18:21:34 local time VIET NAM
* Vietnam’s fabric and garment exports surge 21.7% in Jan’14:
18:21:34 local time CAMBODIA
20140223 * 800 garment workers on peaceful strike:
Some 800 workers from a Taiwanese-owned Yu Da Garment Industry (Cambodia) Co., Ltd protested Saturday to demand better working condition and pay.
The workers at the factory in Kakap commune in Porsen Chey district on the outskirt of the Phnom Penh capital, were demanding Seav Ling, head of packaging section, be removed, 2,000 riel allowance (USD0.5) per day for food, USD15 for rent and transportation, and USD20 for skilled workers, and other demands.
Lour Sopheak, Secretary General of Khmer Power Federation Union, said that the workers protested after the factory employers rejected to negotiate with worker representatives over their demands.
Yu Da Garment factory employs around 1,000 workers.
20140223 * Labor union asks workers not to go on strike:
Trade Union Workers Federation of Progress Democracy (TUWFPD) on Sunday appealed to workers in garment sector not to attend strikes called by other union leaders, saying that the strikes would adversely affect the workers themselves.
The appeal is made after some labor unions are distributing leaflets to workers to urge them to attend the strikes in order to demand the release of 21 detained protesters and the minimum wage of $160 per month for garment and footwear factory workers.
The strikes are scheduled for March 12.
A statement of TUWFPD said that a small group of labor unions are preparing their plans to protest and strike in order to cause chaos.
The TUWFPD called on the federations, labor unions, and associations to be patient, and workers to work as usual and wait for wage solutions by the government.
It also condemned union groups, which disturb workers from doing their work, and asked authorities in all levels to take actions to prevent workers from being interrupted.
20140222 * Gov’t Criticizes Media Coverage of Strike Violence:
The high-ranking government officials and global clothing brand representatives who took part in a meeting in Phnom Penh on Wednesday both raised concerns about the media coverage of last month’s lethal repression of a nationwide strike by garment workers and its aftermath.
The meeting was called after a group of international brands who source garments from factories in Cambodia requested talks concerning the lethal and violent repression of the strike that saw five workers shot dead by military police wielding AK-47s and more than 20 people jailed.
The topic of media representations of the repression was raised by Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol, who told the meeting —which included representatives of H&M, Gap and Puma—that the government was at the mercy of media portrayals of its repression of the strike.
“When the opposition says something, and you’re not in the country, you read the newspaper and say: ‘Oh wow, that’s unbelievable, how can the government do that? Oh my god, that’s our people, our blood, our flesh and blood, we need to take care of them,’” Mr. Chanthol said, before explaining that order had been restored in the interest of the nation.
“Either you’re opposition or not, but you’re a Cambodian at the end of the day. I’m doing everything I can…to make it easy for you to make businesses in Cambodia to make better jobs for our people.”
The brand representatives also raised the issue of news coverage of the government’s armed repression of the strike and questioned whether it was presenting a full picture of the situation.
20140221 * Made in Cambodia: A Multi-Fiber Thread of Tears:
As 2013 drew to a close, Cambodian garment factory workers began striking in Phnom Penh for a livable wage.
Recently, the Ministry of Labor had approved a $95-a-month wage, and while this was more than the $80 a month workers had been living on, they held out for $160, which was the bottom end of a “living wage” for Cambodia, according to labor research.
Another $5 a month was offered, but workers rejected it. By January 3,
the non-violent strikes ended in a military crackdown and riots. Four garment workers were shot dead, another was shot in the chest and is missing, and more than 30 were injured. A ban on public assembly was put in place, and 23 labor leaders were arrested.
The Life of a Cambodian Garment Worker
half-million garment workers in the county, 90 percent are women living on about $3 a day. The garment industry accounts for about 80 percent of Cambodia’s exports. The majority of textiles exported (70 percent) are destined for popular brands in the United States, like Gap and Wal-Mart, as Cambodia enjoys “most favored nation” status with the United States under the World Trade Organization’s free trade agreement. Supplying the U.S. brands are factories based in Cambodia but owned by East Asian businessmen who contract with western brands. Cambodian women fill unskilled labor positions, sewing the clothes.
Hailing from remote regions in the countryside, factory workers typically cram into the back of a truck once a month in order to visit their families, who they help support. About 80 percent of the country still lives as subsistence farmers with young garment workers providing a vital link, sending money home to aging parents and siblings in school.
* International Businesses Focusing on Cambodia’s Labor Situation:
By William E. Todd is U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia
As the ongoing political impasse continues to weigh heavily on everyone’s minds, I was pleased to learn that the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party agreed last week on initial steps to pursue reform of the country’s electoral system.
