19:51:52 local time CHINA
* 11 killed in clothing workshop fire:
Eleven people were killed in a fire on Wednesday afternoon in a clothing workshop in south China’s Guangdong Province.
The fire broke out at 1:27 p.m. in Junbu Township, Puning City, according to the municipal government’s information office.
Eleven people were suffocated to death in the workshop, which mainly manufactures underwear. Another 15 were injured, and 17 managed to escape from the blaze, which was put out at 1:54 p.m., said the office.
The cause of the accident is being investigated.
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* 11 dead, six injured in Guangdong factory blaze:
At least 11 people died and six were injured in a garment factory fire yesterday in an eastern Guangdong city notorious for such accidents.
The blaze broke out at about 1.30pm in a four-storey building that housed raw materials, a sewing workshop and a workers’ dormitory in Shadui village, Puning city, near Shantou, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.
Seven fire trucks and 45 firemen struggled to contain the blaze at the underwear factory that also housed raw materials including plastic and foam that gave of toxic fumes. These may have contributed to the fatalities, all whom appeared to have suffocated, officials said.
Seventeen people were rescued, including the six injured who suffered from smoke inhalation. Two were in critical situation.
The authorities said the cause of the accident was still under investigation and gave no further details.
However, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily, there was no fire prevention equipment in the building, whose owners were absent. Local work safety laws stipulate that warehouses, factories and dormitories should never be housed in the same building.
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* At least 11 dead in Guangdong workshop fire:
At least 11 people were killed and another 17 injured when a fire broke out at a small family-run underwear workshop in Puning county, Guangdong, in the early afternoon of 26 March.
Official media reports said 45 fire fighters battled the blaze at the five-storey concrete structure which appeared to have only one exit. The cause of the fire is still under investigation although the Southern Metropolis Daily reported that the factory contained plastic and foam materials that gave off toxic fumes, which may have caused many of the fatalities.
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20:51:52 local time NORTH KOREA
* 100x Textile Sector Wage Rises in 6th Month:
Textile and clothing enterprises that dramatically raised the wages of employees in autumn last year have continued to provide the same high level of payment through the second quarter of 2014, Daily NK has confirmed.
The majority of workers with Pyongyang Potonggang Garment Factory and connected enterprises are satisfied with the current state of affairs, sources add. However, there have also been complaints at the pressure laborers are under, and instances of ill health are on the rise.
A source from the North Korean capital told Daily NK on the 25th, “People working for factories with links to Potonggang Garment Factory started receiving the increased 300,000 won wage since September last year, and continue to do so.”
“People seem to be satisfied,” he went on. “Most of them turn up to work every day and on time.”
However, “After the Upper [the authorities] decreed the salary increases for the textile sector, they ordered workers to arrive at dawn and hiked up individual quotas. They say that employees who fail to meet their target during working hours should stay late until it is met.”
In an outcome reflective of many developing countries that pursue an export strategy, the harsh working hours and environment are leading to ill health among staff, the source revealed. Employees must perform repetitive tasks, mostly while standing, and this leads to joint and muscular difficulties. Exposure to dust created during the textile manufacturing process has also begun to produce high rates of respiratory tract infection.
As workers are supposed to perform their duties even while sick, there have been a number of cases of people attempting to bribe their way into a different enterprise or factory.
“Quite a few workers returned to work in the factory when they heard about the wage increases, but because of the tough work here they are trying to find ways to get out again,” he explained. “The wage rise isn’t enough, as 300,000 won is still less than what the average market trader can make in a month. So, they want to move to other places.”
18:51:52 local time THAILAND
* Mae Sot migrants garment workers demand labour rights:
Nearly a thousand Burmese migrant workers staged a rally outside their garment factory in northern Thailand, calling for improved labour rights.
Workers at the Thai-owned Yuan Jiou Garment Co Ltd in Thailand’s border town Mae Sot are striking over unpaid wages and long working hours.
A factory worker told DVB they are punished for not keeping up with demands.
“We have to work from 8 am until 10 o’clock at night and make 120 garments. If we cannot make them we are all scolded. If we can make 120 garments, they ask for 140 garments the next day,” he said.
The minimum wage in Thailand is 300 baht (US$9) per day. However the migrant workers said they are not receiving that amount, and are forced to lie during inspections of the factory.
“If we tell the truth, we are laid off from work,” another worker at the factory said.
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18:51:52 local time CAMBODIA
* Crackdown in Cambodia:
New report calls on brands and retailers to end cycle of inadequate wages and deadly repression.
