16:00:17 local time CHINA
* Updated:11 dead, six injured in Guangdong factory blaze:
Small city has seen at least five similar garment factory tragedies since 2003
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 of 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 must not be housed in the same building.
The municipal government said at its website that it planned to launch a fire hazard safety campaign, and would crack down on factories and residential buildings that did not have safety and construction certification.
15:00:17 local time VIET NAM
* Vietnam textile firm earmarks $190 mln for projects this year:
The Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) will pour over VND4 trillion ($190 million) into numerous projects including fiber, textile, garment, and cotton farms this year, CEO Tran Quang Nghi told Tuoi Tre in a recent interview.
Some of the prioritized projects will include two plants that can dye 12-40 million meters of cloth per year, Nghi said.
Vinatex will also invest VND2.2 trillion ($105 million) in a complex which comprises a fiber – textile – garment manufacturing mill, a water supply facility, a wastewater treatment plant, and accommodations for workers, he elaborated.
The textile firm, Vietnam’s largest of its kind, has planned to set up an investment fund, called “TexFunds,” with an initial capital of around VND300-500 billion ($14-24 million) in order to attract investments in infrastructure for the textile industry, which is quite costly at the beginning, Nghi added.
* Advantages to Vietnam’s textile exports to Russia:
A free trade agreement (FTA) between Vietnam and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is expected to be completed this year, creating many tariff advantages for Vietnam’s exports, especially textiles.
A report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Vietnam Economic Times.
Russia is one of Vietnam’s comprehensive strategic partners, with bilateral trade having achieved great progress over the last several years.
* New pact to yield export benefits:
Production lines at the Nam Dinh Garment Joint Stock Company (Nagaco) in the northern province of Nam Dinh. The company’s products are mainly exported to Russia, the US, EU and Japan. — VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam
A free-trade agreement (FTA) between Viet Nam and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is expected to be completed this year.
This will create many tariff advantages for Viet Nam’s exports, especially textiles, a report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Viet Nam Economic Times said.
Russia is one of Viet Nam’s comprehensive strategic partners, with bilateral trade achieving great progress over the last several years.
15:00:17 local time CAMBODIA
* Violence blamed on CNRP:
With victims’ families still awaiting the results of an investigation into the deadly shootings during clashes on January 3, the Ministry of Interior released a separate report on Wednesday accusing the opposition of sparking the violence in an attempt to “topple” the government.
The report also accuses the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and to a lesser extent unions and unnamed NGOs, of inciting “illegal” and “violent” demonstrations that caused $100 million worth of property damage and lost garment orders since last July’s election.
“The illegal demonstrations led by the CNRP was planned provocation aimed at toppling a legitimate government by inciting violent, anarchic clashes, leading to the loss of people’s lives and injuries to security personnel and civilians,” the report says.
* GMAC to explain Cambodian behavior to foreign managers:
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia says it will hold a workshop next month to explain to foreign managers why Cambodians behave in certain ways.
“This workshop will provide the participants with relevant cultural information about the Cambodian workers and will show the different perspectives from which the Cambodian worker looks at his work environment,” a statement said.
“Knowing what values, beliefs, and practices strongly affect Cambodians will lead participants to a better understanding of why Cambodians behave in a certain manner or how they would arrive at certain decisions affecting their work,” it added.
* It is about people:
December 29, 2013 – Phnom Penh. Garment workers join the tens of thousands marching through the streets of Phnom Penh to call for the resignation of Hun Sen and a minimum monthly salary of $160 for workers. Photo by Heather Stillwell.
Reports, photo- and video reports about people, about workers by Heather Stillwell
Read and see more.
16:00:17 local time MALAYSIA
* Putrajaya urged to add RM300 cost allowance to minimum wage:
A federal lawmaker urged Putrajaya today to tack on RM300 to existing minimum wage in order to bypass employers’ resistance to paying a cost of living allowance (COLA).
Kuala Langat MP Abdullah Sani made the suggestion to include the amount sought for the allowance into the minimum salary of RM900 and RM800 respectively in the peninsular and east Malaysia after the Human Resource Ministry said it could not compel employers to pay the stipend.
“We propose that COLA — which is not in the Act — be inserted into the minimum wage,” the chairman of the parliament’s bipartisan caucus on workers and foreign workers told reporters at the Parliament lobby here.
During Question Time, he also asked if the ministry could include the requested amount in the process of reviewing the implementation of the minimum wage.
* MTUC Suggests Act To Direct Private Sector To Pay Cola To Workers:
The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has suggested that the government form an act that requires the management to pay the cost of living allowance (Cola) to private sector workers.
