09:06:52 local time CHINA
* East China province raises minimum wage by 10 pct:
East China’s Shandong Province will raise its minimum pay by about 10 percent next month in a bid to attract workers and help them offset rises in living costs.
As of March 1, the minimum monthly wage for full-time workers in Shandong will be raised to 1,500 yuan (245 U.S. dollars), 1,350 yuan or 1,200 yuan in the province’s different cities, depending on economic level, the provincial government said in a statement Tuesday.
The 1,500 yuan level is the fifth highest nationwide.
The rise in minimum wage in Shandong mirrors similar moves in other parts of the country where fewer new workers are entering the labor force.
The rapid rise in living costs is also a factor behind the wage hikes.
08:06:52 local time CAMBODIA
* Labor Minister Responds to Brands’ Concerns:
Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng said Tuesday that he has sent a letter responding to 30 international clothing brands who recently wrote to the government expressing their concerns over a draft union law which could allow for the arbitrary breakup of unions.
Speaking outside a conference in Phnom Penh on migrant workers, Mr. Sam Heng said that he wrote to the brands, which include H&M, Gap and Nike, explaining that the union law will take into account international labor conventions Cambodia has signed, as well as the state of industrial relations in the country.
In their March 14 letter, the brands said they were concerned the law may not comply with International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions that protect rights to unionize and bargain collectively.
Mr. Sam Heng said the government was working with officials from the ILO to ensure that the country’s new union law is fully compliant.
“We are now preparing to establish the union law with technical sponsorship from the ILO and our policy for this law is to do it in accordance with conventions” that Cambodia has signed, he said.
* BetterFactories Media updates 26 March 2014, Labor Minister responds to brand’s concerns:
* to read in the printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:
2014-03-26 Factory waste blamed for health, crop woes
* to read in the printed edition The Cambodia Daily:
2014-03-26 New EU duty threatens bike industry
2014-03-26 Labor Minister responds to brand’s concerns
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
09:06:52 local time INDONESIA
* Indonesian workers and the neoliberal discourse that scorns them:
When it comes to the neoliberal discourse of ’emerging markets’, we are all too familiar with the lexicon of Asian ‘dragons’, ‘tigers’, and, most recently, ‘tiger cubs.’
In typical bien-pensant fashion, such terms have been applied to the economies of the East for some time – firstly to the newly industrialised societies of South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore (the ‘tigers’), and more recently to the newly industrialising societies of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, who together make up the ‘tiger cubs.’
Prior to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, much was made in investment circles of the ‘economic miracle’ minted by the original ‘tigers’, and a comparable fuss is currently being made around the evolution of the four little ‘cubs’ – especially Indonesia. But, beneath the catchy rhetoric, what’s in it for workers?
Recently we have heard lively encouragements to invest in Indonesia from several sources, not only state officials working within Indonesia, but also various observers and actors abroad.
The latest spokespeople to disregard Indonesian workers while eulogising Indonesia as an investor’s paradise are the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) and the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO). In a widely recycled news piece originally published by Bloomberg this week, both organisations revealed their indifference to the plight of Indonesian workers, by repeatedly citing cheap labour costs and an abundant workforce as being among the tip-top reasons to invest in Indonesia. In common investor parlance, such labour market conditions are typically referred to as an ‘opportunity.’
The long-overdue implementation of a minimum wage system in Malaysia, effective since January 1st 2013, has been identified by investment circles as a major reason to shun Malaysia and open up shop in Indonesia.
‘Medan will benefit from the introduction of minimum wages in Malaysia’, proclaims Bloomberg, paraphrasing a high-ranking JETRO spokesperson.
But is this really the sort of investment that Indonesia needs: yet more Japanese production lines lured across the Malacca Straits only by the relative destitution of the Sumatran labour pool, and poised to repatriate the proceeds back to a faraway country? Such projects have ‘vulture capital’ written all over them.
