11:01:13 local time CHINA
* Hope is still alive for manufacturing:
Rising labor costs and the strengthening yuan are prompting overseas investors to seek alternatives to manufacturing in China.
In China’s biggest export markets, the United States and the European Union, China’s market share began to fall for the first time in 2011. China has lost a little import market share in labor intensive manufactured goods, particularly textiles, fibers and clothing. However, a clear trend has yet to be formed. Meanwhile, China continues to move up the value-added chain. It’s not the end for Chinese manufacturing.
Are emerging markets in Asia gaining market share at China’s expense? For all their cost advantages, Bangladesh and Cambodia’s market shares in both the US in EU are very low and seemingly stagnant.
It will likely take years before these countries can achieve the level of vertical integration that China has established over the past 20 years.
As long as their supply chains are not fully developed, extra transport costs would be required to transport raw materials or semi-finished goods from China into these countries.
Moreover, there are serious concerns about these countries’ safety records and political stability. Global brands may reconsider expansion plans in these regions or even scale down existing operations, lest events tarnish their reputation.
Claims that Bangladesh and Cambodia could replace China Ñ even if in low value-added manufacturing Ñ seem farfetched for now.
Vietnam may be a threat to China’s manufacturing as it is gaining market share in both the US and the EU.
However, its import market share is still low. Unlike Cambodia and Bangladesh, which focus on low valued-added manufacturing, Vietnam is increasing its share of high-tech manufacturing as well.
read more. & read more.
11:01:13 local time PHILIPPINES
* Workers demand TRO vs. SSS, PhilHealth premium hikes:
Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, Manila this morning to demand a Temporary Restraining Order against the premium hikes implemented by the Social Security System and the Philippine Health Corporation this year.
The picket marked one month after the labor group filed a petition for TRO against the SSS premium hike and almost two weeks after it filed a similar petition against the PhilHealth premium hike.
“We continue to call on the high tribunal to TRO the hikes in SSS and PhilHealth premiums after the hikes’ implementation last January. We are bothered that the SC’s refusal to immediately issue a TRO against the premium hikes may mean that it will sit on our petitions and allow the hikes to be collected,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.
The labor leader said premium hikes in both the SSS and PhilHealth are additional burdens for workers already receiving meager wages and paying high prices for basic goods and services.
10:01:13 local time VIET NAM
* Garment-textile production sees surplus:
The production index of national garment-textiles during the first month of 2014 increased 26.9 percent over the same period last year.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, this is the highest growth rate among all industries in the month just gone.
Le Tien Truong, Deputy General Director of the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatext), attributed the positive result to a large number of contracts won by major firms in the sector during late 2013.
read more. & read more.
10:01:13 local time THAILAND
* Tesco Lotus to maintain clothing prices despite rise in output costs:
Tesco Lotus says it will try not to raise its clothing prices even though garment-production costs have risen.
Thanuruj Tehchasipaitoon, deputy managing director of the garments and men’s wear division of Tesco’s Ek-Chai Distribution System Co, said there had not been an increase in its garment prices for two years despite continuing rises in production costs.
One factor was the increase in the daily minimum wage to Bt300, while the costs of some raw materials also rose.
Meanwhile, per-purchase spending on clothing by consumers has increased.
Garment prices start at Bt79 for a T-shirt (Britain’s F&F brand), “green” products begin at Bt249, and jeans start at Bt429.
10:01:13 local time CAMBODIA
* Bail denied for 21 detainees:
Defence attorneys will now turn to the Supreme Court after a Court of Appeals judge denied bail this morning for all 21 people still detained from clashes with authorities during garment strike demonstrations last month.
The presiding judge said he decided not to allow bail based on speculation that the detainees’ release would “disturb public order”, Sam Sokung, a defence attorney representing six of the defendants, said outside the courtroom minutes after the decision.
“We are shocked,” said Moeun Tola, head of the Community Legal Education Center, which also provided legal representation for some of the defendants. “There was not enough grounds to keep them in prison.”
Weeping in front of the courtroom after the decision was announced, were the wife, two sons and daughter of Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), who was arrested at a demonstration in front of the Yakjin (Cambodia) Inc. garment factory on January 2.
Guards at the court shut the gates to keep out about 200 people gathered outside from coming in, after land rights activist Yorm Bopha rushed into the courtroom complex after hearing the decision, falling to the ground and wailing next to Pov’s family.
Minutes before the decision came, rumours buzzed through the crowd of union activists, NGO workers and other supporters on site that a large majority of the detained men would be released today. Based on their attorneys’ take on the situation, Tola also believed this until the ruling.
“I hoped this morning that at least 18 people would be released today,” Tola said. “If the court is really independent, they should be released.”
Across the street from the courthouse, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union – the largest union behind the strike, which was suspended after deadly clashes on Veng Sreng Boulevard January 3 – said he was equally surprised.
Tomorrow, eight union groups will meet to discuss how to go about reigniting the strike, Thorn said.
“It’s not only about these 21 [detainees],” he said. “Wage negotiations are also important.”
* Appeal Court denies freedom for rights defenders and workers:
This morning, 21 rights defenders and workers arrested early in January were refused bail by the Phnom Penh Appeal Court.
