comprehensive handloom development scheme at Dharmavaram, Anantapur, will be considered in the next budget, Union Textiles Minister K. Sambasiva Rao said.
07:35:05 local time PAKISTAN
* ‘EU likely to grant GSP Plus status to Pakistan in Dec’:
The European Parliament is most likely to grant GSP Plus status to Pakistan in its forthcoming meeting scheduled in December, said Danish Ambassador to Pakistan Jesper Moller Sorensen.
The ambassador was while talking to Lahore Chamber of COmmerce and Industry (LCCI) President Farooq Iftikhar at the LCCI on Monday. LCCI former vice president Saeeda Nazar was also present on the occasion.
07:35:05 local time UZBEKISTAN
* College student reportedly dies during cotton crop:
A 16-year-old cotton picker died in Kashkadarya region, reported Uznews on September 16.
Girl’s name was Mahliyo, she was a second-year student of Agro-Industrial College. She, along with fellow students were taken to one of the farms to participate in cotton harvest, and were settled in a hostel near the field.
The cause of death was an accident. The student touched a pole with the electrical cable, part of which was not isolated, and the girl was electrocuted. She was taken to a regional hospital, but they could not save her life.
Mahliyo and her classmates were picking cotton from the beginning of September. They were taken to the field almost immediately after the start of the school year.
Earlier there were reports about deaths during the cotton harvest. Student, who was sent to the cotton field and subjected to abuse because of the fact that the daily norm was not fulfilled reportedly committed suicide in 2008.
It is possible to pay off from “cotton duty” by paying a certain amount, reported the media.
Cotton is one of the main elements of the Uzbek exports. Every year it brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the country.
to read. & read more.
* Large-scale carriage of population on cotton crop starts in Uzbekistan:
A large-scale carriage of population to pick cotton started from September 16 throughout the country. In total 2.5 million people will be attracted, reported the Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan.
More than 200,000 residents of Tashkent will be attracted to work in the fields on voluntary-compulsory basis. These are the workers of budget organizations: teachers and medical staff, employees of ministries, agencies and departments, service workers, power supply, water canal, gas supply authorities (administrations), hospitals, clinics, kindergartens and schools. The government threats with dismissal those workers of budgetary organizations, who refuses to go for cotton crop, the Initiative Groups of Uzbekistan said.
Students of universities, colleges and employees of government organizations and institutions are forced to pick cotton in regions of the country.
* Uzbekistan proposal to keep ‘free warehouse’ provision in cotton export deal with Bangladesh:
Uzbekistan has proposed to the government to consider a provision of keeping ‘free warehouse’ in the agreement on export of 200,000 tonnes of cotton to Bangladesh.
In a draft memorandum of understanding (MoU), the Uzbek government incorporated the provision of warehouse to expedite supply of cotton.
However, the issue sparked mixed reaction among the businesses and policymakers.
In a recent inter-ministerial meeting the ministry of commerce (MoC) discussed the issue and took opinions of the stakeholders in this connection.
The MOC requested the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to give its opinion relating to the impact of the ‘free warehouse’.
Free warehouse means a warehouse where imported cotton will be stored. Importers will have to release the cotton from the warehouse through opening letters of credit (L/Cs).
A senior customs official said the customs wing is working on it.
“We will hold meetings with the representatives of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to discuss this,” he said.
He, however, acknowledged that around 30 to 33 per cent cotton comes from Uzbekistan but textile industry owners need to know pros and cons of the warehouse facility.