21:20:19 local time CHINA
* China increases subsistence allowances but rural poor still only get 111 yuan per month:
The Ministry of Civil Affairs proudly announced on 19 February that it had allocated 174 billion yuan in subsistence allowances and other benefits to more than 79 million of China’s poorest residents during the course of last year.
However, despite a 13.9 percent increase in the minimum subsistence allowance (低保) paid to the urban poor, the average monthly payment still only came to 252 yuan. The monthly rent for a one room apartment in the factory districts of Shenzhen meanwhile is 500 yuan.
Vice Minister Dou Yupei told a press conference in Beijing that the rural minimum subsistence allowance increased by 17.3 percent and was paid out to 54 million rural poor but the average payment came out at just 111 yuan per month, which is barely enough to buy basic foodstuffs.
Moreover, many poverty-stricken families in the countryside do not even receive this pitiful amount because the distribution of allowances is controlled by the village headman and villagers who do not have a good relationship with the head usually get nothing at all.
20:20:19 local time VIET NAM
* Fire hits wool company in Hanoi, no serious casualties:
A huge fire swept through a wool manufacturer in Hanoi on Wednesday, causing damage estimated at hundreds of billions of dong (VND100 billion = US$4.7 million).
There were no reports of human casualties except for one firefighte who was reportedly injured during the fire.
The fire broke out at some 11:30am at Ha Dong wool company in Van Phuc Ward, Ha Dong district.
Witnesses said the flame erupted at the company’s warehouse and quickly burnt down silk, machines, and other inflammable materials there.
Hundreds of firefighters on 14 fire trucks were deployed to the scene to subdue the fire.
Lieutenant colonel Tran Phuc Thanh said this is the biggest-ever fire recorded in this locality.
By 1pm the same day, the fire was basically put under control.
* Better Work programme in garment sector to move north and expand to footwear industry:
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 18 February in Hanoi, confirming the extension of Better Work Vietnam – a programme aiming to improve the export industries’ performance and competitiveness – in the country during the 2014-19 period.
The Better Work Vietnam is part of a global joint programme between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The initiative plays a key role in aligning private sector expectations with Viet Nam’s laws and core international labour standards, using coaching, training and compliance assessment.
Under the new MoU inked between the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour, ILO and IFC, Better Work Viet Nam will be run in the capital city of Hanoi and surrounding provinces, apart from its primary location in HCM City and the neighbourhood.
20:20:19 local time CAMBODIA
* Brands, gov’t, unions meet on the issues:
After high-level government officials met with major apparel brands and international labour unions yesterday, attendees and observers said they felt positive about the government’s sincerity in improving standards for Cambodia’s garment workers.
Minimum wage reform, trade union legislation and the status of 21 people detained since their arrests at demonstrations supporting a national garment worker strike last month were among topics discussed at the forum, said Stephen Benedict, director of trade union rights for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), who attended.
“There was some indication of what the government intends to do over the coming period, and there was a commitment of continuing the discussions with the brands and the global unions,” Benedict said after the meeting.
Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon hosted the meeting, which was also attended by secretaries of state of several ministries, including the Ministry of Labour, Benedict said. Brands that sent representatives included C&A, Gap, Inditex, H&M and Puma, while international unions were represented by ITUC and IndustriALL.
Government officials agreed to meet with the group again by the end of May, according to a joint statement of 30 international brands and unions that last month sent a letter calling for the government to address human rights issues in the garment sector and requesting yesterday’s sit-down.
* Brands Meet With Gov’t Over Labor Unrest:
Representatives of global clothing brands Puma, Gap and H&M met with senior government ministers in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to discuss the lethal repression of a nationwide strike of garment workers last month as well as growing labor instability in the country.
The two-hour meeting at the Peace Palace, which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon and attended by Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol and Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng, took place behind closed doors and saw the brand representatives express concern about the long-term viability of sourcing clothes from Cambodia.
The meeting opened with representatives of H&M and Gap, as well as Jyrki Raina, the general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, saying they had requested the meeting to discuss last month’s strike repression that saw at least five workers shot dead by military police and more than 20 workers placed in prison without trial.
“What we are worrying about at the moment is the concern about weak industrial relations here in Cambodia,” said a representative of H&M, which is the world’s second-largest clothing retailer by sales and earned profits of $3.4 billion in 2012.
“Yes, the Cambodian government has the responsibility to protect the investors in the country, to protect the citizens of the country.”
Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng provided a similar account, also detailing the government’s decision last year to increase the monthly basic wage for garment workers from $80 to $95, and later to $100, which had caused the nationwide strike of garment factory workers.