The men, who were not present for the closed hearing, belong to the group of 23 arrested in early January amid a lethal clampdown of garment worker strikes and have been detained in CC3 since then. About 200 of their supporters, including their families, remain outside the court building where they have been peacefully gathered since early morning.
On Saturday, two of the group were released on bail prior to today’s hearing.
* Court of Appeal holds bail hearing for 21 detained protesters:
The Court of Appeals on Tuesday held bail hearing for 21 remaining detainees after two jailed protesters were granted bail last week.
Motorcycle taxi drivers, monks and anti-eviction activists were seen rallying outside the court.
Labor unionists were also seen commenting outside the court to demand their colleagues’ release, and threaten to hold nationwide strike if the protesters will not be freed today.
“Tomorrow I will set date for nationwide strike if the 21 people are not released today,” said Rong Chhun, prominent leader of Cambodian Confederation of Unions.
* Unions Threaten Nationwide Strike if 21 Prisoners Not Released:
Sixteen unions threatened Monday to organize a nationwide strike if the 21 activists and protesters jailed following garment industry protests on January 2 and 3 are not released on bail Tuesday.
The unions also called for charges against the 21 prisoners, 16 of whom began a hunger strike in prison on Sunday, and two other prisoners released on bail Saturday, to be dropped.
“Local unions and national-level unions have agreed that if there is no release [of the 21] and no increase in pay for workers in the coming days we will hold a nationwide strike,” said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association.
“If they do not clear the 23 [of charges] and increase workers’ pay to $160, we will…set an agenda and inform relevant authorities about our nationwide strike,” he said.
Following the meeting, more than 100 union representatives and supporters, led by a group of about 20 monks, marched along Phnom Penh’s Sisowath Quay at about midday to the Preah Ang Dongkor shrine in front of the Royal Palace where they released balloons on behalf of the 23 who were jailed.
* Demos for 21 allowed:
Demonstrations yesterday supporting the release of detainees arrested during protests last month proved much more peaceful than those at which the 21 were arrested.
Marches to a public shrine on Phnom Penh’s riverside, the Ministry of Justice and the Court of Appeal saw no police intervention, as protesters delivered petitions and released balloons and birds in an appeal to release the 21 people still detained following violent clashes with authorities at demonstrations supporting a garment worker strike in early January.
“Release, release, release them without condition! We need freedom!” shouted Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Garment Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), as about 120 supporters paused in front of the Court of Appeal on their march from the Imperial Garden Villa and Hotel to Preah Ang Dongker. “Tomorrow is the bail hearing for the 21 people [still detained]; we believe the Appeal Court must release them for the sake of freedom!”
read & see more. (video report).
* Unions Trying To Regain Momentum…:
Both at several locations in Cambodia and in front of cambodian embassies abroad, a series of events were organised simultaneously to request the release of 21 workers (2 others were granted bail a few days before), activists and union leaders who were arrested during the early January crackdown by the army which resulted in the killing of at least 5 people.
In Phnom Penh alone, students in front of the university released balloons carrying the request to free the 23 people, workers did the same at Veng Sreng road near where the workers were killed, The Boeung Kak lake and the Borei Keila community did their thing in front of the Ministry of Justice and the Appeals Court. And union leaders convened at the Imperial Hotel to agree on a petition requesting the release of all 23 prisoners, a discussion on a basic wage of $US160/ month, a charge against those who used violence at Yakjing factory and on Veng Sreng road, a cancellation of the ban of public gatherings, a cancellation of the complaints filed by the companies against union workers, the reinstallment of all those workers who were fired and the payment of their salaries.
read & see more (photo report).
* Unions, opposition ‘hindering wage talks’:
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng and ministry spokesman Heng Sour yesterday accused unions and the opposition of derailing the government’s efforts at minimum wage reform by striking and stirring up violence for their own political gain.
“The government has set up a committee to study the minimum garment wage as a way of continually working to increase it, but the opposition party and some unions are using the result of our findings to demonstrate for their own political benefit and encourage violence,” Sam Heng said at the launch of the ministry’s 2013 annual report.
As the threat of another mass garment worker strike looms – and calls for the release of 21 union activists and workers arrested last month grow louder – Sour said protests of all stripes were a “waste of time”.
“They should stop all protests, because it is of no benefit. Rather, they should negotiate at the table,” he said.
* Ministry of Labor Highlights Triumphs in 2013 Annual Report:
The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training released its 2013 annual report Monday, trumpeting a list of nine achievements it had reached in line with its five-year plan for the fourth government mandate, which ended last year.
Speaking to a crowd of about 100 officials at the ministry’s Toul Kok district headquarters in Phnom Penh, Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng delivered the annual report, which states in its summary that in 2013 “Peace, political stability, social order and security, and the respect for rights and freedom and human dignity in all aspects…were consolidated on the basis of multi-party liberal democracy.”
Leading the ministry’s list of nine achievements for 2013 was the completion of a study to determine the minimum living wage for workers in the garment and footwear production sector, which it pegged at between $157 and $177 per month.
While garment factory strikes in December and January, and the ensuing deaths of five protesters, were directly related to labor conditions and demands for a $160 per month minimum wage, Minister Sam Heng distanced his ministry from any responsibility for the bloodshed.
