20:30:17 local time CHINA
* Textiles fuel push for jobs in Xinjiang:
Plan to develop the industry also aims to focus on stability in region
The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region plans to develop the textile industry vigorously this year to create more jobs and help maintain stability, according to local officials.
A plan has been drafted to expand the industry to raise employment capacity to 1 million people by 2020 from the current 200,000. More than 52 percent of China’s commercial cotton is harvested in Xinjiang.
“Textiles is a labor-intensive industry with a long production chain. The best option is to create a large number of jobs in southern Xinjiang,” said Liang Yong, deputy director of the region’s Commission of Economy and Informatization.
A top leader has also said that developing labor-intensive industry should be given prominence because it could help to solve the employment situation in southern Xinjiang.
There is also the need to maintain social stability in Xinjiang, said Yu Zhengsheng, China’s top political adviser.
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19:30:17 local time VIET NAM
* Textile and garment sector urged to restructure soon:
Viet Nam should soon restructure its textile and garment industry by increasing competitiveness, and offering value-added products, stated Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai.
During his speech at an opening ceremony of Esquel Group’s new garment factory in the northern Hoa Binh province yesterday, the deputy PM noted that apart from the six signed free-trade agreements (FTAs), Viet Nam was in the process of negotiating six others, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, FTAs with EU, and the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
Three of them were expected to be finalised in 2014, he remarked, adding that this was a historic time for the domestic textile and garment sector to restructure and be an integral part of the global production chain by producing hi-quality and value-added products.
* Vietnam-EU FTA negotiations due for year-end compeletion:
Vietnam and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are in Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations and are expected to complete them by the end of this year.
This information was released during talks between Vietnamese Minister of Trade and Industry Vu Huy Hoang and his Norwegian counterpart Monica Mæland in Hanoi on March 19, as part of the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon Magnus’s official visit to Vietnam from March 18-21 at the invitation of Vietnamese State Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan.
* Hoa Binh province inaugurates garment factory:
The Hong Kong-based Esquel Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of premium cotton shirts, opened a new garment factory on March 19 in the Luong Son Industrial Park , Hoa Binh province.
Construction on the factory, which cost an estimated US$25 million, began in July of last year. It is expected to generate jobs for around 2,800 people living in the province and surrounding areas.
* Vietnam’s fabric & garment exports up 19.3% in Jan-Feb’14:
19:30:17 local time CAMBODIA
* Wing Star workers hit the road:
About 5,000 workers yesterday blocked a national road outside the Wing Star Shoes factory, an Asics supplier in Kampong Speu, as a strike calling for improved working conditions continued to rage on.
Employees walked off the job on Friday with 10 demands, including an additional $10 per month for lunch and transportation, but after two failed negotiations, the most recent on Tuesday, strikers moved to block National Road 3, said Chek Borin, labour bureau chief at the provincial labour department.
* As Wing Star Shoes Strike Enters Third Day, Workers Block Road:
Thousands of workers at the Wing Star Shoes Co. Ltd. on Wednesday blocked the road to the factory in Kompong Speu province for two hours.
They demanded the company raise their bonuses by $5 and properly enforce labor laws after arbitration talks failed Tuesday.
It was the third day in a row that thousands of workers have protested outside the Wing Star Factory, officials said.
“We blocked the road to push the company to find a solution for the workers’ demands,” said Phorn Phal, deputy secretary-general of the Free Trade Union, which has organized the strike. “We don’t want to protest, but we have no choice to get an appropriate solution from the company’s owner.”
* Report no partnership: ILO:
The International Labour Organization (ILO) urged the government in a recent report to do more to protect trade unions, while at the same time teaming up with a local business lobby group that released a report last week calling for their dismantling.
In a report released last month based on the findings of legal experts who examined the application of ILO conventions in the region, the organisation urged the government to “take all the necessary measures, in the very near future, to ensure that trade union rights of workers are fully respected and that trade unionists are able to engage in their activities in a climate free of intimidation and risk”.
At a press conference last week, CAMFEBA president Van Sou Ieng said that having 3,000 trade unions for 600 factories was freedom of association “to the extreme”.
* Infighting at garment union:
Two founding members of Cambodia’s largest independent garment worker union say they were forced out of their jobs for investigating corruption.
Members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), media outlets and several labour rights organisations received a letter dated March 14 and signed by Um Visal and Roeun Chanthorn, denying claims that the two refused to renew their employment contract.
* All quiet on the garment front:
A hush has fallen over Cambodia’s garment sector. With the exception of the occasional strike, life on the factory floor has in ways returned to how it was before the mass strike that turned deadly in January.
“The situation is much quieter than after the violence,” says Ear Chheng Lim, 26, a worker at the Canadia Industrial Park, near where security forces shot dead at least four people on January 3. “I have not seen any police or military police along Veng Sreng [Boulevard] this month. The situation outside the factory, actually, is normal.”
Except it isn’t. The wage issue, which led to the deadly violence, remains unresolved, results of a government investigation into the fatal shootings remain unreleased and calls continue for 21 unionists and workers arrested to be freed.
“All this could be resolved overnight,” said Dave Welsh, whose labour-rights organisation Solidarity Center has been meeting with the government regularly. “Momentum continues in terms of fairly massive pressure and attention … but there’s been no movement.”
Last week, unions postponed a stay-at-home garment strike until after the Khmer New Year, citing workers’ financial concerns. While unions demanding a $160 minimum wage remain confident they will still be able to rally workers, communication between them and the government has broken down.
20:30:17 local time INDONESIA
* Indonesian textile industry has good prospects: President:
* Environment Ministry Issues Eco-labels for 12 Products:
The Environment Ministry has issued the Regulation of Environment Minister No 2/2014 regarding the eco-labeling for 12 products, which include papers, textile, leather, detergent, batteries, wall paints, floor tiles, and plastic bags.
Environment Ministry’s deputy assistant of standardization and technology Nur Adi Wardoyo said on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 that other products would follow.
18:30:17 local time BANGLADESH
* BGMEA to send letters against order withdrawals:
They would urge the brands to give a two-year time to complete corrective measures take in the garment sector
After order withdrawal by different Western brands, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has decided to send letters to the Accord and Alliance asking for taking steps against such cancellation by their signatories.
BGMEA vice president Shahidullah Azim said they would urge the brands to give a two-year time to complete corrective measures take in the garment sector.
“We will send letters to Accord and Alliance not to pull out any order from the factories in next two years,”he told the Dhaka Tribune.
A group of 150 European retailers and brands are the signatories of Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh while Alliance for Workers Safety in Bangladesh has 27 North American retailers. The cases showed orders were withdrawn mainly from the shared buildings which could be presumed flawed.
“But if orders continue to be pulled out, thousands may lose jobs,” said Shahidullah Azim.
* Government help for RMG relocations needed:
Providing support for relocations to new, compliant buildings and backing new industrial parks needs to be a priority
As the two brand–led stakeholder safety initiatives, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety In Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, progress with inspections of garment factories, it is inevitable that some factories will be found non-compliant and some workers risk losing their jobs.
In principle, if more factories are improved and raise their productivity, the industry overall will grow and, in the long run, more workers will have or be able to get secure jobs.
By its nature, this is a process which will require time, investment and co-operation between international buyers and other industry stakeholders. Many factories are housed in multi-storied buildings, which have historically been poorly designed for safety.
It is important then to support moves in the meantime to alleviate hardships caused to factory owners and workers who are affected by safety improvements and renovations.
* 15 RMG workers hurt in clash with staff:
At least 15 workers of a garment factory were injured in a clash between the factory workers and staff regarding payment of arrears in Mirjanagar of Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital, yesterday.
Workers said the management did not pay them February’s salary.
The workers yesterday demonstrated on the premises of the factory of Biswas Group demanding the arrears.
At one stage, the factory management came to hold a meeting with the workers regarding the matter.
However, when the meeting ended without a decision being made, the workers began vandalising furniture leading to the clash.
Abdus Sattar, deputy assistant director of Ashulia Industrial Police, said on information police rushed to the spot and took control of the situation.
* GSP to come up at maiden Ticfa meeting:
United States Trade Representatives (USTR) outlined 16 conditions in the Bangladesh Action Plan which deal with the improvement labour standards
The first meeting of Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) between Dhaka and Washington will be held on 27 and 28 April with the GSP issue to be getting special focus.
The first joint-council meet on Ticfa will evaluate progress towards implementation of action plan set by the United States to get back the facility of generalised system of preferences (GSP).
United States Trade Representatives (USTR) outlined 16 conditions in the Bangladesh Action Plan which deal with the improvement labour standards.
* 15 jute mills closed over fall in demand, prices of products:
The country’s as many as 15 jute mills have been shut down recently and many others are on the verge of closure because of lower demand of jute products and their price fall in the international market, industry people said.
They also blamed devaluation of Indian currency (Rs) and impact of international politics for the situation.
“Both demand and price of local jute and jute goods have drastically declined in the international market for the last couple of months that forced many of our mills to close down,” deputy managing director of Janata Jute Mills Ltd Mahmudul Huq told the FE.
THE TAZREEN FACTORY FIRE
* Tazreen chairman’s bail cancelled:
A Dhaka court today cancelled another court order that had earlier granted bail to Tazreen Fashions Ltd Chairman Mahmuda Akhter in connection with a homicide case filed after the country’s worst factory fire in 2012 which killed 112 garment workers.
The court also asked Mahmuda to surrender before it in 15 days.
Judge Md Abdul Majid of the Court of District and Sessions Judges passed the orders after accepting an appeal of the prosecution for cancelling the bail of Mahmuda, also the wife of Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain.
The Court of Senior Judicial Magistrate on February 10 granted Mahmuda conditional bail for a month after she along with Delwar surrendered before the court in connection with the case filed over November 24, 2012 fire incident that led to the death.
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THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* RMG workers to get Tk 50,000 each by April 15:
The Rana Plaza compensation coordination committee has decided that a total of 3,639 workers who worked at the five garment factories housed in the collapsed building at Savar will get Tk 50,000 each from the Rana Plaza Donor’s Trust Fund by April 15.
At a video conference on Tuesday, the committee comprising representatives of International Labour Organisation, IndustriAll, global retail brands and Bangladesh garment owners decided that the workers or their dependents would get the compensation.
The committee, however, decided that a total of 581 workers of New Wave Bottom, one of the five garment factories, would get the money on March 28 from Primark, a global brand, and the workers of the four other garment units and their dependents would get the compensation by April 15 under the supervision of the coordination committee.
‘Apart from the support, those who were killed or injured in the Rana Plaza building collapse will get compensation according to the section 121 of the ILO convention,’ Roy Ramesh Chandra, secretary general of IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, told New Age on Wednesday.
* It’s time for the big brands to pay up:
The one-year anniversary of the mass industrial homicide of Bangladeshi garment workers is fast approaching.
More than 1100, mainly female, garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza complex collapsed on 24 April 2013.
Last week the first round of independent and transparent factory inspection reports were completed and released. The results were so stark that some factories had to be shut down immediately – and thousands of low-paid garment workers lost their jobs – because of serious safety problems, including structural flaws in buildings.
The big global unions IndustriALL Global Union, UNI Global Union and the Clean Clothes Campaign are leading a worldwide push to get the big brands to compensate workers and fund major workplace safety improvements.
* Rana Plaza Trust Fund to launch worker payments as of 24 March:
The 3,600 workers and families owed compensation from the Rana Plaza collapse a year ago will finally be able to claim payment as of 24 March. An advance payment of 50,000 BDT (US$650) will be made to every beneficiary before the one-year anniversary on 24 April.
On 18 March the Coordination Committee of the Rana Plaza Trust Fund approved the inclusion of Primark as the eighth brand to publically pay into the fund. Primark will cover the cost of full reimbursement of the 581 workers at the New Wave Bottoms factory, one of five factories at Rana Plaza. All payments and support will be conducted under the auspices of the ILO-chaired Trust Fund.
The initial payment of US$650 will be made between 10 and 24 April. This process will include assistance to all claimants in setting up bank accounts. These payments will total US$2 million. The estimated total required funds are USD 40 million to make payments in line with ILO Convention 121. All stakeholders will continue work to communicate and outreach to all claimants to inform and to finalise a comprehensive database of all 3,600 survivors and families of the killed.
IndustriALL Global Union assistant general secretary Monika Kemperle will be relieved to see Rana Plaza workers finally receive their money:
“Months of work under the expert stewardship of the ILO has brought us to this point. The Rana Plaza Trust Fund is a true international standard-setter in line with ILO Convention 121. The job is not finished though, many brands are still yet to contribute while further contributions will be expected from the eight brands that have already paid.
But the one-year anniversary of that terrible disaster will not pass with the 3,600 families still waiting.”
The Rana Plaza brands that have not yet publically contributed to the fund are: Adler Modemärkte, Auchan, Ascena Retail, Benetton, C&A, Carrefour, Cato Fashions, Children’s Place, Grabalok, Gueldenpfennig, Kids for Fashion, KiK, LPP, Manifattura Corona, Matalan, NKD, PWT, Walmart and Yes Zee.
The 3,600 families of dead workers and injured workers have already received 9 months’ salaries since the tragedy; totaling US$ 2 million that was paid out by Primark, Loblaw of Canada last year also paid three months’ salary to all 3,600 claimants.
* Rana Plaza Survivor Left With Debilitating Trauma, Mere $519 In Compensation So Far:
When Reba Sikder reported to work on April 24 last year, she found a group of her colleagues milling about and chatting anxiously outside Rana Plaza, a garment factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The workers had become aware of a large crack in the building the previous day. Unconvinced it was safe, they were afraid to go inside to their factory and begin their shifts.
But soon, Sikder’s line chief came outside and berated the group. “He was saying, ‘You bloody people, go inside. If you don’t go inside, you won’t get your salary,'” Sikder recounted recently, speaking through an interpreter. The supervisor smacked one of her female co-workers, according to Sikder.
As the world now knows, business went on as usual at Rana Plaza that day, despite the known structural weaknesses of the building. The 8-story tower soon crumbled, ultimately killing more than a 1,100 garment workers and changing the lives of thousands of survivors like Sikder. It would be two and a half days before she was extracted from the rubble and saw daylight.
“We thought there was no hope,” said the slightly built Sikder, looking a good deal younger than her 18 years.
Still without work, Sikder recently visited the U.S. to share her story with lawmakers and college students. She spoke with HuffPost after delivering testimony to Congress on the need to prevent similar disasters and to compensate victims for their losses. Sikder has received the U.S. equivalent of $519 through two compensation funds, one managed by a clothing brand that was sourcing from Rana Plaza, the other through the Bangladeshi government. Her family quickly burned through all of it.
However meager her wages were, like other poor garment workers Sikder’s factory job provided a crucial income for her struggling family. Her parents are too old to work, and her brother makes a mere $25 a month toiling in one of the country’s many jute mills. Despite her survival, Sikder said, the Rana Plaza disaster has left her family in “a severe condition,” which is why she’s continued to press Western brands not only for compensation, but also for greater investments into safety.
“You all wear clothes that were made in Bangladesh. Can you make an effort to save our workplaces?” Sikder said. “Thousands and thousands of workers shouldn’t die just for coming to work.”
* Benetton denies compensation to RMG victims:
It made the claim in a press release
Benetton Group, a global apparel retailer based in Italy, is said to be violating terms of an accord it signed to compensate victims of Rana Plaza disaster.
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), one of the largest alliances of labour unions and non-government organisations in the world, made the claim in a press release.
Benetton signed the accord in May 2013 under pressure from a worldwide campaign which generated over a million signatures, the report said on Wednesday.
However, Benetton is now said to be denying compensation to workers injured in the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1,138 people.
Benetton was called on to pay $5m in compensation to the Rana Plaza victims, however did not do so, the CCC said on the basis of an investigation report.
18:00:17 local time INDIA
* Job-working powerloom units continue strike:
About 15,000 job-working powerloom units in Tirupur and Coimbatore districts are on strike since February 21 seeking revision of wages from master weavers.
Wage talks for job-working powerloom units in Tirupur and Coimbatore districts did not see any progress on Wednesday as representatives of two associations of the master weavers did not participate in the talks called by the Labour Department officials here.
About 15,000 job-working powerloom units in Tirupur and Coimbatore districts are on strike since February 21 seeking revision of wages from master weavers.
There are about two lakh looms that do job work for the master weavers at Tirupur, Avanashi, Somanur and Palladam.
* Erode mill machinery sealed:
7 workers died after inhaling methane while fixing faulty valve
On directions from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the district administration on Wednesday sealed processing machinery of the KPR Mills at SIPCOT Industrial Estate at Perundurai where seven workers died after inhaling methane while fixing a faulty valve in its effluent treatment plant on Tuesday.
Late on Tuesday night, power supply to the industry was disconnected by the Tangedco. Only the equipment, and not the premises, would be kept sealed until further orders, Revenue Divisional Officer and Sub-Divisional Magistrate V. Gunasekaran, who led the sealing operations, said. From September to November last year, all the industries, including this unit, had complied with the order of the TNPCB to clean up the sludge in the effluent treatment plant to ensure that there was no seepage of pollutants into the ground.
Official sources said all textile units in the SIPCOT complex had also been oriented on the precautionary measures to be taken for safety of workers last November.
Meanwhile, management sources said the company would pay a compensation of Rs.13 lakh to the families of each of the deceased.
The death of the workers has turned the focus on training in textile units.
* Jayalalithaa condoles deaths of Erode dyeing factory workers, NLC contract employee:
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday expressed shock over the deaths of seven people at a dyeing unit in Erode district on Tuesday. She also expressed shock over the death of a contract worker at Neyveli Lignite Corporation.
Seven workers died of asphyxiation and nine others were taken ill on Tuesday after inhaling toxic gas in a tank containing untreated effluents at a textile dyeing factory at Perundurai near Erode. In a statement, chief minister said it was shocking to note that seven people died of asphyxiation and nine people were hospitalized. She wished a speedy recovery to the nine workers who are undergoing treatment.
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* Surat textile traders in a fix over ‘NaMo’ sari boxes:
For many textile traders in the country’s biggest man-made fabric (MMF) wholesale market, ‘NaMo saris’ have started creating problems in most parts of the country, mainly Uttar Pradesh and Delhi – the biggest market for synthetic saris and dress materials.
The retail buyers and traders have been asking the textile wholesale traders in the city to send fresh stock of saris without inscribing NaMo slogans on the boxes.
The move has come after the district administrations in most parts of the country, including in Pilibhit, banned the sale of sari boxes that have NaMo slogans on them to avoid controversy during the Lok Sabha elections.
In October 2013, more than 20,000 textile traders from over 140 textile markets in the city had joined the brand Modi campaign following exhortation by BJP leaders like Navsari MP CR Paatil.
17:30:17 local time PAKISTAN
* ‘Pro-Indian policies hit cotton industry hard’:
Despite rising price trend on the world markets, the cotton industry in Pakistan is under serious crisis due to pro-India policies of the government, said IhsanulHaq, a leading cotton trader and member of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA).
“It is apprehended that if import of yarn from India is not blocked and additional concessions for yarn exporters are not announced by the government, then whole of the cotton industry may face disaster and consequently cotton sowing in current season may be adversely affected,” he added.
He said due to award of five percent additional subsidy by Indian government on export of cotton yarn and enforcement of 25 percent regulatory duty on cotton yarn imports from Pakistan to India had resulted in huge imports of cotton yarn imports from India by Pakistani textile industry and drastic drop in local buying.