* The Right to a Living Wage:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, necessary social services, and the right to security…”
– United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25.1
The majority of workers in the global fashion industry, which is worth over £36 billion a year in the UK alone, rarely earn more than two dollars a day.
Many have to work excessive hours for this meagre amount and struggle to properly feed, clothe and educate their families.
In many cases, garment workers earn less that the national poverty levels set by governments and international organisations. This situation is further antagonised when prices paid to suppliers are cut by brands and retailers.
When challenged by on the wage issue, most companies claim that workers in their supply chains should be paid the minimum wage or the industry standard in that country, whichever is the higher.
But this isn’t enough.
Minimum wages, usually defined by governments, are set in the context of ferocious competition and consequently often fall well below these governments’ own poverty thresholds.
Furthermore, a minimum wage is often well below what is required for a living wage and research indicates that many suppliers do not even pay this legal minimum.
* Davos 2014: Unions call for leaders to reshape the world economy with jobs and decent wages:
Working people and their families need an urgent shift in policies by leaders to investment in jobs, a minimum wage on which people can live and social protection.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Poll of 13 countries found 87 percent of people say their wages are falling behind the cost of living or stagnant. One out of eight respondents said they are struggling financially and can no longer pay for basic living expenses. According to the ITUC, financial forecasts point to stagnation – not recovery – with nearly 200 million people unemployed.
“In a stagnant global economy, it is investment that will kick start jobs and demand. We cannot assume that growth alone will create jobs. The global economy cannot recover on export-led growth if wages don’t rise. There must be an expansion of demand – particularly from working households,” warned Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.
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* When the rich fix the rules, the poor lose:
The global trend of worsening inequality will only be reversed if we can prevent economic elites from hijacking government policy
Almost half of the world’s wealth is owned by the richest one per cent. The wealthiest one per cent have amassed $110 trillion (Bt3.3 quadrillion), which is 65 times the total wealth of the poorest half of the globe’s population.
These figures were published in an Oxfam report, “Working for the Few: Political Capture and Economic Inequality”, released on Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum being held in Davos, Switzerland.
The international charity revealed that half of the planet’s population – about 3.5 billion people -possess less wealth collectively than the 85 richest people in the world, who boast a combined worth of $1.7 trillion.
16:38:43 local time CHINA
* China shoe workshop collapse kills five, injures two:
Five people were crushed to death and two injured after a building rented by a small leather shoe factory as workshops in southwest China collapsed Tuesday night, local authorities announced Wednesday.
The accident took place at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday when 13 workers were having meals in the first floor of a three-story building in a village in the Nan’an district in the city of Chongqing, the district government said in a statement.
The rescue operation ended Wednesday and among seven buried, two were pulled out alive and five were already dead.
An investigation into the cause of the collapse is underway.
to read. & to read. & to read.
15:38:43 local time VIET NAM
* Vietnam Garment & Textile Industry Has Active Position in Global Supply Chain:
On the occasion of the Lunar New Year 2014, Vietnam Business Forum interviewed Mr Le Tien Truong, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam National Apparel and Textile Association (Vitas) and Deputy General Director of Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), on the successes of the garment – textile industry in 2013 and challenges against it in the new year. Huong Ly reports.
Could you please tell us the operational status of the garment – textile industry in 2013?
2013 was a very difficult year for exporters of garments and textiles. Shipments to some key importers of Vietnamese garments and textiles only marginally increased. Specifically, imports by the US rose 3.6 percent over 2012, by the EU up 0.52 percent, and by Japan down 0.54 percent. Surprisingly, while the world’s purchasing power decreased, Vietnam’s garment and textile exports climbed to US$19.8 billion in 2013, up 16.9 percent against 2012 and accounting for 15 percent of the country’s total exports. This did not account the export of raw materials worth nearly US$600 million. In total, Vietnam earned US$20.4 billion from garment and textile exports in 2013, up over 18 percent over 2012 with US$17.2 billion.
* In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of workers get no Tet bonus:
Women work at a small size garment workshop on the outskirts of Hanoi. The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs has reported a major decline in Tet bonuses for workers this year. PHOTO: AFP
Hundreds of thousands of workers will not receive their Tet bonuses this year and more than 10,000 other ones haven’t been paid a thin dime for all the work they did in 2013.
Analysts blame Vietnam’s slumping economy that has pushed many companies to the brink of bankruptcy.
The statistics were announced by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs on January 17.
According to the ministry, this year, more than 118,000 workers at 420 companies in the four northern provinces of Bac Ninh, Hai Duong, Phu Tho and Thanh Hoa will not get any Tet bonuses this year.
15:38:43 local time CAMBODIA
* Minimum wage up for ministerial discussion:
An interministerial committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon will meet next month to discuss the recent minimum wage increase and subsequent fallout. Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour yesterday told the Post that Prime Minister Hun Sen assigned Chhon to lead the meeting on minimum wage reform.
“Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon was assigned to be the head of a committee to research the minimum wage, and will lead the discussion at a meeting February 5,” Sour said in an interview yesterday.
In addition to members of the Ministry of Labour, attendees next month will also include representatives of the Council of Ministers, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Social Affairs and others, Sour said.
The meeting will take place just over a month after four people were killed supporting a garment worker strike, where workers demanded a minimum wage increase to $160 per month.
An official letter notifying officials of the meeting has not yet been sent, Sour said.
* Cambodia’s 64 trade unions urge gov’t to take legal action against gangster unions:
Cambodia’s 64 trade unions on Wednesday asked the Minister of Labor Ith Samheng to take serious legal action against some gangster unions that have caused riots and illegal strikes as well as intimidations to their members in protests, according to a joint letter.
“We’d like to suggest the Minister of Labor to take serious legal action against union leaders and someone who have incited and committed violence on workers and innocent people during violent demonstrations in order to enforce the effective implementation of the law,” said the letter signed by the leaders of the 64 unions, which represent about 400,000 garment workers.
Som Aun, president of the Cambodian Council of National Union ( CCNU), said that the letter was sent to the Minister of Labor on Wednesday.
“We have got bad experience since Dec. 24 when some trade unions staged protests and their demonstrators went around and destroyed factories’ properties in order to force the workers out to join the demonstrations,” he said.
“Our request to the Minister is to protect security and safety for the factories and the workers in case of any illegal strikes in the future.”
* 64 labor unions oppose protest planned for Jan 26:
64 labor unions opposed a bid of eight other unions to hold protest on January 26 to demand wage increase to USD 160, calling on authority to take legal action against those union leaders.
In their joint letter to the Ith Sam Heng, the Minister of Labor and Vocational Training, the union leaders asked authority to take strong action in order to implement procedures of protests to maintain public and security order.
“We supported and called on government to speed up creation of committee to examine the minimum wage for garment and footwear factory workers,” said the labor unions in their letter issued Wednesday.
They also asked government to prevent the costs of rent, water, electricity and transportation from being inflated for workers.
* Pro-Government Unions Call for Action Against Leaders of Strikes:
Unions aligned with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government issued a statement Wednesday calling on it to “take action” against union leaders who they accuse of inciting workers to hold strikes and violent demonstrations.
“We would like to request [CPP Labor Minister] Ith Sam Heng to take action against some union leaders and their activists who have incited workers and threatened innocent people with violence during the strikes and demonstrations,” the pro-ruling party unions said in a statement.
“The ministry should take those people to condemn them in accordance with the law,” states the letter, signed by Som Aun, Chhum Socheat and Chuom Mom Thol, presidents of CPP-aligned union confederations.
The same unions issued a statement earlier this month, in the midst of nationwide labor strikes for a higher minimum wage, congratulating the government for its hard work in raising the minimum wage from $80 to $95, which was well below the $160 monthly wage demanded by six nongovernment aligned garment worker unions.
Mr. Mom Thol said Wednesday he was simply endorsing calls by the Labor Minister for unions to stop violating the law through illegal strikes.
“My members are not happy with the incitement to strike because factory managers cut their salary during the protest,” he said.
* After Arrests, NGOs Continue Petitioning to ‘Free the 23′ :
Following the arrest of 11 activists on Tuesday as they attempted to deliver a petition to the U.S. and French embassies seeking the release of 23 jailed protesters, NGO representatives quietly delivered similar petitions to the Japanese Embassy and European Union headquarters Wednesday.