Efforts to establish a joint committee to develop recommendations for reforms, in consultation with civil society and the general public, are a positive step forward, and I am hopeful that further progress is on the horizon.
Another long-term concern of many people is the ongoing labor dispute over the minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector. Last week, representatives from major global brands that purchase garments and footwear produced in Cambodia met with government officials to discuss their concerns regarding this issue as well as with last month’s violent clashes between striking garment factory workers and government security forces.
The extensive media coverage of this meeting prompted a young Cambodian named Mony to ask, “Will the negative attention on labor unrest in Cambodia be bad for business?”
Hmmmm, mr Todd, a question: Will the attention on labor unrest in Cambodia be good for the workers……?
And exploitation should just go ahead….
19:21:34 local time MALAYSIA
* Minimum wages and new salary schemes will increase Malaysia’s household income:
Household income in Malaysia is projected to increase, especially with the introduction of the minimum wage and new salary schemes.
RHB Research Senior Economist, Shafizal Shafaai said the minimum wage requirement for the private sector, effective Jan 1, 2013, would likely increase the household income.
He said the Civil Service Remuneration Scheme announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the Budget 2012 would also contribute to improving household income, with a higher annual increment of RM80 to RM320.
This is on top of the revised salary of seven per cent to 13 per cent.
“Similarly, the standardisation of the Armed Forces’ remuneration will also help partially offset the impact of higher inflation due to the subsidy rationalisation,” he told Bernama.
read more. & read more.
17:51:34 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Shoe factory workers strike against low wages:
Around 600 workers have gone on strike at the Master Sport Shoe Factory in Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone, in Yangon, because of low wages, forced overtime and rude supervisors.
The workers of the Korean-owned shoe factory submitted a list of 10 demands, including a raise in hourly wages, the dismissal of rude supervisors and not to be charged Ks 6,000 (US$ 6) for each day of leave.
“We demanded 10 points including firing [factory supervisor] Ma Lei Lei Win. The employer verbally agreed to 9 points but he did not agree to dismiss Ma Lei Lei Win. He said, even if the factory has to close down, he cannot dismiss her. The fact that he cannot agree on that point, cancelled his agreement for all other points,” said worker Kyu Kyu Thin.
* Enabling Sustainable Value Chains in Asia’s Apparel Frontier: Getting the Job Done:
Part IV of this series on creating sustainable apparel value chains explores how to practically catalyse the shift toward sustainable value chains via investing for financial return and social and environmental objectives.
Myanmar is undergoing rapid modernisation. There is both momentum in a number of sectors and much work to catch up remains ahead.
As an example, take banking. Today, the country’s commercial banking system is only partially developed; there are currently 1.9 commercial bank branches per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 8.1 in neighbouring Bangladesh.
Bilateral and multilateral development projects are under way to put the corresponding institutional infrastructure in place, including modernising domestic capital markets with technical assistance from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Over time, modernisation will help enabling capital investment into productive activities in the real economy including textile and garments, the focus of today’s post.
An Investment Mindset is Key for Industry Upgrading
This series has focused on apparel and argued that there is a major value-creation opportunity in the wings.
The cluster becomes unstoppable wherever sustainability can be successfully integrated in the value creation formula while managing total cost.
The apparel industry thus can become both very large in the coming years and make an important contribution to socioeconomic progress in Myanmar.
To illustrate this point, the new report released by Impact Economy – a global impact investment and strategy firm – titled Creating Sustainable Apparel Value Chains, discusses a number of best practice examples and argues that a focus on the manufacturing stage provides one of the most promising avenues for industry transformation in terms of social and environmental performance and competitiveness.
17:21:34 local time BANGLADESH
* IndustriALL urges govt to make labour law compliant with ILO standards:
The IndustriALL Global Union called upon the government Saturday for continuation of its reforms in the Bangladesh Labour Act to make the law fully compliant with the standards of International Labour Organisation (ILO).
IndustriALL, a global trade union federation, also sought commitment from the brands that sourced from the garment factories at collapsed Rana Plaza for urgent payment to an agreed trust fund for compensating victims and their families.
The visiting general secretary of the IndustriALL Jyrki Raina made the call at a press conference at a city hotel.
The press conference was also attended, among others, by Sudhershan Rao Sarde, South Asia regional secretary of the IndustriALL, Nazrul Islam Khan, chairman of its Bangladesh Chapter and Roy Ramesh Chandra, the chapter’s general secretary.
“We ask the Bangladesh government to continue with the labour law reform to make it fully compliant with the ILO standards,” Mr Raina said.