* Printing Shops’ Refusal to Print Strike Leaflets Delays Unions:
A coalition of labor unions will today begin distributing leaflets calling on supporters to attend a nationwide strike in March, two days after the planned distribution date due to the fact the majority of printing houses in the city refused to print the flyers.
Union representatives said Wednesday that since Monday they had been turned away from a number of printing houses, which they believe were afraid to print material that would be seen by the government as inciting people to break the current ban on public gatherings.
“Maybe the government has called for something, I don’t know but the printing houses are scared [to print the leaflet],” said Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Federation.
They have now found one printing house that has agreed to take their business.
* BetterFactories Media updates 18-20 February 2014, 2014-02-20 Brands, gov’t, unions meet on the issues:
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
2014-02-19 Raises pending, prices soaring
2014-02-20 Brands, gov’t, unions meet on the issues
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2014-02-20 Brands meet with gov’t over labor unrest
2014-02-20 Printing shops’ refusal to print strike leaflets delays unions
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
* Cambodia discusses garment issues with buyers from global brands:
Cambodian Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon on Wednesday met with a delegation representing 30 global brands and global trade unions to discuss the current situation of garment sector.
The delegation comprised 27 global brands including H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, Gap Inc., Adidas, Puma, Levi Strauss and Co., American Eagle Outfitters, Inditex and three global trade unions, said a press statement from the Cambodian side.
The meeting was called by the Cambodian government in response to a request by the group last month, the statement said, adding that representatives of the brands and trade unions wanted to understand about the current situation of the garment sector following violent clashes between protesting workers demanding higher wages and security forces earlier last month. “Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon told the buyers that the government has always paid high attention to improving living conditions and well-being for the workers,”the statement said.”Practically, the government has increased the minimum monthly wages for workers from 80 U.S. dollars to 100 U.S. dollars, taking effect from this month.”
According to a buyers’joint statement, during the meeting, both sides discussed the development of a wage-setting process for the long term and the need for this to be methodologically sound and inclusive. “There was recognition of the need for this to be thorough and to be put in place as a matter of urgency in order to support industrial peace,”the joint statement said.
The two sides also expressed the importance of the need for all parties to respect local laws, and to make all efforts to avoid any repeat of the violence against workers, it said.
* Protests, Strikes Continue in Cambodia:
Though their occupations differ, Cambodian workers are united in their push for a living wage.
Garment workers, teachers, and garbage collectors in Cambodia have launched a series of protest actions since December to demand substantial wage hikes and an improvement of their working conditions. The strikes exposed Cambodia’s mounting labor woes and worsening political crisis.
Garment workers conducted a nationwide strike last December to push for a monthly minimum wage of $160, the amount needed to survive in Cambodia based on an estimate provided by the government. Garment workers receive a monthly basic pay of $80. The garment sector is a $5 billion dollar export industry in Cambodia which employs more than 600,000 workers.
The Ministry of Labor said the full wage demand can be granted only in 2018 and a $15 wage hike is more feasible today. Strikes erupted over the measly increase; and the striking workers were later joined by the opposition party which has rejected last year’s election results and has been mobilizing thousands for several months already to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
19:20:19 local time BANGLADESH
* Empowering Workers in Bangladesh Export Processing Zones:
Garment workers and workers in other industries in Bangladesh’s export-processing zones are subject to a different, much weaker set of labor laws than workers in the rest of the country, and the government must take steps to reform laws so they meet international standards for freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, said A. K. M. Nasim, senior legal counselor at the Solidarity Center’s office in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital.
Further, “if we have any half-hearted reform in the legislation, it will mean that the workers will have to continue their struggle for a period of at least a generation to achieve these fundamental rights.”
Speaking at a recent forum in Washington, D.C., Nasim gave an overview of the current labor rights environment for Bangladeshis and provided key recommendations for improving their wages and working conditions.
Some 377,600 workers, the vast majority women, work in eight export-processing zones (EPZs) throughout the country.
Bangladesh derives 20 percent of its income from exports created in the EPZs, which are industrial areas that offer special incentives to foreign investors like low taxes, lax environmental regulations and low labor costs.
* Accord starts RMG unit inspection amid manufacturers’ reservations:
The Accord, a platform of western retailers, has started its inspection programme on garment factories in Bangladesh amid the apparel manufacturers’ reservation over some of the standards, sources involved with the process said.
Rob Wayss, Executive Director – Bangladesh Operations of the Accord, confirmed this to the FE through an e-mail that the Accord’s engineering teams started assessing its member factories that produce apparel products for its signatory members from Wednesday.