The petitioners, representing 181 NGOs and civil society groups, are scheduled to march to the German, South Korean, Australian and Thai embassies this morning to call for pressure on the government to release the 23 protesters, who were imprisoned following clashes with police on January 2 and 3.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court this week denied bail for the 23 accused, citing the need to question them and maintain public order by keeping them incarcerated in a high-security prison located next to the border with Vietnam in Kompong Cham province.
* Petitioners set for Round 2 of showdown with City Hall:
Protesters were due to march on four foreign embassies this morning to deliver petitions calling for the release of the 23 detainees held at the remote Correctional Centre 3 after being arrested during the crackdown earlier this month.
The march – to the embassies of Germany, South Korea, Australia and Thailand – comes after 11 activists from the same group representing 181 NGOs were arrested on Tuesday near the US embassy.
Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said that despite the likelihood that more activists would be grabbed off the streets by private security guards hired by City Hall, the marchers could not turn a blind eye to the detainees’ plight.
“I think there is no choice. The way that we work, there are arrests, we go to prison,” he said. “How can we close our eyes, close our ears?”
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU), who was one of the 11 arrested on Tuesday’s march, said he would march again today.
“I am not worried about my security, and I am not scared of being arrested again, because we are not wrong. We’re just bringing petitions to the embassies,” he said.
* Civil society groups appeal for international intervention for the release of 23 protesters:
181 national and international non-governmental organizations handed over their petitions to foreign embassies on Thursday to seek the release of 23 people who were arrested in protest crackdowns.
A group of some 50 representatives marched along the streets and submitted the petitions to the German, Sweden and South Korean embassies. They will also go to the Australian embassy.
The march was held without disturbance by authorities.
“We see injustice in society,” Thida Khus, Executive Director of Silaka, told reporters after submitting petition to the South Korean Embassy.
* Chea Vichea mourned ten years on:
* Memorial plea: end the violence:
Openly flouting the government’s sporadically enforced ban on public assembly, Free Trade Union leader Chea Mony yesterday led a crowd of supporters on a march through the capital to the statue of his late brother, Chea Vichea, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the murdered unionist’s death.
Though authorities have been quick to crack down on gatherings of even a handful of people, Mony was allowed to lead about 100 followers from the FTU offices to Wat Lanka, the site of Vichea’s assassination, where he was joined by more supporters, as well as Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha and lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua.
* Chea Vichea Remembered 10 Years After Slaying:
Ten years ago Wednesday, union leader Chea Vichea walked to his favorite newsstand in front of Wat Lanka to read the day’s headlines: Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered spending cuts, health officials were trying to handle the first outbreak of bird flu in Southeast Asia and celebrations for Chinese New Year were underway.
A day later, Chea Vichea had become the day’s headline: “Union Chief Chea Vichea Gunned Down.”
In broad daylight at around 9 a.m. on January 22, 2004, the popular leader of the Free Trade Union (FTU) and longtime supporter of the political opposition was assassinated.
Two bullets killed Chea Vichea. They were fired at pointblank range—one hit his chest and another his head—by a man who didn’t even bother to mask his face.
More than 10,000 mourners marched in the union leader’s funeral procession.
* Cambodian unionists mark murder of prominent labour leader:
Cambodian trade unionists on Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of a prominent labour leader, defying a government ban on rallies following a deadly crackdown on garment workers earlier this month.
Chea Vichea, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, was gunned down in 2004 in broad daylight at a newsstand in the capital Phnom Penh — a killing decried by activists as an attempt to silence his union.
Campaigners say his murder is a symbol of the kingdom’s culture of impunity for powerful interest groups determined to muzzle dissent.
* Court Hears Request to Reinvestigate Slaying of FTU Leader:
Chan Sophon, who was found guilty in 2012 of the February 2007 murder of Hy Vuthy, a senior leader of the Free Trade Union (FTU), faced the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday as part of his ongoing effort to have the court reinvestigate the murder and overturn his 18-year sentence.
Hy Vuthy, president of the opposition-aligned FTU at the Suntex garment factory on Veng Sreng Street, was gunned down by two men on the back of a motorcycle in the early morning as he returned home from a night shift at the factory.
In a decision that rights groups and the FTU itself derided as wrong and politically motivated, the court found Mr. Sophon guilty of the murder of the union official.
* Sam Rainsy politicalizes the death of Chea Vichea: Spokesman:
Opposition leader of Cambodia National Rescue Party Sam Rainsy called all Cambodians to put an end to all forms of violence in Cambodia, especially political one and an end to impunity.
“No murderers who killed Chea Vichea, Hi Vuthy and Sovanna Reath, have been identified so far. This impunity must come to an end so that peace can prevail,” Sam Rainsy said during the 10th anniversary of the Union leader Chea Vichea who was shot dead a decade ago.
However, General Khiev Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said “the accusation was politicalized. There will be no prisoners if no murders are found. Time is needed to deal with each case.”
16:38:43 local time INDONESIA
* Workers stage rally against electricity tariff hike:
Hundreds of workers staged a rally here on Wednesday to protest against an electricity tariff increase which they said may lead companies to postpone minimum provincial wage hikes.
The workers came from the Federation of Indonesian Metal Labor Unions (FSPMI), the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labor Unions (KSBI) and the All-Indonesia Labor Union (SPSI).
The electricity tariff hike may give companies an excuse to postpone minimum provincial wage hikes as stipulated in the manpower and transmigration minister`s regulation number 231 of 2003, the workers said.
“The electricity tariff should not be raised before minimum provincial wages are increased. As a matter of fact, many companies have applied for postponement of minimum provincial wage hikes.
If the electricity tariff is raised companies will have reasons to postpone the minimum provincial wage hikes,” the chief of the KSPI chapter in Jakarta, William Yani said on the sidelines of the rally.
* ‘Rise in power tariff will push garment prices up by 50%’:
14:38:43 local time BANGLADESH
* Garment workers demonstrate demanding new salaries in Savar:
Several hundred workers of Darda Knitwears Ltd at Gazirchot in Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital, demonstrated at the factory gate demanding implementation of the new wage structure yesterday.
The authorities closed the factory for the day to avoid any untoward incident, workers and witnesses said.
Workers said they were paid the salary of December under the old wage scale on January 10. Amid their protest, the authorities assured them of paying the arrears within next 10 days but they did not stick to their word.
Shamsul Alom, assistant production manager of the factory, said it is now impossible for the authorities to pay under the new scale.
Ashulia industrial police said additional police have been deployed in the area.
* New labour inspectors’ training begins to ensure compliance:
In an effort to help ensure sustainable reform in labour inspection system in Bangladesh, a three-day training course for newly recruited labour inspectors began in the city on Wednesday.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the programme ‘Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry’ (PSES), implemented by GIZ on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) joined hands to develop the capacity of the newly recruited labour inspectors of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE).
Resource persons from the ILO and GIZ will interact with the new labour inspectors, said an ILO media release.
Issues related to the role of labour inspectors within the framework of the Bangladesh economy and legal structure, the ILO fundamental principles and rights at workplace, features of a credible and transparent labour inspection system, national labour law, and inspection techniques will be discussed in the three-day course.
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* New labour inspectors could reduce risks to factory accidents :
A three-day training for the newly appointed inspectors began Wednesday aiming to achieve sustainable reform in labour inspection system, specially in the garment sector.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) and GIZ joined hands to carry out the training programme in Dhaka to develop capacity of the newly recruited labour inspectors of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) where resource persons from the ILO and GIZ interact with the new labour inspectors.
The training takes place within the framework of both the ILO Project “Improving working conditions in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh” as well as “Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry” (PSES), a joint project of the governments of Bangladesh and Germany.
The ILO RMG Project is funded by Canada, DFID and the Netherlands while the PSES program is co-funded by the EU.
* Capacity building course for labour inspectors begins:
A three-day course for capacity building of the newly recruited labour inspectors began in the capital yesterday, the International Labour Organisation said in a statement.
The course aims to prepare the recruits of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) to achieve sustainable reform in the labour inspection system in Bangladesh.
Resource persons from GIZ and the ILO will interact with the new labour inspectors at the programme.
* US apparel market and Bangladesh scenario:
At present out of all the businesses running in the country, the readymade garment (RMG) sector has taken the lead in posting the maximum foreign currency earnings and employing a large number of people in the sector.
