22:06:36 local time VIET NAM
* Government office proposes to increase state budget deficit to 5.3% GDP, wage increase of 15% in 2014:
It is proposed that the State budget deficit will be increased to 5.3% of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and the wage will added by 15% in 2014, the local newswire Vietnamplus reported, citing Minister cum Chairman of Vietnamese Government Office.
Wage increase in the next year will be around 14-15% versus earlier proposal of 21-36% of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour, the Minister Dam said, explaining that the too high salary increase will cause investment attraction be less competitive. In addition, the State budget is also limited.
22:06:36 local time CAMBODIA
* Home for the holidays:
Still agitated 20 minutes after the rally in front of SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd had dispersed yesterday, Choem Som Im held up seven fingers as she jerked her arms forward and spoke in an equally sharp tone.
“Seven dollars is not enough to travel to my hometown,” Som Im, a striking SL employee originally from Kampong Cham, ranted. “I’m so angry with the factory.”
Cambodians across Phnom Penh have spent the past few weeks making travel plans and purchases in anticipation of the Buddhist holiday. For many in the garment industry, much of that time was spent finding a way to finance the trek back home.
The dilemma, faced by many garment workers, is a familiar one, Moen Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said. Most factories pay monthly salaries on the 10th, but the holiday weekend falls just before payday this year.
“Quite often, we hear about that,” Tola said. “The workers’ wage is too low; they don’t have any savings … [but] they need money for transportation, to buy things for their parents, for their children.”
The majority of factory owners agree to pay their employees their salary – or a sizeable portion of it – in advance of Pchum Ben, Tola said. But at other factories, management’s refusal to meet worker requests for pay advances leads workers to strike, find alternative sources of cash or sit out the holiday altogether.
* GMAC Urges Factories to Resist New Monitoring:
Following the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) announcement that its Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) program will from January name and shame firms that contravene Cambodian labor laws, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has urged factory operators to refuse entry to ILO monitors, unless they have government officials in tow.
Ken Loo, secretary-general at GMAC, said that BFC’s reluctance to involve his organization in discussions, and its haste to implement the new monitoring standards, had led him to tell factories that any factory inspections must include government officials, a directive that he claims is part of the original agreement between stakeholders.
23:06:36 local time MALAYSIA
* 600,000 SMEs allowed to postpone minimum wage implementation:
About 600,000 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been given permission to postpone the minimum wage implementation until December, said Deputy Human Resource Minister Datuk Ismail Abd Mutallib.
The employers need more time to restructure operations and cut down losses before starting the minimum wage implementation, he said when responding to a supplementary question from Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing (BN-Bintulu) at the Dewan Rakyat today.
To the original question from Wan Hasan Mohd Ramli (PAS-Dungun), Ismail said the government would allow SMEs to have discussions with employees before restructuring their salaries and allowances.
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23:06:36 local time INDONESIA
* BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates:
1. Constitutional Court Cancelled Regulation on Severance Payment Expiry Date. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia).
2. West Java Court Cancelled Governor Decision Letter on Minimum Wage Waiver. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English version here.
3. Workers demand wage of Rp 2.1 million per month. Read the full article here.
4. Textile Factories Relocation Hampered. Read the full article here .
5. Indonesian IndustriALL Council Creates Women’s Committee.
Read the full article here.
6. Economy to slow down in Q3: Finance Ministry. Read the full article here.
7. UN holds 1st high-level meeting on the disabled. Read the full article here.
21:36:36 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* The U.S. Government Should Require Progress
on Human, Land, and Labor Rights
Prior to Reinstatement of GSP Trade Benefits for Burma:
ILRF and other concerned organizations urge the Obama Administration to require concrete, measurable progress on labor and land rights and environmental protection in Burma before its trade benefits could be reinstated under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
In addition, the products of extractive industries and plantation agriculture should be excluded from any initial grant of GSP eligibility so a more deliberate path to GSP can be created for those sectors.
