18:39:40 local time CHINA
* China shoe plant fire victims identified:
All 16 who died in blaze in a shoe factory in east China’s Zhejiang Province have been identified through their DNA, local authorities said on Saturday.
The dead include 11 from Guizhou Province, two from Anhui and one each from Jiangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing Municipality, according to the publicity department of Wenling City.
The fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon at Taizhou Dadong Shoes Co., Ltd. in Yangjiawei Village in Wenling, leaving 16 people dead, six men and 10 women, and five others injured. More than 20 people were rescued.
Two of the plant’s owners and one manager were detained on Wednesday. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
The Wenling government launched a thorough work safety overhaul in the aftermath. As of Saturday, a total of 2,458 companies in the city have been suspended and ten people were detained for violation of fire-control regulations.
* Shenzhen raises minimum wage by 13%:
Southeastern Chinese manufacuring hub of Shenzhen is to raise its minimum pay by 13 percent next month in a bid to attract workers and help them offset the rises in living costs.
As of Feb. 1, the minimum monthly wage for full-time workers in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, will be raised to 1,808 yuan (299 U.S. dollars) from current level of 1,600 yuan, according to a statement from the city’s government.
The new level is the highest nationwide.
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* US, Japan lead in China’s textile exports: CCCT:
17:39:40 local time VIET NAM
* Garment accessories exported for first time:
The garments sector began exporting accessories for the first time in 2013, a milestone in industry development after decades of purchasing input material from overseas.
- Garment sector aims for 12% export growth in 2014
- Garment and textile exports to reach US$19 billion
- Garment sector lacking in material input
Vietnam’s garments and accessories exports raked in US$20 billion last year, beating set targets by US$1 billion and maintaining an annual growth rate of 18%.
The Vietnam Garment and Textile Group (Vinatex) noted accessories exports contributed US$700 million to the total.
17:39:40 local time CAMBODIA
* Brands call for trade union law:
International clothing brands and union groups presented a united front on Friday, sending a letter signed by 30 groups to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office.
The letter asks the Cambodian government to address the issues surrounding the rights of 23 people detained since deadly garment worker demonstrations on January 2 and 3 and the violation of citizens’ freedom of association. It also asks the government to introduce a trade union law consistent with International Labour Organization standards, begin a new minimum wage-setting process for the garment industry and meet with signatories of the letter on February 3.
“They deserve praise,” Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua said yesterday. “This is the strongest the brands and the global unions have come together.”
Signatories to the letter include Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Bonmarche, C&A Europe, Debenhams, Esprit, Fifth and Pacific Companies, Gap, H&M, Inditex, IndustriALL Global Union, the International Trade Union Confederation, Levi Strauss & Co, Lululemon Athletica, Migros, N Brown Group, New Balance, New Look, Nike, Orsay, Primark, Puma, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, The Jones Group, The Walt Disney Company, Under Armour, UNI Global Union and Walmart.
The letter also states the signatory groups’ strong support of the United Nations’ request for Cambodia to launch a “prompt and thorough” investigation into crackdowns on demonstrations on January 2 and 3 that left at least four dead, dozens injured and 23 detained.
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* Global unions and 30 major brands call on Cambodian government to investigate deadly violence:
IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union, and the ITUC have joined forces with 30 global brands to urge the Cambodian government to investigate the recent use of deadly force against striking garment workers.
IndustriALL and UNI, whose joint efforts resulted in the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, say they are encouraged that brands are taking responsibility for their production and are demanding a change from the Cambodian government.
The letter, dated Friday, urged the government to launch a new process to set minimum wages and to respect the rights of workers and trade unions. The brands also asked for a meeting with Mr. Hun Sen himself.
The group expressed its concern at the killing and wounding of workers and bystanders by security forces on 2 and 3 January, when peaceful demonstrations were taking place over an increase in the minimum wage.
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* Union leader released:
Phnom Penh Municipal Police this morning released a union leader they scooped off the street yesterday evening for allegedly leading a protest despite a ban on public demonstrations.
Sok Chhun Oeung, acting president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), left the police station at about 10am, after signing a contract promising he would not incite or participate in demonstrations and report to police any illegal activity of which he becomes aware, Oeung told the Post this morning.
“The authorities who arrested me violated the constitutional law of Cambodia,” Oeung said in a phone interview. “This action is a violation of human rights, as well.”
Oeung’s arrest at about 5:30pm yesterday occurred as IDEA members attempted to hold a vigil for 23 people – including IDEA’s president, Vorn Pov – who were arrested in demonstrations supporting a garment worker strike on January 2 and 3. Oeung, IDEA’s vice president, has served as acting president since Pov’s arrest.
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* Union Leader Grabbed Off Street After Peaceful Protest:
Riot police and security guards arrested a union leader for organizing a small rally on Phnom Penh’s busy riverside Sunday afternoon to demand the release of a fellow union leader beaten and arrested by police at a protest earlier this month.