* US brands need to step up for human rights in Cambodia:
The worsening human rights situation in Cambodia ought to be deeply troubling to Americans. For starters, much of the unrest stems from poverty-level wages paid by textiles factories that make America’s favorite brands of clothing.
Tens of thousands of garment workers went on strike in December, demanding a raise from their current salary of $80 a month. To shut down the protests, the autocratic government of Prime Minister Hun Sen sent security forces that fired into the crowd, killing at least four and wounding about 40.
Thirty well-known apparel brands — including American Eagle Outfitters, the Gap, and Adidas — signed a joint letter to Hun Sen asking for a full investigation of the violence and urged him to take steps to prevent the use of excessive force in the future. The letter was commendable. But these companies must do more for their sentiments to be seen as sincere. If American companies believe Cambodians deserve a living wage, they ought to be willing to pay a little more to manufacture their clothing, just as American consumers ought to be willing to pay more for a pair of jeans.
Cambodia’s troubles run deeper than the garment strikes. For years, a population that endured horrific suffering in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge seemed content with any government that was not genocidal. But recently, a new generation of Cambodians has stepped up to protest widespread corruption and land-grabbing by Hun Sen, who has been in power for nearly three decades — longer than any other leader in Asia.
* Cambodia: Free Activists; Revoke Assembly Ban:
Cambodian authorities should release 21 activists and workers held since early January 2014, 12 international human rights and labor rights organizations said today in an open letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The 21 are among 23 people detained during and after a crackdown on strikes and social unrest in Phnom Penh, the capital. The government should also lift its total ban on public gatherings.
The organizations joined the global unions International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), UNI Global Union, IndustriALL, and others around the world in a global day of action to urge the Cambodian government to end its repression of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression, and association.
* On Global Day of Action, Cambodians Release Balloons to Sky in Solidarity with 23 Arrestees:
Cambodians nationwide and people across the globe demonstrated unity today with the 23 workers and rights defenders arrested in last month’s violent clampdown on striking garment workers, where at least four died and 38 were hospitalized, 25 of which suffered from bullet wounds.
In Cambodia, unions, associations, and communities organized at least 400 balloon send-offs across the country from offices, universities, pagodas, and factories, such as the ones on Veng Sreng road, the site of the lethal clampdown in early January. Around noon, all groups simultaneously released balloons in Phnom Penh, Kampong Som, Battambang, Siem Reap, Poipet, and Banteay Meanchey to call for the freedom of the 23 arrested.
* Global day of action to #FreeThe23 garment workers:
(Photo’s of international actions. More Cambodia actions on Freethe23 Facebook: here. )
Members of JTUC, IndustriALL & UNI in Japan handed a letter to the Cambodian ambassador in Tokyo. & see video.
Photo’s provided by IndustriALL
One of the first actions on the global day of solidarity with Cambodian garment workers took place Monday afternoon in Canberra. Organised by members of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, and with great support from UnionsACT and the NTEU ACT Division, representatives of the CFMEU, CPSU, AEU, APHEDA, ASU, and Vintage Reds (retired unionists) showed their solidarity outside the Cambodian Embassy.
* PH workers press for release of 23 Cambodian workers:
Joining international labor groups’ call for a Global Day of Action, workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno picketed the Cambodian Embassy in Makati City this morning to call for the immediate and unconditional release of 23 workers currently imprisoned by the Cambodian government.
KMU said the imprisonment of the 23 workers, which stems from a national strike staged by Cambodian workers from December to January to call for increasing the minimum wage from $75 to P160, is most unjust and goes hand-in-hand with the killing of at least four workers by the Cambodian military in a crackdown last January.
“We Filipino workers stand by our Cambodian brothers and sisters who are fighting for their rights. The 23 workers, like all Cambodian workers who joined the national strike, were merely fighting for a living wage and should not be imprisoned,” said Nenita Gonzaga, KMU vice-chair for women’s affairs.
* Cambodian opposition-aligned union activists pray for release of 21 detained protesters:
Some 100 activists from 16 opposition-aligned trade unions gathered at a shrine near the Royal Palace on Monday to pray for the release of 21 protesters who were detained following violent clashes last month.
The prayer was held just a day ahead of their bail hearing.
“We prayer for the release of the detainees since they are innocent,” Rong Chhun, president of Cambodian Confederation of Unions, told reporters at the event.
Ath Thun, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said after the prayers that the activists would submit a petition to foreign embassies to Cambodia including the United States, the European Union and China in order to seek their help in securing the release of the detainees.
The petition also called for a 160-U.S.-dollar- minimum wage for garment workers and an end to the government’s temporary ban on demonstrations, he said.
09:01:13 local time BANGLADESH
* 75% RMG factories fail to implement new wage: Workers :
Workers’ unions in the apparel sub sector on Sunday claimed that about 75 percent of the factories had failed to implement the new wage structure, while almost all the factories were tampering with the workers’ grades depriving them of their legitimate pays, UNB reported.
Addressing a press conference, union leaders also noted that some 10 lakh workers in the knitting sub-sector were getting the same wages as before as the last minimum wages board did not consider the hike in the ‘piece rate’, which is actually the basis of payment in knitting factories.
Besides, the rights of the knitting workers in cases of overtime payments have been rescinded by the government through the imposition of section 108 of the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act 2013.
