19:08:57 local time VIET NAM
* Trade unions call for company cooperation:
Trade union experts from Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries gathered in Ho Chi Minh City on March 4 to share experience between unions and businesses.
The seminar was jointly held by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), the Japanese Federation of Textile , Garment, Chemical, Food, Trade and Service Workers’ Union , and the Asia-Pacific Labour Network .
Speaking at the event, Vo Van Nhat , a representative from the VGCL, highlighted Vietnam’s view of building a harmonised, stable, advanced and mutually trusting relationship between trade unions and companies.
At present, many free trade agreements stipulate improved workers’ rights and the role of trade unions have grown in influence, he said.
* Trade union experts share cooperation experience:
Leading trade union representatives from Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific countries have met recently in Ho Chi Minh City to share experience between unions and businesses.
The event was a joint venture organised by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), the Japanese Federation of Textile, Garment, Chemical, Food, Trade and Service Workers’ Union, and the Asia-Pacific Labour Network.
VGCL representative Vo Van Nhat praised Vietnam’s intention of building a harmonious, stable, advanced and mutually trusting relationship between trade unions and companies.
* Textile exports continue to rise:
Employees at Thai Ha Garment and Textile Company in Thai Binh Province work on a production line. Many businesses in the garment and textile industry have signed export contracts for the third quarter of this year. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Viet
The garment and textile industry in the first two months of this year gained a year-on-year increase of 30.1 per cent in export value to reach US$3.2 billion.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the industry had a surge of 44.9 per cent in export value in February to reach $1.3 billion.
The ministry said the textile and garment industry firms have started large projects to expand their production and receive new business opportunities this year, Chinhphu.vn reported.
So far, many enterprises have signed export contracts to be completed by the third quarter of this year, the ministry said.
read more. & read more.
* February garment exports see 44.9% year-on-year rise:
Vietnam’s garment export revenue rose 44.9% in February from the same month last year to US$1.3 billion, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).
For the first two months of this year, the export revenue was up 30.1% against the same period in 2013, the Ministry says.
The Ministry has announced that with the recovery of export markets, the garment industry seems stable. Many garment companies have orders up to the end of the second and third quarters of this year.
read more. & read more.
* New opportunities, challenges for VN’s footwear industry:
From 2014 Vietnamese non-sensitive footware products exported to the European Union will enjoy zero tax rate, while tax rates applied for products in that list will decrease by 3.5 percent from the former rates.
According to the Vietnam Economic News , this is seen as a golden opportunity for the country’s footwear industry but the newspaper also warned that it is not easy to seize that opportunity.
The EU is currently still a large export market of Vietnam’s leather and footwear industry, only behind the North America market. In 2013, export revenues of Vietnam’s leather and footwear products to the EU reached 3.41 billion USD, of which the revenue of footwear products was 2.88 billion USD, accounting for 8.5 percent of the EU’s market share.
* Seminar discusses impacts of VN-EU trade deal:
The EU-Vietnam free trade agreement (EVFTA) should be considered alongside other agreements to evaluate the opportunities and challenges it brings about, thus aiding the renovation of Vietnam’s growth model, economists have said.
Experts at a March 5 seminar in Ho Chi Minh City remarked that Vietnam wants to spur export and lure more investment through the agreement in order to open itself up to the region and the world.
However, they are concerned about non-tax measures imposed by the EU, and suggested Vietnam gather more consultations before making decisions regarding these EU regulations while enhancing its capacity to fulfill new requirements.
* Seminar discusses impacts of Vietnam-EU trade deal:
A seminar was held in the central city of Danang on January 16 by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) to discuss the contents of the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that Vietnamese businesses need to consider.
The event was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), craft associations and major businesses having trade ties with EU member countries, and consulting experts from the European Trade Policy and Investment Support Project (EU-MUTRAP).
The European Union (EU), one of Vietnam’s top economic, trade and investment partners, has become the country’s biggest export market with total turnover estimated at US$20 billion in 2012, up 22 percent over 2011, and accounting for nearly 18 percent of Vietnam’s overall exports.
19:08:57 local time LAOS
* Labour shortage impedes industry development:
The shortage of labour in Laos is still a major issue for foreign investors, which means industry development is struggling but some companies have taken the decision to expand their business here.