MTUC deputy president Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid said the act should also provide for legal action to be taken against employers who fail to pay the allowance, either with a fine or jail sentence.
“I call on the ministry to include the Cola in the minimum wage, form an act, make it compulsory and anyone who does not pay be punished with a RM10,000 fine or jail sentence,” he told reporters at the Parliament Lobby here Thursday.
14:00:17 local time BANGLADESH
* Accord, Alliance reach consensus for factory inspection:
In a major breakthrough, European and North American apparel retailers and brands yesterday agreed to accept each other’s certification to avoid duplication in factory inspection in Bangladesh.
If Accord, a platform of 150 retailers and brands mainly from Europe, inspects any factory, Alliance, a platform of 27 US-based retailers and brands, will not inspect that unit, and vice versa.
The platforms took such a decision as the factories that came under scrutiny export garments both to the US and the EU.
The officials of Accord and Alliance reached the consensus at a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at his secretariat office in Dhaka.
Ahmed said the government has taken a series of measures to improve workplace safety in line with the US roadmap to regain a trade privilege that was scrapped in June last year.
The government will also respond to the letter of US Senator Robert Menendez, who recently opposed the reinstatement of generalised system of preferences for Bangladesh in the US market, Ahmed told reporters after the meeting.
* Garment factory inspections by foreign teams harmonised: Tofail:
The ongoing factory inspections by European and US retailers and brands to identify vulnerable buildings to ensure safe working conditions for apparel workers have been harmonised ensuring no duplication of inspection to take place.
An agreement to this end came when officials of both Accord and Alliance held a meeting with commerce minister Tofail Ahmed at his secretariat office.
‘From now on, no duplication in inspection will take place as consensus has been built on the particular issue. Both the agencies need not inspect the same factory separately as the factories export goods both to the EU and to the US markets,’ the minister told reporters after the meeting.
Accord and Alliance have agreed to avoid duplication of inspection, meaning the agencies will accept one another’s certification on factory safety and building structure, the minister added.
With the decision, if the Accord, a platform of 150 retailers and brands mainly of European, inspects any factory, the Alliance will not inspect the same factory to avoid duplication.
Similarly, if Alliance, a platform of 27 US-based retailers and brands inspects any factory, the Accord will not need to inspect the same.
* Accord and Alliance agree not to inspect single RMG unit twice:
The decision was made at a joint meeting among the representatives from Accord, Alliance, ministries concerned, ILO, BGMEA and BKMEA, with commerce minister Tofail Ahmed in the chair
Both the two global retailers’ platforms, the Accord and the Alliance have agreed not to inspect a factory twice once done by either one to avert double-inspection in the ongoing safety and security check.
* Tofail hopeful of GSP revival:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday expressed the hope that the US administration will withdraw the suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh considering the latter’s present condition, reports BSS.
At present there is no labour unrest in the country as labour-employer are working cordially in the garment industry, he said adding that workers and owners of garment factories are now more sincere than any time in the past.
He was presiding over a meeting on ‘Management for Fire Safety’ at his ministry’s conference room at the Secretariat here, said an official handout.
read more. & read more.
* Fire guts 1,200 mounds of jute in Meherpur :
Fire gutted at least 1,200 mounds of jute in a godown at Dhankhula village under Gangni upazila of the district this morning. (Thursday)
Being informed, two units of fire service from Meherpur and Chuadanga fire station rushed to the spot and extinguished the blaze.
The cause of the fire could not be known yet.
* Global RMG market: Bangladesh projected as ‘Next China’:
Due to declining profit margins and capacity constraints in China, investors are looking at other lower-cost countries for making investment in ready-made garment (RMG) industry, and producing and sourcing garment products. Bangladesh’s apparel exports could triple by 2020 as the European and the US buyers plan to strengthen their presence in the country and new players are planning to enter the market seen as the ‘Next China’, according to a study.
RMG exporters are now breathing easy as foreign buyers are beginning to return, with Bangladesh getting down to business after a spell of political upheaval. The government, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the buyers have been working together to improve working conditions in garment factories following the Rana Plaza tragedy in April 24, 2013. The discontent of workers over wages has also subsided to a great extent with the implementation of the new wage board award. It is assumed that if the current stability is allowed to hold, Bangladeshs position in the global ready-made market would get a major boost.
GOLDEN GOOSE: There is an old adage, “Don’t kill the golden goose.” The garment sector is the golden goose for Bangladesh. The country has emerged as the second largest exporter of readymade garment products trailing just behind China.