The country’s military police killed at least four people and injured at least 38 by firing assault rifles at workers who were protesting outside garment factories, demanding higher wages.
* Family of Slain Protesters Questioned Despite Closed Investigation:
Family members of two men slain by military police in violent suppression of a garment worker protest in January were questioned Wednesday at the Ministry of Interior, although the investigation into the killings was officially declared closed on March 16.
Soun Nara, the brother of Yean Rithy, 25, and Khem Soeun, the father of Khem Sopath, 16, said penal police had questioned them in full about the events of January 3.
Yean Rithy was killed by military police deployed to disperse the protesters. Khem Sopath’s body has not been found, but he was last seen bleeding profusely from a wound to the chest at the scene of the protest. Rights groups have called on authorities to investigate his whereabouts.
Suong Samol, the father of Kim Phalleap, 25, another of the five victims killed by state forces, also said that police questioned him last Thursday.
* Unions to lead holiday strike:
When is a strike not a strike?
That’s a question being asked after union leaders yesterday announced they will inform garment factory owners that their members want to use annual leave days to wage their stay-at-home strike the week after Khmer New Year.
The leaders of eight unions plan to send a letter to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) this afternoon, asking it to communicate the message to all member factories, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said yesterday.
“We ask the factory owners to compensate workers [for April 17 to 23],” Thorn said, adding that workers will stay home those days regardless of the response.
Taking annual leave simultaneously falls short of a strike, but keeps pressure on the government and factories, said Moeun Tola, head of the Community Legal Education Center’s labour program.
“It’s hard to call it a strike,” he said. “But people are communicating their dissatisfaction.”
When asked why unions are requesting the week to count as their annual leave, rather than just call a strike, C.CAWDU vice-president Kong Athit said the action avoided violent government crackdowns.
* Prominent union leader accused of corruption:
Member of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) says that he will reveal the corruption of Ath Thon and his group in the C.CAWDU.
Oum Visal, member of C.CAWDU’s Executive Committee, said in a statement issued today that the he would hold news conference on March 28 in order to reveal the report over the embezzlement of by Ath Thon, Kong Athith and Ek Sopheakdey.
Regarding the complaint, Ath Thon denied the accusation, saying that he had already paid the workers.
He also threatened to file counter-complaint against Oum Visal for having incited workers to file complaint against him.
Ath Thon is one of prominent union leaders who led protest against the garment manufacturers to demand the increase of minimum wage to USD160 per month.
19:51:52 local time MALAYSIA
* Gov’t powerless over COLA in private sector:
The Human Resource Ministry said today it was powerless to compel private sector employers to pay their staff a monthly cost of living allowance (COLA) of RM300, saying it was the sole prerogative of employers.
“The implementation of COLA is under the employer’s jurisdiction and the ministry has no power over the matter.
“However, the ministry encourages constructive negotiation between employers and employees so they can come to an agreement that includes a COLA,” Deputy Minister Ismail Abdul Muttalib told the Dewan Rakyat during the question session this morning.
Add COLA to minimum wage
But speaking later at a press conference at the Parliament lobby, Pakatan Rakyat MPs urged the government to introduce a law requiring employers to pay their staff a COLA.
They pointed out only 8% of Malaysian workers, or 1.8 million people, were members of the MTUC, leaving another 92% or 11.3 million workers unprotected and defenceless.
“The government must be responsible for the 92% of workers who are not union members. At the very least, it should add the COLA to the minimum wage,” said Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, a PKR lawmaker and vice president of the MTUC.
17:51:52 local time BANGLADESH
* EP urges govt to ensure factory safety, workers rights:
A delegation of European parliamentarians (EP) has called upon the government to fulfil its commitment to ensure factory safety and workers rights before the first anniversary of the worst-ever building collapse at Savar that killed more than 1100 people.
“Time matters,” they said in a statement released Wednesday after their departure.
“It is crucial that these measures be effective by 24 April 2014, which will mark the first anniversary of the catastrophe,” read the statement.
They also called upon the European buyers and Bangladeshi owners to “continue to fulfil their commitments” under the EU-Bangladesh Global Sustainability Compact rolled out after the Rana Plaza disaster.
* EU urges govt to upgrade worker safety by April 24:
A European Union parliamentary delegation yesterday urged the government to implement the measures to ensure workplace safety within April 24, the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse.
The parliamentarians have also assessed the progresses the government has made so far to improve factory safety and workers’ rights, notably with the reform of the labour law and the commitment to hire 200 new safety inspectors.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse in Savar, where at least 1,130 workers died and numerous received severe injuries, the government has taken some measures to improve the labour rights and workplace safety in the garment sector.
