20:12:15 local time CHINA
* 13 victims of E China shoe plant fire identified:
Thirteen out of 16 victims in a shoe factory blaze in east China’s Zhejiang Province have been identified through DNA tests by police, local government said Friday.
The dead include nine workers from Guizhou Province, one each from Yunnan Province and Chongqing Municipality and two from Anhui Province. The remaining three who were killed have not been identified.
The fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon at Taizhou Dadong Shoes Co., Ltd. in Wenling City. Sixteen people, including six men and 10 women, were killed, and five others injured. More than 20 people were rescued.
Two owners and one manager of the shoe factory were detained on Wednesday. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
The Wenling government launched a thorough work safety overhaul on Thursday to prevent similar industrial accidents.
* Shanghai FTZ to house high-end apparel distribution centre:
19:12:15 local time VIET NAM
* BIDV lends Vinatex $600m:
The Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV) has signed an agreement to lend the Viet Nam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) US$600 million in the period 2014-16.
The agreement was signed on Wednesday in the central coastal province of Binh Dinh.
Vinatex’s borrowing resources include a short-term loan of $250 million and a medium and long term loan of $350 million.
The loans will be used for improving the efficiency of its production and business operations in order to prepare for Viet Nam’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as for investing in projects of the corporation and its member companies.
* Leather and footwear firms set to increase exports:
The leather and footwear industry exported goods worth US$10.3 billion last year, an increase of 18 per cent over the value of exports in 2012.
Last year’s export value of footwear products was estimated at $8.4 billion, 15 per cent higher than the previous year, while the export value of handbags surged 26 per cent from the previous year to $1.9 billion, according to the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association(Lefaso).
Ngo Dai Quang, director of the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Research Institute, was quoted by the Thoi bao Kinh Doanh (Business Times) newspaper as saying that the exports of Viet Nam’s leather and footwear products to the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) last year are estimated at $3.4 billion for each market.
19:12:15 local time CAMBODIA
* One Garment Strike Ends, Two Begin, Over Missing Pay:
Garment workers at a Kandal province factory ended their most recent strike Thursday after management agreed to pay out part of their wages for the days they were absent during a previous strike, while workers at a Phnom Penh factory went back on strike because their employers would not agree to give them strike pay.
About 3,000 employees of Kandal’s Quint Major Industrial went on strike this week to demand that the owners pay them at least half their wages for the days in December they had joined nationwide strikes demanding a higher minimum wage for the entire garment sector.
They ended their latest strike Thursday after the factory agreed to pay them 30 percent for the days they were on strike, said Seang Rithy, head of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation.
* Retail associations urge talks:
Six major retail, footwear and garment industry associations whose members account for over 90 per cent of garment imports in the US and Canada have called on the Cambodian government, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and unions to resume wage negotiations.
The open letter, dated January 15, is addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, GMAC general secretary Ken Loo and five of the unions at the centre of the ongoing dispute over the minimum monthly garment salary.
“Our industry is committed to ensuring that all the products that they produce, source and sell are manufactured under lawful and humane conditions,” the letter stated. In addition to urging an immediate resumption of talks, the signatories requested for the creation of a regularly-scheduled wage review mechanism, and call on those involved to “end all violence.”
“These actions will not only promote both the short and long-term health and stability of the Cambodian garment and footwear industries, but these actions will also enable the Cambodian garment and footwear industry to maintain the strong relationships it has with our member companies,” the letter goes on to say.
* Cambodia versus ‘cheap China’:
In this week’s interview, Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, weighs in on the minimum wage debate in Cambodia and discusses the impact that China’s increasing costs will have on the manufacturing industry here, as investors look beyond the world’s second-largest economy.
As the title of your book, The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends that Will Disrupt the World, makes clear, China is no longer the highly desired manufacturing location it once was. What happened?
Chinese factory salaries have gone up 15 to 20 per cent annually for the past five years. High salaries, combined with soaring rents and an ageing population, have squeezed margins for manufacturers, forcing them to relocate to lower cost countries like Cambodia, Indonesia or internally within China to provinces such as Sichuan. Nike, for instance, gets 37 per cent of its products from Vietnam versus 35 per cent from China.
What does such a shift mean for the region?
There are great opportunities for Cambodia and ASEAN in general to grab market share in the manufacturing sector, especially in light industry. Many apparel and footwear companies are looking to relocate to ASEAN as long as they can find the proper infrastructure and stable government policies. Thailand is attracting more auto sector investment, Bali and other resort areas will benefit from more outbound Chinese tourism.
* Shooting probe urged:
UN rights envoy Surya Subedi wrapped up his six-day fact-finding mission to Cambodia yesterday by calling for a thorough investigation into security forces’ role in the deadly crackdown on garment workers early this month.
He also offered to act as a mediator between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and said he hoped to see Cambodians heading to the polls after his recommendations were implemented.
“I understand that only alleged protesters and not security forces are being investigated,” he said at an afternoon press conference. “I strongly recommend that an investigation be undertaken on who issued and who carried out the order to shoot; if no such order was given, the individuals who fired their weapons must be brought to justice.”
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* Ceremony Held for Workers Killed at Veng Sreng:
Dissident monks and political activists hosted a ceremony Thursday for the protesting garment workers killed by military police during their repression of stone-throwing demonstrators on Veng Sreng Street two weeks ago.
The hourlong ceremony, held at the home of housing rights activist Tep Vanny in the Boeng Kak community, started at 9:30 a.m. with a procession of about 50 people who presented offerings of small sums of money, water, rice and noodles to some 200 monks at a shrine set up in honor of the five slain protesters, and the more than 40 other workers wounded during the January 3 demonstration.