The arrest of Sok Chhun Oeung, vice president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), brings to 24 the number of protesters detained by authorities in Phnom Penh since IDEA president Vorn Pao and nine others were beaten and arrested on January 2 by paratroopers. Another 13 people were arrested the next day, when police also shot dead five garment workers protesting for higher wages.
* Rally for 23 sees arrest tally grow:
Riot police arrested an NGO leader near the Royal Palace on Phnom Penh’s Riverside yesterday in an apparent bid to enforce an ongoing ban on public gatherings.
As security guards pushed and scuffled with bystanders and members of several NGOs during an attempt to hold a vigil for 23 people in custody after being arrested at protests supporting a garment worker strike on January 2 and 3, two pick-up trucks full of riot police stopped at about 5:30pm.
Police in the back hopped out of one of the trucks and shoved their way towards Sok Chhun Oeung, who has served as acting president of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) since the NGO’s president, Vorn Pov, was arrested during a demonstration at the Yakjin garment factory on January 2.
“I think their primary reason [for the arrest] is complete intolerance of gatherings,” Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said. “[Demonstrators] did nothing except sing and ask for the release of the 23 people.”
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* Unionists to march for Vichea:
Unionists will march through the streets of Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to mark the 10th anniversary of Free Trade Union president Chea Vichea’s assassination, his successor said yesterday.
The march, which will be held in defiance of a recently imposed ban on public gatherings, will begin at FTU’s offices on Street 360, travel along Street 51 and end at the statue of Vichea on Sihanouk Boulevard.
Chea Mony, FTU president and Vichea’s brother, said City Hall had told the union it would not be allowed to march.
* Trade hurt by political and labour turbulence:
Cambodian trade reached a total of $15.9 billion in 2013, equaling an 18 per cent rise from 2012, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Exports were valued at $6.9 billion, up from $5.5 billion a year earlier, with garment and textiles accounting for more than 80 per cent of the whole. The US remained Cambodia’s biggest single customer, claiming about 37 per cent of the yearly total.
Meanwhile, Cambodian spending on imports such as petrol, vehicles and construction materials topped exports, increasing from $7.9 billion in 2012 to $9 billion in 2013.
Mey Kalyan, senior adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council, commended Cambodian industries for well-deserved results, but said progress was hampered by political turbulence and later by garment sector industrial action. After July, the opposition party demonstrated on and off for months to protest the results, until crackdowns earlier this month led to a banning of protests.
* What’s the Price of Workers’ Lives in Cambodia?:
By now you’ve heard that military police in Cambodia killed five garment workers demanding a living wage of $160 per month in the early days of 2014, but only some of this is true.
Here’s a slightly more accurate version: On Tuesday, December 24, during a period of nationwide political unrest, the Cambodian government announced a raise of $15 to garment workers’ monthly minimum wage of $80, for a new total of $95 per month, to start in April, 2014. Workers responded the next day by walking off jobs and demanding the current wage be doubled, for a new monthly wage of $160.
The next few days saw the largest demonstrations in the country’s history. Tens of thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – gathered. Protesters were holding demonstrations all over the city: stopping work, blocking roads, holding rallies. The mood of these events was primarily jubilant, although there was a dark side. Numbers of demonstrators continued to swell.
* Diplomats, Donors Lobbied to Help Free Jailed Protesters:
Challenging the ban on demonstrations in Phnom Penh, activists rallied Friday at the U.S. Embassy, the Japanese Embassy, the Australian Embassy and the German Embassy before stopping for lunch and rallying again, in the afternoon, at the British Embassy, the European Union and World Bank offices, then marching, finally, to the South Korean Embassy to lobby for the release of protesters jailed earlier this month.
The peaceful, multi-embassy protest was organized by the well-known Boeng Kak housing rights activists, who submitted petitions at each diplomatic compound seeking international pressure to gain the release of 23 people rounded up by paratroopers and military police during the violent and lethal suppression of strike demonstrations in Phnom Penh on January 2 and 3.
* Cambodia: Urging garment manufacturers to respect workers’ rights:
Joint open letter
To: Mr. Van Sou Ieng
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC)
Samdach Akak Moha Sena Padey Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia
H.E. Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister, Minister for Commerce
H.E. Ith Sam Heng, Minister for Labour and Vocational Training
Subject: Urging garment manufacturers to respect workers’ rights
Dear Mr. Van Sou Ieng,
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is an international non-governmental organization (NGO), with 178 national human rights member organizations throughout the world. Our primary and mutual goal is to promote respect for the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
* One more association leader arrested during prayer calling for release of 23 detained leaders & workers:
A gathering this afternoon calling for the release of the 23 workers and rights defenders arrested earlier this month, and for an increase in the minimum wage, has ended with the arrest of Sokchhun Oeung, Vice President of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA). Vorn Pao, President of IDEA, was among the 23 rights defenders and workers arrested earlier in the month.
At 4pm, before the gathering began, media and human rights observers waiting at Wat Ounalom for the main group to arrive were forced out of the grounds by about 50 security guards and civilians wearing black motorcycle helmets.