“The engineering teams will be inspecting 200 garment factories at the first phase within next three to four weeks,” he added without giving any further details about the names of factories or location.
* Global brands hired experts begin safety inspection of factory buildings in Bangladesh:
Scores of experts hired by global brands under an accord Wednesday launched mass inspection of clothing factories in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country, officials said.
They said giant global clothing brands such as Primark, Loblaw, Joe Fresh, Gap, Wal-Mart, Nike, Tchibo, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger under the Accord have initiated the inspection after a series of deadly incidents in the country’s garment sector in the recent years brought workers’ safety and labor violations in Bangladesh to world glare.
The Accord, which has been signed by over 150 apparel corporations from 20 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia; two global trade unions, IndustriALL and UNI; and numerous Bangladeshi unions, is an independent agreement designed to make all garment factories in Bangladesh safe workplaces.
Officials say some hundreds of apparel factories will be inspected in the first phase.
“We’ve started inspection from today at the Accord brand producing factories,” Accord Spokesman Rob Wayss told Xinhua Wednesday.
“Inspection has began in the factories in Dhaka, Chittagong and elsewhere in the country,” he added.
“We’re recruiting 10-15 more experts within the next few days as part of our efforts to speed up the entire process of inspection.”
He said the Accord, which has already hired 60 experts including engineers, is scheduled to complete inspection in at least 200 factories within the next three weeks from Wednesday.
By September this year, Wayss said, “We’ll inspect 1,500 factories.”
* Be careful about labour law execution during inspection:
State minister urges factory inspectors
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mojibul Haque Chunnu asked Wednesday the factory inspectors to be careful about implementation of all rules and regulations of the labour law during their inspection to factories.
“We want complete execution of the labour law, and the factory inspectors should be cautious about it,” he said at the inauguration of a two-day training programme on ‘Bangladesh Labour Law (Focusing on the 2013 Amendment)’ at a city hotel.
It was organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Bangladesh country office in collaboration with the Department of Labour (DoL). About 30 DoL officials participated in the training.
Citing the deadly incident in Rana Plaza last year, which claimed about 1,134 lives, the state minister said the building was totally out of inspection for four years in a row before the tragedy.
“I called the two inspectors, who were responsible for the area, in my office to know about the matter. They informed me that after laying out the building four years back, no inspection was conducted in it.
“Mr Chunnu said the inspectors gave the lame excuse of manpower shortage.
About implementation of the terms and conditions by the Accord and the Alliance, as emphasised by the foreign buyers, the state minister said most of these are logical, and even the factory owners also know it.
“But, implementation of all these requires time.”
* Factory inspectors warned against complacency:
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mojibul Haque Chunnu yesterday warned factory inspectors against complacency during their duty.
“If you perform your duties sincerely, laws will automatically be implemented,” he told 30 factory inspectors at a symposium to educate them about the recent changes in the labour law.
The two-day programme was jointly organised by the department of labour in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital.
The state minister said there is a lack of trust between the owners and workers and only laws cannot remove this gap.
“You have a role in addressing this distrust and I believe it is possible if you work sincerely.”
* BGMEA & Engender Health sign MoU:
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between BGMEA and Engender Health, Bangladesh for the working labors in garments factories of Dhaka and its adjacent areas.
BGMEA Vice-president Riaz-bin-Mahmud and Engender Health, Bangladesh Executive Director Dr Abu Zamil Faisal, on behalf of their respective organizations, signed the deal on Wednesday at the BGMEA office at Karwanbazar.
At the signing ceremony BGMEA president Atiqul Islam, director of family planning directorate Faekuzzaman Chowdhury, Project Director Dr Moinuddin Ahmed and others spoke.
* Tofail expects revival of GSP before WTO meeting:
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Wednesday expected duty-free and quota-free (DF-QF) market access of Bangladesh products to the US market before the next WTO Ministerial meeting.
Bangladesh as a least developed country is entitled to get back the DF-QF market access to the US market under GSP (Generalised Systems of Preferences), said the minister while addressing a luncheon meeting at a local hotel on Wednesday. Referring the last WTO Ministerial Conference at Bali, the minister said, the developed countries including the USA pledged to ensure DF-QF market access facilities to the least developed countries like Bangladesh before the10th WTO Ministerial Conference.