After a short service by the monks, members of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), people lit incense and toured a memorial inside Ms. Vanny’s house where pictures of four people confirmed killed by local rights group Licadho during the Veng Sreng shootings were displayed.
* Pressure mounts for the release of 23 detainees in deadly clashes:
Some 50 representatives from Boeung Kok, a long-disputed property development site in Phnom Penh, rallied Friday in front of the US Embassy to seek the release of 23 people arrested in violent clashes earlier this month.
“On January 2, workers protested at Yakjin factory to demand wage increase, so the human right defenders went to the site to monitor and coordinate the protest, but later the soldiers led by Chab Pheakdey suppressed the workers and human right defenders, and arrested 23 people,” said a petition presented to William E. Todd, the US Ambassador to Cambodia.
The protesters sought intervention from the US Embassy to ask the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to release and drop charges against the arrestees including Vorn Pov, Theng Savoeun, and Chan Puthisak.
* Lawyers Submit Bail Requests for Imprisoned Protesters:
Ten lawyers representing 22 of the 23 striking workers, union officials and political activists imprisoned at a maximum-security prison in Kompong Cham province since their arrests at two protests in Phnom Penh earlier this month submitted bail requests for their clients Thursday, one of the lawyers said.
The requests for the prisoners, detained in the notorious Correctional Center 3 (CC3), were submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where the 23 have been charged with intentional violence and property destruction, said Ham Surith, a Community Legal Education Center lawyer.
Vorn Pao, a prominent union leader, was not included in the requests as his application for bail was rejected last week.
“We have called on the court to release the 22 people, since they are all both workers and breadwinners. Their families rely on them,” Mr. Surith said. “The 22 people can go live with their families, and if the court wants to call on them to appear at the court, they will show up as requested.”
* UN Envoy Condemns Shooting of Striking Garment Workers:
U.N. human rights envoy Surya Subedi on Thursday condemned the State’s recent use of lethal force against protesters and called for an independent investigation into the incident earlier this month when military police shot dead five striking garment workers and wounded more than 40.
At a press conference at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom Penh to wrap up his 10th mission to Cambodia, Mr. Subedi said he had initially welcomed large-scale demonstrations at the end of 2013 as “a sign of maturing democracy in Cambodia.”
However, he said, the government’s deadly response to garment strikes in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on January 3, during which five people were killed, marked “a worrying change from a tolerant to a repressive response of the government to public protests.”
* UN urges Cambodia’s rival leaders to talk:
A United Nations envoy says country stands at a ‘crossroads’ after a bloody break-up of protests in December.
A UN envoy has urged Cambodia’s political leader to return to the negotiating table, saying the country stand at “a crucial crossroads” following a bloody crackdown by security forces on street protests.
Surya Subedi, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, said on Thursday politicians on both sides of the kingdom’s deep political divide should “embrace change”.
“It is imperative for the leaders to overcome the mistrust and immediately return to the negotiating table without further delay,” he told reporters during a fact-finding visit to the country.
He urged the government to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into the protest crackdown, saying the measures taken did not seem to respect international laws.
* Cambodia’s Human Rights in focus: Full text of UN envoy:
The UN envoy concluded his six-day visit to Cambodia producing a concrete report, which reflects both the positive and negative aspects of human rights situation in the Kingdom.
As for the post-election political impasse, Prof. Surya P. Subedi, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, recommended for political reconciliation between the two main parties, which won the 2013 elections.
Below is the full text of his report.
During the mission, I met with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Ministers Sok An and Hor Namhong, Senior Minister and President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee Om Yengtieng, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng, Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana, Secretary of State of Ministry of Interior Prom Sokha and Governor of Phnom Penh Pa Socheat Vong.
* Government bans march to mark death of union leader:
Phnom Penh Authority didn’t allow Chea Mony, president of Free Trade Union of Workers of Cambodia (FTUWC), to march along the street to mark 10th anniversary of the death of his broter , Chea Vichea.
The authority, however, allowed union leader Chea Mony and his members to rally and place flowers at Chea Vichea’s statute which is located near Wat Langka.
“Authority announced that FTUWC led by Chea Mony can gather on January 22 to commemorate the death of Chea Vichea by placing the flowers at the statute as did every year,” said Man Senghak, FTUWC representative who attended the meeting today with the authority.
* Workers of the World, Faint! :
Just over two years ago, at the Anful Garments Factory in Kompong Speu Province, a young worker named Chanthul and 250 of her colleagues collapsed in a collective spell of fainting. They had to be hospitalized; the production line shut down.
Two days later, the factory was back up, and the mass faintings struck again. A worker started barking commands in a language that sounded like Chinese and, claiming to speak in the name of an ancestral spirit, demanded offerings of raw chicken. None were forthcoming, and more workers fell down. Peace, and production, resumed only after factory owners staged an elaborate ceremony, offering up copious amounts of food, cigarettes and Coca-Cola to the spirit.
This episode, however bizarre, was not singular. In the past few years, Cambodia has experienced a slew of mass faintings among garment workers: One after the other, hundreds of women have fallen to the floor of their factories in a dizzy spell called duol sonlap in the Khmer language.
The swooning has been blamed, variously, on heat, anemia, overwork, underventilation, chemical fumes and food poisoning. But according to one group of medical anthropologists and psychologists who have studied the phenomenon, two-thirds of these episodes are associated with accounts of possession by local guardian spirits, known as neak ta.
* Cambodia, ILO jointly launch job services, labor market information project with Chinese aid:
Cambodia and the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Thursday launched a new project to expand job services and improve labor market information with funding from China, according to an ILO media statement.