The group moved to Preah Ong Dongkau spirit house in front of the Royal Palace, closely followed by the guards and civilians. At about 5pm, there were multiple standoffs which involved the guards intimidating and pushing demonstrators for over an hour.
* CCHR releases a Policy Brief on the garment industry in Cambodia outlining the current state of human rights in the industry and offering recommendations for reform:
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) releases today – 19 January 2014 – a Policy Brief on the Garment Industry in the Kingdom of Cambodia (“Cambodia”). In light of growing human rights concerns with regards to the garment industry, the Policy Brief collates data gathered by CCHR’s researchers and offers concrete policy and legislative recommendations for reforms to all stakeholders, which would substantially improve the situation.
Despite a relatively protective legal and policy framework and several national-level policies, labor rights continue to be violated with alarming frequency throughout the Cambodian garment industry.
The Cambodian garment industry is now plagued with a myriad of human rights concerns. 2014 has already seen widespread protests by garment workers demanding a fair wage, which were met with extreme police violence that resulted in five deaths and dozens of injuries.
Efforts to silence garment workers did not stop with the use of force but has continued with union members fired as a punishment for striking.
The Policy Brief provides a background to the Cambodian garment industry, as well as an overview of the human rights concerns related to the garment industry in Cambodia, including workplace conditions, wages and living conditions, contracts and job security, reproductive and maternal health, gender-based
violence and freedom of association. Furthermore, it reviews the domestic and international legal framework related to labor and collective bargaining rights.
* Treating garment workers in Cambodia as terrorists:
In the Canadia Industrial Park, factories are mostly back in operation, bustling to fulfill orders for major Western labels. There are few signs of the brutal crackdown that recently afflicted this complex on the Cambodian capital’s southern outskirts.
Two weeks ago, the Cambodian military wielded guns and steel pipes to break up strikes by garment workers, who oppose the country’s new $95 monthly minimum wage. Five demonstrators died and dozens were injured.
Tensions remain high. The Cambodian government has banned protests indefinitely. More than 100 factory owners have gone on the offensive, filing lawsuits against the labor unions and claiming enormous losses and property damage.
* 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.
* Union to Defy Order, March to Commemorate Chea Vichea’s Slaying:
About 150 garment worker union representatives will defy a ban on public assemblies and mark the 10th anniversary of the assassination of union leader Chea Vichea by marching from their office in Chamkar Mon district to the site of his murder at Wat Lanka on Wednesday.
The Free Trade Union (FTU) said that they received confirmation from City Hall on Friday that their request to march from the union’s headquarters in Boeng Keng Kang 3 commune to the statue of Chea Vichea, which is located just meters from where he was shot by an assassin outside Wat Lanka on January 22, 2004, had been rejected.
“The Phnom Penh municipality informed us that the planned march was not permitted, but that we were allowed to assemble at the statue to pay our respects,” said Mann Seng Hok, an advisor to the FTU, which is now headed by Chea Vichea’s brother, Chea Mony.
17:09:40 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Protesting Textile Workers Seek Return of Govt Hand at Privatized Factory:
More than 100 factory workers staged a protest outside a textile factory in Paleik, Mandalay Division, on Friday, urging the Ministry of Industry to intervene in a dispute with their employer, a Chinese firm that runs manufacturing operations handed over by the government last year.
The textile factory in Paleik was formerly run by the Ministry of Industry (1), but was handed over to Panda Group of Companies in April 2013. The protesting laborers accuse their new employer of labor rights violations and complain that the company has been unclear about the future of the enterprise.
They also question the authenticity of a recent announcement, which came in the form of a letter purportedly issued by the Naypyidaw government, concerning compensatory pensions for workers laid off in an impending restructuring of the company.
“We have no rights on overtime pay, annual leave and other absences. The letter about compensatory pensions, which claimed it was from Naypyidaw, has no seal or signature and we accuse the ministry and the company of lacking transparency,” said Ko Kyaw, a protesting factory worker.
18:39:40 local time INDONESIA
* A Tale of Three Women Named Titik – (Kisah Tiga Titik):
In September 2013, Better Work Indonesia hosted a screening of the film for a number of Indonesian factory managers and workers, and included a special guest – the celebrity film maker: Lola Amaria.
Feature length Film Kisah Tiga Titik tells a tell of three women named Titik with different experiences in the Indonesian garment Sector.
Please click the link below to see more.
16:39:40 local time BANGLADESH
* Agency sees 88 labour leaders’ hand in RMG sector unrest:
About 88 labour leaders were allegedly involved in instigating the recent unrest over the new wage structure in the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector, a government agency revealed.
The agency in a report urged the authorities concerned to take legal action against the labour leaders for their unlawful activities, sources said.
Based on the report, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) also recently asked the ministries of home affairs, commerce and labour to take effective measures against any such illegal activities which could jeopardise the country’s major foreign currency earning sector, they said.
According to the report, these labour leaders, based in Gazipur, Narayanganj and Chittagong districts, were directly or indirectly involved in instigating the unrest which caused a significant financial loss to the sector.