The RMG sector has greater potential than any other to contribute to the reduction of poverty in the country. The sector has fast become important for generation of employment, foreign exchange earnings and for its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Despite the phenomenal success of the RMG sector, poor working conditions in factories and the lack of social and safety compliance are the causes of serious concerns, which led to labour unrest and damage to institutions and properties as well as loss of lives in some cases.
Although China and Vietnam are still leading in the U.S. apparel import market, Bangladesh has been gaining ground as well.
Apparel imports from Vietnam have totalled $6 billion, according to the most recent data published by the US Department of Commerce and have grown almost three times faster than those from China so far this year, though the total volume is just over a quarter the size of China’s.
Growth in imported apparels from Vietnam accelerated in December 2013, bringing its share of U.S. apparel imports to 10 per cent, a gain of almost 0.9 percentage points so far this year compared to the corresponding period in 2012.
* EU wants to bolster trade ties with BD, says Hanna :
The European Union (EU) wants to further bolster its trade relations with Bangladesh and continue GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility.
“Trade is one of the most important areas in the field of cooperation between the EU and Bangladesh. And the EU wants to further develop such area,” EU envoy William Hanna told reporters after his meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at the Bangladesh Secretariat Wednesday.
He further said: “As I promised earlier, the EU would continue its GSP facility for Bangladesh.”
He, however, mentioned that Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in raising its exports to EU markets in recent months as its exporters have been enjoying trade benefits from EU.
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* EPZ investment up 26.5% in six months:
Export processing zones posted 26.5% growth in investment and 15.96 percent in export earnings in the first six months of the fiscal year, a testing period for the industrial sector at large.
Some $190.23 million was invested in the country’s eight EPZs in the first half of fiscal 2013-14, according to data from the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, the regulator.
The investment inflow was $150.37 million in the same period of the previous fiscal year. The cumulative investment stands at $2.98 billion as of 2013.
* On women labour:
The low level of participation of women in the labour market and their segregation to homework may be due to discrimination in the labour market.
Labour market discrimination occurs when two workers with similar characteristics are paid differently for the same job. Men and women may have different income due to differences in personal characteristics like age, education, work experience and job characteristics.
It is often difficult to prove discrimination against women because women do different jobs. However, segregation of women to low-paid occupations in spite of their similar characteristics like men is itself a sign of discrimination.
According to Becker’s theory of discrimination, women may face discrimination in entering certain occupations and/or accept lower wages because the employers, co-workers and customers may have a taste for discrimination (that is, they prefer male workers instead of female workers).
Human capital approach or statistical discrimination focuses on the productivity differences among male and female workers.
Women in general are considered to be less productive, less attached to the labour market and therefore, they earn less and are segregated to low-paid occupations.
The institutional approaches concentrate on the role of culture and social norms in shaping tastes and preferences of employers with feedback effects on the supply side. It is argued that given the discrimination in the labour market, women tend to invest less in education and career job, to specialise more in homework and less demanding market work.
14:08:43 local time INDIA
* Cotton exporters settle forward contracts with Chinese buyers at a loss:
As cotton prices surged by over 10% in a months’ time has led to exporters who had entered forward contracts with Chinese buyer earlier settling them at a loss as when they actually entered market to procure cotton to fulfil that orders.
Cotton price surged nearly 10% in last one and half month and has gone up to Rs 43,000 per candy. Exporters had made forward supply contracts with buyers mainly from China for December and January in the range of Rs 38,500-41,000 per candy. But during the time cotton price had increased to over Rs 43,000 per candy in major markets like Gujarat and at this price level export was not viable as global cotton price was down.
* Cotton yarn spinners to cash in on export-led boom:
The expected surge in demand for cotton yarn in the export and domestic apparel and home furnishings sector will bode well for the spinning mills in India.
Good monsoon and a better crop size of cotton may help in keeping the price of cotton viable for the industry in the next few months, thereby increasing the profitability of mills.
According to a study conducted by Credit Analysis and Research Limited, the direct yarn exports are likely to touch an estimated 1,500 million kgs by FY14 from current 1,107 million kgs in FY13 from India. The demand for yarn would come from China, it says.
13:38:43 local time PAKISTAN
* December 2013: Textile sector celebrates resurgence:
Despite the power crisis, a relatively improved energy supply to the textile industry has resulted in a 21% increase in exports in December 2013, compared to the corresponding period the previous year.
The industry is in a better position to achieve its $3-billion export target, said All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Punjab chapter Chairman S M Tanveer.
Tanveer, while briefing the media, expressed hope that a bullish textile sector growth can also ameliorate the current account deficit that is presently at $18 billion. He said the APTMA has a complete plan to match textile exports to the annual current account deficit of the country. According to him, the rupee has also appreciated against the dollar due to improvements in the textile and unemployment has also come down to 6% in December 2013 against 6.20% in December 2012.
* Textile sector on top of the list:
The credit demand from the private sector has bounced back in the first half of financial year 2014 rising to Rs296 billion indicating a spark in the economic activity across the country.
Informed sources told Pakistan Observer today that the private sector credit has seen a sharp pick-up in the first half of financial 2014 specially in the textile sector which has so far availed over Rs100 billion in the first half while overall demand has grown by Rs296 billionn in the period, the fastest pace of growth in the last eight years.
According to sectorwise break up the Textile acquired Rs100 billion, commerce and trade Rs34billion, electricity, gas and water Rs31billion) consumer financing Rs18 billion and agriculture (Rs 17billion have been the key sectors in terms of credit disbursement. An increase has been seen in both working capital requirements, and fixed capital investment. Improved electricity availability and business sentiment post May-13 elections are the two main drivers, in our opinion.
* ‘Rupee appreciated against dollar due to textile sector growth’:
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer has said that the APTMA members have delivered accordingly as the government enabled them to perform.
He said that textile sector exports have surged by 21 percent in value terms during December 2013 against the corresponding period due to improvement in energy supply by the government. He said APTMA is hopeful now to achieve $3 billion exports out of closed capacity.
He was holding a press conference at the APTMA Punjab office on Wednesday. He said APTMA was grateful to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Governor Punjab, Finance Minister, Commerce Minister and Petroleum Minister for their support to the textile industry. Chairman APTMA Punjab has further expressed the hope that a bullish textile sector growth can also motivate the act of current account deficit which is presently at the level of $18 billion. He said APTMA has a complete plan to match textile exports to the annual current account deficit of the country.
* APTMA claims 21% increase in production due to energy supply:
The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), Punjab has claimed that energy supply to textile industry has resulted in 21 percent increase to $215 million in December to December period and now APTMA is hopeful to achieve $3 billion exports out of the capacity, which was earlier closed.
APTMA Punjab Chairman SM Tanveer while addressing a press conference expressed the hope that a bullish textile sector growth can also motivate the act of current account deficit which is presently at the level of $18 billion. He said APTMA has a complete plan to match textile exports to the annual current account deficit of the country. According to him, the rupee has also appreciated against dollar due to improvement in textile and the unemployment has also come down to 6.0 percent in December 2013 against 6.20 percent in December 2012.
13:38:43 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Uzbek textile production jumps 13.2% in 2013:
The production by light industry, which includes textiles and garments and footwear sectors, in Uzbekistan increased by 13.2 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, as per the data from the information service of the State Committee on Statistics of Uzbekistan, uzdaily.uz reported.
According to the statistics, Uzbekistan’s light industry produced goods worth 7.955 trillion soums in 2013, accounting for 13 percent of the nation’s total industrial output. In 2012, the light industry’s share in total industrial production was 12.9 percent.
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16:38:43 local time CHINA
* Rising labor costs steer manufacturers offshore:
Driven by rising labor costs in China, textile and garment manufacturer Youngor Group, Hong Kong Union Times Group Limited and an industrial park operator in Guangdong province are reported to be co-investing in an industrial park worth some 1 billion yuan ($165 million) in Vietnam, Beijing Business Today reported on Tuesday.
Youngor will transfer its material manufacturing capacity to the industrial park, in a move that does not surprise industry experts. A few domestic garment manufacturers have moved to countries such as Vietnam due to rising labor costs in China.
