20:31:30 local time THAILAND
* Thai garment firms making outfits for 10 football teams:
20:31:30 local time CAMBODIA
* Costs don’t top brands’ concerns:
In their latest bid for a $160 minimum monthly wage for the garment industry, independent unions will lead a “stay at home” strike late next week.
While the chances of that figure being approved anytime soon seem slight – the government has only just announced a date for a committee to begin wage reform talks – industry and government officials have warned that another raise could drive factories and international brands out of Cambodia in search of cheaper markets.
According to International Labour Organization figures released early this year, Cambodia paid the fifth-lowest minimum wage of the world’s top 25 apparel-exporting countries and Myanmar. Only Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar paid less than the Kingdom’s $100 per month.
The idea that buyers would commit to paying more to facilitate higher wages for workers in the industry seems unlikely to Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC). Apparel firms that buy from Cambodia are only willing to pay so much before pulling out in favour of cheaper countries, he said.
“If the price that we’re costing buyers increases . . . then buyers will leave. It’s not a question of them wanting to leave, it’s a question of economics,” Loo said, adding a rising the minimum wage had already driven some brands out of the country – though he did not name any when asked.
In a speech on February 25, Prime Minister Hun Sen echoed the sentiment, sounding the alarm that factories and buyers could leave the country if the government implemented a wage hike.
“We are waiting to see if there are any factories that close their doors because of strikes demanding higher wages,” he said.
But analysts, rights groups and buyers themselves say government repression and acts of violence against unionists in the Kingdom’s garment sector – security forces shot dead at least four people in January – are a greater threat than the prospect of paying higher wages.
* Incitement charge over SL rioting:
Despite a December strike-ending agreement that saw lawsuits against labour leaders and workers dropped, union president Ath Thorn yesterday was charged with incitement by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Leaving court yesterday morning, Thorn, who heads the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said the charge encompassed three separate cases stemming from last year’s four-month strike at the SL Garment factory, which was punctuated by a deadly November riot.
“The prosecutor is charging that [C.CAWDU] ordered workers to commit violence,” Thorn told reporters after the two-hour questioning session. “If there is no more evidence, [I think] the judge will drop this case.”
The December 3 agreement between C.CAWDU and SL stipulated that the garment manufacturer drop lawsuits filed against striking union workers and remove shareholder Meas Sotha from managerial capacity. The deal also called for labour rights groups to coordinate with SL buyers – which include H&M and Gap – to pay workers half of their wages lost during the strike, plus bonuses.
None of those conditions have been met, Thorn said yesterday.
* Garment Union President in Court Over Incitement Allegations:
Ath Thorn, the president of the union that led strikes at the SL Garment Factory last year, appeared before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for questioning over allegations of incitement.
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), headed by Mr. Thorn, spearheaded months of protests against the management of the SL Factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district last year.
The strikes turned violent on November 12 when police officers armed with pistols and striking workers armed with rocks clashed during a street protest. One woman was killed.
Mr. Thorn said after the questioning Tuesday that the prosecutor had recommended he be charged with inciting the strikes after receiving multiple complaints.
“The investigating judge questioned me after the prosecutor suggested charges for incitement to commit crimes,” Mr. Thorn said. “The factory and one of the workers…said there was rock throwing, resulting in blinding his eye.”
* Union Leader in West Seeking Release of Jailed Activists:
Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, is making a trip through the US, seeking support to help free 21 labor activists who have been in jail since deadly crackdowns on demonstrations in January.
His visit comes as another labor leader, Ath Thun, was in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, facing charges of incitement for similar protests.
* BetterFactories Media Updates 9 April 2014, Incitement charge over SL rioting:
* to read in the printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:
* to read in the printed edition The Cambodia Daily:
* to read in the printed edition Koh Santepheap Daily (Khmer):
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
19:31:30 local time BANGLADESH
* Garment owners fear abrupt closing of units could prompt workers’ unrest:
Garment owners on Tuesday expressed their apprehension that a workers’ unrest would erupt if Accord, which is conducting safety assessment of 1,700 readymade garment units, continues to suspend production of the factories where it finds ‘ordinary’ faults.