Of the 88 labour leaders, 47 are based in Gazipur, 22 in Narayanganj and 19 in Chittagong.
The report said after announcement of the minimum wage at Tk 5,300 by the government-formed wage board, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had urged the labourers to remain calm until the gazette notification was made. Despite the call, labour unrest and other destructive activities took place in different industrial zones to press for announcing Tk 8,000 as the minimum wage.
* Democratic labour law demanded:
Left politicians and labour leaders on Friday at a rally in the capital demanded formulation of a democratic labour law ensuring proper wages and safety of workers at workplaces.
Khalequzzaman, general secretary of the Socialist Party of Bangladesh, at the programme in front of the National Press Club said the government had failed to formulate a democratic labour law to ensure the rights of the workers.
The workers were suffering much as they were mostly low paid and their workplaces lack of safety, Khalequzzaman said.
Samajtantrik Sramik Front, labour front of the SPB, organised the rally to mark 32nd founding anniversary of the organisation.
Zahedul Haque Milu, president of the organization, said in the country most of the workers, specially the garment workers, were deprived of their right to trade unionism.
‘But the government must establish the trade union rights of the workers according to the International Labour Law Convention,’ Zahedul said.
* Regular payment of wages can help reduce 50pc RMG unrest:
Labour leaders of the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector Sunday identified more than 20 problems troubling the RMG industry. Those include implementation of the labour law and the new wage structure, which they held responsible for the workers’ agitation.
The problems also include sacking of workers without benefits, payment of wages without following the grades prescribed in the Wage Board Award, harassment of the workers who are involved with trade union activities, absence of maternity leave, and insecurity involving re-joining work after enjoying the leave benefit, increase in house rent along with other essentials’ prices upon announcement of the new wage structure, the labour leaders said.
They also suggested regular meetings of workers and labour leaders with the garment factory owners and the government, training for both the groups to make them aware of their rights and responsibilities, allowing trade unions, stopping ‘jhut’ business with a view to establishing a healthy relationship between the workers and the owners.
* RMG workers unrest in Savar:
Workers of two readymade garments in Ashulia started work abstention protesting salary and production bonus decrease on Saturday morning.
Sources said that workers of Galimpur Sweater factory and Fa Apparels Limited abstained from work
since last five days for paying less salary and production bonus.
The workers told banglanews that one month had passed and another month is going to be ended, but the
authority still did not pay salaries.
* Garment Factories facing unrests on the first month of the new wage system:
January 2014 is an important month this year, as this new January of this new year is the first month when payment based on the new Minimum Wage declared on 2013 will be enforceable.
On 27 December 2013 unrest started Fashions Limited garments factory in Mohammadpur, Dhaka. Workers protested for not being paid their due overtime on 15 December 2013 which was then delayed three times and promised eventually on 27 December 2013.
However, on 27 of December 2013, the Production Manager informed that he can only pay half of their overtime payments and another half would be paid during January 2014 to which the workers did not agree.
Some workers went on to vandalize factory property which resulted in the factory being shut down for that day and production stopped.
The factory had been in production since the last few months with workers working huge overtimes to meet strict deadlines for famous western brands. Feelings of being let down by the management had been simmering ever since last November, however work continued for the sake of the pay which the workers use to barely exist.
* A worker’s ordeal – unrests due to incorrect wages:
Recently factories in Bangladesh are generally implementing the Minimum Wage 2013 in their factories, since its declaration back in November 2013. January 2014 is the month of the first salary paid according to this new structure.
Some factories however find it more complicated, and often end up in violence. As unfortunate as this is, it carries a story for us to see how these could always be avoided so easily.
Recently, Tung Hai Sweaters Limited in the Mirpur area of Dhaka had an unrest surrounding wages. Due to current political unrest in Bangladesh, garment factories have been facing huge losses in not being able to ship their consignments to the Port for shipment.
The infamous blockade hampers the trucks which would otherwise carry their consignments to the port city easily. Work pressure has not been there at some factories, and this particular factory seemed to be one of them. However, the wage is a livelihood for many families and at least the minimum wage is expected to be paid on time.
A worker describes his and his fellow worker’s ordeal when the wages were not paid correctly this January 2014.
* Committee formed by govt to sit this week:
The committee formed by the government will sit with both sweater factory owners and workers this week to resolve the dispute over payment and other related issues for piece-rate basis factory workers, sources said.
The labour ministry, early this month, formed a 12-member committee headed by a joint secretary. The committee comprises of four members each from the government side, sweater factory owners and labour leaders with two sweater factory workers who work on piece-rate basis.
The committee was formed to identify the problems and find out ways out of the prevailing problems through discussions, they added.
The move came following frequent complaints made by labour leaders that the sweater factory workers are being deprived of legal service benefits and that they are unlikely to be benefitted by the new wage structure for the garment workers as there is no clear indication of hike for piece-rate workers in the award.
The sweater factory workers also demanded hike in their piece-rate payment, food and transport allowance in accordance with the newly-announced wage award for garment workers.