Burma’s GSP benefits were suspended in 1989 because of concerns over forced labor. The Administration has recently initiated a review at the request of the Burmese Government, which began a path to democratization in 2011. Despite the rapid changes, however, the U.S. Administration cannot yet promote trade in Burma through GSP without risking serious human rights impacts – including the very same forced labor issues that led to Burma’s suspension in the first place.
Three interconnected forms of human rights abuses are strongly linked to trade and investment in Burma.
First, and most prominently, is the epidemic of land-grabbing. Millions of acres have been confiscated in recent years, with the highest rates of displacement in ethnic minority zones. Most of this land has been used for infrastructure projects or given to rich businessmen or foreign investors for agriculture or extractive operations.
Second is the violation of internationally recognized workers’ rights. Although a number of unions and collective-bargaining agreements have been formed since Burma’s political transition began, the agreements are not enforced, and workers and organizers are regularly intimidated for trying to secure labor protections. Third, demonstrators and other persons trying to assert their rights are violently repressed on a regular basis. Workers protesting in hopes of securing enforcement of collective bargaining agreements have been subject to criminal complaints by their employers and have subsequently ended up in jail.
20:51:36 local time NEPAL
* Govt recommends 100 new products for GSP facility:
The government has proposed 100 new products as major export potential products for the United States Generalised System of Preference (GSP) including garments, carpets, pashmina and handicraft products.
If these products are included in the GSP list, they would receive preferential treatment while entering the US market.
The US GSP programme for Nepal expired on July 31, and the US government had asked Nepal to submit a new list of products by October 4.
“We recently submitted a list of one hundred new products which also includes garments, carpets, pashmina and handicraft products,” said joint secretary at the ministry of commerce and supplies Jib Raj Koirala. There were already more than 4,000 products receiving the GSP facility from the United States.
According to Koirala, garments, carpets, pashmina and handicraft products are major exportable products of the country and have great potential. Therefore, along with the recommendation for inclusion in the revised GSP, the government will also lobby for the purpose.
* Social security scheme hits snag:
The government’s plan to introduce social security schemes for workers of the formal sector has hit a snag as many employers have refrained from providing information about their employees, preventing the Social Security Fund from creating a database of beneficiaries of the schemes.
The Fund, an undertaking of Ministry of Labour and Employment, has continuously been calling on employers to provide all information about their employees so as to expedite the process of creating a database. “But of the over 100,000 registered firms in the country, only around 100 have responded to our calls,” Social Security Fund executive director Kebal Prasad Bhandari said. “Without this information we cannot roll out social security schemes.”
Earlier in June, the Fund had designed social security schemes on sickness, maternity, workplace accident and medicare benefits. If these schemes are introduced, around 1.25 million people working in the formal sector stand to get compensation worth thousands of rupees per year if they fail to turn up at workplaces due to sickness, pregnancy, job-related accidents and hospitalisation.
21:06:36 local time BANGLADESH
* RMG workers deserve higher minimum wage:
Garment workers were recently engaged in siege and arson. Besides the capital and adjoining areas, the unrest spread to the outlying areas also. Agitating garment workers came out on the streets in large numbers, demanding minimum wages at Tk 8,000.
Police used lathi-charge, lobbed tear gas shells and opened fire. Law-enforcement agencies came into clashes with the garment workers. A large number of garment factories remained closed because of the unrest in the industry.
Entrepreneurs have complained that there are both local and foreign conspiracies to destroy the otherwise booming garment sector. The Home Minister has alleged that the Jamaat-e-Islami and some other reactionary groups are behind the recent unrest in readymade garment (RMG) sector.
Some foreign nationals employed in garment sector are also alleged to be involved. Reports of unrest have been published in local and foreign press.
These reports are reportedly destabilising this sector. Although Bangladesh is in second position in garment export globally, the workers in this country get the lowest wages.
While in China, wage is around Tk 17,000 per worker per month, it is only Tk 3,600 in Bangladesh. A Vietnamese worker gets 109 dollars while in Cambodia the minimum wage is 70 dollars, in Thailand 221 dollars, in the Phillipines 175 dollars , in Indonesia 114 dollars and in India 70 dollars.