Youngor attempted to transfer its production base three years ago. It acquired a shirt manufacturing factory in Hanoi, Vietnam, for more than $4 million in 2011. Li Rucheng, chairman of Youngor Group, said in a previous news report that the investment environment is getting better in Vietnam and labor costs are lower than in Ningbo. He said the factory will become a major processing base for Youngor.
15:38:43 local time VIET NAM
* Investments from China could be the double edge knife:
Chinese investors have been flocking to Vietnam, pouring money into the two main business fields – textile & garments and real estate.
Troy Griffiths from Savills Vietnam has confirmed that the real estate consultancy firm received a lot of Chinese investors who are seeking to purchase real estate projects.
The great potentials can be brought by the investors from Japan and South Korea, but the investors from China would be in the focus.
A report of the Foreign Investment Agency showed a “high jump” of the Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam with the total registered FDI capital reaching $2.3 billion in 2013, much higher than the $345 million in 2012.
Diep Thanh Kiet, Deputy Chair of the HCM City Textile, Garment and Embroidery Association, warned that Vietnamese enterprises would be at a disadvantage amid the Chinese strong investments in the textile and garment industry.
When cooperating with Vietnamese outsourcing enterprises, Chinese may “sacrifice” the profit from the outsourcing to attract laborers from Vietnamese enterprises, while they would only focus on making profit from material production. As such, domestic enterprises are likely to lose the battle.
* Textile, garment exports see auality up, volumes down:
To realise the goal of boosting exports with more depth, in 2014, the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) will focus on producing and exporting high quality textile and garment products and reduce the usage of imported materials.
Report by the Vietnam Economic News. In 2013, Vinatex maintained the central role of the textile and garment industry as it contributed 2.915 billion USD to the sector’s export revenue, posting a 12 percent growth compared with 2012.
15:38:43 local time CAMBODIA
* 11 Activists Arrested for Views That ‘Impact Public Order’:
Eleven political activists were pulled off the street by helmeted security guards Tuesday morning during a peaceful march to foreign embassies to deliver petitions calling for an end to government violence and the release of 23 imprisoned activists and strikers.
The 11 protesters—10 land rights activists and Rong Chhun, a prominent opposition-aligned labor activist—were arrested for disturbing public order, City Hall said. They were held at Phnom Penh municipal police headquarters for about five hours before being released shortly before 2 p.m.
“We arrested them because the rally and the expression of their views impact public order and public security,” City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said.
* Video: When Prayers Meet Supression: Calling for the Release of the 23:
On the evening of January 19, 2014, civil society groups gathered nearby the Royal Palace to call for the release of the 23 workers and rights defenders arrested earlier this month, and for an increase in the minimum wage.
Security guards and police interfered with the peaceful assembly and one association leader was detained overnight.
* Cambodian garment workers’ battle for labour rights deserves our support:
People in the UK must voice their disapproval of the intolerable conditions facing textile workers in Cambodia and Bangladesh
Last month, some of us will have unwrapped a new scarf, some running shoes or perhaps an old fashioned Christmas jumper. But few of us in the UK would have been aware that on 24 December, thousands of the people who made these items were on strike, protesting for better pay. Or that less than two weeks later, some of them would be dead.
The garment industry is a $5bn (£3bn) a year business for Cambodia. The clothes the country makes for high-street brands make textiles the country’s largest export. And just last month, the Guardian reported that the country “has a reputation for fair treatment of workers”.
But, as the new year violence illustrates, something has gone badly wrong. Tied up in opposition protests for new elections, Cambodia’s garment workers’ call for a higher minimum wage started a chain of events that led to a brutal police crackdown and the deaths of four of those on the picket line.
* The Assassination of Union Leader Chea Vichea—A Decade On:
Ten years after his assassination, friends and associates remember Chea Vichea, the founding president of the Free Trade Union, as a quiet man but a charismatic leader, passionate about labor issues and the right for workers to collectively bargain for higher wages and better conditions.
“He was a very disciplined person. He liked to spend time with his friends and was friendly with people. When they wanted him to explain things, he did it smoothly, without arrogance, and with patience,” said Chea Mony, Chea Vichea’s brother and current president of the FTU.
“He was very discreet and very humble, a modest man,” said opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who helped Chea Vichea found the FTU in 1998.
* Chea Vichea: Ten years, no answers:
* Authority to take actions if Chea Mony leads protest tomorrow (wednesday):
Phnom Penh Municipality authority warned that measures will be taken to maintain public order if Mr. Chea Mony is to lead his Union’s workers to march on 22 January to mark the 10th Anniversary of his slain brother Chea Vichea.
The authority has permitted the gathering only on the site where Chea Vichea’s statue stands, but marching is not allowed.
“We have both informed Chea Mony orally and in writing to the Union and have been working closely on the matter”, said Long Dimanche, spokesperson for Phnom Penh Municipality.
He added that the Municipality was always positive on the request for gathering depending upon calm situation. But this time, we can’t understand why the Union still intends to defy the warning on marching.
“If he defies the warning as stated in the letter, measures will be taken. As this can be compared to rules of playing soccer, if you are against the rule, you will be punished through subsequent 2 yellow cards and the red card will be the expulsion. We will wait and see,” said Long Dimanche.
* Union boss’s murder gets day in court:
One of the men suspected in the seven-year-old murder of a Phnom Penh garment factory union representative was tried at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, nearly two years after his conviction in absentia.
Chan Sophon, 35, stood before presiding Judge Kor Vandy in a re-trial of a December 2012 hearing that found him guilty in the February 2007 shooting death of Hy Vuthy, late president of the Free Trade Union at Dangkor district’s Suntex.
* Large protest planned for Sunday:
Amid the continued arrest of activists who have defied a ban on public gatherings, a group of unions and associations yesterday revealed plans for a large demonstration in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park on Sunday.
About 10,000 people are expected to attend the rally, according to a letter to Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong, which is signed by nine unions and associations.
“I have not received a reply from City Hall yet, but we will hold the rally if they do not allow it,” said Heng Sam Orn, secretary general of Independent Democratic Association of Informal Economic (IDEA).
16:38:43 local time MALAYSIA
* Textile Body Wants Minimum Wage Policy Withdrawn:
The Malaysian Textile Manufacturers Association (MTMA) is appealing to the government to withdraw the foreign workers minimum wage policy, in order to ensure the survival of its members.
The government has said full implementation of the Minimum Wage Order 2012 for foreign workers comes into effect this month.
“We wish to appeal to the Malaysian government to allow the textile and apparel industry to implement the probationary period of three to six months for foreign workers with a minimum wage of RM630 per month, while the employers will have to bear the levy cost during this probation period,” said MTMA Chief Executive Officer Andrew Hong.
“We also appeal to the government to relax the requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers so that the factories can be allowed to recruit more foreign workers to reduce the overtime cost in order to remain competitive,” he added.
read more. & to read.
* Minimum Wage: No more excuses please:
Jerit urges the government to not show any sympathy or mercy to the employers’ on the issue of minimum wage.
The statement by Malaysia Employer Federation (MEF) reported in The Sun is baseless as it’s already more than a year since the announcement of the implementation of minimum wage policy by the government. We strongly view that the ample time has been given to the employers to implement minimum wage.
The minimum wage which should have been implemented in January 2013 was deferred due to the claims by the employers that they are not ready. Moreover, the government exercised so much of flexibility in favour of the employers such as exempting companies with less than 5 workers from implementing minimum wage.
The allowances (like meals and transportation allowances) were included in the calculation of minimum wage.
Migrants workers were not paid minimum wage since March 2013 although the initial plan was the minimum wage is for all workers.
16:38:43 local time INDONESIA
* Machinery Trade System for Textile Absolutely Required:
The textile and textile products industry practitioners urged the government to make trade system and machinery industrialization in domestic as an absolute need to fulfill so that the sector has global competitiveness.
Chairman of Indonesian Textile Association (API) Ade Sudrajat said before the government drives the machine plant development investment in domestic, the government should make the machinery trade system. Generally, the domestic machinery industry has not been made as priority.
“The government seems have no focus. They should have made trade system on machinery that valid within the period of 5-10 years for instance, to develop the machinery supporting industry and make a proper policy. This is not just about textile,” he said to Bisnis Indonesia, Sunday (1/19).