In a view exchange meeting with the steering committee of the Accord at Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association office in the city, they said that a building might have some faults but it does not mean that it would collapse overnight.
Factory owners suggested that Accord on Building and Fire Safety in Bangladesh, a platform of European Union’s retailers, should set a parameter for a building to be considered as safe.
‘The BGMEA does not support running factories in any vulnerable condition, but we urged the Accord to take decision considering the context of Bangladesh as instant closer of factories might prompt labour unrest,’ former BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedy told New Age after the meeting.
* Study: Only 7 out of 126 RMG trade unions active:
The key impediment for most trade unions not being functional is harassment
Only seven trade unions in the readymade garment industry out of 126 registered are actively working to promote the rights of workers, a new study says.
The key impediment for most trade unions not being functional is harassment and assaults by the factory management, finds the study titled “Organising Trade Unions in the RMG Sector 2010-14.”
It states that two trade unions received registrations in 2011 and 2012, while the number increased to 81 last year, but has come down to 43 this year.
The findings of the study – conducted by Solidarity Centre – were revealed yesterday at a social dialogue programme styled “Industrial Relation and Sustainable Development of RMG Industry in Bangladesh: Role of National and International Stakeholders.” Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organised the event in the city’s Brac Inn.
Alonzo Glenn Suson, executive director of Solidarity Centre, said around 20% of the workers engaged with the trade unions found it difficult to operate due to torture by the members of the factory officials.
Quoting recent studies of the BILS, speakers said at least 1,063 industrial unrests took place from January 2010 to June 2013. Most of these incidents could have been avoided had there been the practice of bipartite dialogue at the factory level and tripartite dialogue at national level.
One of the main reasons behind those outbursts was the absence of dispute settlement through discussions.
Michael Sommer, president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and chairman of German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB), said: “Unified trade unions are a must to ensure the workers’ rights. Employers and government need to provide more space for the unions to operate.”
* Demand for a permanent trust fund for RMG workers:
Speakers yesterday urged international brands, factory owners and government to develop a trust fund to meet the immediate needs of the garment workers.
To develop the fund, employers and government will pay Tk 5 each for each worker, while the brands will pay 10 cents per piece of garment, according to Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, Bangladesh chapter of IndustriALL Global Union, a global union federation.
The fund, to be titled Bangladeshi Garment Workers Trust Fund, will meet the immediate needs of garment workers and ensure retirement benefits, he said, adding that the country has the experience in setting up this kind of trust fund for tea sector workers.
Chandra’s comments came at a social dialogue on industrial relation and sustainable development of the garment industry in Bangladesh, organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German political foundation named after the Western European country’s first democratically elected president, at BRAC Centre in the city.
Michael Sommer, president of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), a global platform currently representing 176 million workers in 161 countries, and chairman of the Confederation of German Trade Unions, assured the union leaders that he will speak with the European buyers to develop
The ITUC affiliates in Bangladesh represent 80 percent of all trade union members in the country.
* Registered TUs in RMG rise to 81 from only one: dialogue told:
* ITUC president for more rights for trade unions:
President of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Michael Sommer on Tuesday called for more rights for trade unions as a necessary precondition for establishing true social partnership among employers, workers, and the government.
Sommer, also the Chairman of Confederation of German Trade Unions (CGTU), made the call while addressing a multi-stakeholder round table arranged by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and Friedrich Ebert Foundation in the city.
He also stressed the importance of involving trade unions as equal partners in international inspection initiatives.
Sommer arrived here on Sunday to learn about the current situation and the perspectives of the labour movement in Bangladesh.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Apparel export to US ‘sees sharp drop’:
Factory safety issues are mostly to be blamed, what a research portal has said
Apparel export from Bangladesh to the United States said to have declined significantly for factory safety issues following the Rana Plaza collapse.
Export from Bangladesh, the country ranked number three for apparel export to the US, dropped by more than 10%, research portal Just-Style reported.
Though February is said to be historically the slowest month for apparel import in the US, “the decline from Bangladesh is perhaps most worrying.”
* BGMEA urges brands not to close orders:
It also called for setting a parameter to decide on a factory’s structural status
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) urged the Accord buyers not to withdraw orders from factories housed in shared buildings if they are found structurally okay.