The ILO/China South-South Cooperation Project to Expand Employment Services and Enhance Labor Market Information in Cambodia and Laos was the first ILO project supported by China in Cambodia that focuses specifically on improving job services, the statement said.
“The project aims to improve labor market efficiency and participation, reduce unemployment, and enhance the flow of information between job-seekers and employers,” it said.
The 3-year project is expected to improve the quality of job services and make the existing job centers in Phnom Penh Municipality and the provinces of Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampot and Svay Rieng more client-oriented.
“The project will also encourage the development of relevant work programs for specific groups such as women, migrant workers and people with disabilities,” the statement added.
* BetterFactories Media updates 10-17January 2014, Unions warn of more strikes unless wage talks resume:
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
2014-01-10 Despite bail, 15 years old still in jail
2014-01-10 Garment sector economics
2014-01-13 A family’s anguish
2014-01-13 Another dark day in our history
2014-01-13 Labour rallies move overseas
2014-01-14 Confidence needed to keep jobs
2014-01-14 NGOs push for more international pressure
2014-01-14 Textile work returns to Spain
2014-01-15 No union for workers in food biz
2014-01-15 Questioning draws rally
2014-01-15 Staffers walk at tech NGO
2014-01-15 Wages on par with regional standard PM
2014-01-16 Despite illness, no bail for Pov
2014-01-16 Envoy, PM talk deadlock
2014-01-16 Strike action still on table, unions say
2014-01-17 Cambodia versus ‘Cheap China’
2014-01-17 Man healed, held against will
2014-01-17 Manhattan workers on strike again
2014-01-17 Retail associations urge talks
2014-01-17 Shooting probe urged
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2013-01-11-12 Living hand to mouth
2014-01-10 100 factories suing unions behind strike
2014-01-10 Families of killed and missing protesters compile complaints
2014-01-10 Lawyers prevented from seeing protest detainees at CC3
2014-01-10 Over $1,500 raised for paralyzed protester
2014-01-11-12 Committees to research minimum wages study, ‘Study Killings’
2014-01-11-12 Groups demand a mandatory minimum wage threaten protest
2014-01-13 Cambodians and Koreans join protest in Seoul
2014-01-13 CNRP reaffirms commitment to nonviolence
2014-01-13 Factory sets bar for workers’ rights in Dominican Republic
2014-01-13 Relatives call on government to release 23 detainees
2014-01-13 Unions want government, factories to resume wage talks
2014-01-14 Free Trade Union reports overall jump in labour strikes in 2013
2014-01-14 Government urged to ease pressure on unions
2014-01-14 Group defies government ban to demand detainee’s release
2014-01-14 Li and Fung to start factory safety consulting unit
2014-01-14 Opposition CNRP leaders to face court today
2014-01-15 Garment workers go back on strike over unpaid wages
2014-01-15 Hun Sen says he’s here to stay; higher wages must wait
2014-01-15 Supporters rally as court questions CNRP leaders
2014-01-16 Garment workers continue striking over unpaid wages
2014-01-16 Subedi calls for accountability in meeting with Hun Sen
2014-01-16 Unions warn of more strikes unless wage talks resume
2014-01-16 US support to Cambodian military under scrutiny
2014-01-17 Ceremony held for workers killed at Veng Sreng
2014-01-17 Food vendors feel the bite of soaring inflation
2014-01-17 Lawyers submit bail requests for imprisoned protesters
2014-01-17 UN envoy condemns shooting of striking garment workers
2014-01-17 US passes bill to suspend some aid to Cambodia
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
18:42:15 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Myanmar to announce minimum wage by end of year:
Myanmar’s labour minister said the government would announce an official minimum wage for workers before the end of this year.
Minister of Labour Aye Myint, made the announcement at the first meeting of the national committee working for the minimum wage held on January 16.
“There are several conditions to consider in detail and may also be obstacles in the process. There may be differences depending on regions, job types and living costs. The official minimum wage should be the kind of win-win situation for both workers and employers,” said the minister.
18:12:15 local time BANGLADESH
* Worker efficiency rises in BBW garment factories: Report:
* Accord announces safety standards for RMG units:
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh apparel sector has unveiled the standards to be followed while ensuring safety-related compliances for the factories, paving the way for launching its inspection programme this month, sources said.
The Accord — a coalition of more than 120 global apparel companies, retailers and brands — will inspect all garment factories engaged in production for the signatory brands with focus on the key areas of concern like fire, electrical and building safety in the garment industry, they mentioned.
The platform that earlier aimed at completing the inspection of about 1500 factories by September 2014, published its fire, electrical and building inspection standards on January 14 after completion of its trial assessment of the ready-made garment (RMG) factories located in Dhaka and the surrounding areas.
“The Accord technical team is hopeful of starting its garment factory inspection from this month,” Roy Ramesh Chandra, secretary general of IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, told the FE Thursday.
* US, European groups to start factory checks in two months:
Full-fledged inspection of garment factories by the European and American alliances, held-up until now due to political upheaval, will take off in two months, said the stakeholders.
“There were disruptions due to the shutdowns and blockades. But we are now in the final stages of appointing four teams to conduct the inspections,” Rob Wayss, executive director of Bangladesh operations of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a coalition of over 80 mainly European retailers.
The inspections, of more than 1,500 factories, will start early next month, he added.
Meanwhile, an official of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a coalition of 22 major North American retailers, said their inspections of around 700 factories will start in the first week of March.
The alliance, too, is wrapping up its appointment of 15 teams to conduct the inspections, he added.
However, inspection by BUET teams under government tutelage is underway, with 150 factories examined since November 22 last year.