* RMG workers’ wage ‘not increasing as per production, earning’:
The wage rate of the country’s RMG workers is not increasing in tandem with the increase in production and export earning in the sector, says Chairman of Dhaka University’s Economics Department Prof MA Taslim.
“Since the fiscal 2006-2007, the RMG production has had three-fold increase, but the labour force has not increased accordingly. This indicates the wage rate is not increasing as per the productivity,” he told a national dialogue on RMG workers’ issues on Monday.
The dialogue was organised by Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) at LGED auditorium. In fiscal 2005-2006, the export earning from the sector stood at US$ 8 billion and it hit US$ 21.5 billion in fiscal 2012-13.
Taslim said, “Given the higher increase in export earning compared to the number of labor force, the employers cannot deny the increase in the profit.”
“The employers can only deny the factor of their profit making only on the ground that the capital labour ratio decreasing. If that happens, they must be accused of unsustainable expansion of the industry,” he said.
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* No regular wages for workers of small-scale apparel factories:
Majority of the workers of small-scale apparel factories do not get wages and overtime on a regular basis and most of these units lack required safety measures, a recent survey has revealed.
Besides, both managers and workers of these units do not have adequate knowledge about safety-related issues, according to the survey.
The survey recommended that smaller factories, having poor safety standards and compliance records, be brought under strict monitoring.
The Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) conducted a random survey on some 100 RMG units located in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj to uncover compliance and safety violations following the tragic Rana Plaza collapse in Savar that killed more than 1100 workers.
Some 500 garment workers were interviewed under the survey conducted during August and September, key focal points of which were structure of the buildings, safety steps against fire and electricity mishaps and compliance of labour laws.
* Economics and business of minimum wage in RMG:
It is paradoxical that the our readymade garment (RMG) industry attained stupendous success on the back of what one local daily found it apt to describe as “ruthless exploitation” of workers.
The truth might be a bit more sobering than that because of the complex phenomena created by a vast army of surplus labour desperately seeking work in a tight jobs market. The Rana Plaza episode has brought the issue of labour standards, worker rights, and workplace environment in the forefront of the discourse.
These are issues not to be ignored anymore. Singular attention is now focused not just on a living wage but on what the minimum wage should be in the $20 billion garment industry. Raising the minimum wage will affect wage setting across the board in the RMG sector. It is as much a human and social challenge as it is an economic one.
Thus the debate on the subject of raising the minimum wage in the RMG sector is heating up. Not surprisingly, there are as many shades of opinion as there are speakers on the subject.
* Normalcy returns in garment factories:
The owners’ promise to implement wage board recommendations instantly has helped quelling a massive workers’ unrest in garment factories and there was no violence or demonstration in the labour intensive industrial areas on Monday.
The factories have become busy to fulfill their supply commitments to buyers, as most of the workers have returned to their jobs peacefully. They are now trying hard to cover the gap that was made during the weak-long unrest.
Garment factory owners promised on Sunday to raise wages for more than three million workers as soon as a government panel sets a figure, ending a weeklong violent protest, different agencies reported.
The manufacturers said they would raise wages by as much as the panel decides, despite earlier insisting they cannot afford more than a 20 per cent increase on the existing minimum wage of $38 a month.
* RMG unrest cost Tk 600cr loss:
Apparel exporters have to count loss of Tk 600 crore due to the latest spell of workers’ unrest sweeping the country’s key garment industrial belts like Gazipur, Savar, Ashulia and Narayanganj, said Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on Sunday.
The industry experts said, the estimated loss includes massive fall in production and damage caused to the factory buildings and machines.
The unruly workers vandalized 70 garment units and tried to set fire to 15 factories during their protest. They also locked into series of clashes with the law-enforcement agencies leaving at least 300 people injured.
“We have suffered loss of Tk 600 crore from the week-long unrest that led to the suspension of production at most of the apparel units in the garment industrial zones,” Reaz-Bin-Mahmood, Vice-President (Finance) of BGMEA told The New Nation yesterday.