Indonesia currently boasts the world’s 16th largest GDP, yet its minimum wage remains one of the lowest in Asia, surpassed only by the former command economies of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
To put this into perspective, consider that Indonesia’s economy makes four times the GDP of neighbouring Thailand, yet the average minimum wage in Indonesia (around $1’087 per annum since it varies from one region to another) is still only one third of its Thai counterpart ($3’012 per annum).
The discrepancies here are vast, needless, and only serve to index the shocking extent to which organised labour has historically been trampled on in Indonesia, having only recently re-emerged as a formidable social force after 32 years of laying dormant and subdued under the brutal repression of Suharto’s New Order period.
07:06:52 local time BANGLADESH
* RMG worker’s death sparks protest:
Hundreds of RMG workers blocked Dhaka-Mymensingh highway at Bagherbazar in Sreepur upazila of the district following death of a female RMG worker in a road accident in the area yesterday noon.
The deceased was identified as Sabina Akter, 22, a worker of Golden Refit Garments Factory at Bagherbazaar. Police said, a Dhaka bound bus of Alam Asia Paribahan hit Sabina when she was crossing the Dhaka-Mymensing highway on the way to her workplace after having lunch.
Locals first took her to a clinic, and later she was being taken to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital when she succumbed to injuries.
After the news of Sabina’s death spread, fellow workers put barricade on the highway and vandalised several vehicles.
The blockade which triggered tailback on the highway continued for an hour after which police brought the situation under control.
* US stresses ending harassment to union organisers for GSP restoration:
US Senator Robert Menendez has said he cannot support the renewal or expansion of Bangladesh’s GSP benefits as long as union organisers and members are subject to harassment, intimidation, and violence from BGMEA factory owners and managers.
“As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I cannot support the renewal or expansion of Bangladesh’s GSP benefits as long as union organizers and members are subject to harassment, intimidation, and violence from BGMEA factory owners and managers,” he wrote in a letter to BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam.
Menendez urged the President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) to take immediate and substantial steps to end the harassment and intimidation of union organisers and members by the garment factory owners in his industry association.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Menendez: GSP must wait till harassment of union organisers ends:
US made it clear that renewal of the GSP is not possible as long as harassment and intimidation of trade union organisers and members continue
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez has made it clear that he cannot support renewal of the GSP as long as harassment and intimidation of trade union organisers and members continue.
In a letter to BGMEA President Atiqul Islam, the senator urged Bangladeshi garment manufacturers to take immediate steps in this regard.
“Just last month, four union organisers, including two women, were reportedly severely injured by two dozen attackers as they tried to organise workers at a large garment factory,” the letter said.
* Conditions to be met for GSP by Mar 31:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Tuesday categorically said the government is sincerely working for regaining Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in the US market.
The ruling Awami League lawmaker also claimed that the all the conditions given by the USA would be fulfilled by March 31.
Tofail came up with the assertion while talking to journalists after a meeting with German Ambassador to Dhaka Dr Albrecht Conze at his secretariat office in the city.
He said, “The most of the conditions have been fulfilled. A total of 200 labor inspectors will be recruited by March 31 and the other conditions, including preparing database, will be completed by this time.”
* BGMEA briefing on factory safety initiatives on April 10:
Diplomats, agencies to remain present
The apparel sector trade body BGMEA will apprise foreign diplomats, donor agencies and other stakeholders of the progress the sector made so far, especially after the Rana Plaza collapse, the country’s worst-ever industrial disaster, sources have said.
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) will convene a meeting on April 10 to this end and it is expected to be attended by diplomats from 14 European Union (EU) and other countries including the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Australia and other donor agencies including the IFC, GIZ and JICA.
Secretaries from foreign, commerce and labour ministries alongside representatives from the buyers’ forum are also expected to join the meeting, sources close to the initiative have told the FE.
The move has been initiated just ahead of the first anniversary of the tragic Rana Plaza incident, which took place on April 24, 2013 leaving more than 1,100 garment workers dead and many others injured.
One of the main objectives of the initiative is to restore the image of the local apparel sector abroad, which was tarnished following the tragic incident, according to the sources.