It also called for setting a parameter to decide on a factory’s structural status.
According to the BGMEA, around 40% of factories are housed in shared buildings which employ 1.5m workers, mostly women.
The apex body of apparel sector made the call at a meeting with steering committee of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh yesterday.
Rob Wayss, executive director of Accord Bangladesh operation, Brad Loewen, chief safety inspector of Accord, Aleix Buquets Gonzalez of Inditex, Philip Chamberlin of C&A, Jnney Faggerlin of H&M, Lisa Fairclough of Debenham, Jenny Holdcraft of IndustriAll and Christy Hoffman of UNI-Global, among others, were present at the meeting.
“There should be a parameter, on the basis of which, a factory would be directed to close or suspend production,” said Shahidullah Azim, vice president of BGMEA.
He said if a factory lacks only 20% of standards, the situation is not so grave that it needs to be asked for suspension of production immediately.
“Off course, if the lacking is large in parameters, the factory should be marked as red.”
The association urged the Accord, a platform of Western brands, to keep trust on the manufactures.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* 7 more bodies identified:
Seven more bodies of Rana Plaza victims have been identified by the National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory (NFDPL) of Dhaka Medical College.
NFDPL chief Prof Sharif Akhtaruzzaman told The Daily Star last night that they had submitted the DNA results to the government authority on Monday.
So far 207 out of the 322 unidentified bodies, from which DNA samples were collected, had been identified.
On April 24 last year, nine-storey Rana Plaza that housed five garment factories collapsed, trapping thousands.
According to government estimate, 1,134 people were killed and 2,515 injured people were rescued from the death trap.
The bodies which were beyond recognition were identified in three phases through DNA tests–initially 157, then 43, and now 7.
to read. & read more.
19:01:30 local time INDIA
* “Is Rs 175 a day enough to feed a labourer’s family?”, asks Karnataka HC:
Not satisfied with the explanations with regards to fixation of minimum wage for workers engaged in coffee and tea estates in the state, the Karnataka high court has directed the a senior official of the labour department to give details as to how the said figure was arrived at.
“How can a family comprising children and elderly can survive with that amount ?” Justice Rammohan Reddy asked.
The Judge also asked the authorities to furnish the educational qualifications of those in the committee that fixed the said amount as minimum wage.
“The fixation of minimum wage at the rate of Rs 175/- per day for labourer engaged in Cinchona, tea, rubber and coffee estate in the State of Karnataka is said to be based upon a report of one V Shanthappa.
The criteria mentioned therein is said to be the basis and foundation for calculating the minimum wage.
In order to ascertain as to whether or not the relevant criteria is considered along with realities of every day s life, regard being had to dearness allowance and other relevant factors, T. Srinivasa, the joint labour commissioner, is directed to file an affidavit with relevant material particulars over the fixation of minimum daily wage which shall also contain material particulars about the educational qualification of each and every member who constitute the committee for the purpose of fixing the minimum wage” the Judge has said in his order.
The association of coffee planters has challenged the said fixation claiming that it is not in accordance with the norms and methodology .
* Weavers fear exodus of migrant workers due to ongoing strike:
With more than 4,000 weaving units in the city still closed due to ongoing agitation over wage hike, the powerloom industry fears exodus of the migrant workers to their hometowns in large numbers.
There are about six lakh powerloom machines in the weaving sector, employing about seven lakh migrant workers from Odisha, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. A majority four lakh are from Bihar and Odisha. The weaving sector that manufactures about 3 crore metres of grey fabric per day has been badly affected following the workers’ agitation.
Industry sources claimed that the migrant labourers have a history of not indulging in the agitation and strikes. This is the second time that the weaving sector is facing the closure due to the wage hike issue after the agitation in 2011.
* Genetically modified jute to come up for GEAC nod:
India might see the commercialisation of genetically modified (GM) jute in a month. Developed by the University of Calcutta, GM jute is set to be sent for commercial approval to the regulator, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), next month.
If approved, GM jute will be the second crop of its kind after GM cotton was approved for commercialisation in 2002.