* Shoe factory gutted in N’ganj:
A fire broke out at a shoe factory in Pagla Taltala area of Sadar upazila
on Friday evening.
Witnesses said the fire broke out in the factory warehouse on the second floor of a five-storey building around 6:30 pm and soon engulfed the entire floor.
Being informed, two fire fighting units rushed in and doused the flame after half an hour of frantic efforts.
Mamtaz Ahmed, deputy director of Narayanganj Fire Service and Civil Defense, said huge raw materials, including leather, were gutted by the blaze but the extent of losses caused by the fire could not be ascertained immediately.
However, no casualties were reported in the incident.
The reason behind the fire could not be known yet.
* Jute godowns gutted in B’baria fire:
Two jute godowns were gutted in a devastating fire at Kuti Bazar in Kasba upazila on Saturday afternoon.
Witnesses said the fire broke out in a jute godown owned by Sujit Kumar Roy at about 1:30 pm and soon spread to the adjoining godown of Hafiz Jute Mills.
On information, four fire fighting units from Kasba, Akhaura, sadar upazila and Muradnagar of Comilla rushed in and doused the flame after two hours of frantic efforts.
Affected godown owners claimed that about 20,000 maunds of jute worth Tk 3 crore were gutted in the fire.
Law Minister Advocate Anisul Haque, who was at Kasba for attending a meeting, visited the spot.
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* Fire at city shoe factory, 2 burnt:
Two workers sustained burn injuries when a fire broke out at a shoe factory in Siddik Bazar area in old part of Dhaka city on Saturday night.
The injured were- Masud Mia, 28 and Sohag, 20.
Sources said that the fire originated at around 10:00pm.
Confirming the matter, fire control office duty officer Farhat Hossain told banglanews, “On information, two fire fighting units rushed to the spot and doused the blaze.”
But in the meantime, two workers of the factory received burn injuries on different parts of their bodies including hand, face and legs.
* Footwear factory in old city catches fire:
A fire broke out in a footwear factory in the city’s Bangshal area on Saturday night, burning down huge shoes.
Fire service officials said the fire originated from an electric shot-circuit at a room in the factory on the fourth floor of a six-storey building in the area around 10pm and it soon engulfed the entire room.
On information, two firefighting units rushed to the spot and doused the blaze after an hour of frantic efforts.
* Sale of Sylhet Textile Mills protested:
Leaders of the Trade Union Sangha on Saturday demanded an immediate withdrawal of the decision to sell Sylhet Textile Mills, Tk 8,000 a month in worker’s minimum wage and the establishment of a regular labour court in Sylhet.
They made the calls at a meeting held at Court Point in the city at noon.
The organisation leaders also demanded the establishment of an office of a joint labour director under the labour ministry in the divisional headquarters.
Speakers at the meeting blamed the government for closing down the industrial units one after another, instead of taking effective steps to set up new industries.
They alleged that the government had declared the closure of Sylhet Textile Mills, set up in 1978, despite having modern machinery and the capacity of producing quality yarn.
They urged the labour ministry to reverse its decision of selling the mill and to take adequate measures for its reopening without any delay.
* Ensuring occupational health, safety of workers:
People spend a significant portion of their life-time earning their livelihoods by working in various places in different forms.
Therefore, health and safety are considered to be very important issues as these are intrinsically linked with overall well-being of the working people. Occupational safety and health have been repeatedly mentioned as a fundamental right of every worker, and are referred to in the Alma Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care (1978), the WHO Constitution, the UN Global Strategy on Health for All (2000), the ILO Convention (1919) and in many other multilateral conventions and documents along with the national labour law of Bangladesh. Hence, occupational health and safety is very important irrespective of the type of employment, or size or sector or location of the workplace.
As mentioned earlier, a safe and healthy workplace is considered to be a right of any worker/employee. Since people spend significant portion of their days in workplaces, the nature and scope of safety and security remain a major issue for discussion and debate.
The question of a worker’s safety is not only based on consideration of productivity but also on the ability of the employee to sustain and earn for his/her family.
Where employment and income help us survive, unemployment on the other hand brings significant negative consequences for the family.
Poor wages, long working hours, risky working environment with few safeguard mechanisms, unhygienic working environment with no or little air flow, no daylight, high temperature, excessive noise, and poor indoor air quality and both verbal and physical abuses are often cited as characteristics of the many ‘sweatshops’ which operate in developing countries.
These sweatshop characteristics can result in death or mild, moderate and severe injuries, long or short-term work-related sickness/diseases of workers which can have significant economic consequences for the family and the society.
* Indomitable women speak out for workplace justice today :
These are women from various professions who have broken stereotypes and challenged the conventional status of women in the workplace
The One Billion Rising (OBR) Bangladesh organisation is holding its first event of 2014, showcasing women who have spearheaded revolutions in their own fields, in their own ways.
“The Indomitable” is a collection of inspiring talks and cultural performances by women. The event takes place today at Charukala Hall, Shilpakala Academy from 3pm-6pm.
These are women from various professions who have broken stereotypes and challenged the conventional status of women in the workplace.