* Indonesian govt for skill development in textile industry:
14:38:43 local time BANGLADESH
* Trade leaders urge govt to formulate business friendly labour rules:
Business leaders urged the government Tuesday to formulate business friendly labour rules in consultation with all the stakeholders mainly to pave the way for employment generation.
They also suggested not to concentrate only on one sector or specific issues rather consider the whole socio-economic scenario of the country in this regard.
Leaders of BEF, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) made the appeal during a meeting with the State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque at his secretariat office in the city.
“There are many concerns of different sectors which the government should take into consideration before formulating rules in respect of labour law,” Kamran T Rahman, former president of Bangladesh Employers’ Federation (BEF) said.
The rules should be business friendly to create employment, he added.
BTMA President Jahangir Alamin said the socio-economic condition also needs to be taken into consideration in this regard so that all the sectors have the opportunity to express their views.
* Businesses want rules, regulations backing sector-wise entrepreneurs:
Business leaders on Tuesday demanded that the government consider the requirements of sector-wise entrepreneurs while formulating rules and regulations under the newly passed Bangladesh Labour Act-2013.
In a meeting with state minister for labour and employment Mujibul Haque at the secretariat in the capital, the business leaders said that the export-oriented sectors, specially apparel sector, were facing huge challenges and so the government should consider the concerns of the sector players.
They also demanded that the government ensure business-friendly environment as well as uninterrupted supply chain across the country for sustainable economic growth.
‘We have a good number of suggestions over formulating the rules under the labour act and the government should consider the sector-wise requirements,’ former president of the Bangladesh Employers Federation Kamran T Rahman said in the meeting.
The business-friendly environment and law are needed to generate employment as some 20 lakh labour forces enter in the labour market every year, he said.
Jahangir Alamin, president of the Bangladesh Textile mills Association, demanded that the government formulate the rules and regulations of labour act considering the prevailing social and economic situation in Bangladesh.
He urged the government not to concentrate on any particular issue regarding formulation of rules.
* Effects of non-compliance with rules in RMG industry:
The apparel industry was fortunately free of any trouble for the last few days. But the calm could be very temporary and the risks of starting troubles afresh always remain.
Intermittent troubles over the demand for wage-hike or regular payment of wage and arrears or rumours over deaths of workers in and around the main apparel hub – Ashulia, Gazipur and Savar belt – have become a common happening. No one would like to see workers agitating once again on the highways blocking traffic movement or hurling brickbats at passing vehicles or any other establishments or battling with law enforcers.
This is for record that the apparel export performance in the recent months was quite impressive, despite the frequent workers’ troubles, international concern over the collapse of the Rana Plaza and deadly political agitation in the past few months.
The sector demonstrated nervousness when the export growth slowed down to a paltry 3.0 per cent in October last.
But there came a very strong recovery in November when export grew by 41 per cent over that of the previous month.
Overall the apparel export growth in the first half of the current fiscal (2013-14) was around 20 per cent and more than the targets set for both knit and woven garments.
This achievement was against all odds and risks, political or otherwise. The country, hopefully, would surpass the apparel export targets set for the year.
* Garment workers of Nurjahan Apparels Limited:
Garment workers of Nurjahan Apparels Limited formed a human chain demanding payment of arrear wages in front of BGMEA bhaban in the city Monday. — Photo Focus Bangla
* Cotton factory, godown gutted in capital, Barisal:
In separate incidents, a cotton factory and a godown were gutted by fire in the capital and Barisal on Tuesday.
In the capital, a fire burned down valuables worth about Tk 3 lakh in a cotton factory in Hazaribagh in the afternoon.
Fire Service sources said the fire originated from sparks erupted from a machine inside the factory near Zaman Petrol Pump at about 4pm.
Four units of firefighters from different stations went to the spot and doused the flame at about 5pm, said Bhajan Kumar, duty officer at the Fire Service control room.
However, no one was injured in the incident.
In Barisal, a cotton godown was gutted by a fire that broke out at Hatkhola of the city in the morning.
Fire Service sources said the fire originated at the warehouse of ‘Tajmahal Stores’ at Marich Patty around 11am.
On information, firefighters from Barisal Fire Service Station rushed to the spot and extinguished the flame around 1pm, said fireman Mohammad Rashed.
Hasib Akan Dipu, in-charge of the station said primarily it was assumed that the fire erupted from an electrical short circuit that also damaged a nearby shop.
Abul Hossain, owner of ‘Tajmahal Stores’, said valuables, including cotton, worth Tk 15 lakh were gutted by the fire.
* Cotton warehouse catches fire:
Cause of the fire not yet confirmed
A fire has broken out at a warehouse of cotton at Beribadh area of the capital’s Hajaribagh on Tuesday.
Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) duty officer Belal Ahmed said: “Upon getting information, four units of fire fighters rushed in and were trying to douse the blaze that broke out at 4:30pm.”
However, he could not confirm the cause of the fire incident, casualty or damages till filing of the report at 5:40pm.
to read.& read more. & read more.
* RMG makers want 1% cash incentive against exports:
Exporters of the readymade garment products have demanded that the government should give one per cent cash incentive for export of all types of RMG items, leaders of the apparel exporters associations said.
The finance ministry early this month decided to provide cash incentive at the rate of 0.25 per cent on the freight on board value of export of all types of RMG items.
At a meeting with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association leaders held at secretariat, finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith offered the 0.25 per cent cash incentive for one and half years, BKMEA vice-president Mohammad Hatem told New Age.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* An exchange with the Bangladeshi ambassador to the US:
The following is an exchange between Bangladesh’s a mbassador to the US , Akramul Qader, and World Socialist Web Site editorial board member K. Ratnayake on the WSWS article on January 3, 2014, “Victims of Bangladesh building collapse neglected.”
To the Editor:
We take issue with the statement made, inter-alia, in the online article, published on the WSWS web site ‘Victims of Bangladesh building collapse neglected’ (January 3) that the Rana Plaza victims received ‘little assistance and a pittance in financial compensation’. The article also gave an impression that the victims were not compensated sincerely by the Bangladesh Government and other stakeholders. These do not reflect the correct picture of the situation, especially in consideration of the sincere efforts taken by the government to give each victim as much compensation as possible, despite serious resource constraints of a country like Bangladesh.
To Akramul Qader,
Your letter to the World Socialist Web Site only confirms what we have insisted all along: following the April 24 collapse of Rana Plaza building, the Bangladesh government is engaged in a cynical exercise in damage control aimed at protecting the profits of the country’s burgeoning garment export industry and covering up the root causes of such repeated tragedies.
14:08:43 local time INDIA
* Dirty cotton – a research on child labour, slavery, trafficking and exploitation in cotton and cotton seed farming in India:
The introduction of genetically modified or BT cotton in India has increased the demand for cheap labour.
Recognising the need to understand and address the growing concern over the engagement of children in the cotton industry in India, this study examines the issue of child labour in four cotton and cotton seed growing states in – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The report highlights the following drivers behind prevalence of child labour in cotton industry:
* Indian textile sector creates 66,000 new jobs in Q2 FY’14:
13:38:43 local time PAKISTAN
* Powerloom workers rally against loadshedding:
Dozens of powerloom workers held a protest rally on Monday against hours-long unscheduled power outages.
Carrying flags and banners inscribed with slogans against loadshedding, the protesters gathered at the District Council Chowk and marched towards the Kutchery Bazaar Chowk.
They chanted slogans against the government for depriving them of their jobs by suspending electricity to their factories. They warned of launching a protest movement in February if situation did not improve.
Hameed Ali, a powerloom worker of Sidhar, said that in the election gatherings, the PML-N leaders, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, had made tall claims about controlling power outages.
However, after forming the government, he lamented, nothing substantial was done for labourers who had been bearing the brunt of power outages in the form of financial crunch.
Ali said many other workers like him were unable to run their powerlooms efficiently during last few days.
* Textile, leather sectors seek govt assistance:
Representatives of textile and leather garments sectors demanded technical and financial support from the government for fully availing the GSP Plus scheme.
The demand came at a public-private dialogue on “Enhancing Competitiveness and Export Potential of Textile and Leather Garments” organised by the International Trade Centre (ITC), Pakistan Institute of Trade And Development (PITAD) and Punjab Industries Department here on Tuesday.