* Japan emerges as strong destination for garment exports:
The country’s garment exports to Japan are on the rise on the back of favourable trade policy and higher demand, industry insiders said.
In fiscal 2012-13, garment exports to Japan stood at $478.48 million, up 18.53 percent year-on-year, according to data from Export Promotion Bureau. The figures were $247.51 million and $173.32 million in fiscal 2010-11 and 2009-10 respectively.
The reason for the steady increase in garment exports to the East Asian island nation is its ‘China+1 strategy’, announced by the Japanese government in 2008 to reduce dependency on China, the largest garment supplier worldwide. The policy promotes shifting of production from China to other nations such as Bangladesh.
“Japan is a very promising market, and it is to do with the prevalence of fast fashion there. The demand for denims is very high,” said Sharif Uddin, senior merchandiser of Pacific Jeans, which has been doing business with Japanese buyers for a “long time now”.
He said the garment makers are desperately looking for merchandisers with proficiency in the Japanese dialect in a bid to get a foot in the door of a market worth more than $35 billion a year.
* RMG export to Turkey rises 107%:
As a non-traditional export market Turkey emerged as an export destination for the country
Bangladesh’s readymade garment exports to Turkey have seen a robust growth of nearly 107% to US $335m in the first half of the current fiscal, as seen such penetration in other non-traditional markets.
During the same period of July-December, 2012, Bangladesh had exported apparel products worth $162mto Turkey, according to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).
The EPB data shows that knitwear garment products exported to Turkey is worth $96m, while woven garments earned $239m in the first half of the current fiscal year (2013-14).
In the fiscal 2012-13, garment exports to Turkey amounted to $415.31m, which was 17% up compared to the amount of $356m in 2011-12 fiscal.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Yusuf put his own life in peril to rescue others:
Forty-year-old Yusuf pulled 10 workers out of the Rana Plaza rubble before he himself fell victim to secondary roof collapse
On a hospital bed of the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP) Yusuf, who volunteered to rescue victims of Rana Plaza, is still suffering from spinal cord injury.
Forty-year-old Yusuf pulled 10 workers out of the Rana Plaza rubble before he himself fell victim to secondary roof collapse.
While sharing his story, Yusuf, who has been in the hospital for around eight months after the tragic building collapse on April 24 last year, hoped he would recover soon and get back to his normal life.
Coming from Doulatdia under Rajbari Yusuf used to do farming and small businesses before he was injured. The day before the building caved in Yusuf went to visit his nephew Uzzal who worked at Rana Plaza.
17:42:15 local time INDIA
* State’s textile policy attracts yarn makers from south:
Gujarat government receives proposals for over five million spindles
Thanks to frequent power cuts eating into their businesses, the Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh based yarn makers have found a helping hand in Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) which is assisting them to build shift to the power abundant state of Gujarat.
The industry body is helping the South India based yarn makers to scout affordable land to build a yarn cluster in Gujarat.
So attractive has been the seven per cent interest subsidy and subsidised power tariff under the Gujarat textile policy that several yarn makers from south have submitted proposals to the state government for setting up a spinning unit in Gujarat.
17:12:15 local time PAKISTAN
* Look to Eastern Europe, textile sector advised:
Textile Industry Division Federal Secretary Rukhsana Shah has urged value-added textiles sector to prepare itself for the Eastern European markets because of their strong growth potential to reap the benefits of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) Plus scheme.
“Pakistan has received such tax incentives after a period of 10 years, providing the country enough time to prepare short and long-term strategies,” she said, adding that this would help to increase the country’s textile exports to the European Union.
Speaking to representatives of different associations, she said that considering the immense export potential under the GSP Plus scheme, businessmen should market their products.
“The GSP Plus has also given an opportunity to invest in skill development as the investors know about definite returns on such investments,” Shah said, adding that Minister of State for Commerce and Textile Industry Khurram Dastagir will also visit eastern Europe in March to show the willingness of Pakistan for increasing its exports to EU.
* Aptma slams eight hours’ power loadshedding:
Chairman Aptma Punjab S M Tanveer has lamented over 8 hours a day electricity loadshedding for textile industry on independent and grouped feeders and termed it fatal for market access opportunity from the EU.
According to him, situation for Punjab-based textile mills depending on electricity supply from Pepco network are facing terrible state of affairs due to unbearable loadshedding schedule.
He said this situation would take the textile industry in Punjab at the verge of closure and the preparations for market access opportunity from the EU would be compromised. The Aptma Punjab chief said the Punjab-based textile mills were left with no option but to close down one complete shift a day. It was causing high unrest among textile workers with every passing day, he added. S M Tanveer has urged the government to direct the Discos for uninterrupted electricity supply to avoid production hours loss any further.
* Export industry for special status:
The government was urged on Thursday to bring in necessary reforms and give special status to export-oriented industry, if it wants to make the most of the duty-free access to European markets under Generalised System of Preference (GSP) Plus scheme.
In a meeting with Federal Secretary for Ministry of Textile Industry Ms Rukhsana Shah at the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exports Association (PHMA) House, the industry leaders said that the deficiencies and bottlenecks in the system and legislation needed for labour laws by provincial assemblies could become a stumbling block in achieving desired goal.
* LHC dismisses petitions against land acquisition for Garment City:
The Lahore High Court on Thursday dismissed petitions against acquisition of land by the Punjab government to establish Garment City in Sheikhupura.
The court gad reserved the verdict last week after hearing arguments of the petitioners’ counsel and the government. In this case the court had also stayed the process of land acquisition.
Anjuman-e-Mutasareen Garments City Sheikhupura and others had filed the petitions, stating that the government was acquiring 1,475 acres of land for the project without protecting the rights of the petitioners.