Khushi Kabir told the Dhaka Tribune: “These women have all taken on new roles, set new standards, and created new spaces for women in Bangladesh.”
Khushi, a human rights activist and OBR coordinator, serves on the board that selected these speakers.
* Retaining the ranking on the world’s RMG export list:
Bangladesh is the second-largest ready-made garment (RMG) hub after China. But the sector has recently been under a threat and we might lose the position we had earned.
A sharp depreciation of the Indian rupee against the US dollar is a critical factor in the sector’s higher degree of competitive disadvantage than India. A rebound in taka’s value against the dollar is making the RMG products of Bangladesh less attractive to foreign buyers. A dollar can now buy more rupees than a taka, of which a foreign buyer is careful.
India has had around 30 per cent depreciation of the rupee against the dollar, whereas the Bangladesh Taka appreciated around 8 per cent. This has resulted in Bangladesh’s RMG getting 38 per cent costlier than the Indian RMG. Therefore, there are enough reasons why foreign buyers should turn to India. Many Western brands are flying to India to source their products from there, leaving Bangladesh on the verge of losing its position in the export market of garments.
The factory safety concern is another reason why foreign buyers, especially Western brands, are cancelling their orders from Bangladesh. Even the committed orders are left withheld.
The Rana Plaza collapse and the Tazreen Fashions fire are two serious and catastrophic occurrences that are damaging the good reputation Bangladesh has earned in the global RMG sector.
These events have brought into question the safety and infrastructural standards in Bangladesh’s factories. Labourers are the very important stakeholders in this sector.
Why Bangladesh is so favourite to foreign buyers? It is because the country offers the cheap labour that other countries cannot. Meeting the basic needs and having a secure life are the rights of the RMG workers. The value addition to RMG products is done mostly by them, but the financial benefit they get is meagre.
* Staying competitive:
Constituting 82% of the country’s export, the success of the sector remains central to Bangladesh’s dreams of achieving middle-income status
As the new government settles down after the tempestuous election and its aftermath, leaving the economy in tatters and the country’s fate riddled with grave uncertainty, questions abound as to how long the economy can withstand this grinding political impasse. Despite widespread political turmoil, exports have grown by 19% (21% growth for RMG), which has surprised almost everyone
The RMG sector remains a crucial cogwheel to the Bangladeshi economic engine, constituting 82% of the country’s export and employing almost 3 million people, mostly women. Due to the lack of diversification, the success of the sector remains central to Bangladesh’s dreams of achieving middle-income status.
While RMG export growth has doubled over the past three years, the sector has been facing increasing pressure, both locally and internationally, leading to possible repercussions in the future.
|The Tazreen Fashions accident followed by the Rana Plaza tragedy has brought to fore the sector’s vulnerability on compliance issues.
These incidents have drawn widespread international news coverage resulting in condemnation from buyers and the international community. The EU, which constitutes of 65% of Bangladeshi exports, has warned of stripping the GSP facility, and the US has already done the same (although RMG falls outside US’s GSP facility).
* Govt to inform EU about progress in promises made at Geneva meet:
The government is set to inform the European Union (EU) about the progress in respect of promises that it had made at the Geneva meeting held in July last in order to retain the generalised system of preferences (GSP) facility in the EU markets, sources said.
During the meeting, the Bangladesh government and the EU had agreed on a ‘Sustainability Compact’ aiming to improve labour standards and responsible business code of conduct in the ready-made garment (RMG) and knitwear industry in Bangladesh. The US also later joined the initiative.
The move came following the deadly incidents of Tazreen blaze and Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1200 workers and injured scores of others that prompted widespread criticism both at home and abroad.
The representatives of the ministries of commerce, foreign and laobur will hold a meeting on February 20 by way of a video conference with their Brussels counterparts to brief them about the developments made in the garment sector as suggested by the Sustainability Compact, they added.
* BD to continue enjoying GSP in EU market: Hanna:
Amid speculations that the European Union (EU) might withdraw its trade benefit, the 28-member economic bloc on Sunday cleared its position saying they are not considering ‘any changes’ in this trade benefit now Bangladesh enjoying in the vast EU market.
“So, in the question of GSP, at the moment we’re not considering any change to GSP,” head of the EU delegation to Bangladesh William Hanna told a select group of journalists at his office.
The envoy said Bangladesh currently benefits from the most favourable conditions for its trade and goods from Bangladesh enter into the EU market without any tax and restriction. “And that continues to be the case…so, we’re not considering any trade measures at this stage,” Hanna added.
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* 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.
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.
* Job scopes decline despite economic growth: ILO:
Despite strong economic performance, that characterised the country’s economy in recent years, there has been little improvement in the overall labour market situation, said a recent study of the International Labour organisation (ILO).
The ILO conducted the study on growth with equity—seeking better employment conditions for better socioeconomic outcomes. This report identified the women folk as an integral part of the country’s economic development.