The press conference was organised by Garments Sramik Sangram Parishad at Nirmal Sen Auditorium at Topkhana Road, Paltan.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Call to implement new wages in all RMG factories:
Garments Sramik Sangram Parishad, a combine of eight apparel workers’ rights bodies, on Monday demanded implementation of the new wage structures, announced by the government, in all garment factories.
Rafiqul Islam Pathik, coordinator of the organisation, at a press conference at the Nirmal Sen auditorium at Segunbagicha said that in many factories in the country the new wage board was not implemented.
The new wage board, with a minimum salary of Tk 5,300 a month, was scheduled to be implemented in the garment factories from December 1.
In many factories the new wages were implemented after lowering the grades of the workers, so that they cannot get the increased wages, Rafiqul alleged.
The garment leaders demanded exemplary punishment for the Tazreen Fashion Limited owner, Delwar Hossain, who was sent to jail on Sunday.
Delwar was responsible for the killing of more than 100 workers in a fire at the factory at Ashulia in 2012.
The garment workers’ leaders called on the government and the factory owners to take steps for implementing the wage board properly.
They also demanded adequate compensation for the family members affected by the Rana Plaza collapse in which 1,234 workers were killed.
* 16 garment factories sack union leaders:
The labour ministry has completed its investigation against the 16 garment factories that have allegedly fired their trade union leaders in recent weeks, violating labour laws.
The development comes a few weeks before the labour secretary along with commerce and foreign secretaries are due to meet with diplomats from the US, the EU, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany on February 13 to brief on progress made in labour rights in the country under the Sustainability Compact signed last year.
“We received the complaints against the factories only last week and we started the investigation right away,” said Mikail Shipar, labour secretary, while declining to name the factories involved. The Directorate of Labour is due to submit the report today.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association too acknowledged the violation of trade union rules by some of its members.
“Yes, we have also received at least four complaints from workers’ leaders, who said they were terminated from their factories for unionism,” said Reaz-Bin-Mahmood, vice-president of the BGMEA.
Formation of trade unions has already been described in the amended labour law, so the workers have the full right for unionism, he said, adding that the garment manufacturers’ platform is now investigating whether the factories are members of the BGMEA or not.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of the local arm of IndustriALL, a global union federation, said the amended labour law has many loopholes.
* ILO delegation prepares plan for RMG workers’ rights:
‘The upgrading of the inspection services is a significant milestone in our joint efforts to strengthen the capacity of the government’
A delegation from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), now in Dhaka, has started its work on preparing plans for capacity building of the employers, mid-level managers, supervisors, trade union leaders and workers on occupational safety, health and workers’ rights issues.
The eight member delegation includes officials from Geneva, Bangkok and New Delhi along with a senior representative from the ILO International Training Centre (ITC) based in Turin, Italy.
The visiting delegation is going to make calls on the state minster for labour and employment Md. Mojibul Haque Chunnu and its secretary Mikail Shipar today, said a statement of ILO released yesterday.
* Big buyers stop sourcing from RMG factories in shared bldgs:
Many big apparel buyers have already suspended sourcing from the readymade garment (RMG) factories located in shared buildings following the Rana Plaza tragedy. Some others are reluctant to place orders in such units, the industry insiders said.
The renowned European and American brands like H& M, C & A, Kools, Kmart, Target, Gap, Walmart, Li & Fund and JC Penny are among the brands that are not sourcing apparel products from factories located in shared buildings, according to them.
However, the local apparel makers have expressed their deep concern over the issue. They said the suspension of orders from such factories would cause an adverse impact on many garment factories, putting jobs of thousands of workers at stake.
They also urged the buyers not to stop their orders before completion of a detailed assessment of the buildings as majority of the garment factories are located in either shared or rented buildings.
“Yes, many big brands have said they won’t place orders to shared factories. Some of them have already started implementing their decision in this regard especially after the Rana Plaza collapse,” Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) told the FE Monday.
* Good industrial relations requires good unions:
Good unions act in everyone’s interest, management as well as labour’s
Every industrial sector in Bangladesh has suffered from unions which are not representative of the workforce, and which are organised by political parties for the purpose of extorting chanda from factories.
This has held back the development of a mature system of industrial relations in which factory owners and employees work together constructively. It also increases the risks of outside agitators influencing wildcat strikes that are against the long-term interests of the industry.
Workers need an effective voice to argue their concerns. Labour groups which exploit worker concerns for their own interests do not benefit the workforce and should be discouraged.
* Govt to appoint 200 RMG inspectors:
The government will appoint some 200 inspectors for industrial sectors in the country with a view to fulfilling condition getting back ‘Generalized System of Preference (GSP)’ in readymade garments sector.
The appointees will be selected from the candidates who passed Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) examinations (non-cadre).
The decision was taken in a regular cabinet meeting at the secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Monday, a minister told banglanews after the meeting.
He also said commerce minister Tofail Ahmed informed the cabinet that Bangladesh has fulfilled 11 conditions so far to get back GSP.
Shortly, rest two conditions will be fulfilled, he added.
read more. & read more.
* GSP restoration high on agenda:
PM orders speedy appointment of 200 factory inspectors
In order to ensure that the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is restored by the US, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday asked the labour minister to fulfil the three remaining conditions out of 16 within a month.