* Ethical fashion brands target mass market:
Consumer concerns about poor working conditions in Asian factories and toxic chemicals used in fabric production are driving interest in ethical fashion, helping it start to appeal to a broader market.
The collapse of an eight-storey garment factory in Bangladesh last April that killed more than 1,100 people drew global attention to the perilous conditions endured by many workers in Asia’s garment industry, which supplies big Western retailers.
Since then, labour unrest over working conditions has plagued the sector in Bangladesh and Cambodia.
The fashion industry has also been the target of vocal campaigns from environmental groups like Greenpeace. They have piled pressure on global brands to stop using chemicals, which they say can pollute rivers near factories and threaten the health of workers and consumers.
Awareness of these issues has helped ethical fashion start to shake off its reputation as a niche sector, said Olaf Schmidt, organiser of the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin.
The growing consumer interest is underlined by the number of brands showcasing their wares at the trade fair this year — 116, up from 36 when the show launched two years ago and 85 last year, he said.
* Southeast Asia’s wage hikes:
Steep wage increases in Southeast Asian countries have put an increasingly unbearable burden on Korean manufacturers operating in the region to maintain price competitiveness. More than 8,200 Korean companies have run production facilities in a number of Southeast Asian nations to take advantage of their low labour costs.
According to industry sources here, the monthly minimum wage for Cambodian workers has more than doubled over the past months, with pay increases reaching 14.9 per cent and 22 per cent for labourers in major Vietnamese and Indonesian cities, respectively.
The labour costs faced by Korean companies in the region, which usually give employees at least twice the minimum wage in actual pay, are expected to grow further as calls for wage hikes are intensifying in most Southeast Asian countries.
A recent survey by a Japanese trade organisation showed that Japanese companies expect wages to rise this year by double digits in Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, and by about 7 per cent in Cambodia and Laos. Korean enterprises may have to brace for similar increases.
Though to different extents, Southeast Asian countries have been losing their advantages as production bases outside of China. In Malaysia and Thailand, Korean companies are expected to spend between US$7,000 and $7,800 per worker in average annual pay, near the current level of $8,000 in China.
* Asia accidents help drive up factory audits:
Deadly factory incidents in Asia are forcing more Western brands to rethink their search for low production prices.
According to new research, factory audits in Asia rose 61 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, a sign that more brands are investing in monitoring their supply chain, according to Sebastien Breteau, chief executive of AsiaInspection, a Hong Kong-based firm that provides auditing and product-testing services.
The research comes two months after fast-fashion brand Hennes & Mauritz AB introduced a plan to ensure that workers making its clothing in Bangladesh and Cambodia are paid wages that cover their cost of living.
Li & Fung, the buying agent for major Western brands including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., also recently said it is seeing less of a push from retailers to lower their costs.
“On the global sourcing front, we have witnessed the price deflation trend becoming more subdued this year,” Li & Fung said in its 2013 interim report. “With the tragedies in Bangladesh, the apparel industry placed a stronger focus on workers’ safety, vendor compliance, quality control and sustainability among industry players.”
Low production costs have long been the key goal for major brands, which say they want to pass savings onto consumers.
Rising wages in China and elsewhere in Asia sent companies from leather-goods maker Coach Inc. to clog-maker Crocs Inc. and Japan’s casual-clothing chain Uniqlo, operated by Fast Retailing Co., hopscotching to other countries to diversify their manufacturing bases and cut costs.
Yet now, more retailers are paying attention to how their drive for lower costs could impact worker safety after some high-profile factory disasters.
20:12:15 local time CHINA
* NGO claims toxic chemicals in kids clothes, textile industry rep queries report:
Hazardous chemicals have been found in children’s clothes and shoes made by major brands, and about one third of them are produced in China, according to a report released by Greenpeace East Asia on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the Chinese textile industry questioned the report, as the sample was too small.
Greenpeace tested 82 items sold by 12 leading clothing brands including Burberry, adidas and Disney. The result shows that all the items contain hazardous chemicals, especially some potentially hormone disrupting chemicals, which suggests “a serious problem throughout the industry,” said the report.
These items were bought by Greenpeace in May and June in 2013 in flagship stores or authorized retailers in 25 countries and regions. They were manufactured in at least 12 different countries and regions, a third of them in China, according to the report.
19:12:15 local time VIET NAM
* Leather, Footwear, Handbag Industry Generates US$10.3 Billion in 2013:
Exports of leather, footwear and handbags hit US$10.32 billion in 2013, according to the Vietnam Leather, Footwear, and Handbag Association. This is an increase of 18 percent since 2012, exceeding the total target by 3 percent.
Suitcase and handbag exports reached $1.92 billion, an increase of 26 percent. Footwear exports hit $8.4 billion, an increase of 15 percent.
These products account for 11 percent of industrial-product exports and 7.7 percent of the country’s total exports.
19:12:15 local time CAMBODIA
* Manhattan workers on strike again:
More than 1,000 workers at the Manhattan (Cambodia) Co Ltd garment factory in Kampong Cham province are striking in the wake of factory management’s reaction to their last strike action.
Employees walked off the job nearly two weeks ago, after the suspension of seven Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) representatives who allegedly led workers to participate in a previous nationwide garment strike.
“Some workers who joined the mass demonstration … returned to work,” said Kim Oun, one of the suspended employees. “But most of the workers refused, because their seven union representatives were suspended from work and sued in court.”
Workers are demanding the factory drop court complaints filed against four of the reps, and not punish returning employees, Oun said.
An unnamed provincial Labour Department official said the department would meet with the union to find a solution today.