The country entered the apparel export market in 1978 with only nine units and earned US$ 0.069 million. During the last three decades, this sector has achieved a phenomenal growth due to policy support of the government and more importantly, dynamism of the private sector entrepreneurs along with extremely hardworking workers. Now the number of RMG units is around 6,000 and the export earnings have exceeded US$ 20 billion. Knit garments are exported to 148 countries and woven products to 132 countries. Analysts say the apparel export earnings can be more than doubled by the year 2020.
More than 4.0 million workers work in the RMG units, of whom around 80 per cent are women. The RMG roughly covers 78 per cent of the total export of the country. Garment workers make about two-thirds of the number of employees engaged in the manufacturing sector.
As China has started losing its attractiveness due to a rise in costs of doing business there, Western buyers are now searching for ‘next China’. They are evaluating all options to strengthen their proximity sourcing. Bangladesh is clearly the preferred next stop for the sourcing caravan. Other markets in Southeast Asia will increase their exports too, but will not be able to replace — at least in the near future — Bangladesh as a viable RMG sourcing hub.
Bangladesh, one of the post-China emerging economies, has already started competing with China in global apparel exports. In fact, China is now using Bangladesh to outsource its RMG products taking advantage of the cheap labour costs here.
China has already placed some orders for manufacturing apparel items in Bangladesh as the labour cost is cheaper here than in the world’s fastest-growing economy.
The monthly salary of a Bangladeshi worker would be Rmb 500 to Rmb 600 ($80 to $95), while one Chinese worker now is paid at least Rmb 2,000 per month.
Last year, China raised its minimum labour wage by 23 per cent putting the local and foreign garment manufacturers under pressure and forcing them to focus on countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where the labour costs are still low.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* DNA tests identify 10 more Rana Plaza victims:
he National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory has identified ten more Rana Plaza victims who were buried without identification, officials said.
With the latest detection, the number of victims identified through DNA test rose to 210, causing a matter of little hope for the relatives who are yet to find out their beloved ones following the country’s worst ever industrial disaster.
The DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) test came to spotlight few weeks after the multi-storied building collapse when the authorities concerned were not in a position to identify the trapped bodies as those were too decomposed.
They said the forensic lab of the Dhaka Medical College (DMC) has finished all necessary works on the samples collected from ten undetected victims and started preparing a complete report of the DNA profiling tests.
* Can Western Corporations Be Held Accountable for Deaths in Factories Halfway Around the World? :
Last April, the Rana Plaza factory compound in Bangladesh collapsed, leaving more than 1,100 workers dead amid a massive pile of rubble. The victims and their families are still waiting for any kind of compensation, and garment workers around the world face an even longer, more uncertain wait for economic justice.
The approaching anniversary of one of the global garment industry’s worst disasters coincides roughly with another somber milestone: the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the ferocious factory blaze that cast scores of charred bodies onto the streets of Manhattan in 1911. The two disasters have a grim resonance: both were the result of anemic regulatory systems and labor oppression—particularly the degradation of young women garment workers. Both spurred political momentum for major labor reforms. But the lapse of a century between the two events reveals how injustice persists in the industry, though production has migrated to the other side of the world.
Still, Rana Plaza helped shift the political ground in the Global South’s garment sector. Multinationals that had for years ignored systemic safety and labor problems in the sector have begun trying to clean up their supply chains. Since last spring, fashion-industry multinationals from Europe, Asia and North America, have signed a major new health and safety program known as the Bangladesh Accord.
The agreement, a collaboration of about 150 brands and retailers (including Adidas, Benetton, H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch), and advocacy groups like the International Labor Rights Forum and Clean Clothes Campaign, with the support of unions and the International Labour Organization, is not a comprehensive regulatory system. But it establishes a legally binding framework for independent safety monitoring, and crucially, funding for safety remediations. The plan would cover potentially more than 1,500 Bangladesh factories for five years, financed by the signatories.
* Brac USA raises $5m fund for RMG workers:
The money has been raised for newly launched Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund
Brac USA, the North American affiliate of Brac, has announced a multi-year fundraising initiative to ensure that progress continues on humanitarian aid and support for workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry.
The antipoverty organization founded in 1972, has issued a press release in this regard on Thursday.
According to the press release, the US chapter of the non-government organisation (NGO) has already raised more than $5, 000, 000m for rehabilitation of garment workers, victim support, and awareness of workplace safety.