“If there is no political link up with the revival of GSP facilities, Bangladesh will get back GSP benefits in the US market,” said Tofail at the luncheon gathering with leaders of Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Ticfa meeting on Apr 7- 8:
The first council meeting of Ticfa will be held on April 7- 8 in Dhaka. The date has been confirmed during a joint meeting involving foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque and the officials of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Department of Labour and the Bureau of International Labour Affairs in Washington on Tuesday.
Earlier Bangladesh’s Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed had said the meeting would be held in April, but he did not specify dates.
18:50:19 local time INDIA
* Indian textile firms need to go vertical – Sanjay Lalbhai:
“Indian textile companies need to go vertical and also set-up large scale apparel manufacturing plants, if India wants to increase its market share in the global textile trade”, Mr Sanjay Lalbhai, doyen of the Indian textile industry and CMD of Arvind Ltd informed delegates at a conference held in Ahmedabad.
The Confederation of Indian Textile Industry (CITI) recently held a conference in Ahmedabad titled – Textile Investment Conclave 2014, which sought to attract investments in the Gujarat textile and apparel sector.
18:20:19 local time PAKISTAN
* PTEA for restoring zero rated sales tax facility:
Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) has demanded zero rated sales tax facility as it will help to restore the competitive edge in international markets for Pakistani textiles and will act to increase the exports of the country and strengthen the national economy.
Talking to newsmen, Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood, Chairman and Adil Tahir, Vice Chairman PTEA said that zero-rating withdrawal has adversely affected exports at a time when huge amount of Sales Tax Refunds are already stuck up with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and exporters are facing liquidity crunch.
* Textile, leather industries: traders concerned over ST increase:
Business community expressed deep concern over indication that the government contemplating to increase Sales Tax (ST) rate on textile and leather industries from two percent to 5 percent in the first phase and 17 percent in next three years.
They are opposing increase in the rate of sales tax and said the cost of doing business in Pakistan is going up day by day and Pakistani exporters are not getting a level playing field and may fail to get desired benefit of GSP Plus status.
They emphasised that the prices of utility should be reduced at lest for export industries, and should be capped for a period of at least two years, so that the manufacturers and exporters could quote the price to its customers, which should be valid for time period of minimum one year.
* Textile sector: PCGA asks government to restore gas supply immediately:
While addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) Chairman Mukhtar Ahmed Baloch, Vice Chairman Aasim Saeed Sheikh, Chairman of Ginners Group, Haji Muhammad Akram and Shehzad Ali Khan urged the government to immediately restore the gas supply to the textile sector and asked SNGPL to ensure the supply of uninterrupted gas supply to textile industry.
They said the government was taking measures to redress the grievances of the people of Southern Punjab.
PCGA chairman said more than 40 percent of the industry in the province runs on gas and any suspension in the gas supply means closure of about half of the total industry and a drastic cut in government revenues.
* Govt to restore gas supply to textile units:
Succumbing to pressure from industrial tycoons, the government decided on Wednesday to restore supply of natural gas to textile units, even though about 2,000MW capacity remained idle at power plants due to gas loadshedding.
The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar a day after the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association launched a media campaign for diversion of additional gas to the sector.
The meeting, also attended by Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and senior officials of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), reviewed the supply position of the export-oriented industry.
“With improved weather conditions, a revised gas load management is possible,” said an official statement. The SNGPL would restore gas supply to the sector on Friday.
read more. & read more.
* Punjab-based textile mills: decision to restore gas supply hailed:
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer has welcomed restoration of gas supply to the Punjab-based textile mills from 21st February, saying that it will boost industry confidence on government policies.
Addressing a hurriedly-called press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the APTMA Punjab office, he said APTMA leadership represented the case of textile industry to the Chief Minister Punjab, Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Sharif Khaqan Abbasi, who have decided to restore gas supply to the Punjab-based textile industry from 21st February.
* S. Kyrgyz women revive garment industry:
Small textile factories that make specialised products are part of an effort to provide jobs and prosperity in Osh.
Garment making might become a road to prosperity for women in southern Kyrgyzstan.
Osh women in early February opened up a garment factory to address two problems. The “For Sweet Moms” factory sews clothing for pregnant women and newborns and employs over 50 women.
Trying to find clothes
Altynai Urkunbayeva, the founder of the factory, said she first considered the situation when she and her friend, Anara Sultanova, both pregnant at the time, couldn’t find the right clothes.
“We figured out that our city’s markets have only two areas selling a small selection of clothing,” she said. “It comes from Bishkek and costs a lot. It was a shame that Osh didn’t have a place making clothes for pregnant women. That’s when we decided to open our own factory making custom-ordered clothing. The project together with our investment cost 486,150 KGS (US $9,600).”