The Vientiane Industry and Trade Area (VITA) in Xaythany district is one of the major industrial parks in Vientiane requiring more workers for the factories in the area.
There are currently 11 foreign companies who have invested in the park, of which two factories are processing products for export, VITA Park President Mr Sibounheuang Vienheuangphay told Vientiane Times last week.
The garment factory of Mascot International Sold Co Ltd, a Danish investment in the industrial park, has not yet begun its processing operations to produce goods for export despite opening in January, because of the labour shortage, company Office Manager Ms Latdavanh Silaphet said during a visit from the Vientiane Times .
The factory needs around 800 labourers to operate at current capacity to meet demand but there are only 60 employees at the moment, she said.
19:08:57 local time CAMBODIA
* Unions expect violence, but forum to go on:
Despite anticipating violence between unionists and authorities, labour union heads yesterday said they will go ahead with a public forum at Freedom Park on Saturday morning.
“I think we cannot avoid having a clash on Saturday, because [authorities] will not allow us to have our forum,” Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said. “But what we are going to do is not wrong.”
Phnom Penh City Hall on Tuesday denied a request by 18 union federations to hold a public forum at Freedom Park on Saturday, an event that would coincide with International Women’s Day.
The union groups are continuing to demand the minimum garment wage be increased to $160 per month and 21 jailed activists and workers be freed from prison.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche on Tuesday declared Freedom Park off-limits, saying that the 30,000 people union federations expect could pose a threat to security.
“We’re concerned that police or military will block the road and make violence for our members,” Sun Lyhov, of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said.
* ILO convention still debated:
The government has no intention of withdrawing its signature from the International Labour Organization’s freedom of association convention, despite calls for it to reconsider its position, a Ministry of Labour spokesman said yesterday.
“I don’t think we will withdraw. The prime minister [Hun Sen] has already said he will commit to freedom of association,” said the ministry’s Heng Sour. “To my understanding, the government has no intention to [withdraw].”
At the Government-Private Sector Forum on Tuesday, Nang Sothy, from the forum’s industrial relations group, called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to consider whether the ILO’s convention 87 was benefiting Cambodia, in the wake of union-led garment strikes in January in which security forces shot dead at least four workers and factories lost millions of dollars.
* Support the Cambodian Garment Workers Struggle! Donate to their Strike Fund! :
Dear Asia Floor Wage Alliance Members, Endorsers, Supporters & Discussants:
Please support two very important struggles going on in Asia right now – in Cambodia and in Bangladesh
As you know Cambodian unions have been in an intense, long struggle since end of 2013 till now…. voicing their demand for a bare minimum wage of USD 160 per month. Workers have lost their lives in police firing; union leaders have been arrested; and many continue to be in prison.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, 15,000 Cambodian workers will peacefully assemble in Freedom Park in Phnom Penh and ask the government and opposition to discuss the issue of wage. If there is no result from the discussions, they will start a nationwide strike again on March 12. Unions are seeking donations for transport, food and water – for a strike fund. Please help and contact firstname.lastname@example.org or AFW Southeast Asia Coordinator at email@example.com
* Input on NGO law over: gov’t:
The government will not consult civil society groups on the latest iteration of a draft law that will regulate non-governmental organisations and associations, a senior Interior Ministry official said yesterday.
Meas Sarim, deputy director-general of the General Department of Local Administration at the Ministry of Interior (MOI), said that the Council of Ministers had sent the law back to the MOI last year with orders that certain changes recommended by civil society groups be made.
“We have deleted many articles. For instance, the article that said that organisations or associations must re-register when the law goes into effect, now we have made it that [registered] NGOs can write to inform the ministry about their NGO [instead].”
* Factory boss faces rape charge:
The Chinese-Malaysian director of a Phnom Penh garment factory is facing up to seven years in prison for allegedly sexually abusing a 14-year-old member of his staff last year.
Ing Kay Hwa, 40, was officially charged at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday with child prostitution and having sex with an underage girl.
Hwa runs Ing Kay Hwa Factory in Sen Sok district where the teen worked, according to Lieutenant Colonel Keo Thea, chief of the city’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Unit.
* BetterFactories Media updates 6 March 2014, ILO convention still debated:
* to read in the printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:
2014-03-06 Unions expect violence, but forum to go on
2014-03-06 ILO convention still debated
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
20:08:57 local time MALAYSIA
* MTUC Wants Labour Department To Conduct Regular Checks At Work Places:
The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has called on the Labour Department to carry out regular inspection at work premises to ensure employers comply with the minimum wage policy.