However, labour leaders have alleged that many commitments made by different quarters and initiatives they took in relation to payment of compensations to the victims as well as workplace safety and workers’ rights in the apparel sector remain unmet.
Regarding workers’ rights, he said the minimum wage was increased to Tk 5,300 from Tk 3,000.
However, labour leaders alleged that minimum wages were increased but the new wages were yet to be implemented in all factories while rights to other basic things like health, housing and treatment facilities were still ignored.
* Bangladesh action in full swing:
Better news from Bangladesh: the Rana Plaza Trust Fund launches payments to victims, Accord inspections are advancing at fast pace, and garment unions plan to organize tens of thousands of new members in 2014.
Since September 2013, IndustriALL Global Union was involved in negotiations chaired by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) with Bangladeshi partners, global clothing brands and the Clean Clothes Campaign to come up with a comprehensive compensation plan for the families of 1,100 dead and 2,500 injured workers after the Rana Plaza industrial homicide on 24 April 2013.
Finally on 18 March, the Coordination Committee of the so-called Rana Plaza Arrangement could confirm that the compensation payments from a centralized Trust Fund, administered by the ILO, will start as of 24 March.
An advance payment of 50,000 BDT (650 USD) will be made to each of the 3,600 beneficiaries before the one-year anniversary of the industrial homicide on 24 April. These payments will total 2 million USD.
The final compensation will be based on the life expectancy of the dead workers and the degree of handicap of the injured workers. The estimated total required funds are USD 40 million, following ILO Convention 121 and good country practices.
IndustriALL and CCC will now campaign to get all the 28 clothing brands and retailers that were sourcing from Rana Plaza, to pay into the Trust Fund by 24 April. Some companies have already assume their responsibilities, but all need to follow suit to provide the suffering families their long-awaited compensation.
As a next step, we are focusing on building a comprehensive union presence in the Bangladeshi garment factories through a major multiyear organizing project together with our partners.
The reality has already started to change, after the government last year agreed to facilitate the registration of new local unions. During the past 12 months, IndustriALL affiliates have organized more than 100 factories and 40,000 workers. Our ambition is to beat those figures in 2014.
* Small signs of progress in Bangladesh’s textile sector:
Many textile workers who survived the Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013 are still waiting to see compensation and better workplace safety standards. Some significant steps have been taken, but progress has been slow.
With the anniversary of Bangladesh’s worst textile factory accident coming up next month, the ILO is calling on Western companies to donate to the compensation fund for the victims and their families.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Dhaka on April 24, 2013, killed over 1,100 textile workers and left hundreds more injured. It was the worst in a long series of factory accidents in Bangladesh, shifting the international focus on the abysmal working conditions and safety standards in garment factories. It also kick-started a debate about the responsibility of the many Western fashion labels that source their clothing from these plants.
With more than 5,000 garment factories, Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest clothing manufacturer behind China. The bulk of that apparel, about 60 percent, gets sent to Europe.
Brands must pay up
The International Labor Organization (ILO) launched a trust fund to compensate Rana Plaza victims and has been calling on the 28 brands linked to Rana Plaza to pitch in a total of $40 million (29 million euros) before next month’s anniversary. So far 10 brands have made donations: Primark, C&A, Mango, Bonmarche, El Corte Ingles, Loblaw, Mascot, Camaieu, Premier Clothing and Inditex.
Boosting safety in the workplace
Talk of compensation so long after the tragedy hasn’t been the only sluggish attempt to make amends. In the aftermath of the collapse, 150 mainly European companies signed an accord last year to improve fire, electrical and building safety standards in Bangladesh’s garment factories.
Many problems, no easy fix
The reports said most sites didn’t have adequate fire exits or sprinkler systems. They described exposed electrical cables and major structural problems, such as cracked support beams, overloaded ceilings and extra stories. One 10-story factory had multiple hairline cracks in its floor slabs.
More power to the workers
Bangladesh is a major supplier to Western companies thanks to the low wages and cheap production costs. The textile sector provides jobs to around 4 million locals, most of them women.