* Uncertainty looms over factory survey:
Garment factory inspection by the government and global retailers faces further uncertainties due to a fund crisis and disagreement among stakeholders over a common checklist for the inspection guideline.
The labour and employment ministry had a plan to begin inspection of around 2,000 factories by 30 teams of experts led by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology within September 15.
But the International Labour Organisation, which is collaborating with the government, is yet to manage a $24 million fund from donors for the inspection, according to Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar.
Though three separate platforms, including the one led by Buet, had earlier agreed in principle to follow a common action plan drawn by the government, they 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 22 US-based retailers and brands.
* Ensuring workers’ rights can safeguard market access to EU: Hanna:
‘B’desh can’t take for granted trade preferences it enjoys’
Bangladesh needs to ensure fair wages and other rights to workers to safeguard the market access for its textile products to Europe in the coming days, European Union Ambassador to Bangladesh William Hanna told a national dialogue here on Monday.
European citizens are closely watching the labour rights situation in Bangladesh and are annoyed with the recent ‘images of people fighting for rights’ that make news in the media, the EU ambassador said.
“The European citizens can never accept the ruthless exploitation of workers. The exploitation has to stop,” William Hanna told the dialogue on RMG workers’ rights issues organised by Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) at LGED auditorium.
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* Over 100 RMG units vanish after availing bonded warehouse facility:
The latest findings by the customs’ authorities have indicated the “disappearance” of nearly 110 readymade garments (RMG) and backward linkage companies after availing the duty-free benefit under the bonded warehouse facilities.
The companies, located in and around Dhaka, obtained licences for duty-free import of the raw materials on condition of making exports of outputs using the same as inputs but now they are found to be out of scene, sources said.
THE SAVAR BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Committee to place report to HC soon proposing Tk 2.0m:
The committee on fixation of compensation for the Rana Plaza victims will place its report to the High Court (HC) shortly, proposing Tk 2.0 million for deceased and missing worker amid disagreement from the apparel leaders.
The report also recommended Tk 1.5 million compensation for each of the injured workers, who lost than two limbs and Tk 2.0 million in case of losing more than two limbs.
Besides, Tk 1.0 million compensation has been recommended for each of the workers, who lost one limb in the building collapse.
The committee finalized its report Monday at a meeting with the members of sub-committees and representatives from apparel sector.
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* Families of dead workers to get Tk 19.5 lakh each:
Rana Plaza compensation committee makes recommendations
A high-powered committee on fixation of compensation for the victims of Rana Plaza collapse in a meeting in Savar on Monday set about Tk 19.5 lakh as compensation to be paid to the families of each of the deceased, meeting sources said.
The committee proposed that the total compensation would be calculated on the basis of ‘earning of 25 work years lost’ with a starting wage of Tk 5,000 per month.
The meeting chaired by the nine infantry division general officer commanding, Major General Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardy, at his office also fixed the compensation for 221 injured workers, considering their physical condition.
The committee, however, did not include the annual inflation of 6.72 per cent as recommended by a sub-committee considering that each family of the victims would get the ‘compensation’ in coming days.
‘It means, the salary of each dead worker has been calculated at Tk 5,000 per month throughout his or her 25 work years lost,’ said a source.
But, the committee took into consideration 2.5 per cent discount on the total amount as proposed by the sub-committee.
In total, the compensation for each dead workers was set at Tk 19.50 lakh that would include salary for 25 years, Tk 25,000 for burial cost and Tk 1,80,000 for welfare allowance, and onetime payment of Tk 5 lakh for ‘pain and suffering cost’ of the victim’s family, the educational expenditure of Tk 1.13 lakh for their children up to higher secondary level.
20:36:36 local time INDIA
* MGNREGA workers to receive compensation for wage delay:
Taking a serious exception to undue delay in payment of wages under MGNREGA scheme, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh issued letters to all chief ministers of the country, including Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren seeking their attention on the matter.