The press note read: “BRAC USA’s new Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund will be directed to three specific program areas: support for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund; continued support for BRAC’s work to provide counseling and rehabilitation to garment workers; and a reserve that can be used to support a “social safety net” for workers impacted by other tragedies such as the Tazreen factory fire in 2012.”
read more. & read more.
* BRAC USA announces renewed push for Bangladesh garment workers:
$5 million raised for newly launched Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund for rehabilitation of garment workers, victim support, and awareness of workplace safety
As the one-year anniversary of the Bangladesh Rana Plaza building collapse approaches, BRAC USA, the North American affiliate of BRAC, announced today a multi-year fundraising initiative to ensure that progress continues on humanitarian aid and support for workers in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry. An antipoverty organization founded in 1972, BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) is a global leader in providing opportunity for the world’s poor.
BRAC USA’s new Bangladesh Humanitarian Fund will be directed to three specific program areas: support for the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund; continued support for BRAC’s work to provide counseling and rehabilitation to garment workers; and a reserve that can be used to support a “social safety net” for workers impacted by other tragedies such as the Tazreen factory fire in 2012.
“Bangladesh has seen significant gains in living standards, halving poverty rates in the last 20 years, thanks largely to women’s empowerment. The garment industry has played a tremendous role in this,” says Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC. “But these gains will mean little if we allow tragedies like Rana Plaza to continue. The words ‘Made in Bangladesh’ should be a mark of pride, not shame.”
13:30:17 local time INDIA
* Save jute industry, demands IFTU:
Workers of Sri Lakshmi Srinivasa Jute Mills, affiliated to IFTU, on Thursday, staged protest demonstrations at the Collector’s Office demanding that the district administration take steps to save the jute industry in the district.
IFTU district secretary K. Sanyasi Rao said due to power holiday on Mondays and weekly off permanent employees were working only five days a week.
Citing power cuts, the management had now decided to run its three units four days in a week without declaring ‘lay off’, he alleged.
The management had reduced its production targets and engaging 50 per cent of the 10,000 workers.
Further, the management had not been depositing LIC premium, PF etc with the concerned departments regularly, he alleged.
Though all the 11 jute mills in the district could provide employment to 40,000 people, only half of them were now working due to apathy of the Labour Department, Mr. Sanyasi Rao said.
13:30:17 local time SRI LANKA
* Sri Lanka’s textile & garment exports soar 23.4% in Jan’14:
13:00:17 local time PAKISTAN
* Factory worker dies ‘in fire’:
A factory worker burned to death when a fire broke out in the Vita textile mills in the Sohrab Goth industrial area early Thursday morning, according to fire brigade and police officials.
They said the blaze erupted in the towel factory around 4am. Two fire tenders after hectic efforts put out the fire at 9am, said the official.
Fire brigade chief Ihtishamuddin told Dawn that the factory worker died from an electric shock and not from burn injuries.
Superhighway Industrial SHO Rana Haseeb Ahmed corroborated his views. He said when the police party reached there, they found the ‘munshi’ of the factory, Abid Fazil, 32, dead on the rooftop with electric wires wrapped to his body. The short-circuit might have caused the fire, added the officer. The body was shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH), where additional police surgeon Dr Abdul Haq said Abid had sustained 80 per cent burns. The victim, father of two children, was a resident of Surjani Town.
to read. & read more.
* garment factory in Karachi caught fire:
A fire broke out in a shopping plaza in Lahore claiming three lives, Express News reported on Wednesday.
The victims were identified as Umar, Waqas and Hassan.The three-storey plaza is located near Bunder Road Sherakot. According to initial details, the fire erupted because of a short circuit but further investigation is required to determine the actual cause of the fire.Around 12 fire-brigades helped bring the situation under control.
Later on Tuesday, a garment factory in Karachi caught fire.
There were about 200 workers inside the factory during the incident.
The workers managed to get out and there were no casualties.
* Govt urged to ensure safety, health laws for workers:
The working class has urged provincial and federal governments to ensure implementation of safety and health laws in all industrial and commercial establishments through revival of the independent labour inspection machinery.
Provision of other rights of workers in the light of ILO Convention No 81, ratified by the Pakistan government, should also be ensured, said a resolution unanimously adopted by representatives of All Pakistan Wapda Hydro-Electric Workers Union at a meeting held in connection with the World Safety Day at the Labour Hall here on Wednesday.
* Powerloom owners to close their units:
The Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM) has expressed concern over the arbitrary decision of the Sadhar powerloom owners to close their units for an indefinite period from March 28 (today).