Its deputy secretary-general, A. Balasubramaniam, said the union had received numerous complaints on companies not paying the minimum wage of RM900 to workers.
He said companies found to have under paid their employees should comply with the minimum wage requirement and to pay the arrears in backdated wages in accordance with the law.
“MTUC calls on the Labour Department to strictly monitor the enforcement of the minimum wage ruling to ensure the low paid workers are not deprived of their legitimate wages, especially at a time when the cost of living has gone up.
18:08:57 local time BANGLADESH
* Safety in garments factories:
A media report on safety in the garments factories caught my attention. Serious faults were detected by ‘Accord’, the joint team investigating factory safety in the garments sector.
This lack of safety is becoming a chronic issue in garments factories in Bangladesh. Safety is the first and primary concern, especially on flammable issues and must not be taken lightly, by anyone concerned, particularly the regulatory authorities.
Not only structural defects of factory buildings but also non-compliance to anything related to fire and safety issues is a matter of top priority for all concerned and shouldn’t be ignored.
Unfortunately, ignoring the matter or taking short cuts on safety issues seems to be the ‘order of the day’ as far as the factory owners are concerned.
There is lack of adequate fire exit stairs and passages in most of the factories. In multistoried factories the fire escape ladder is usually a flimsy ‘add on’ put as an afterthought.
Most often the door between the ladder and the factory floor is kept locked.
The passage to this safety exit is quite often stacked with flammable materials.
This serious matter has not been addressed or mentioned by any of the reporters of the media.
If factory owners consistently ignore these essential and critical safety issues, the prospects of this important export sector may be jeopardised in the long run.
Factory owners should consider this matter seriously and rectify all such defects as early as possible.
* Power tariff hike to create new crisis, says BGMEA:
Chairman of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission AR Khan said on Wednesday that rental power plants should not be considered as a permanent solution to power crisis, reports UNB.
“There is much debate about the rental power plants. The government was compelled to go for setting up rental power plants”, he said commenting on tariff hike proposals on the second day of the public hearing at the commission.
read more. & read more.
* RMG workers’ database, appointment of inspectors by March: Tofail:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed today said the government has made significant progress in implementing the action plan in an effort to get back the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility in the US
Talking to reporters at his Secretariat office, Tofail said works on appointment of inspectors for factory inspection and making a database of garment workers would be completed by March 31.
“I hope we will be able to send a progress report to the GSP authority by the stipulated period of April 15,” he said.
Today’s meeting (Three-Plus-Five) was held among Commerce Secretary, Labour Secretary and Foreign Affairs Secretary and five envoys from the US, Canada and EU.
* Bangladesh making progress to regain GSP:
Bangladesh will fulfil three conditions of the US action plan in priority basis by March 30 in an effort to regain the GSP status to the US market, said Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed today.
He added that the prioritised three conditions include recruitment of the 200 factory inspectors, upgrading the labour laws for the factories inside the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and preparing a database on factory fire incidents and structural designs of factory buildings.
Ahmed’s talked with the journalists after a review meeting of the progresses of action plan, a roadmap for regaining GSP to the US market, with three secretaries and five chiefs of foreign missions in Bangladesh, at the secretariat in Dhaka.
* Govt to meet 3 conditions by March to regain GSP: Tofail:
The government will speed up its efforts to fulfil three of the 16 US conditions within this month in a bid to regain the GSP status in the North American market, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said yesterday.
The country has made substantial progresses in meeting the rest 13 conditions.
The government has already prioritised the three conditions that are recruitment of 200 additional factory inspectors, upgrading labour laws for the factories inside export processing zones, and preparing a database on fire incidents in factories.
On EPZ laws, the minister said all the factories inside such specialised zones already have their workers’ welfare associations. “We will try to upgrade these associations,” he said.
He also said a process is underway to appoint the factory inspectors within this month.
* Bangladesh progresses for GSP:
US Ambassador to Dhaka Dan W Mozena said that Bangladesh has progressed by fulfilling the terms of Generalized System of Privilege (GSP) in readymade garments sector.