The three conditions are appointment of 200 factory inspectors, introduction of trade unions in export processing zones (EPZs), and steps against owners of 16 garments factories, who have not paid salaries to their workers regularly. They will also be asked to improve working conditions in the factories.
The Prime Minister issued the directions after the regular Cabinet meeting held at the Secretariat on Monday.
State minister for labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu told The Independent that they will ask the Public Service Commission (PSC) to appoint the inspectors, non-cadre class-I officers, from its waiting list. “We will hold a meeting with the owners of the 16 garments factories soon to ensure salaries are paid regularly to their workers and that their working conditions are improved,” he said.
The state minister also said that they will try to introduce trade unions in the EPZs.
* PM for speedy implementation of action plan:
The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on Monday asked the authorities concerned to expedite the implementation of the action plan suggested by the US authority for reinstating the suspended Generalised System of Preference facility in the US market.
Presiding over the weekly cabinet meeting at the Cabinet Division, she also asked the labour ministry to take steps to recruit factory inspectors from the candidates who had already qualified the Bangladesh Civil Service written tests to avoid lengthy recruitment process in the public service, a senior minister told New Age.
According to the minister, Hasina said that there was no problem to appoint the BCS qualifiers to the non-cadre posts since the factory inspector was also a Class I post.
* Appoint factory inspectors from BCS finalists: PM:
The prime minister has instructed that the factory inspectors be appointed from the BCS exam finalists who could not make it to the cadre service.
Sheikh Hasina issued the instruction at a cabinet meeting Monday while discussing the progress of the implementation of the 16 conditions set by the USA to reinstate its GSP facilities.
These conditions also include the appointment of an additional 200 factory inspectors and increase the number of inspections.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said these 200 inspectors would be appointed through prime minister’s administrative order after discussing the issue with the Public Service Commission.
* 13 US terms met to regain GSP: Tofail:
Bangladesh has met 13 of the 16 conditions needed to regain trade privileges from the United States, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said today.
The three conditions that are yet to be met are the appointment of 200 inspectors, allowing trade unions at export procession zones (EPZ) and resolving allegations of torture on workers in 19 factories.
At a press briefing at his ministry office, Tofail said the government would appoint 200 inspectors soon through prime minister’s administrative order after discussing it with the Public Service Commission and labour ministry.
He said according to the terms set by the US the inspectors must be appointed by April-May to get back GSP facility.
“But, according to rules, they have to be appointed through the PSC. That will take at least two years.”
read more. & read more.
* Much progress in GSP efforts, Tofail says:
Bangladesh has made substantial progresses in fulfilling 13 of the 16 conditions tagged by the US authorities to win back a trade privilege from the North American nation, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said yesterday.
The rest three conditions are about the appointment of 200 inspectors, allowing trade unionism in the export processing zones and looking into allegations of torture on workers in 19 factories.
The government will soon appoint the 200 inspectors through prime minister’s administrative order.
The issue will be discussed with the Public Service Commission (PSC) and the labour and employment ministry, he said at a press briefing at his ministry office in Dhaka.
* Restoring US GSP:
The proactive role of the government and BGMEA (Bangladesh garment manufacturers and exporters association) can help the restoration of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) suspended by the US administration on June 27, 2013.
Considering the working environment in readymade garments (RMG) factories and labour rights situation, the US administration suspended GSP for Bangladesh. In term of the volume of export of RMG to the US, the impact is not remarkable. But this has an extended impact on Bangladesh’s exports to the European countries. The European Union (EU) countries also want that the interests of the workers and working condition in RMG sector should improve. Needless to mention that 90 per cent of RMG export goes to EU countries.
The EU countries came forward to help technically and financially to improve the conditions in the RMG sector.
In spite of political turmoil in the country, export of RMG has been growing. According to latest statistics of Export Promotion Bureau, during the first half of the financial year 2013-14 (July-December) Bangladesh exported RMG worth of US $11932.2 million.
The target for the same period was US $11,200 million. It is about 6.0 per cent higher than the target. It is also noteworthy that the export of RMG is about 20 per cent higher than the export of the same period of the previous financial year.
Out of this, the woven products accounted for about US $ 5980 million followed by knitwear that accounted for US $ 5940 million.
* GSP talks at Ticfa meet hinge on US desire:
If the United States does not want, talks on regaining the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) will not be possible at the first meeting of Ticfa likely to be held in Dhaka on April 7, commerce ministry officials said.
Bangladesh wants to raise the issue at the meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa), but it would depend on the willingness of the US authorities, they said.
Recently, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed spoke about the government plan to raise the issue at the meeting.
The US suspended the trade preferences for Bangladeshi products in June last year as Bangladesh “failed to improve labour conditions, especially in the garment sector.”
* Hasina moves to get back GSP:
Tofail says 13 of 16 conditions set by US have been met to regain the facility
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued directives to expedite the fulfillment of the remaining conditions, set by the US, to regain the generalised system of preferences (GSP).
She also asked the labour and employment ministry to strengthen the newly formed Directorate of Factories and Institutes, by appointing inspectors immediately.
The prime minister issued the directives at the regular cabinet meeting yesterday.