The representatives said that the government should help them in obtaining bank loans for upgrading decades old obsolete technology, make functional state-run technical institutes to get skilled manpower, reduce duty on raw material and import of machinery as well as curb smuggling of finished goods from neighbouring countries like Iran and Afghanistan were some of the demands put forward by the private sector.Additional federal commerce secretary Fazal Abbas Maken and ITC representative Owais Khan talked about the facilities the government was offering to build capacity of the industrial sector.
* Capitalising on GSP+ status: textiles exporters urge government to introduce soft import policy:
Value-added textiles exporters yearning to capitalise on GSP + package are urging the government to introduce a “soft import policy” to help manufacturers diversify apparel products to augment their businesses and export.
“Additional businesses will also spur the existing manufacturing of textile products,” exporters said on Tuesday, adding that the country has merely few products to offer in world markets at present whereas China offers some 50 items to global buyers.
Talking to Business Recorder, Chief Co-ordinator, Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea), Ijaz A. Khokhar, said “There is a shortage of fabric in the country which hampers manufacturing of some value-added textile products that have big appeal in EU markets.”
* Garments City project case: LHC seeks report from Punjab government:
The Lahore High Court here Tuesday questioned the Punjab Government’s policy of launching the projects in suburbs of the provincial capital, and directed it to submit report.
The court was hearing a provincial government petition challenging a stay order earlier issued against acquisition of land by Punjab government to establish Garment City in Sheikhupura.
Earlier counsel of Anjuman-Mutasareen Garments City Sheikhupura and others told to the court that the government was planning to build a garment city on the agricultural land instead of promoting the agriculture. They pointed out that the vegetables and fruits had already been out of reach of poor citizens as the government had badly ignored the agriculture sector. The lawyers further pointed out that the citizens were being forced to purchase the fruits and vegetables at higher cost.
read more. & read more.
* Improved energy supply: textile exports surge by 20 percent in December: S M Tanveer:
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer has said that textile sector exports have surged by 20 percent in value terms during December 2013 against the corresponding period due to improvement in energy supply by the government.
He lauded the role of Chief Minister Punjab in pursuing the federal government for maximum electricity and gas supply to the textile industry during December 2013.
* Call for end to cheap labour trend in South Asia:
The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) should unanimously decide the wages of labourers, working hours and health facilities so that capitalist forces do not hire labour on cheap rates, says Noor Zaheer, daughter of Sajjad Zaheer, pioneer of the Progressive Writers Association.
He was speaking at an event organised in honour of Ms Zaheer at the South Asian Free Media Association on Saturday.
Herself a writer and a worker of the Communist Party of India, Ms Zaheer said big industrialists looked for cheap labour in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and the trend should end. Saarc counties should formulate a unanimous policy on the matter and measures should be taken to elevate the standard of life of labourers, she said.
15:38:43 local time VIET NAM
* TPP lures swarms of garment producers:
An element of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is helping Vietnam coax more foreign garment and textile makers.
Northeastern Quang Ninh province’s Department of Planning and Investment said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), currently under negotiation, was making the province a hot destination for garment and textile firms looking to establish factories as their products are exported to TPP member nations and would enjoy a 0 per cent tax rate on imports.
Under the TPP’s ‘yarn forward’ rule of origin, to be eligible for a 0 per cent import tax rate – instead of the existing 17-20 per cent – all manufacturing processes including yarn spinning, knitting, and dyeing must be carried out in a TPP member country.
The department’s deputy director Do Minh Tuan said Hong Kong’s Black Peony is planning to build a $100 million jeans factory at Hai Yen Industrial Park. TAL Hong Kong
read more in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 20/1
* Vietnamese garment firms reverse accessories flow:
The garment sector exported accessories for the first time last year, after decades of importing them as inputs, according to the Vietnam Garment and Textile Group (Vinatex).
Vinatex, the country’s leading garment manufacturer, said the exports of accessories contributed roughly 700 million USD to the industry’s total exports of 20 billion USD in 2013.
It noted that last year, the industry used accessories made in Vietnam, instead of importing accessories and raw materials from other countries such as China, the Republic of Korea and Bangladesh.
read more. & to read. & to read.
* Apparel exports to US forecast to surge:
If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is realised soon, Vietnam’s textile-garment exports to the US could hit around 10 billion USD this year, with the number set to double by 2020.
Vietnam earned 8.6 billion USD from shipping such products to the US market in 2013, a year-on-year increase of 14.2 percent, according to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS).
During the period, the sector’s export value (excluding 600 million USD earned from apparel material) reached nearly 20 billion USD, up around 17 percent against 2012, with yarn fibre and clothing shipments estimated at 2.13 billion USD and 17.89 billion USD respectively.
15:38:43 local time CAMBODIA
* Time for a New Global “Abolitionist” Crusade:
A coalition of 30 brands and three global unions have sent a letter expressing “grave concern” to the Prime Minister Hun Sen and calling for an investigation into the shooting deaths of five striking garment workers during the recent protest and asking for a meeting with the PM.
The brands, including Walt Disney, Puma, Walmart, Gap, Levi and H&M, sent the letter on Friday urging the government to launch a new process to set minimum wages and to respect the rights of workers and trade unions, and requesting an investigation into the incident.
“The use of deadly force against protesting workers will not result in long-term industrial peace and jeopardises Cambodia’s position as a stable sourcing location for international brands,” it said. “The investigation should ensure full accountability of any members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force.”
The brands also urged the government to respect the rights of 23 workers and union leaders detained since the protests, and to ensure the right to freedom of association.
It follows a similar letter sent in the wake of the crackdown by seven retailers to the government, factories and unions signed mostly by compliance officers condemning the violence and calling for a new wage-setting process.
The brands are clearly concerned about damage to their reputations that might impact the fabulous profits they make from the trade.
Unfortunately their protests are somewhat disingenuous.
This is because the only ones with the power to actually to improve the lot of workers in Cambodia is the brands themselves.
If anyone benefits from the whole structure of how the industry is organised therefore, it is not Western consumers, it is the Western brand owners.
They are one-step removed from the actual manufacture of the garments, which are produced by contract manufacturers.
* Marchers to flout ban on protests:
Hundreds of civil society representatives, garment workers and community groups are expected to take to the streets this morning to deliver petitions to foreign embassies calling on the government to release the 23 people arrested during garment worker strikes earlier this month and find justice for those injured and killed in the violence.
While organisers insist their actions do not constitute a march, the three-day event involving 19 embassies comes two days after the government’s ban on public assembly and demonstrations was tested by a significantly smaller event, with riot police disrupting a vigil for the 23 in custody and making one arrest near the Royal Palace on Sunday.
A military police spokesman yesterday said the group would be “dispersed” if it caused traffic jams or disrupted social order.
Petitions signed by 181 local and regional civil society organisations are to be hand-delivered to the US, UK, French, German and Japanese embassies from 8am this morning, with seven more embassies scheduled for Wednesday and another seven, plus UN offices, for Thursday.
“We strongly condemn the use of brutally excessive force, arbitrary arrests, killings and inhumane treatment by the Cambodian authorities,” a joint statement released yesterday by the civil society groups says.
“We appeal to the international community to take action on this inhumane treatment on Cambodian citizens.”
* 11 Activists Arrested While Petitioning US, French Embassies:
District security guards this morning arrested 11 political activists taking part in a protest in front of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh against the imprisonment of 23 protesters who were beaten and arrested earlier this month.
The protesters, including union leader Rong Chhun and prominent Boeng Kak community activist Tep Vanny, had gathered in front of the embassy at 8:15 a.m. in defiance of a recent ban on public assembly put in place after a wave of violent suppression initiated by the CPP government at the beginning of the year.
At 8:30 a.m., the security guards, wearing full-faced black helmets, entered the crowd, surrounded Ms. Vanny and pulled her into a nearby unmarked white van before driving away.
* Eleven more human rights defenders detained:
Eleven people have been detained following a gathering outside the US embassy in Phnom Penh this morning to deliver a petition signed by 182 groups calling for the release of the 23 jailed during violent crackdowns earlier this month.
The arrested people are: Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), Boeung Kak lake activists Tep Vanny, Yorm Bopha, Song Sreyleap, Pan Chunreth, Bov Sorphea, Erm Sreytouch, and Ngoun Kimlang, as well as Choung Sopheap, activist from Thmor Kaul airport-area community, Long Kim Heang, staff member of Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), and Cheang Thida, activist of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU).