He, however, underscored the need for continuation of annual revisions of the minimum wage for RMG workers in order to reach a reasonable standard of wage in the country.
* Strife Curbs Progress at Bangladesh Garment Factories:
Mandated inspections of Bangladesh’s garment factories are to begin next week but likely won’t be completed until September, five months later than originally planned.
The Bangladesh Accord, joined by 150 multinational retailers and led mostly by European clothing brands, attributed the delays to serious and prolonged political and labor unrest that has disrupted life in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and other cities since last year.
Disagreements over the standards to be applied have also flared between the Accord group and Bangladesh’s government and its powerful apparel industry, raising questions about the pact’s likely effectiveness.
“The bar is set very high,” said Rubana Huq, managing director of Mohammadi Group, a large garment exporter, who said factory owners want to improve but need time and money. “Without help, most factories will struggle.”
* Govt move to address RMG makers’ reservations on some standards:
The government has initiated a move to address the local apparel makers’ reservations over some standards, especially the use of sprinkler in the readymade garment (RMG) factories, set by the western retailers and brands, sources said.
The fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection measure, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flow rate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected. These are historically used in factories and large commercial buildings.
The National Tripartite Committee (NTC), chaired by Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar, in the meeting held February 20, sought the list of the factories that are expected to require installation of the sprinkler.
Earlier, the NTC was formed to implement the National Plan of Action on Fire, Electrical and Building Safety in the readymade garment (RMG) sector. The NTC aims at preventing any further loss of life, limb and property in workplace fires or any other incident. It also comprises representatives from the Accord and the Alliance.
* European brands to hire 25 local engineers:
European retailers will hire 25 Bangladeshi engineers along with international inspectors for evaluating garment factories for structural soundness and fire safety, a top official said yesterday.
“That way we will have an inspection team with a combination of international expertise and knowledge of local circumstances,” Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, which was instrumental in drafting in the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, told reporters at a press conference.
His comments come as the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the sector’s apex trade body, expressed its strong reservation about the inspection standards of the Accord, particularly about the hiring of foreign inspectors.
Raina said the technical standards for inspection would be the same for the Accord, the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety and the Bangladeshi partners.
“It is a joint standard for all of us who operate in Bangladesh. It was very important for us to come up with a credible and adequate standard. Otherwise, we don’t have credibility.”
* BGMEA to hold bldg, fire safety exposition:
A two-day international trade exposition on building and fire safety equipments is going to kick off in the capital in order to bring world class fire and electrical equipments under one roof.
The exposition, titled “International Trade Expo for Building and Fire Safety,” will be held at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital on February 23 and 24. Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) announced this at a press conference at the BGMEA conference room in the city yesterday.
The first ever such exposition will be organised by ‘Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety Initiative’ and the ‘Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh,’ two retailer groups of North America and the EU.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Apparel exporters hopeful of roping in new buyers after US show:
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are expecting a good business transition with new apparel buyers especially from the US and Canada as the three-day MAGIC Apparel Trade Show ended on Thursday in the tourist city of Las Vegas, Nevada, US.
Bangladesh, the world’s second largest destination for garment exporter after China, has successfully projected its latest apparel trends in the Men’s Apparel Guild in California (MAGIC) show, North America’s largest sourcing event for apparel products, at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.
16:51:34 local time INDIA
* Power loom units go on strike:
About two lakh power looms in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts stopped production on Friday demanding higher wages from the master weavers.
P. Kumarasamy, secretary of Coimbatore District job-working power loom unit owners’ association, said almost all the power loom units in the two districts that do job work have stopped operations and the production loss is estimated to be Rs. 30 crore to Rs. 40 crore a day.
The two districts have about 15,000 power loom units that do job work for the master weavers. The units produce about 40 varieties of unprocessed cotton fabric. Less than five per cent of the units produce saris and dhotis.
An agreement was signed about two-and-a-half years ago for the wages that the master weavers pay to these units. With input costs, especially for power, going up multi-fold for the units that do the job work, the weavers are seeking 80 per cent hike in wages.
* Handloom gets help to leave a mark:
It has been eight years since the Union government launched the Handloom Mark to preserve the country’s handloom and support weavers.
Textile Committee, the agency entrusted with implementing the Handloom Mark scheme, is now spanning out to college campuses in the region to popularise the logo developed by the National Institute of Design, Ahmadabad.
The logo — an interlocking of the warp and the weft designed to form a three-dimensional cube — is meant to give a guarantee to the buyer that the product is genuinely hand-woven.