* Strike action still on table, unions say:
Leaders of unions that declared a nationwide garment worker strike said the work stoppage and protests, which they temporarily suspended, will resume unless government officials renegotiate the industry’s minimum wage.
The announcement was their first since authorities cracked down on strike demonstrations on January 2 and opened fire on protesters near Canadia Industrial Park the following day, killing at least four.
Speaking at a forum, union heads appealed to the government to release 23 people arrested during demonstrations and to hold authorities accountable for the deadly shooting, in addition to entering into minimum wage negotiations with unions.
“We won’t suspend [the strike] too long; if there is no solution, we will re-declare a grand strike,” Rong Chhun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Unions, said at the forum. “We will prepare for [more] gatherings.”
The minimum wage for employees at garment and shoe factories now stands at $80 per month, which includes a $5 health bonus. The Ministry of Labour last month announced the minimum wage would climb to $95 in 2014, but later amended the decision, setting this year’s industry floor wage at $100.
* Labor unions ask to resume talk, set up scientific wage system:
The labor unions asked to set up a scientific wage system to solve the wage crisis while they continue to demand a monthly wage of USD160, which can allow the workers to live a decent life.
They made such an appeal during a press conference on Wednesday. During the conference, they also urged to restart the negotiation on the minimum wage, warning that they just suspend the strike and if necessary, they will go on strike again in case there is no solution to their demand.
“To set up this system, we request the ILO’s technical assistance, which is more neutral, reliable and acceptable to all parties concerned,” said the joint statement released Wednesday by the main labor unions.
The unions would like to stress that the monthly minimum wage of $100 cannot ensure a decent living wage. Based on a research conducted by the tripartite committee with the agreement of all parties, it was found that workers spend from $157 to $177 per month, and the Ministry of Planning’s report also found a living cost of $164 per month per person.
Representatives from international unions, national and international organisations, buyers and other stakeholders have recently confirmed that workers live in an extremely difficult condition. The government and employers are, therefore, required to provide a fair minimum wage for workers and to unconditionally set free all the detained workers and human rights activists involved in the recent wage protest.
* Unions Warn of More Strikes Unless Wage Talks Resume:
The trade unions behind recently suspended nationwide strikes defended their ongoing demand for a $160 monthly minimum wage for the country’s 600,000 garment workers on Wednesday, and vowed to resume the strikes if the government and factories did not agree to negotiations soon.
“We just suspend it [the strikes] for a time,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions. “If there is no…appropriate solution for the workers, there will be a declaration for [another] mass strike, a peaceful mass strike.”
The strikes had forced many of the country’s 500-plus garment factories to shut down or scale back production for several days and came to a violent end on January 3 when military police shot into crowds of protesters outside a Phnom Penh factory, killing five and wounding dozens.
Eight unions Wednesday put out a statement calling for wage negotiations to resume and defended their pay demand at a press conference in Phnom Penh amid the government’s refusal to push the minimum wage—now set at $80 a month—past $100.
* Garment Workers Continue Striking Over Unpaid Wages:
Workers at two factories continued striking Wednesday to demand that their employers pay them half their wages for the days they spent on strike during mass garment sector demonstrations earlier this month.
About 3,000 workers from Quint Major Industrial garment factory in Kandal province stayed away from work and instead held a protest march down National Road 4 to demand that they receive at least half pay for the days they spent striking.
The workers had marched about half a kilometer from the factory toward the local district office before management told them they were willing to negotiate, said Seang Rithy, head of the Cambodian Labor Solidarity Union Federation.
“Our workers demand 50 percent for the days on strike, but the company has not yet responded to our request and they will give an answer [today],” he said. “All the workers pledge not to return if the company does not pay them 50 percent for the days on strike.”
* Despite illness, no bail for labour activist:
Labour activist Vorn Pov, who is facing serious health issues while being held in pre-trial detention in Kampong Cham’s Correctional Centre 3 prison, has been denied bail by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
His NGO-provided lawyer, San Sokunthear, immediately filed an appeal against the bail denial yesterday, saying that her client’s health is deteriorating.
“He was already sick, but since he was beaten, his illness has become more serious.”
Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), was arrested along with 22 factory workers and activists during a two-day police crackdown on protesting garment workers earlier this month.
The other 22 detainees will apply for bail today, according to lawyers.
* Dead mourned: Community, monks hold ceremony:
Monks, Boeung Kak villagers, union representatives and the families of victims shot dead during clashes between striking garment workers and military police on January 3 yesterday held a ritual for those killed.
Som Thai, 50, the mother of 26-year-old victim Sam Ravy said she was furious that authorities had taken no responsibility for shooting her son, a Chinese translator at the Yuming Da garment factory.
Khat Somneang, the wife of victim Kem Phalleap, 26, said she had warned her husband not to protest due to the possibility of violence.
“A day before the incident, my husband called and told me that workers in his factory were protesting for $160 per month and he had also joined them since it was for the benefit of all workers. I [said] not to stand out too much.… He told me that police might not use their weapons again. But in the end, they shot him dead, leaving me and our child,” she said.
* Despite Violence, Cambodian Workers Vow To Continue Their Fight:
Though Cambodia’s days of colonialization, war and genocide may be over, the country is still wrestling with political turmoil.
At the start of the new year, when workers massed in Phnom Penh to demand a fair minimum wage, the government responded with a spray of bullets.
A major garment worker strike in December capped a recent groundswell of protest in the country’s capital. After deeming insufficient the government’s proposed hike of the minimum wage to $95, labor leaders aligned with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to shutter factories and bring large crowds into the streets, concluding a year of labor agitation that saw more than 130 strikes.