In his letter, Ramesh has also highlighted the latest amendment to para 30, schedule II of the Act that makes payment of compensation to labourers compulsory in case there is a delay in payment of wages.
Further, Ramesh has also stated that the act stipulates payment of wages within 15 days of closure of muster roll. However, there have been delays in payment amounting to Rs.2,700 crore which is around 25% of the net wage payment. “The MIS records and field reports further suggests of the total amount, wages worth around Rs.125 crore have been delayed beyond 90days,” the letter said.
* Spinners seek stable cotton policy:
With the cotton season for the 2013-2014 year starting on Tuesday, the Union Government should come out with a stable policy for cotton so that all the stakeholders in the cotton sector are benefited, South India Spinners’ Association has said.
The demand for such a policy is one of the resolutions passed at the annual meeting of the association here on Sunday. The association has been asking for a stable cotton policy every year.
Cotton prices shoot up every year because the Government permits exports when it should not be permitted. The Government should ensure that the country has a stock of 50 lakh bales of cotton for domestic needs. The Cotton Corporation of India should modify its system for sale of cotton so that the domestic mills are able to procure cotton at reasonable prices. Now, only multinational companies and large-scale traders are able to buy from it, they said.
The Government should give priority to small-scale spinners and allocate 10 per cent of the funds to these units, the association said. The hank yarn obligation for textile mills should be brought down to 10 per cent, they said.
20:06:36 local time PAKISTAN
* Promoting workplace safety:
September 11, 2012, was a fateful day in the lives of 257 families in low-income areas of District West in Karachi. In a well-known garment manufacturing company, employing between 1,200-1,500 people, 289 workers were killed in a fire. Some attributed it to the boiler and others to Karachi’s ruthless extortionists. This tragedy became the worst and most deadly industrial event in the history of Pakistan.
It fully exposed the flaws and inadequacies in the systems of industrial operations, the role of governmental agencies and departments, the exploitation of workers, the callous attitude and mindset of employers, the lack of security provisions, and the disregard of rules and regulations by the workers. However, implementation of occupational safety standards was either lacking or carried out casually.
The blame game reached a crescendo within no time and social activists, media and worker representatives demanded exemplary punishment for the directors. The payola factor enabled the company to keep itself off the records of the provincial Labour Department and other worker-related government organisations. International certification agencies had issued the required certificates without intensive checks.
The foreign buyers were more concerned with getting products at dirt-cheap prices and so turned a blind eye to the shortcomings in the implementation of various standards. Globally, the negative image of Pakistan was spoiled still further. This could spoil the reputation of Pakistan’s value-added textile products in various foreign markets.
The Wal-Mart syndrome is also a root cause in the unsafe environment prevailing in enterprises in the developing countries.
For mega companies like Wal-Mart to continue to offer products at competitive rates, it is imperative that they source countries for a bottomless reserve of cheap and low-priced goods.
This exploitation compels manufacturers to disregard costly safety standards and a working environment that is conducive. The ambition to become a formidable and sustainable supplier becomes an incentive as well as a noose around their necks.
* APTMA to unveil Vision 2020 for $26bn textile exports:
The newly elected Chairman of All Pakistan textile Mills Association (APTMA) Yasin Siddik has announced to unveil Vision APTMA 2020 under which the textile exports would be projected to fetch $26 billion by year 2020 from present level of $13 billion.
Yasin said despite fact that the country’s largest foreign exchange earning sector was facing several hardships, the textile exporters were firm to combat all obstacles in their way.
Though exporters are not getting any relief/concessions from the government, they would continue to their efforts for not only the survival of the export-oriented industry but strive for achieving new goals in the greater interest of the country and its economic sovereignty.
He pointed out besides many acute problems and energy crises, the spinning industry was vying for enhanced production in cotton crop as the crop remained stagnant for the last two to three years at 12 to 13 million bales.
He said for this purpose spinners would alongwith the government would re-visit the Monsanto option as well as the effort to make the Pakistan Cotton Research Institute would be made more effective.
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