The sector in Bangladesh can boost exports of garments to the USA and EU countries with low cost apparel.
* Some challenges still need to be addressed to get back GSP: Mozena:
US Ambassador Dan W Mozena on Wednesday said there are still some challenges Bangladesh needs to address to get back the GSP (generalised system of preferences) facilities.
“We looked at the progress. We looked at the remaining challenges. We had a very good, constructive and positive discussion on how to address the remaining challenges,” he told reporters after a meeting between three secretaries and five envoys at the Commerce Ministry.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Conditions need to be met for GSP restoration: Mozena:
US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena said Wednesday Bangladesh needed to meet within the given timeframe the remaining conditions set under the Action Plan for restoration of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in the US market.
The US envoy admitted that progress was made in some areas in addressing the compliance issues. But he said some challenges still remained.
He was talking to the media after a meeting of the ‘Three plus Five’ comprising commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed, foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque, a joint secretary of the ministry of labour and employment, and five ambassadors from the US, Canada, the European Union, the Netherlands and Spain. The meeting was held at the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) in the city.
* BD to seek duty-free access for all items:
Bangladesh is likely to seek duty and quota-free access for all its products to the United States (US) market at the upcoming TICFA meeting, the first one since signing of the deal between the two countries, relevant officials said.
Besides, Bangladesh will press the US for relaxation of the rules of origin (RO) and seek support of the latter in putting into effect the services waiver facility for the least developed countries (LDCs) at the meeting.
The probable agenda of the first TICFA meeting was discussed at the last inter-ministerial meeting organised by the ministry of commerce (MoC) late last month, sources said.
* Uzbek cotton deal on hold over guarantee, price issues:
A proposed cotton import agreement between Bangladesh and Uzbekistan has been stalled over issues related to providing guarantee and pricing of products along with lack of interest of private stakeholders, officials of the commerce ministry said.
They said that though the discussion for signing the agreement was going on for more than two years, till now there has been no concrete progress in this connection.
The ministry is also not paying enough importance to go forward with the issue as it has been overloaded with works related to restoration of generalised system of preferences in US market and some other important issues, they said.
* BetterWork-ILO hiring in Bangladesh:
Title: Country Programme Manager, Better Work Bangladesh
Contract type: Fixed-Term Appointment
Duration of contract: One year (with possibility of renewal)
Description of Duties
1. Lead the effective implementation and technical oversight of all project components including enterprise compliance assessments, advisory services,training andstakeholder engagement;
2. Oversee capacity building efforts of national partners to ensure compliance with international labour standards and national laws. This will entail developing BWB approaches as well as ensuring strong collaboration with related and complementary activities of the ILO, IFC and other institutions;
3. Effectively manage human resources including recruitment, mainstreaming gender equality and the principles of equal opportunity, staff development and performance management with a particular focus on increasing skills of senior national staff to enable them to independently manage core services;
4. Maintain effective and efficient administrative and financial systems for the project including the administration of the cost-recovery strategy;
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Over 30 Bangla organizations join Clean Clothes Campaign:
* Tk 21cr compensation for Rana Plaza victims:
Over Tk 21 crore was provided to to the victims of Rana Plaza tragedy so far from Relief and Welfare Fund of the Prime Minister.
A total of 909 families received a donation from one lakh to five lakh Taka where another 36 mutilated people got two or three times higher.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came up with the disclosure while addressing parliament in a question and answer session on Wednesday.
She also told the House that Labour Welfare Foundation has been formed for the sake of the RMG workers and their family. “Around taka one crore was provided to 99 victims of Tajreen Fashion fire incident and their families,” the House was told.
Moreover, workers got a grant of Tk 200,000 each from Prime Minister’s fund. On the other hand, Bangladesh Bankers’ Association donated Tk 100,000 to each worker, she added.
17:38:57 local time INDIA
* Call to give priority to industry workers’ safety:
The Karnataka Safety Institute, in association with the Department of Factories, Boilers, Industrial Safety and Health, the National Safety Council, Karnataka Chapter, organised a function at Dr. Joladarashi Doddanagouda Rangamandir here on Tuesday to mark the 43rd National Safety Day.
Speakers at the function stressed the need to accord priority to workers’ safety. A procession was taken through the thoroughfares to create public awareness about industrial safety and safety awards were also distributed to various organisations.