Newly reelected Prime Minister Hun Sen—a former Khmer Rouge official whose legitimacy has been questioned amid accusations of rigging last summer’s election—took the protests as an opportunity to suppress both the pro-democracy and labor movements with one fierce blow. On January 3, police responded to protesters’ bottles and petrol bombs with live ammunition, killing five and injuring dozens. More than twenty were detained, and some are reportedly still being held incommunicado.
* Matching Job Seekers with Jobs in Cambodia:
A new project to expand job services and improve labour market information was launched in Cambodia today. The project is executed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) with funding from the People’s Republic of China.
The ILO/China South-South Cooperation Project to Expand Employment Services and Enhance Labour Market Information in Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) is the first ILO project supported by the People’ Republic of China in Cambodia that focuses specifically on improving job services. The project aims to improve labour market efficiency and participation, reduce unemployment, and enhance the flow of information between job-seekers and employers.
In Cambodia the three year project will enhance the quality of job services and make the existing job centres (in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampot and Svay Rieng) more client-oriented.
It will improve job matching and placement through better collection, analysis and
dissemination of labour market data, and encourage the development of relevant work programmes for specific groups such as women, migrant workers and people with disabilities. Similar initiatives are planned in Lao PDR as well.
read more & download here: 20140116 BF MATCHING JOB SEEKERS WITH JOBS IN CAMBODIA
* Slow year for Japanese investment:
The Japanese embassy is reporting a $280 million drop in Japanese investment last year, but officials were quick to say that the numbers don’t necessarily reflect slumping investor confidence in Cambodia.
Japanese investment in the Kingdom reached about $47.5 million in 2013, compared to $328 million in 2012, according to Takayoshi Kuromiya, counselor at the embassy of Japan in Phnom Penh.
Kuromiya said yesterday that the drop was natural after the “exceptionally large” investment amount seen in 2012, which included Phnom Penh’s soon-to-be-completed Aeon Mall on Sothearos Boulevard. Due to open in June, Aeon is valued at $205 million.
Last year, major investments by Japanese companies came in the form of factories that produce eye drops, watch parts and garments, he added.
He said that Cambodia’s competitive labour costs had helped to maintain Japanese interests, while labour in “traditional investment destinations” such as China and Thailand had rapidly increased.
20:12:15 local time MALAYSIA
* Govt to take action on employers not paying minimum wage:
Employers in Peninsula Malaysia who have not started paying the minimum wage will be taken to court and may face punishments of RM10,000 fine for each underpaid worker and RM20,000 or five year’s imprisonment if found guilty, effective immediately.
Human Resources Deputy Minister Datuk Ismail Abd Muttalib said the minimum wage policy had been in effect since Jan 1 and the Ministry has since been monitoring employers to ensure workers are being paid accordingly.
* Guan Eng: Cabinet committee meaningless without floor wage hike:
Putrajaya’s special cabinet committee to tackle cost of living issues would be “meaningless” unless minimum wages are raised to RM1,100 a month from RM900, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng said today.
“It will be a mere talk shop full of meaningless flowery words without real actions to lessen the people’s financial burden,” the opposition party secretary-general said in his Thaipusam message today, of the Cabinet committee.
He said the recent price increases for sugar, petrol, electricity along with widely expected toll hikes highlight the sad fact that wages aren’t keeping up with inflation.
18:12:15 local time BANGLADESH
* RMG workers want minimum wage, protest owners’ ‘unethical’ acts:
The government fixed the minimum wage at Tk5,300, but the workers claimed that the factory owners have been paying them Tk4,200
Workers of a readymade garment (RMG) factory on Tuesday staged daylong demonstrations in the capital’s Manda area under Mughda police station, demanding immediate implementation of the minimum wage scale fixed by the government.
During the demonstrations, the workers of Ethical Garments Factory protested against “unethical” practices of the factory owners, saying they have been deprived of their rightful payment.
According to witnesses and police, some 2,000 workers of the factory took to the streets in front of the factory around 7:30am instead of joining work.
They paraded along the area, chanting slogans against the factory authority for dilly-dallying in implementing the minimum wage scale.
* Board seeks list of RMG workers not included in new wage structure:
The meeting was convened following an allegation that some positions in RMG units are not yet incorporated in the new wage structure
The wage board formed for the readymade garment workers has finally asked the RMG workers’ leaders and the factory owners to provide it a complete list of the RMG workers who are not yet included in the new wage structure.
‘’As soon as we will get such a list, we will sit again with the responsible stakeholders to find a way to resolve the crisis,’’ Md. A.K Fazlul Haque, president of the wage board, told reporters yesterday, emerging from a meeting held at his office at Tokhana Road in Dhaka.
The meeting was convened following an allegation that some positions in RMG units are not yet incorporated in the new wage structure and that’s why they are being deprived of getting the new wages as per the wage board.
* RMG wage board asks for list of missing posts:
The wage board for the readymade garments industry Wednesday asked for a list of the missing posts from both labour leaders and apparel makers representatives to incorporate them in the new wage structure.
“After getting the lists of the workers’ posts from both the groups, we will discuss the same in the next meeting and take necessary measures to incorporate them accordingly,” Minimum Wage Board acting Chairman AK Fazlul Haque said after the meeting held in the city on the day. “Which posts would be incorporated in which grades would be decided after discussions,” he added.
The Wage Board members sat Wednesday again, one and half months after the gazette notification of the wage hike for the readymade garment workers.
The move to incorporate the missing posts came following allegations from the labour leaders that many posts especially of printing, embroidery, washing and other related industries of the garment sector were not included in the new wage structure while apparel makers also sought clarifications from the labour ministry regarding this.