Hasina asked the state minister for labour and other ministry officials to complete the appointment of 200 factory inspectors, in accordance with the conditions, a minister told the Dhaka Tribune, seeking anonymity.
However, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday said 13 of the 16 conditions set out by the US to regain the GSP facilities had been fulfilled, adding the remaining three conditions will be fulfilled by April.
The remaining conditions are appointing 200 more fire inspectors, allowing trade unions at the RMG factories located in EPZ areas, and giving clarification on the allegations of torture of workers at some factories.
* Hearing on BD workers’ rights at US Senate body today:
A fresh hearing on ‘Prospects for Democratic Reconciliation and Workers’ Rights in Bangladesh’ will be held at the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington today (Tuesday), reports UNB.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal and acting Associate Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Department of Labor, Eric Biel will take part in the hearing from panel one.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, Ellen Tauscher and Executive Director, Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, Kalpona Akter will represent the second panel in the hearing.
Committee Chair Senator Robert Menendez will preside over the hearing scheduled to begin at 10am (Washington DC time), according to official website of the US Senate Committee.
to read.& read more. & read more
* Workers of different garment factories staged a demonstration:
Focus Bangla Photo
Workers of different garment factories staged a demonstration demanding immediate implementation of High Court order to WASA to remove waste materials and polluted water of the industries located at Shyampur in the city Monday.
* After Rana Plaza:
Why were NGOs left to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse?
After independence, an influx in NGO work led to a growing mistrust of NGO-isation of the Bangladeshi state and subsequently a general withdrawal of NGO services.
Recently, however, there has been somewhat of an NGO renaissance in the suburbs, due to increasing migration of the displaced rural workers to the capital’s peripheries.
Those living in Bangladesh’s urban peripheries are becoming increasingly dependent on services provided by the NGOs.
While the slow-burning replacement of the state by the NGOs in basic health, education, nutrition services and so on is perhaps not a new story to come out of Bangladesh, what is surprising is that even during the worst of national disasters, the state remains similarly apathetic, unmoved and distant in supporting its people.
The now internationally infamous Rana Plaza disaster is a classic example of state failure and concurrent NGO-isation of basic services; after Rana Plaza it was non-state agencies and not the elected state that carried responsibility for the rescue operation, relief and the rehabilitation of victims.
NGOs in Savar
SAVAR is one of the fastest growing peripheral areas of Dhaka where a huge number of people from rural areas make their home every day. Macroeconomic structural adjustment policies introduced throughout the 1990s have caused widespread de-agrarianisation of the countryside and the emergence of manufacturing industries, especially readymade garment production, in urban peripheries has caused a race to the suburbs by the rural displaced; amongst this Savar emerged as Bangladesh’s centre of readymade garment exports.
* RMG: Delegation of authority for streamlining factory management (4) :
Workers think that job is a favour from their owners. Lack of nutritious food, sufficient rest, hygienic residence, etc. makes the workers socially, physically and mentally weak.
Working extra time and seven days a week create a distance between them and their families, friends and relatives. They accept mismanagement and malpractice as management practices.
Many marginal workers depend on micro-credit firms. They take loan with high interest rate to meet their expenditure beyond their budget. Once they take loan, it throws them into a loan trap. Such inhuman conditions were common until the enactment of the Labour Act 2006 which spurred the movement for social compliance.
Workers always fight a losing battle. Even when the owners’ association unilaterally declare a three-day layoff, workers do not find any voice to protest rather they have to forget about any of their logical demands.
The RMG industry has turned out to be a temporary field of employment for the employees. It does not have any life-time plan for its workers. With a temporary plan for its workers, the industry’s sustainable development is not possible.
The owners are compelled to recruit the HR (human resource) people to face the compliance audit as a partial fulfilment of buyers’ demand. As a result, a functional HR is hardly found in the industry.
It is found that even the companies which have expanded their production units, both vertically and horizontally, and have achieved extraordinary export growth, lack management system.
They are more focused on export and give less attention to develop their human resources.
As a result, the companies have not developed a corporate system. Some of them, after three decades of operation, have to stay in the office very late in the night to sign the bills, vouchers even for a hundred taka or to exercise authority.
Some of them are too dependent on their hired management and they themselves do not know how their factories are being managed.
For the sustainable growth of the industry, it is a must to develop a sound management system.
It is relatively easier to increase exports, both in quantity and value. But to develop a sound management system, an organisation needs time and nourishing a good culture. But changing culture is not possible overnight.
THE TAZREEN FACTORY FIRE
* Court rejects bail of Tazreen owner, grants to wife:
A Dhaka court on Monday rejected bail of the owner of Tazreen Fashions, Delwar Hossain and granted bail to his wife and chairperson of the factory, Mahmuda Akhter in a case over the country’s worst factory fire that killed 112 workers.
Earlier on Sunday, the duo surrendered before the court in connection with county’s worst factory fire.
On December 31, a Dhaka court issued arrest warrants against six persons for the fire at Tazreen Fashions, after accepting charges against 13 people, including the owner of the company, Delwar Hossain and his wife.
As many as 112 workers, most of them women, were killed in the blaze in the readymade garments factory at Nishchintapur of Ashulia in Savar on the evening of November 24, 2012.