The theme of the function was ‘Manage stress at workplace and control hazards’.
Minister of State for Labour P.T. Parameshwar Naik, in his address, said that industrial development and workers’ welfare should go hand-in-hand for economic progress of the State and the nation. Industries should provide all facilities, including safety, to the workers and preference should be given to local candidates while hiring for vacant jobs..
Steps to avoid accidents
Stating that steps should be taken to avoid accidents at workplaces, he said there was a need to accord priority to industrial safety and health, especially mental health, of the workforce.
He said that for the first time, his department had carried out a sample survey of the health condition of about 25,000 workers in the garment sector and found that women workers were suffering from iron deficiency.
* Maharashtra’s new textile policy attracts 1,331 projects:
* Africa seeks investment from Indian cotton traders:
The Indian Cotton Federation (ICF) is keen on investing in Africa. A delegation of persons involved in the cotton business in Africa currently on a visit to the city has expressed interest in direct trade links between the two sides. Senior ICF officials said they too wanted to engage with their African counterparts directly.
Though India imports about 2.5 lakh tonne of cotton from Africa annually, the trade is almost entirely done through international merchants based in Europe. “We are interested in investing towards cotton development in Africa,” said K N Viswanathan, vice president, ICF.
17:08:57 local time PAKISTAN
* Entrepreneurship: Thousands of women marketing home-made products online:
As many as 6,000 women entrepreneurs in urban and rural areas of Pakistan are now successfully marketing their homemade products online.
This was made possible after they got digital marketing training under the “Women Entrepreneurship Development Programme” offered by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which started in 2011.
Ten such entrepreneurs got together here on Monday at an interactive session to share their success stories.
All from middle-income families, the women said they are now using the internet to expand their home businesses to reach out to a wider clientele.
Profits of jewellery and textile businesses have gone up 30 to 40 per cent while some businesses have achieved 100 per cent gains, according to the participants.
* Swat’s silk industry devastated by Taliban insurgency:
Five years after it collapsed under Taliban rule, the once-thriving silk industry in the Swat valley of north-west Pakistan is still in shreds, leaving thousands without work and entrepreneurs like Shaukat Ali counting the cost.
Ali’s family moved from the eastern city of Lahore to Swat in the late 1960s as they looked to capitalise on what was then a booming silk trade in the valley known as “Pakistan’s Switzerland”, renowned for its lush green mountains, waterfalls and streams. The industry began with smuggled yarn from Afghanistan, with investors drawn to the prospect of cheap raw materials and abundant labour.
At its height, the silk industry in Swat employed 25,000 people, mostly producing raw fabric which was then sold on to textile centres elsewhere in the country to be turned into clothes. read more. & read more.
* Concerns voiced over sales tax regime amendment:
The Council of All Pakistan Textile Associations (CAPTA) on Wednesday expressed reservations pertaining to the recent meetings held in the textile ministry, as well as in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), wherein the revenue body has proposed certain fundamental changes in respect of the sales tax and its laws, a statement said.
A meeting of the council observed that the rate of sales tax and laws pertaining to the same were discussed threadbare at all levels and meetings were also chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, it said.
* ‘Energy crisis major hurdle in reaping benefits of GSP plus’:
The readymade garment exporters have said the energy crisis is a major impediment in reaping fruits of the GSP plus status from the EU. Former PRGMEA Chairman Ijaz Khokhar said the EU buyers are still in doubt about the ability of timely delivery of orders by the Pakistani exporters.
He has also questioned the worth of the statement made by the German Ambassador Dr Cyrill Nunn that the HeimTextile has witnessed 30 percent increase in orders to Pakistani exporters from the EU. Dr Cyrill Nunn had made this statement during his visit to the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Punjab office recently. He had further stated that the latest upward revision of GDP growth by the Pakistan government suggests that Pakistan has started realising the positive impact of the GSP plus from the EU.
* Value-added textile sector: Capta fears fabric smuggling from India, under invoicing to hit growth:
Council of All Pakistan Textile Associations (Capta) fears that the rampant fabric smuggling into Pakistan from India, and third port import of Indian fabric, besides under invoicing are likely to hit the value-added textile sector’s growth.
The representatives of the Council during a meeting at PHMA House last week asked the government to reduce the sales tax for the ailing sector, as it is facing a number of problems.