“A large number of posts of garment workers, especially in printing, embroidery and washing units in the grades three to six were not included in the new wage structure though we repeatedly pressed for it in the previous Wage Board’s meetings,” Sirajul Islam Rony, representative of the RMG workers on the board, said.
read more. & read more.
* Implementation of new wage for RMG workers demanded:
Leaders of different garment workers rights bodies on Wednesday demanded implementation of new wage structure in all garment factories.
Bahrena Sultan Bahar at a press conference at Sanjkta Sramik Federation office in the capital alleged that many of the garment factories did not implement the announced wage scheduled to be effective from December 1, 2013.
He called on the government to take steps for implementing the new wage structure in all garment factories.
Some of the factories did not implement the new wage and some made irregularities in fixing the grade of the workers in implementing the wage, Bahar alleged.
* Cotton factory, 25 shops gutted in fire incidents:
A cotton factory, 25 shops and control room of a telephone tower have been damaged in separate incidents of fire in Patuakhali, Feni, Rangpur and Chandpur districts.
A cotton factory near the boundary wall of Patuakhali police station was gutted in a fire on Tuesday.
Fire service sources said, the fire originated from an electrical short circuit and easy bike garage and also destroyed an easy bike garage and a computer shop.
The fire damaged property worth Tk 10 lakh, claimed the affected owners.
* Bangladesh Accord announces establishment of factory safety inspection standards:
The technical team of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, signed between IndustriALL, UNI Global Union and more than 120 global garment companies, has finalized the standards to be used for factory inspections.
The standards cover fire, electrical, and building safety and all factories producing for Accord signatory brands will be inspected for compliance against them.
The standards are largely based on the Bangladesh National Building Code and are the product of discussions facilitated by the ILO between the Accord, the National Tripartite Plan of Action, and the Alliance of North American companies which did not join the Accord. Additional discussions took place between Accord and Alliance engineers resulting in a standard which is substantively the same.
The Accord is committed to inspect 1500 factories by September 2014 for fire, electrical, and building safety. Results of the inspections and information on necessary remediation will be published on the Accord website.
to read. & read more.
* EU decision may trigger GSP withdrawal:
A European Commission decision that Bangladesh was in ‘serious and systematic violation’ of human rights principles would be the trigger for a procedure that could result in the withdrawal of tax-free export privileges from the country’s apparel sector.
The European Union’s trade spokesperson, however, told New Age that even if the procedure was initiated, it would take at least a year before any suspension would come into effect.
Amongst the principles that the EU would consider in making any decision about the country’s current human rights situation is the ‘right to vote… at genuine periodic elections’ set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a UN convention listed in the EU law regulating the tax-free privileges.
On January 9, four days after the country’s elections, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative, issued a statement which said that lack of conditions for ‘transparent, inclusive and credible elections’ meant ‘that the people of Bangladesh were not given an opportunity to express fully their democratic choice.’
She called on the government to hold new polls.
* India denim makers face heat over Bangladesh strife:
Tt’s a double whammy for denim fabric manufacturers in India. At home, they have landed in a payment crisis whereas political tension in Bangladesh has affected exports of denim fabric to the nation.
India has a capacity to produce 1 billion metres of denim fabric per annum, The Economic Times reports from Kolkata.
Talking to the ET, Sharad Jaipuria, president of the Denim Manufacturers Association, said: ‘Nearly 75 per cent of the denim fabrics produced in India is used domestically while the rest is exported.
The denim manufacturers have landed in a problem as payments have slowed down due to economic downturn. Moreover, denim manufacturers have scaled up the installed capacity to 1 billion metres whereas the utilised capacity is 700 million metres, which has created a glut in the market.’
17:57:15 local time NEPAL
* Export of few handicraft products surges:
Exports of hand-knotted woollen carpets, readymade garments, pashmina, silverware and jewellery to countries other than India surged by up to 43.5 per cent in the first five months of the current fiscal year due to a hike in prices of some of these products and depreciation in the value of the Nepali rupee.
Third-country exports of hand-knotted woollen carpets, for instance, went up by 19.3 per cent to Rs 3.12 billion in the five-month period to mid-December. In the same period a year ago, exports of woollen carpets had dipped by 10.1 per cent to Rs 2.61 billion.
17:42:15 local time INDIA
* Job working powerloom units seek higher wages:
Job working powerloom units in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts have appealed to the master weavers to increase the wages by 80%.
Almost 2.5 lakh powerlooms in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts do job work for the master weavers and get wages for the work depending on the quality of the fabric produced. These units give direct employment to two lakh workers and the average daily production in a loom is 50 metres of fabric (two shifts).
The last wage agreement was signed in 2011 and the job working units received about 40 per cent increase in wages. Power costs have increased almost 100 per cent during the last two years, says P. Kumarasamy, secretary of Coimbatore District Job Working Powerloom Unit Owners’ Association.
Units that were paying Rs. 10,000 as bimonthly power charges are now paying Rs. 17,000. Almost 15 per cent of the wages that the job working units receive go towards power charges. Raw material prices have also shot up. Hence, the job working units have sought 80 per cent increase in wages this year.
17:12:15 local time PAKISTAN
* GSP plus status has helped cut cotton prices: National Assembly panel informed:
The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) was informed on Wednesday that after award of GSP Plus status to Pakistan cotton rates have become comparatively less as compared to other countries.
The committee was further informed that anti-dumping duty and other taxes may be reduced to achieve the maximum benefit from GSP. The Cotton support price cannot be announced, but calculated every year. Cultivation area of cotton is insufficient which may be enhanced to produce the cotton in sufficient quantity to fulfil the requirements of local and international markets.