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* Yet another positive turn in Tazreen tale:
The order by a judicial magistrate’s court to send the managing director of Tazreen Fashions Limited and his wife, who is also the chairman of the company, to jail after the couple had surrendered to the court and sought bail on Sunday marks yet another step towards justice for the death of at least 111 workers in a deadly apparel factory fire at Ashulia on November 24, 2012.
According to a report published in New Age on Monday, the two had been at large, along with four other executives of the company, since the Criminal Investigation Department pressed charges of ‘homicide by negligence’ against 13 persons, including the ‘absconding’, in connection with the factory fire on December 22, 2013. The court accepted the charges on December 31, 2013 and subsequently issued the warrants of arrest against the fugitives.
The fire at Tazreen Fashions may have been among the deadliest but in no way the first or the last in the history of Bangladesh’s apparel sector.
In fact, there have been a few more fire incidents in the sector since, resulting in the loss of several lives. In most such cases, official inquiries identified non-compliance of the factories in question with workplace safety standards and negligence of the authorities concerned as major reasons for the devastations and the consequent loss of life and limb. Intriguingly, however, owners of these factories, who are solely to blame for such non-compliance and negligence, have rarely been prosecuted, let alone punished, thus far.
* Tazreen MD denied bail, chair granted:
A Dhaka court granted ad-interim bail Monday to chairperson of Tazreen Fashions Mahmuda Akter for one month in the case filed in connection with the factory’s 2012 devastating fire that killed at least 112 workers.
The bail was granted on condition that she will appear before the court every Sunday, sources in the court said.
After hearing bail petitions, the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Md Ismail Hossain, however, upheld the Sunday’s order of sending Tazreen managing director Delwar Hossain to jail, the sources said.
Mr Hossain and his wife Mrs Aktar surrendered before the lower court on Sunday, 40 days after a lower court issued arrest warrants against them.
Hours after their surrender on Sunday last, both of them were sent to jail by the court of Senior Judicial Magistrate Tajul Islam.
* Owner Delwar denied bail:
A Dhaka court yesterday again rejected bail to Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain but granted conditional bail to his wife and chairman of the company Mahmuda Akhter for one month.
Mahmuda has to appear before the court every Sunday throughout the bail period, said Chief Judicial Magistrate Md Ismail Hossain.
The order came a day after the couple surrendered to the court in connection with the country’s worst factory fire in November, 2012, which killed 112 garment workers.
Delwar’s bail petition was rejected due to his negligence as the owner of the garment unit in ensuring safety of his employees, the court said.
However, the Tazreen chairman got bail because she is sick and that she has a four-year-old son to look after, the judge added.
On Sunday, the duo appeared in the court and sought bail. The court rejected both of them bail at that time.
* HC orders government to compensate Tazreen victims:
The bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain passed the order
The High Court yesterday directed the government to pay Tk7 lakh compensations to the families of the victims of Tazreen Fashions fire, who were not compensated earlier.
The bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice ABM Altaf Hossain passed the order and fixed March 2 for next hearing over the plea lodged by three anthropologists Naznin Akhter Banu, Mahmudul Sumon and Saydia Gulrukh. The bench also asked Md Asaduzzaman, the pleaders’ counsel, to consult with the ILO for setting up the standard of compensation.
On November 24 last year, the same bench directed the authorities to pay the families of 20 more victims who have later been identified through DNA test, Tk7 lakh each as compensation.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Compensation for Rana Plaza victims: the cost of outsourcing grows:
This weekend the owners of the Tazreen factory – where over a hundred people died and many more were injured in a fire at the end of 2012 – gave themselves up and started their jail sentences.
The victims and their families have still not been compensated, but there is now a glimmer of hope that the survivors and victims’ families of the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1135 and injured 1500 or more, will be looked after.
The Bangladesh government has established a committee to oversee the arrangements for disbursing a Prime Ministerial relief fund, but despite having 31 members, there were no places for trade unions, and they have reacted angrily to the sums recommended at the end of last month for compensation: well below the ILO recommended levels.
Instead, a global initiative negotiated between unions, companies and NGOs could offer proper levels of compensation. A $40m (£25m) target has been set by the Rana Plaza Arrangement, administered by the ILO and with similar initial endorsement to the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord which is already improving health and safety in the ready-made garment sector.
* ACC to seek statement from Rana’s father:
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is set to serve a notice to Abdul Khalek, father of Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana, asking him to provide his wealth statements in connection with an inquiry into Sohel’s wealth.
The ACC made the approval of serving the notice during its Sunday meeting, a member of the probe committee told the Dhaka Tribune.
On April 28 of last year, the ACC formed the probe body headed by Deputy Director M Mafidul Islam.
The probe team on May 15 submitted the preliminary report to the ACC recommending it to serve separate notices to Sohel Rana and his father Abdul Khalek under the Section 26(1) of the ACC Act-2004, asking them to submit their wealth statements.
* Bangladesh says no hope of identifying 100 factory victims:
A Bangladesh expert said on Monday he has given up hope of identifying 112 victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, almost a year after one of the world’s worst industrial tragedies.
The garment factory complex on the outskirts of Dhaka collapsed in April last year, trapping thousands of workers who stitched clothes for Western retailers. Rescue work ended three weeks later with 1,129 bodies recovered from the ruins of the nine-storey complex.