The government amended the labour law allowing full freedom of association as a requirement for regaining GSP in the US, which scrapped the trade privilege last year citing serious shortcomings in labour rights and workplace safety.
“European buyers and Bangladeshi owners should continue to fulfil their commitments under the EU-Bangladesh Global Sustainability Compact,” said Jean Lambert, chairperson of the delegation for relations with South Asia, in a statement.
Bangladesh on July 8 last year signed the Global Sustainability Compact with the EU involving the International Labour Organisation, committing improvement in workplace safety.
* Garments rag trader hacked to death in Gazipur:
A garments rag trader was hacked to death and his wife sustained stab injures in an attack by miscreants at Boro Dewra in Tongi of the city early Thursday.
The deceased was identified as Liton Mia, 50, while the injured was his wife Rasheda Begum, 40, residents of Boro Dewra.
Liton hailed from Nurpur village in Sapahar upazila of Naogaon district.
Police said a gang of armed miscreants stormed the house of Liton at about 3:30am and hacked him with sharp weapons indiscriminately, leaving him dead on the spot.
The attackers also stabbed the victim’s wife Rasheda, leaving her injured.
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* Tafail for tapping leather industry’s potentials aboard:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Wednesday said Bangladesh’s leather industry has huge potentials to grow in the global market and that need to be fully utilised to give a further boost to the country’s total export.
“There’s a huge prospect for boosting leather goods’ export and this needs to be tapped,” he said while inaugurating a new plant of a Picard Bangladesh Limited at Savar.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* State to challenge Rana Plaza owner’s bail:
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam confirmed it
The state has decided to challenge the High court order that granted bail to Rana Plaza owner Sohel Rana for six months in a case lodged by Rajuk for constructing the building flouting building construction laws.
Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told the Dhaka Tribune that they would move the Appellate Division against the bail after the vacation that ends on March 31.
Md Selim, the deputy attorney general concerned, said they High Court judges had not yet signed the bail order that came on March 23 “considering facts of the case.”
Had Sohel Rana complied with the law, the disaster would not have taken place. “Alongside, the offence was non-bailable as per the Building Construction Act, 1952. These are the two major grounds to question the bail,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
16:51:52 local time PAKISTAN
* Karachi towel factory blaze kills one:
A man was killed while two more sustained serious burns in a towel factory blaze here on Thursday, Geo News reported.
The fire broke out in the three-storey building that houses a small towel-making unit during the wee hours of Thursday.
The unfortunate factory, which now stands almost gutted, is located in Gulshan-e-Maymar’s Ahsanabad town on the outskirts of metropolis.
Sources said that severe thermal injuries or smoke inhalation or both might have caused the death of the deceased.
Firefighters are busy battling the blaze with the help of four fire tenders, the sources added.
More details are awaited.
* Yarn producers seek govt help to avert crisis:
After several years of good business despite growing energy shortages, Punjab’s yarn producers could be headed for another crisis that may force many to close down factories to avert losses.
A confluence of domestic and regional developments is said to have obliged many spinners to stop purchasing cotton and production until the market stabilises, causing ginners’ unsold stock to pile up.
Major regional developments claimed to have made domestic yarn production ‘unviable’ include slowdown in Chinese demand for Pakistani yarn and 5pc rebate allowed by India on its yarn exports since January.
* Cotton market: KCA concerned over govt procurement:
The Karachi Cotton Association (KCA) has expressed serious concern over the report which appeared a few days ago that the government is likely to procure one million bales of cotton from ginners.
According to a press release, the KCA is of the view that any intervention by the government/public sector organisation in the cotton market will negate the policy of free trading in cotton, which is being followed very successfully since the past 18 years in order to safeguard the interest of all the stockholders of the cotton economy, including the cotton growers.
* Ghana To Act Decisively To Protect Textile Industry:
Ghana’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrisu, has vowed to act decisively to protect the local textiles industry and save it from collapse.
As a first step, the Ministry has begun a nationwide programme to engage and familiarise the various stakeholders — importers, distributors, retailers and local producers — to have a better insight into the magnitude of the problem facing the local textile industry, which at one point employed some 50,000 people, but now employs just about 3,000.
Iddrisu, in an address read for him at a workshop, organized by the Ministry in Kumasi, capital of Ashanti Region (Province), on Tuesday, said the importation of pirated textiles, particularly from China and India, would not be allowed to continue, in view of the dire socio-economic implications for the country.