In a statement here on Thursday, Labour Qaumi Movement leaders Sheikh Nisar Ahmad, Malik Muhammad Mumtaz, Khalid Sheikh and Ashfaq Ahmad criticised the unwise decision of the powerloom owners.
They warned of taking out rallies if the factor owners implemented the decision.
They said that the closure of powerlooms would render thousands of workers jobless. They appealed to the district administration to look into the matter and resolve the issue.
to read in FAISALABAD City News.(last item).
* 10 spinning mills closed down in Punjab:
As many as 10 spinning mills have been closed in Punjab for becoming uncompetitive against the highly-subsidised Indian textile industry and a unprecedented energy crisis on domestic front.
The industry sources said all these mills have been closed down in last three months. However, the latest export data suggests that the value added textile sector is quite robust with fresh orders after the GSP Plus status from the EU.
The highly-perturbed spinners also blame about 10 percent appreciation in rupee value against US dollar during the same period, fetching heavy losses to their inventories. According to experts, the rupee revaluation has hit hard to the cost of doing business of the spinning mills and the Chinese importers are more inclined to Indian spinning industry than Pakistan.
* Chinese businessmen to invest in textiles:
Chinese businessmen are all set to make sizeable investment in Pakistan’s textile industry to keep a firm hold over the global textile market, said business leaders on Thursday.
The Chinese are said to be exploring the possibilities of setting up composite textile parks having spinning, weaving and garments units as well as viscose plants, it was learnt.
“During the last eight months, a number of textile entrepreneurs from China have visited Pakistan,” said SM Tanveer, chairman of Punjab Industrial Estates Development and Management Company (PIEDMC).
A China-based Shandong Ruyi Group has already acquired majority shares in Masood Textile Mills, Faisalabad.
The same group expressed its intention to establish a 600,000 spindle spinning mills in Faisalabad, said Tanveer.
* Pakistan’s textile exports rise 8.28% in July-Feb FY’14:
* Bedwear exports rise to $1.4 billion:
Pakistan bedwear exports soared by 21 percent to $1.408 billion in July-February 2013-14, say official figures.
The country’s export of bedwear mounted by $242 million in July-February 2013-14 from $1.166 billion in the same period last fiscal year, according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
* PLGMEA demands changes in TDAP:
Pakistan Leather Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PLGMEA) hosted a dinner for newly-appointed TDAP Chairman S M Muneer at the Karachi Gymkhana Club, a statement said on Thursday.
Fawad Ijaz Khan, patron-in-chief of PLGMEA thanked the government for appointing a dynamic business leader as TDAP chief.
Fawad urged the government to make changes in TDAP so that Muneer can resolve the problems of exporters and take measures to attain exports target of $50 billion by 2025, it said.
* Turkish firm to build $175mn textile plant in Ethiopia:
Turkish textile manufacturing firm Akber is set to construct the biggest textile plant worth US$ 175 million in the Ejere town of the Oromia region of Ethiopia, as per the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute (TIDI).
Banteyihun Gessesse, director of communications of TIDI, said during a press conference in Addis Ababa, that the textile giant has already secured a 13.5 hectare plot of land in the town on which the factory would be built.
According to the TIDI official, the new textile plant, the construction of which would take at least two to three years, is expected to create around 9,000 to 10,000 jobs in the region, which is larger than any operating textile factory in the country.
* H&M sees profit margins hit by rising clothing worker wages:
A drive to increase wages for Asian clothing workers is likely to hit profit margins at world No.2 fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) as weak consumer demand and stiff competition make it hard to pass on the cost to shoppers, it said Thursday.
The Swedish group issued its warning after missing first-quarter profit forecasts, due in part to investments aimed at catching up with rivals in fast-growing online fashion sales.
Asian factories, which churn out the bulk of clothes for the world’s budget fashion market, have come under international pressure to improve wages and working conditions following a string of accidents.
Late last year, factory owners in Bangladesh agreed to a minimum wage of $68 a month, up from $38.
Hennes & Mauritz, which buys about 80 percent of its stock from Asia and is one of the biggest customers of Bangladeshi garment factories, said rising wages in that country and elsewhere were likely to hit profit margins.
“For purchases made now, wage increases in Bangladesh, Cambodia and China have a negative effect because we are not charging our customers higher prices,” Chief Executive Karl-Johan Persson told Reuters. “That will affect gross margins negatively, all else equal, ahead.”
H&M, which says it supports paying clothing workers a living wage and has criticized governments for moving too slowly, has recently been exploring options to buy garments from Africa.
* EU drops extra import tax on US jeans: