14:45:13 local time PHILIPPINES
* Thousands of workers to lose jobs, question shutdown of garments factory:
Thousands of workers, most of them women, trooped to the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) in Calabarzon to denounce the sudden closure of clothing company Carina Apparel Inc.
At least 3,600 workers lost their jobs after being informally told of the company’s “total closure” and stoppage of operations.
Owners of Carina Apparel reportedly told leaders of Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik), a local affiliate of the militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), that operations will cease because of “financial loss”.
13:45:13 local time VIET NAM
* EU’s GSP is opportunity & challenge for Vietnamese exports:
13:45:13 local time CAMBODIA
* Cambodian government must urgently restart dialogue with unions:
At the end of a week of overtime boycotts by garment workers in Cambodia, IndustriALL is urging the Cambodian government to resume negotiations with unions without delay.
“We call upon the government to urgently restart dialogue with the workers’ unions to avoid an escalation of the conflict and a complete breakdown in relations between unions, the government and factory owners,” said IndustriALL’s general secretary Jyrki Raina.
The overtime strike, which began on Monday, has had a noticeable impact on the textile sector in Cambodia. The garment workers are demanding the release of 21 protestors arrested during strikes in January which saw four demonstrators shot dead by police.
The strikers also continue to call for an increase in the minimum wage from the current figure of US$100 to US$160 per month.
Despite a constructive meeting with government ministers, global unions and brands on 19 February, IndustriALL is alarmed by the recent turn of events which has seen the government refusing to register new unions until a new trade union law is passed, which might not be until the end of the year.
12:45:13 local time BANGLADESH
* RMG workers stage protest:
About 500 apparel workers staged violent protests demanding their wages of two months in arrears and vandalised three factories housed in the building at Board Bazar in Gazipur on Saturday.
The police foiled the workers’ attempt to block the highway and broke up the demonstration.
Sub-inspector Md Ekramul Haque, in-chage of Bhogra police camp under Joydebpur police station, said the worker s of Fine Stitch Apparels had found a notice on the factory notice board on February 20 announcing that the factory wouldremain closed until March 28.
The police officer said the workers started demonstrating on the factory premises when they found that the factory was locked.
At one stage, the demonstrators ransacked Pushan Bangladesh Limited on the 1st and 2nd floors, New Star Garments on the 3rd floor and Fine stitch Apparels on 5th on the 6th floor of the building.
The workers said they were demanding payment of two months’ wages in arrears.
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* Only 2% RMG workers can identify fire hazards: Survey :
39% did not know what to do in an emergency situation
Only 2% Bangladeshi readymade garment workers can correctly identify all fire hazards, a baseline survey report has revealed recently.
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety conducted the survey on 28 factories to measure workers’ knowledge and awareness of health and safety risks, their experience with accidents and fire, and involvement in training and worker committee activities.
The survey published last week was conducted on random RMG workers and 3,308 others from 28 factories who took part in focus group discussions.
Responses from the workers revealed that only 68 of 3,207 workers or 2% could correctly identify all fire hazards and 39% did not know what to do in an emergency situation.
Wishing anonymity, a garment worker said factory owners provided training for a certain number of workers, such as two to five persons from each floor of a factory, and they demonstrated this to their buyers.
* Apparel makers, buyers differ over contents:
Apparel makers have expressed their reservations about incorporating key information, especially on factory inspection and their trading profiles, in the proposed database fearing that their business secrets may leak out, industry insiders have said.
Instead, they want to make public the information on some selective areas in consultation with the apparel sector stakeholders and allow limited access to the database, they have further said.
Leaders of the country’s apparel sector raised their objection to the idea of making their crucial business information publicly accessible in meetings with foreign buyers and government officials on different occasions.
Experts also backed the apparel makers’ views about inclusion of the core business information and inspection reports in the database.
They, however, said all trade union-related information should be made public through inclusion in the database. They also suggested government monitoring of the whole process centrally.
* Alliance gives more time for relocation:
Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a group of North American retailers, has agreed to the demand from the garment factory owners for more time to relocate their (factory owners) units from shared or rented buildings.
At a meeting with the factory owners at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association auditorium in the city on Thursday, the Alliance assured the factory owners that they would not pull out their business from the units located at shared buildings but the group suggested relocation of the units.
Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a group of European buyers, however, suggested immediate relocation of the factories located at shared buildings and some of the signatories of the group have already pull out their business from the factories located at shared buildings.
The EU retailers’ group, at a meeting on February 20, showed its strict stance on the issue.
* Govt to create RMG database with public access:
Garment owners express reservations about full publice access
The government has taken a move to create a publicly accessible database of the country’s garment factories but the manufacturers have expressed their fear that public discloser of factory report would hamper their business and benefit their competitors.
Expressing reservations about full public access of the proposed database, the garment sector leaders said that it was a sensitive issue and the government would have to ensure confidentiality of business strategy.
RMG factory owners have already informed the government about their reservations about public discloser of all information to be put in the database.
A publicly accessible database is one of the key requirements of the GSP action plan of US as well as European Union.
* US Ticfa team to visit RMG, shrimp plants to evaluate progress:
Labour rights, workplace safety
A team of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) will visit several apparel units and shrimp processing plants in the country to get a firsthand experience on the progress Bangladesh has made so far on labour rights and safety issues, sources said.
The USTR team has proposed the Dhaka visit in the first week of April to hold the first council meeting of Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) which was signed between Bangladesh and US on November 25.
The two sides are now getting prepared to hold the first council meeting of Ticfa deal which came into force on January 30 this year aiming to bolster bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.
* BGMEA lab gets int’l certification:
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) testing laboratory has obtained certificate recently of Indian National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) for chemical and mechanical parameter test.
According to a press statement sent on Saturday, the BGMEA has advanced a step ahead in international quality control of textile products by achieving the certificate.
The lab provides service for local, international and buyers at a lower rate. BGMEA spends 10 per cent of the profits for the welfare of the workers of readymade garments sector.
* Export earning from RMG sector may cross $30b in next 5 years:
Export earning from the RMG sector is likely to exceed US$ 30 billion in the next five years, hoped the State Minister for Land Saifuzzaman Chowdhury Jabed.
He said the readymade garment (RMG) industry is playing the key role in the country’s export sector. There is no alternative to the RMG in building the national economy on a strong footing, he further said.
* Making the right changes:
Bangladesh is known in the global market as a small country with a strong presence due to its thriving RMG sector
RMGs serve as the flagship products of our country, increasing people’s interest in Bangladesh both as tourist and investment destinations. The sector does occupy a wide area of the Bangladesh economy, and a distinct position in the global market as well.
Bangladesh is known in the global market as a small country with a strong presence due to its thriving RMG sector. As per the report of BGMEA, the country has around 5,600 active garment factories employing nearly 4 million people directly.
Also, it continues to show a robust performance and competitive strength in the global market. In FY2012-13, the RMG sector earnings stood at $21.52bn out of US$27.09bn total export earnings as per the report of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). RMG’s contribution to total exports in 2013 was 79.63%, with an increase of 1.03% from total exports in 2012.
However, the sector is still undergoing some troubles at home and abroad despite its tremendous successes over the last few years. In recent times, the sector has fallen into an image crisis in the global platform after the events of the Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse.
Disputes between factory owners and workers over wage standards also impede the success of the sector. Both sides have yet to reach a consensus on minimum wage standards of workers, even though some initiatives have been taken vis-à-vis settling disputes.
* Apparel exporters eye more stride in alternative markets:
Garment manufacturers have turned their focus on getting more stride into the non-traditional market buoyed by recent success and against the backdrop of tough conditions frequently being imposed by the EU and the US — the two major export destinations.
According to exporters and experts, despite being the second largest apparel exporter in the world, Bangladesh is still at a risk as the lion share of total garment exports of around $22.50 billion is concentrated in only the two markets.
The garment exporters are going to arrange a number of home and away single-country trade fairs targeting buyers in India, China, South Korea, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil and Chilli.
* RMG makers now move to diversify export markets:
The country’s apparel-makers are now making extra efforts to raise their market share in new markets following emerging challenges for doing business with large buyers, industry circles said.
According to them, the country’s readymade garment (RMG) exporters have no other alternative but to diversify their markets in order to reduce dependency on limited markets.
Besides, the local apparel exporters are also facing stringent conditions, especially in respect of compliances of work-place safety and labour rights, both from their traditional exporting destinations, they mentioned.
Experts, however, have suggested that the country’s apparel makers should adopt their market diversification move without compromising the existing safety-compliance issues for the sake of greater sustainability of the industry.
* 19 jute-spinning mills shut in 8 months:
Lower demand, price of items batter millers
The country’s jute millers and spinners are passing a hard time following lower demand and prices of their products in overseas market as well as currency devaluation in India.
At least 19 jute mills and spinning mills were shut during the last eight months. Many others are about to face closure because of lower sales and prices of jute-made products in the international market, said sector insiders.
So far 16 jute spinning mills, out of 95, and three jute mills, out of 130, were forced to stop their production because of financial difficulties, they said.
On the other hand, India has curbed import of jute goods following its currency devaluation.
Shabbir Yousuf, president of Bangladesh Jute Spinners’ Association (BJSA), said the millers were forced to close their units due to poor sales. If such dull situation continues, many others will face the same fate.
* Growing fashion industry needs govt support to step up a gear:
Md Shaheen Ahmmed, proprietor and chief executive officer of Anjan’s, in a recent interview with New Age, has discussed about the challenges and potential of the country’s fashion designing sector. Interviewed by Jasim Uddin
New Age: What is the present situation of the fashion sector in the country?
Md Shaheen Ahmmed: The sector which started its journey after the country’s independence with Arong, Prabartana, Nipun and some other fashion houses is now growing tremendously with modern designs, style and glamour of the local branded clothes attracting consumers. In the early 90’s, some fashion houses including Anjan’s added new dimension to the sector through bringing fashionable outfits at affordable prices for mass people. Along with the large and famous houses, hundreds of small fashion houses across the country are currently working to promote Bangladeshi brand dresses. Local branded clothes have now reached to a stage where stylish customers are buying those because of their uniqueness in designs, diversity and quality compared with foreign ones.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Two more brands Pay Up! :
UK brand Bonmarche and French brand Camaieu have confirmed their contributions to the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund.
Clean Clothes Campaign welcomes the announcements this week that two more brands have now contributed to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund. Bonmarche (UK) and Camaieu (France) have now confirmed their contributions, which will be used to cover claims for losses made by survivors of the Rana Plaza disaster and by the families of those killed under a process known as the Arrangement.
12:15:13 local time INDIA
* Workers threaten to take legal action against owners:
The Baniyan Factory Workers Union has threatened to take legal action against the textile unit owners who were not disbursing wages to the workers as per the revised salary scale that came into force on January 30.
K. Balamani, union general secretary, said it was found that over 50 per cent of the garment units in the cluster were yet to fully comply with the revised wage scales even one month later.
“This is a gross violation on the rights of the labourers to get decent wages,” he added.
The wages in the Tirupur knitwear cluster were mostly given on weekly and daily basis.
As per the revised wage rates, those employed in cutting, tailoring, ironing and packing should get Rs. 270.75 a day while the workers in the checking section were entitled for a daily wage of Rs. 204.93. The workers in labelling, damage checking and hand folding should be given Rs. 196.75, Rs 179.40 and Rs. 194.6, respectively, for a day’s employment.
Mr. Balamani called upon the labourers, who were denied of the wages at the enhanced scale, to come forward and represent the matter to the trade unions, to initiate action against the employers.
* FICCI urges formulating technical textile standards:
Currently, majority of the standards are in the area of industrial textiles, agro textile etc and there is a need to have more standards in areas like medical textiles etc.
11:45:13 local time PAKISTAN
* Textile mill-owners lobbying for withdrawal of duty exemption:
Textile mill-owners have started lobbying against duty exemption on the import of cotton yarn, as their respective body has approached the Ministry of Textiles for the withdrawal of duty exemption, industry sources said on Saturday.
The government is considering removing duty exemption on the import of cotton yarn and, in this regard, the Ministry of Textiles has sought feedback from stakeholders, they said.
In 2010, through a statutory regulatory order (SRO), the government has exempted import of cotton yarn from customs duty and other taxes.
* FTA with China, Malaysia, India: APBUMA asked to submit recommendations, apprehensions about value-added sector:
All Pakistan Bedsheet and Upholstery Manufacturers Association (APBUMA) asked to submit their reservations, fear and recommendations of value-added sector, in context of free trade agreement (FTA) with Malaysia, China and bilateral trade with India, the Ministry of Textile would sent their feedback to Prime Minister, this was stated by Federal Secretary Textile Rukhsana Shah while delivering her speech at the dinner hosted by APBUMA.
She assured that “we would safeguard the interest of local manufacturers and workers. We would not take any step against our industry.” She has pointed out that the GSP Plus Status was not just for textile-specific but also offered opportunities to other sectors of the economy, and therefore, businessmen should enhance their interaction with their European counterparts.
* Aptma concerned over abnormal weight variation of cotton bales:
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma) Punjab Chairman S M Tanveer has expressed concerns over an abnormal weight variation of cotton bales being imported from India through Wagah border, a statement said on Friday.
Pakistani importers of Indian cotton have lodged complaints with the association about the unfair trade practices on the Indian side of Wagah border, adding that the Pakistani cotton importers have pointed out that there is an abnormal weight loss of around 20kg per bale imported from India.
11:45:13 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Inspection Panel releases Eligibility Report on Uzbek agriculture project:
On December 24, 2013 the World Bank Inspection Panel published its eligibility report for the RESP-II agriculture project in Uzbekistan.
The Panel stated that there were potentially valid concerns raised by the requesters about the link between the World Bank project and harm caused by widespread and systematic forced child and adult labor.
The Panel wrote that “The Panel’s review of the relevant documentation, the Panel team’s observations in the field, and its discussions with Requesters, affected people and development partners, indicate that these harms [forced child and adult labor] can indeed be characterized as serious.
Both Requesters and Management also perceive them to be serious but do not agree as to their linkage with the project. It is the Panel’s view meanwhile that a plausible link does exist between the project and these alleged harms.”