According to ILO, between 2000 and 2010 when GDP growth averaged nearly 6 per cent, the employment rate actually fell 1.7 percentage points to stand at roughly 67 per cent in 2010. One of the main challenges of creating enough employment opportunities is the working-age population which has grown at a rate of more than 2 million people per year over the past two decades, and is expected to grow at a rate of 2.2 million per year over the next decade, said the report.
According to the report, the formal job creation has averaged only 200,000 per year in the past 10 years. As a result, the incidence of informal employment increased from 75 per cent in 1999/00 to 87 per cent in 2010 – the highest in the region.
* The Leather World of Hazaribagh:
Dirty grayish water gushes into a gutter from a pipe emitting from a wall of a leather tanning factory here in the Bangladeshi capital.
It is one of an estimated 200 tanning factories concentrated in the Hazaribagh district. The gushing pipe is one of hundreds that is spewing polluted water tainted with noxious chemicals, which ends up in the Buriganga River.
About 30,000 people work in the tanneries, producing leather for shoes, many of which end up in Japan.
Ninety percent of Bangladesh’s shoe leather is made in the Hazaribagh district.
Dozens of chemical materials–including chrome and sulfur compounds–are used to process the leather. The chemicals create a foul-smelling stench that hangs in the air of the Hazaribagh district.
Despite the use of hazardous materials, most workers in the tanneries do not wear gloves or masks.
* BTMA against SKS proposal to set up cotton trading hub:
The Bangladesh Textile Mills Association has expressed its stand against a proposal made by Sena Kalyan Sangstha for setting up a cotton trading hub in the country, officials of the National Board of Revenue said.
The BTMA has informed the revenue board that it is against the move if cotton is imported from any specific country as it will create monopoly in the business, they said.
The BTMA, which members are the only users of cotton in the country, has also objection in the move if they are compelled to buy cotton from the warehouses established under the move by any organisation, they said.
The officials said that the SKS sought policy support from the NBR to establish warehouses with an aim to make Bangladesh a hub of raw cotton trading centre.
According to the proposal, international raw cotton traders will store their products at the warehouses from where local buyers mainly textile millers will be able to buy cotton easily and quickly.
* Bangladesh beats India in garment exports:
The country’s apparel industry has overtaken India in readymade garment exports despite the recent setbacks it received like instances of building collapses and fire at manufacturing units, says a study by Exim Bank of India, BSS reports.
According to the study, Bangladesh garment export to US market surged by 11.4 percent to US$4.9billion between January and October 2013 when Indian exports to the US grew by 6.3 per cent to US $3.2billion.
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The TAZREEN Factory Fire
* Tazreen owner Delwar yet to be arrested:
CID and local police are pointing finger at each other to shift the responsibility
The law enforcers are playing hide-and-seek to arrest the owner of Tazreen Fashions, Delwar Hossain, his wife and four other officials of the factory, 17 days after a Dhaka court issued arrest warrant against them.
Ashulia police, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and local police are pointing finger at each other to shift the responsibility as it seemed that they do not know how the arrest-drive will go on.
On December 31, the court issued the arrest warrants after taking into cognisance the homicide charges pressed against 13 people including Delwar in a case over the devastating fire that killed 112 workers and injured many others in November 24, 2012.
The court also ordered Officer-in-Charge of Ashulia police Badrul Alam to submit a report on the execution of the arrest warrants.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Search for the remains:
Families, rights activists appeal to locate about 200 still missing
The discovery of more than 300 bones and three skulls in the ruins of Rana Plaza over the last one month suggests that the actual death toll in the disaster might be higher than the official figure of 1,135.
There have been confusions over the death toll, as none could confirm how many people were inside the building when it collapsed on April 24 last year.
According to estimates by workers’ rights groups, more than 200 families are yet to find the remains of their loved ones. DNA samples were collected from 322 unrecognisable bodies, and 157 of them could be identified. Rag pickers found
the skeleton of garment worker Obaidul Huq with his identity card and mobile phone at the site on December 13 last year.
With the hope of finding more human remains, rights activists and workers conducted searches there and found more than 300 bones and three skulls till January 3. Activists, workers and families of the missing victims feel that a fresh search operation will discover more human remains at the site.
16:09:40 local time INDIA
* Despite setbacks, Bangladesh beats India in garment exports:
Bangladesh has overtaken India in readymade garment exports despite the recent setbacks it received like instances of building collapses and fire at manufacturing units, says a study by Exim Bank.
Between January and October 2013, readymade shipments by Indian exporters to the US grew 6.3% to $3.2 billion, while the same by Bangladesh jumped 11.4% at $4.9 billion, the premier export finance agency said.
“In the absence of latest data, imports by the US are a very good benchmark of understanding the latest trends. Bangladesh has been aggressively pushing the garment exports and has made a slew of policy changes to facilitate those,” Exim Bank chief general manager Prahalathan Iyer told PTI.
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* Textile production expected to more than double by 2020:
‘Local textile machinery manufacturers should take up production of shuttleless looms’
India’s annual production of textile goods is expected to increase to $ 220 billion by 2020 from the current level of $ 90 billion, according to Union Textile Minister Kavuru Sambasiva Rao.