Ramesh argues the best way to ensure fire and building safety standards are upheld in the long term is to give workers more rights to bargain collectively and take part in occupational health and safety discussions. “The structural integrity, the fire safety, the electrical safety are all issues on the ground, but these problems can’t be addressed properly without negotiation between the employers and employees,” he said.
* Better Work Bangladesh:
introduction video… to see here.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* TELL CHILDREN’S PLACE TO PAY UP NOW:
“I’m outraged that The Children’s Place still has not paid compensation to the families of the 1,138 workers who were killed and the 2,500 who were injured in the Rana Plaza building collapse last year.
It is time for The Children’s Place to Pay Up and make an $8 million contribution to the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund!”
On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed, making it the deadliest disaster ever in the history of the global garment industry.
The Children’s Place was one of the main brands being made at Rana Plaza and the company’s clothing was found amid the rubble.
Yet, nearly a year later, The Children’s Place has failed to pay a single penny of compensation to the victims of this tragedy.
Please show your support for the victims of this tragedy by signing and circulating this petition asking The Children’s Place to pay compensation. Join us in calling for corporate accountability in the global garment industry!
read more & please sign here.
06:36:52 local time INDIA
* Fire destroys textile dying unit in Bhiwandi:
A textile dying unit in powerloom town of Bhiwandi here was completely gutted in a major fire, police said on Tuesday.
The blaze occurred just before midnight in the Tapasya Dying Unit situated in Balaji compound, they said.
Firemen took more than eight hours to douse the flames after a dozen fire engines drawn from areas like Kalyan, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar and Thane rushed to the spot.
However, there were no casualties in the fire, Bhoiwada police said.
The cause of the fire is still not known and further investigation is underway.
* Fire breaks out at Bhiwandi dyeing factory:
A major fire broke out late night at a dyeing unit in the power loom town of Bhiwandi. The fire broke around 11.30pm at the Tapasya Dying company at Bhoiwada area.
The company is situated between slum which was first evacuated to prevent any major loss. More than two dozen fire tenders from Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation, Thane Municipal Corporation, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath MIDC, Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation were pressed into service to fight the flames, which was brought under control at about 7.30am on Tuesday.
There was no loss of life in the incident. The fire brigade officials said that primary probe suggest that cause of fire is short circuit but yet to come on conclusion. The flames engulfed the entire unit within two hours and destroyed it, the police officer said.
read more. & see video report.
* Power loom units call off strike:
Owners of about 15,000 power loom units in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts that do job work for textile manufacturers (master weavers) have called off their strike as an agreement was reached here on Tuesday on the wage issue.
P. Kumarasamy, secretary of Coimbatore district job-working power loom unit owners’ association, said that about two lakh looms in the 15,000 units in the two districts were not operating since February 21 demanding revision of wages.
Several rounds of talks were held by the District Collectors of Coimbatore and Tirupur and the officials of the labour department with the master weavers and the job-working unit owners. The unit owners sought 80 per cent increase in wages as the input costs had increased.
An agreement was reached on Tuesday for 30 per cent hike in wages for those who make the Somanur variety fabric and 27 per cent increase for those who make the other varieties.
“It is up to the Labour Department to ensure that the revised wages are paid,” he said.
An official in the department said that the officials held talks with the master weavers and the job-working unit owners.
“We have intervened and resolved the issue by giving advice to implement 30 per cent increase in wages for the Somanur variety and 27 per cent hike for the other varieties,” the official said. The higher wages will come into effect immediately.
* Exporters seek release of pending duty drawback:
The knitwear exporters from Tirupur apparel cluster have appealed to the Union Government to release the pending duty drawback to them for the export of apparels during the last four months.
“The dues on this count for the Tirupur units have collectively been accumulated to Rs. 450 crore,” A. Sakthivel, president of Tirupur Exporters Association, pointed out in the memorandum which the exporters sent to Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
The knitwear exporters here were entitled for duty drawback at the rate of 7.6 per cent of the Free On Board value for cotton-made knitwear products.