Additionally, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court just informed NGO lawyers that the 22 of the 23 arrested earlier this month and detained in CC3 have been refused bail release. The Phnom Penh Appeal Court deadline for announcing the bail decision for Vorn Pao, president of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), is February 3, 2014.
* 11 more arrested:
Eleven rights activists were detained by Phnom Penh Municipal security forces this morning after they marched to the US Embassy to deliver a petition calling for the release of 23 people jailed during the brutal crackdown earlier this month.
The arrested activists, including Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, and Boeung Kak lake activists Tep Vanny and Yorm Bopha, were detained by district security forces wearing black helmets after delivering the petition.
Six people were detained outside the US Embassy and five more, including Chhun, were taken away about 10 minutes later in a police van on their way to the French Embassy.
* Eleven rights defenders detained this morning are released:
The eleven human rights defenders detained this morning during an embassy march to petition diplomatic intervention to release the 23 protesters held in CC3 have been released from the Phnom Penh municipal police station.
They were released without charge, but only after signing a letter promising not to participate in future demonstrations.
* The human right to a living wage is far from being won in Cambodia:
I was deeply saddened to read the article by Anne Elizabeth Moore titled “What’s the Price of Workers’ Lives in Cambodia?” published on January 17 in the US-based Truth-out.org website.
This story contained an outrageous attack on the Cambodian garment workers demonstration over the minimum wage by a well-known Cambodian blogger, academic and human rights activist Sopheap Chak.
I am used to hearing such arguments from employers as a way to escape from their responsibility to pay workers a decent wage, but I did not expect this from an experienced human rights activist.
Chak, program director for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), claimed she has been watching the recent events closely, but disparaged the garment workers’ campaign for a US$160 a month minimum wage.
“You have to come up with the data, come up with a reason why $160 now,” she said in an interview for the article which presented the strike as not really being “about the struggle for living wages in the garment factories” but the workers’ “bodies put to service toward a larger political agenda” of the opposition politician Sam Rainsy’s “bid for power”.
* Union Leader Released; ‘Free the 23’ Protests To Continue:
Phnom Penh police released union leader Sok Chhun Oeung from custody Monday, a day after dragging him off the street at a peaceful protest he had organized along Phnom Penh’s riverside against the detention of 23 men still in jail for participating in demonstrations over garment factory wages earlier this month.
Remaining defiant on his release, Mr. Chhun Oeung joined human rights groups in denouncing his arrest as illegal and said his union for motorcycle taxi and tuk-tuk drivers, known as the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), would organize an even bigger rally soon in spite of a standing government ban on public gatherings.
read more. & read more.
* Brain Surgery for Teenager Beaten on Veng Sreng:
Thet Theng has lost the use of his arm.
For 18 days, his mother, a constant at his bedside in the Intensive Care Unit of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, has repeated the same process: lifting her son’s right arm into the air and hoping that he can muster the strength to keep it up there.
On Monday, like every day he has spent in the hospital, Theng’s lame arm immediately flopped to his side. Military police brutally beat the 18-year-old garment worker with truncheons while he was attending a protest for higher wages on January 3 on Veng Sreng Street.
* Beyond Chea Vichea, Many Cases Lack Accountability, Justice:
Ahead of the 10-year anniversary on Wednesday of the assassination of Free Trade Union (FTU) President Chea Vichea, police said Monday that despite their inability to bring anyone to justice for the high-profile slaying, the case remains open.
However, Chea Mony, the brother of Chea Vichea, reiterated his long-held belief that the government covered up the killing of his sibling.
“I think that the murderers are protected by their master, which is the government; if they did not have a master, they would be arrested,” said Mr. Mony, who went on to replace his brother as president of the FTU in 2004.
“This is the inability of the authorities,” Mr. Mony said.
* Vichea legacy endures:
In the months preceding and following Cambodia’s 2003 national election, bloody political slayings proved scourges on the country’s efforts to advance its decade-old democracy.
The most high-profile victim on a list that includes political advisers, karaoke singers and journalists is Free Trade Union leader Chea Vichea. Tomorrow marks 10 years since his murder.
Vichea, 40, who had survived the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally, had only recently emerged from months in hiding – following death threats – when he was gunned down near a newsstand close to Wat Lanka in the capital.
The union leader was shot in the chest, head and left wrist at close range at about 9:15 on the morning of January 22, 2004.
16:38:43 local time MALAYSIA
* Minimum Wage: No more excuses for employers:
JERIT urge the government to not show any sympathy or mercy to the employers’ on the issue of minimum wage.
The statement by Malaysia Employer Federation (MEF) which was reported in “The Sun’ daily on 20-1-2014 (page 2), titled “MEF: Guide, not punish, employers on floor wage” is baseless as it’s already more than a year since the announcement of the implementation of minimum wage policy by the government. We strongly view that the ample time has been given to the employers to implement minimum wage.
The minimum wage which should have been implemented in January 2013 was deferred due to the claims by the employers that they are not ready.
Moreover, the government exercised so much of flexibility in favor of the employers such as exempting companies with less than 5 workers from implementing minimum wage.
The allowances (like meals and transportation allowances) were included in the calculation of minimum wage. Migrants workers were not paid minimum wage since March 2013 although the initial plan was the minimum wage is for all workers.
So, no more excuses now! It’s time to punish the employers who fail to implement the provisions under the Minimum Wage Order. The punishment of fine RM10 000 per worker upon the conviction and RM20 000 fine or five year‘s imprisonment for subsequent offences is the right decision to ensure the employers comply with the minimum wage order.
16:38:43 local time INDONESIA
* BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates:
1. 166 companies in West Java are granted with Minimum Wage Waiver. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
2. Jakarta Loss Due to Flood Reached Billion Rupiah. Read the full article here .
3. Flood will paralyzed manufacturing sector, production cost increase by 3%. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
4. YLKI: Socialization is minimum, SJSN are prone to conflict.
Read the full article here(Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
5. 12.745 Companies ignored Occupational Safety and Health.
Read the full article here (article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
6. Working, but still poor. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
Read the Google Translate English Version here.
7. World Bank sees stronger growth as rich economies expand.
Read the full article here.
BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates overview here.
14:38:43 local time BANGLADESH
* Shoe factory fire guts 32 houses in capital:
An explosion at a shoe factory at Shahid Nagar of Lalbagh in Old Dhaka yesterday caused a fire that burnt the factory and 32 houses and injured two people.
The explosion occurred when two workers at the factory were trying to light a kerosene-run oven to heat glue, said Nazimuzzaman, senior station officer at Lalbagh Fire Station.
The oven exploded and the flammable materials stored in the factory caught fire, he added.
The fire spread burning 32 houses, Nazimuzzaman said, adding that they all belonged to one Ambia Khatun.
The workers — Nasim, 30 and Dilu Miah, 50 — are currently undergoing treatment at the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital with ten and twelve percent burn injuries respectively.
The fire was put out after an effort of 30 minutes.
* Threadbare outlook for Bangladesh’s garments sector:
Workers at the Dhaka-based garment manufacturer Sidko Apparels Ltd have become very particular about their attendance. They are all afraid of losing their jobs.
“It has never been this bad,” Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi, the marketing director of the 30-year-old firm, tells Bangkok Post over the phone. “There are far less orders in the market for this time of the year, and like many others, we are running grossly under capacity. Recruitments have frozen and many manufacturers are streamlining their workforce.”
“At least 500 active factories have closed down; 1,000 mid-sized factories have been shuttered, and most of us are looking at our quantity projections from customers trying to reconcile the smaller orders in 2014. Order projections have dropped by almost 25%,” wrote Mohammadi Group managing director Rubana Huq in her column in The Daily Star.
Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of garments in the world after China, and is a supplier to major retailers such as Walmart and H&M. The ready-made apparel sector is the latest casualty of the large-scale political violence the country witnessed surrounding the Jan 5 national polls.
The nation was paralysed by a spate of general strikes and road and rail blockades organised by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and allies. Over 150 people were reportedly killed in political clashes in the months preceding the elections.
* RMG hits new grounds:
Newspapers have run stories praising the country’s lead export earner, readymade garments, for braving the most difficult of times, that too at a pace faster than that of the previous year.
That exports have grown despite the tumultuous political situation at home and the ‘negatives’ brewing up in the destination markets is really heartening. It’s important to note that the overseas buyers, caught in the doubt of whether or not to procure from this country, did not find it sensible to reduce sourcing from Bangladesh.
The case, however, may not be as simple as it may be construed from the figures. True, export remittances have increased during the July-December period compared to that of the corresponding period last year. But how much of the orders were procured during this period and how much of the shipments actually got shipped out (including by air at exorbitant costs) need to be looked into, in order to have an authentic account of exporting in hard times.
Data show that garment export grew by more than 20 per cent to nearly $12bn during the aforementioned period, i.e., the first half of the current fiscal over the same period of the preceding year’s $10bn.
Exports to major European markets rose by more than 21 per cent to over $7.0bn in the six months compared to the same period of 2012. The trend as regards the US market is also upward – a rise by 13.25 per cent to $2.5bn from $2.27bn in the corresponding six months of 2012.
* Denim: the next big export out of Bangladesh:
The wide consumption of denim by fashion connoisseurs globally has created a new opportunity for Bangladesh, the second largest exporter of the item after China.
With changes in fashion and style, denim is used to make clothes for all seasons for both men and women. Demand for denim wear is also on the rise worldwide.
“Denim is used by all segments of people, as such fabric is comfortable and looks smart,” said Mahmuda Begum, head of the fashion design department of BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology.
“In the perspective of fashion, the fabric is versatile and can be used all the year round to create looks that are modern, formal or casual,” she said.
These are the reasons why demand for the fabric is high worldwide and investors are forming large-scale plants in the country, entrepreneurs said.
The number of denim makers may go over 30 from 25 at present by the year-end, said Showkat Aziz Russell, managing director of the country’s largest denim maker Partex Denim.
“I am confident that Bangladesh would make four in five denim items for the European market by 2020.”
* Exporters cheer EU GSP assurances:
Major exporters have heaved a sigh of relief following the latest announcement of European Union for continuation of generalised system of preference given to Bangladeshi products in their markets.
Policy makers in the government termed the EU position ‘expected’.
Amid news reports that EU might withdraw the GSP benefits for Bangladesh following the January 5 general elections boycotted by the opposition including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the 28-member economic bloc on Sunday said that they were not considering ‘any changes’ in the existing trade benefit under the generalised system of preference.
‘In the question of GSP, at the moment we are not considering any change to GSP,’ the head of the EU delegation Hanna told a group of selected journalists at his office on Sunday.
14:08:43 local time INDIA
* Govt targets textile exports of $60bn:
Encouraged by turnaround in the textile exports, the government is setting up a $60 billion target for the next financial year, a jump of over 30% from the current financial year.
“It is not a difficult proposition to increase textile exports to achieve that target by March 2015,” Textile minister K S Rao said, while speaking on the sidelines of Tex-Trends India 2014. For the current fiscal year, government has set a target of $43 billion.
Rao said that only addressing issues related to procedural clearances will result into 8% increase in textile exports. “I will get the proposals from the industry and will ensure that all the procedural hurdles for exports are cleared during my term.”
The minister said that garment exports have been growing at 15% since the last nine months. Apparel exports have grown at over 15% during April-December, 2013.
* Textile exports set to cross $40 billion:
Union Textiles Minister, K. S. Rao on Monday said India was aiming at textile exports of $60 billion in 2014-15 as it will seek to encash on the increased demand from the developed nations and its traditional partners in the international market.
“Next year (2014-15), the textiles exports target will be set at $60 billion, having seen the potential and concentrating on skill development in the country, focus on textile sector by the government and also the necessity of the advanced nations to depend entirely on Asia, especially China and India,’’ Mr. Rao told journalists here after the inauguration of Tex-Trend India 2014 at Pragati Maidan here.
* Knitwear manufacturers seek assurance on skilled labour availability:
The knitwear manufacturers in Tirupur sought an assurance on adequate availability of skilled labourers and facilities to set up vertical integration of garment production chain if they could think of investing in the special industrial zone planned by the Karnataka Government at Chamarajanagar.
These demands, among a few others, were aired by the garment entrepreneurs during the ‘Chamarajanagar Investment Invitation Meet’, jointly organised by Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Rotary Club of Tirupur Thirumuruganpoondi, Sripuram Trust and Infospace Management Private Limited, here on Saturday.
On raw materials, the industrialists here put forward the requisition of making assured quantity of cotton, which was abundantly grown in Karnataka, available for consumption to them if their manufacturing base was expanded to Chamarajanagar industrial zone in Karnataka.
14:08:43 local time SRI LANKA
* FTA with China next boost for Lankan apparel sector: JAAF:
Efforts to drive the Sri Lankan apparel sector into a new growth phase may hinge on the success of the potential free trade agreement (FTA) in the offing with China, according to Joint Apparel Association Forum (JAAF) Secretary General Tuli Cooray.
“China is a massive market. If we can capture even a small percentage of market share, it could easily lift up the entire apparel industry. An FTA which grants Sri Lankan apparel exporters access will open up a host of opportunities, particularly given the government’s policy of working towards the hub-status.
In such a large market, we can compete through niche products but we have also lobbied the government to create entrepot trading for the apparel sector and this too has significant potential in combination with the FTA,” Cooray noted.
13:38:43 local time PAKISTAN
* Workers’ unions remind PM of his promise:
Workers’ unions have called upon Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to fulfil his promise of establishment of industrial estates at Pindi Bhattian, Kot Sarwar and Bhaka Bhattian/Khanqah-Dogran interchanges without further delay.
Muhammad Arshad Ansari, a labourers’ leader, and Muhammad Zaman Ansari, president of Power-loom Workers Union, mentioned that during the construction of motorway, the prime minister had promised to establish small industrial estates at all the interchanges on the motorway.
However, they regretted, the promise had not yet been materialised. They pointed that there was no industry, except small power-looms and rice mills which are seasonal.
“The estates’ establishment is inevitable to provide opportunities for the businessmen to set up small industries, which would pave the way for the creation of thousands of jobs and raising the socio-economic condition of the small businessmen,” they said.
* Call to shift garments city project to Southern Punjab:
Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif should constitute an economic think tank (ETT) to end the economic crisis in the country and put the economy on the track of progress and prosperity, said Mukhtar Ahmed Khan Baloch Chairman of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) while talking to media men here on Sunday.
Eulogising the verdict of Lahore High Court, the chairman said that Garments City Project immediately be shifted to Southern Punjab which produces 80 percent cotton of total production. Production cost would automatically be reduced when the raw material would be available in first hand.
* APTMA, Chambers of Commerce call for uniform electricity rate:
Chambers of Commerce and Industry of all the major cities as well as the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) called for a uniform rate of electricity across the country to provide a level playing field.
In a Joint Statement issued Sunday by Lahore, Faisalabad, Islamabad & Rawalpindi Chambers of Commerce and APTMA, it has been said that it should be ensured that no unfair and undue advantage is provided to any specific area or industry.
They said that the power tariff was raised by up to 62-74 percent from August 1, 2013 for industrial, commercial and bulk consumers, however, it was unfortunate that this increase has not been implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) giving it undue advantage at the cost of rest of the country.
* Cotton production can be doubled to earn billions of dollars:
National economy is losing billions of dollars every year due to stagnant production of cotton despite having enormous potential for increasing it.
Dr Zafar Hayat, senior member, Farmers Associates of Pakistan (FAP) said this while talking to APP here on Sunday.
He said that there is vast scope for increasing per acre yield of cotton in the country.
“Experiences of progressive farming have proved that the cotton production in Pakistan can easily be doubled if the impediments in its way are removed”, he said.
He said that due to unregulated seed industry, farmers are unable to find certified cotton seed on sustainable basis.
* GSP Plus facility to give impetus to economic revival: President:
President Mamnoon Hussain said on Monday the grant of Generalized System of Preference (GSP) Plus status to Pakistan demonstrated the trust and confidence of the EU countries in the quality and competitiveness of the country’s goods and products.
He expressed his confidence that the facility, which would remain effective from January 2014 to 2017, would give great impetus to the government’s efforts for steering the economy towards the path of revival and stability.
The President said this during his meeting with a group of ambassadors from European countries led by EU Ambassador Lars-Gunnar Wigemarkat, which called on him at the Presidency here.