He was in Coimbatore on Saturday to participate in the sixth convocation of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International School of Textiles and Management, to inaugurate the PSG-SIMA Textile Technical Training Institute and release the SIMA GKD-1 cotton seed.
He told presspersons that China has 33 per cent share in the global textile market and India’s share is just 4.5 per cent. It is said that with higher wage cost, China is diverting its focus to other sectors. This is an opportunity for Indian manufacturers.
The Ministry is ready to support the industry in training initiatives. It is also focusing on modernisation of the powerloom sector. The country has 23 lakh powerlooms and just 1.05 lakh shuttleless looms.
The industry needs to import shuttleless looms and importing 20 lakh looms will be worth $ 400 billion. Hence, local textile machinery manufacturers should take up production of shuttleless looms. It will reduce the cost of the machinery too. The industry should collaborate with the developed countries for technology and the Government will extend support.
16:09:40 local time SRI LANKA
* Apparel sector can save upto 50% energy-Study:
A recent investment-grade energy audit of seven apparel factories has projected an electricity savings potential of 10 to 50 percent if conservation methods are adopted. Additionally, if all identified energy conservation measures are implemented by the audited factories, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by approximately 16 percent annually, the audit has found.
IFC, a member of the World Bank Group last week said it has partnered with Sri Lanka’s Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) to promote energy conservation in the apparel sector that can reduce operating costs, increase profits, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
“Simple changes, including the use of energy efficient lights, air conditioners, and equipment will help make all the difference in reducing operating costs,” said JAAF’s Secretary-General Tuli Cooray. “Other measures like improvements to existing equipment will also boost energy efficiency.”
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* Commercial hub status will boost apparel industry:
2014 will be a landmark year for the apparel industry of Sri Lanka, in its decades-long evolution of policies, due to the introduction of commercial hub operations, said the Secretary General of the Joint Association Forum (JAAF) Tuli Cooray.
He said that the apparel industry would receive huge benefits from commercial hub operations.
“In 2011, we pointed out to the government the importance of this concept to reach the next level for the apparel industry in particular and other export sectors in general,” he said.
“In 1012, the first draft of the Act came into being and after careful study it was fine-tuned and in 2013 the Bill was passed. This Bill sets up the framework to change the present export business model. It will harness the strength, synergies and capacities of the apparel sector in the South Asian region,” said Cooray. He said that three countries, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have the world’s largest production base, workforce and the textile base of the apparel industry.Therefore, with this new hub regulations the apparel industry can expand capacity through re-export.“Under the new regulations we can import finished products from any country add value here and re-export it to any country. We could only import an item under one HS code and export it under another HS code, under the previous regulations,” he said.
15:39:40 local time PAKISTAN
* Textile sector irked by FBR’s inefficiency:
Demanding restoration of the zero-rating regime for the textile sector, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) Senior VC Jawwad Ahmad Chaudhry has said that the decision to withdraw zero-rating has adversely affected exports.
At a time when huge amounts of Sales Tax Refunds are already stuck up with the Federal Board of Revenue and exporters facing a liquidity crunch, Chaudhry said zero-rating needed to be restored.
In a letter sent to Federal Secretary Textile Industry Rukhsana Shah, the PRGMEA chief advised the government and the FBR to announce export-friendly policies instead of creating difficulties for the industry.
“Due to the energy shortfall, a major chunk of our finances is diverted to develop energy infrastructure like wood and coal boilers that squeeze our financial streams,” said Chaudhry. “This has been intensified by the delay in refund of sales tax and suspension of research and development payments. There are several cases in the manual system of refund that are yet to be handed back and in CREST it takes around four to five months for refunds.”
Chaudhry said that the export volume of Pakistan’s apparel products can be increased from the existing $8 billion if the government takes all stakeholders on board and finalises export policies after consultations.
* Garment factories: textile bodies, FCCI protest against suspension of gas:
Textile associations and Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) have strongly protest against suddenly suspension of gas supply to 400 hosieries and garments factories in Punjab due to issuance of a controversial order by Senior General Manager (D) South of Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL).
Resultantly, all export oriented value added knitwear and fashion garment units have been closed and thousand workers become jobless.
* Leather garments’ exports surge by nine percent: PBS:
Pakistan’s export of leather garments surged by nine percent to $179.660 million during July-November 2013-14, official figures say.
The growth in export stands at $14.403 million in July-November 2013-14 as compared to the garments export of $165.257 million in the same period last fiscal year, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) said.
* Around 12.88 million bales reach ginneries:
The Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) fortnightly report showed that around 1,28,82,963 cotton bales were sourced to the country’s ginners by January I5th,2014, depicting an increase of 7.16 percent against the last year figure of 1,20,22,040 bales.
The PCGA chairman Mukhtar Ahmed Khan Baloch briefed journalists about seed-cotton (phutti) arrivals, sales and unsold stock of cotton.
He said that 1,10,16,89 cotton bales were sold to the textile units and exporters bought 3,38,538 bales. Thus, overall 1,13,54,627 bales were traded so far.