Authorities buried more than 300 victims whose bodies were so badly damaged or decomposed that they were beyond recognition, but collected their DNA samples to help verify any compensation claims.
Sharif Akhteruzzaman, head of the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory, said his experts have now identified 200 of those victims after matching their DNA samples with those of living relatives.
“Of the 322 people, we have now identified 200 people. Of them 157 were identified earlier and 43 this month,” Akhteruzzaman told AFP. But Akhteruzzaman said the lab could not identify more than 100 victims, despite reanalysing their samples and trying to match them. “We don’t have any hopes for these 112 bodies as they did not match with any of the 549 people who’ve come to us for their missing relatives.”
08:31:13 local time INDIA
* Output of Cooperative Textile Mill to go up:
Output at the Tamil Nadu Cooperative Textile Processing Mill here that produces sarees, dhotis, and school uniforms meant for free distribution under the State Government’s welfare schemes would soon be scaled up by 20,000 metres per day, State Minister for Handlooms and Textiles S. Sundararaj, said on Monday.
After enhancement of production at a proposed investment of Rs. 5.82 crore under Integrated Cooperative Development Project, the output would go up to 70,000 metres. Subsequently, the scope for increasing the output further to one lakh metres through introduction of overtime duty would be explored, he added.
The Mill employs 122 permanent workers and 150 temporary workers, the Minister said. The AIADMK Government could ensure profitability of the Mill that had incurred losses of Rs. 7.9 crore at the time of assuming power. Last year, the profit was Rs. 3.67 crore, and this year, a profit of Rs. 3.26 crore could be achieved till last October, Mr. Sundararaj said.
08:01:13 local time PAKISTAN
* Faisalabad textile and other sectors: traders highlight 10 major issues in budgetary measures:
The business community of Faisalabad has raised 10 major issues in budgetary measures announced during 2013-14, hampering smooth functioning of the textile and other sectors during current fiscal year.
It is learnt on Monday that a recent meeting between Shaukat Mehmood, Chief Commissioner Inland Revenue, Regional Tax Office (RTO), Faisalabad with the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Faisalabad (FCCI) chapter. Following issues were highlighted by the business and trade community:
Firstly, notices on account of bank account information are creating an awkward situation.
Secondly, zero-rating on electricity & gas for textile sector should be resorted to.
Thirdly, zero-rating for export-oriented sectors especially textile may be announced as was available in 2005.
Fourthly, new sales tax registrations are not being done properly. The unnecessary documents are demanded from Manufacturers and Importers whose physical verification is marked to local registration office (LRO) by central registration office (CRO). Visit report is sent to CRO after the delay of 20-25 days. Frivolous objections are raised by LRO on applications.
Fifthly, the declared income of small businesses like traders, power loom industry may be accepted in respect of the cases selected for audit for the tax year 2012. Sixthly, the threshold of Rs 5 million for registration of sales tax may be increased up to Rs 10 million so that actual trades/businesses are targeted.
Seventh, the small manufacturers, exporters are not being registered by the Central Registration Office (CRO) due to the objection that utility bills are less than Rs 700,000.
Eighth, the STARR database and PRAL system should be linked so that any change made by CRO is updated in both databases.
Ninth, due date for filing of monthly sales tax return is extended on different occasions like Muharram, Eid, etc. Accordingly, due date for filing of withholding statements may also be extended on these occasions.
Tenth, the rate of sales tax on services is different in provinces and at federal level. This should be same in all provinces.
* Diversify exports to EU under GSP for optimum results: Tomas:
Tomas Rosader, the Ambassador of Sweden in Pakistan, has stressed the need to diversify Pakistani exports to the European Union including Sweden after the grant of GSP Plus status to Pakistan, which has resulted in opening up immense opportunities for Pakistan.
Speaking at a meeting during his visit to Karachi Chamber, Swedish Ambassador added that Sweden has always been a strong supporter of Pakistan in European Union’s grant of GSP Plus Status which has become effective since January 1, 2014.
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* Seeds unavailable: Farmers fail to find quality Bt cotton varieties:
A cotton crisis is brewing right under the nose of authorities as genuine Bt cotton varieties fail to reach farmers who in turn are tricked into using substandard seeds, industry officials say.
Traders are cautiously observing a gradual decline in the area under cotton plantation as farmers switch to rice, sugarcane and other crops, which are offering better returns.
“We are experimenting with ourselves,” said a leading cotton broker. “No one knows for sure where the seeds are coming from. Farmers might have a good crop in a year. But if there is a pest attack, then forget that they will sow cotton again.”
Farmers in traditional cotton growing areas of Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Multan and Mianwali now prefer paddy, mainly because of the price of rice, which continues to rise year after year.
* LHC refuses to hear plea:
Lahore High Court division bench on Monday refused to hear appeals challenging a single bench decision wherein several petitions against establishment of Garment City on Sheikhupura Road were dismissed.
Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan, head of the bench, cited personal reasons and referred the appeals to the chief justice for their fixation before any other appropriate bench.
The appellants had pleaded that the single bench had dismissed their writ petitions without going into details of the case. They said the bench had failed to understand the miseries of the farmers, especially going to be affected by the Punjab government’s project.