‘No public demand’
In Kannur, there are many handloom units, most of which are in the cooperative sector. Nearly all the manufacturers have got themselves registered under the Handloom Mark scheme. However, most of them are yet to use the logo on all their products.
* ‘Indian textile sector has reached export competitiveness’:
The WTO prohibits the use of export subsidies on manufactured products as a general rule, but the countries which are listed in Annex VII of the ASCM, are exempted from the prohibition.
This exemption is available until GNP per capita of a country reaches US$ 1,000 in constant 1990 dollars for three consecutive years.
* AEPC ATDC project trains 100,000 apparel workers:
The ATDC ‘Hunar ki Hunkar’ was inaugurated by Chairman AEPC, Mr. Virender Uppal, in presence of Sri Hari Kapoor, Vice-Chairman, ATDC, Shri Ashok Logani, Chairman DISHA Sub- Committee, Shri Lalit Gulati, Shri Lalit Thukral and DG Apparel Training and Design Centre (ATDC), Dr. Darlie Koshy.
The ‘Skilling & Upskilling’ journey by ATDC in the pilot project period and the activities and initiatives to achieve the massive target of 250,000 candidates in 5 years has been showcased in ‘Hunar ki Hunkar’- Exhibition-cum-Display. The 2 day event (20th – 21st February 2014) began at Apparel House, Gurgaon. The event also featured ‘Hunar Se Rozgar’ initiative with over 22 Exporters present and nearly 1,000 youth seeking employment.
16:51:34 local time SRI LANKA
* Contract Work Violates Labour Rights:
Contract work violates workers’ right to free assembly. The precarious nature of the work inhibits contract workers from organizing themselves and claiming their rights under Sri Lankan labour laws.
When jobs are outsourced, contract workers do not organize for fear of arbitrary dismissal.
This was the gist of the remarks made by IGU General Secretary Jyrki Raina at a recent press briefing convened by the Sri Lankan Affiliates of Global Union Federation-IndustriALL, stating that he had met with the Deputy Minister of Labour and Labour Relations, Sarath Piyananda Weerasekara, to discuss the issue of the garment industry outsourcing core business areas to contract labour supplied by manpower agencies, in a bid to thwart unionization and the application of labour laws.
Raina said that poor enforcement of legislation despite statutory and case law guaranteeing trade union rights, exclude categories such as contract workers, and declared that contract work is a union busting tactic to prevent the voice of workers being heard.
The Deputy Minister has been told that “the world is watching” and that it is imperative for Sri Lanka to protect worker rights, especially in the garment sector. Protecting the rights of workers does not mean losing the competitive edge in the global market.
This, he said, is largely because there is a growing concern among many international brands to augment their image as sellers of ‘clean clothes’. Raina undertook to convey this message to President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well.
16:21:34 local time PAKISTAN
* Chairman PTA emphasises need to review sales tax regime:
Chairman, Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA) Shaikh Saqib Saeed Masood emphasised the need to review the sales tax regime particularly exclusion of hides and skins from the 6th Schedule of the Sales Tax Act, 1990, which badly hits the value-added export-oriented leather sector.
He stated that the leather sector is the 2nd largest export earning value-added industry of Pakistan with annual exports of 1.144 billion dollars which is an employment intensive providing jobs to more than one million people and represents as mother industry of leather garments, footwear, gloves and leather goods producing world’s finest quality leather and leather products.
* Cotton sowing may rise after GSP plus status:
The emerging scenario of Generalised System of Preference (GSP) plus status to Pakistan by the European Union (EU) may cause more sowing of cotton in 2014-15, said the latest review of domestic and world cotton of Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC).
The review said that the crop season 2013-14 has almost ended and the federal Committee on cotton will fix the targets for the cotton crop season 2014-15 in third week of February 2014.
The area of cotton as compared to area sown in 2013-14 is about to increase by 15 to 20 percent. However, the competing crops may grab more cotton area. Early sowing of new crop may start from the last week of February or 1st week of March 2014, the review added.
* Moot shifted to Nepal as Pakistan fails to issue visas on time :
A regional roundtable conference on textile garment workers’ issues, which was scheduled to be held in the city from February 25 to 27, will now be held in Kathmandu, Nepal on the same dates.
The change in venue comes after Pakistani authorities failed to issue no-objection certificates (NOC) for visas of labour and civil activists of various South Asian countries, particularly India, who were to take part in the conference.
This was stated by prominent trade union and civil society leaders who strongly condemned the concerned authorities during a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.
“We have lost the opportunity to host an important event in Karachi and promote interaction with trade union leaders of other South Asian countries,” said PILER Executive Director Karamat Ali, “Besides regional delegates, several European participants were also travelling for the conference.”