“GM jute is ready. The university is set to apply to the GEAC in a month,” said Swapan K Datta, deputy director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), on the sidelines of a round-table on ‘Addressing challenges of food security’ organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry here on Monday.
19:01:30 local time SRI LANKA
* Sri Lanka aiming to be a top 10 apparel exporter by 2020:
In the aftermath of latest record apparel earnings, Sri Lanka is now entertaining bigger apparel dreams.
“Our internationally recognised apparel sector has shown strong performance, and has earned revenues of $ 4.3 billion in 2013. President Mahinda Rajapaksa now wants us to be among the world’s top 10 apparel export countries by 2020,”said Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 21 March.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the inauguration event of the newly established Leather & Footwear Industry Training Unit and the upgraded Engineering Workshop with mechatronics at the Sri Lanka Institute of Textile and Apparel (SLITA) on 21 March in Ratmalana.
18:31:30 local time PAKISTAN
* Apparel Park to help capitalise on GSP Plus status: CM:
A delegation of industrialists associated with textile sector led by All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Chairman SM Tanvir called on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday.
According to a handout, Federal Minister for Textile Industry Abbas Khan Afridi, National Assembly Member Pervaiz Malik, Punjab Industries Minister Chaudhary Muhammad Shafique, Chief Minister’s Adviser on Health Khawaja Salman Rafiq, Member Punjab Assembly Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Chief Minister’s Adviser Dr. Ijaz Nabi and senior officials were also present.
The APTMA chairman informed the chief minister about problems the textile sector was facing. He also apprised the chief minister of a five-year programme for the development of textile industry in the wake of grant of GSP (Generalised System of Preference) Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union.
* Aptma team discusses textile development plan with chief minister Punjab:
A delegation of industrialists associated with textile sector led by Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) S.M Tanvir met Punjab Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, here on Tuesday.
Federal Minister for Textile Industry Abbas Khan Afridi, Member National Assembly Pervaiz Malik, Provincial Minister for Industry Chaudhary Muhammad Shafique, Advisor on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique, Member Provincial Assembly Dr Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Advisor Dr Ijaz Nabi, concerned federal secretaries and senior officials of Punjab government were also present on the occasion.
Chairman APTMA informed the Chief Minister about the problems of textile sector and the five years programme for the development of textile industry in the wake of granting of GSP Plus status to Pakistan.
While talking to the delegation the Chief Minister said that hundreds of thousands of job opportunities can be created through development of textile sector.
Awarding of GSP Plus status to Pakistan will result in substantial increase in textile exports therefore Punjab government has evolved the project of Quaid-e-Azam Apparel Park over a large area near motorway.
* Capital stuck in refund regimes: PTEA chief urges government to relieve financial stress:
Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) has urged the government to ease financial stress as 25 to 30 percent working capital has been stuck up in various refund regimes.
Textile industry is the only hope for revival of country’s economy which is currently jolted by high cost of doing business. The government should provide level-playing field to double its existing share in global textile trade.
Talking to newsmen after chairing an emergent meeting of textile exporters here on Tuesday, PTEA Chairman Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood pinpointed the various bottlenecks plaguing textile exports and said that most ticklish issues are severe liquidity crunch as billions of rupees of textile exporters are stuck up in various refund regimes. Finance is imperative to run the wheel of industry but without this, no one could even think to run industry, he added.
GSP plus facility has brought the hope of a significant jump in textile exports but lack of necessary funds is hurting the outcomes of this duty waiver relief.
* Fabric of human dignity: Khushhalibank’s microfinance scheme: strength for skilful people:
Ghulam Mustafa, resident of Qadir Pur Rawan is a respected figure in the society owing to his skilful and creatively woven wearables.
He is skilled at preparing Shawls (Garam Chadrain), Khais and Chananiyan (double sized shawl especially made for dowry.)
It is fascinating to see this man who has no formal education prepares such intricate, appealing fabrics. It takes him two days making a Shawl, three days for Khais and four days for Chananiyan.
The margins are respectable in that a shawl takes Rs 500 in preparation and sells for Rs 800, a Khais takes Rs 800 while sells for Rs 1500 and Chaniniyan takes Rs 1500 and sells for Rs 3000.