The release of the duty drawback amount, according to the exporters, is imperative to maintain the requisite cash flow in the business process.
* Study identifies critical gaps in Tirupur knitwear cluster:
Entrepreneurs by and large lack the vigour to ‘generate’ a demand for their products, inadequate awareness on various available credit linkage facilities and non-optimal utilisation of production capabilities, among a few other issues, are holding back the growth of Tirupur knitwear cluster.
These were the critical gaps identified by the Apex Cluster Development Services (ACDS) in the recent ‘diagnostic study’ which the agency conducted for Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI).
Thomas James, research analyst of ACDS, while explaining the findings to The Hindu , said that the time had come for the cluster to concentrate on enhancing skills of the locally available manpower and utilise their services in apparel production.
“Migrant workforce, which is predominant now, is not a solution in the long run as house rentals and cost of living are shooting up every day,” he added.
* Strong ₹, Chinese policy hits cotton, yarn exports:
China’s move to slash cotton prices coupled with the appreciating rupee will slow down Indian shipments of both fibre and yarn in the near term.
“China is a major market for Indian cotton and yarn. Exports of both cotton and cotton yarn will get affected by the latest Chinese move,” said DK Nair, Secretary-General, Confederation of Indian Textiles Industry. “It is a double whammy for us. The Chinese currency is depreciating, while our currency is appreciating, making our exports unviable,” he said.
From April 1, China plans to cut the floor price for the cotton auctioned from the state reserves by about 4.2 per cent. The proposed move is intended to reduce the accumulated stocks, which may in turn slow down imports into the world’s largest cotton consumer.
06:36:52 local time SRI LANKA
* Sri Lanka’s exports grow while deficit continues to contract:
Sri Lanka’s exports grew by 23.2 percent in January to 898 million U.S. dollars helped by a rebound in industrial products, latest data from the Central Bank showed on Tuesday.
Earnings from exports increased, reflecting the ongoing recovery in the global economy while expenditure on imports also increased, albeit at a lower rate, driven mainly by the increase in intermediate goods imports.
Textiles and garments which is the main contributor to the growth in industrial exports grew by 23.4 per cent to 412 million U.S. dollars. The European Union and U.S. continued to be the major markets for textiles and garments of Sri Lanka representing around 85 per cent of the total garment exports.
06:06:52 local time PAKISTAN
* Textile exports register growth: APTMA Punjab for uninterrupted energy supply to reap benefits of GSP+ :
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer has said textile exports have registered an increase of 14.54 percent in value terms in the month of February 2014, against the corresponding period.
Similarly, he said, there is an impressive growth in exports of knitwear, bed-wear, towels and ready-made garments in quantitative terms during the same period, which is a clear indication that the textile industry remained operational due to availability of energy, both electricity and gas, during the winter.
According to him, there is dire need of keeping the industry fully operational ahead and the government should ensure seven days a week uninterrupted energy, both electricity and gas, supply to the industry.
* PYMA hails deferment of NDMA to India:
Pakistan Yarn Merchants Association’s (PYMA) Chairman Abaidullah Sheikh hailing the deferment of non-discriminatory market access (NDMA) to India has demanded levy of anti-dumping duty on import of yarn from India to protect the local market and yarn manufacturers from unilateral market flooding.
He was talking to newsmen, here on Tuesday he said that for last many months the government was mulling the idea of granting NDMA to India and was proposing to abolish the negative list of 1209 products.
* Europe’s safety squad finds more toxic toys and textiles:
From collapsing pushchairs to chemical-polluted shoes — an ever-rising number of toxic toys and skin-irritating textiles are being removed from supermarket shelves by Europe’s consumer safety squad.
Products from China top the list of suspect items.
Thanks to better policing, Europe’s Rapid Information System (RAPEX) issued 2,364 notifications of unsafe non-food products in 2013.
That was a 3.8 per cent increase on the level the previous year, the European Union’s Consumer Affairs Commissioner Neven Mimica said on Tuesday.
Shoes for example may be tainted with allergenic Chromium VI.