17:08:55 local time VIET NAM
* HK textile firm invests $136m in Long An:
The Long An Provincial People’s Committee has approved in principle Huafa Company (Hong Kong) last week to invest in a coloured spinning plant (including cotton dyeing, spinning) in Thuan Dao Extension Industrial Zone (Long Dinh commune, Can Duoc District).
The plant, which covers 20ha, has total investment capital of US$136 million.
This project aims to build a cotton dying and coloured spinning plant to produce high quality fibre to meet domestic and export demand.
17:08:55 local time CAMBODIA
* Wage-setting meet up in air:
Exactly who will participate in a workshop to set the minimum wage in the garment sector with the Ministry of Labour this week remained unclear yesterday, with some key figures saying they had not yet been invited.
During the workshop, to be held on Thursday and Friday, the ministry, with technical assistance from the International Labour Organization, will begin discussions with union, NGO and industry leaders about setting a mechanism to calculate a fair minimum wage for garment industry workers, a Ministry of Labour letter, signed by secretary of state Oum Mean, says.
“I cannot say what I expect of the workshop, since the minimum-wage-setting process will not finish until the end of this year,” said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, after being invited to the event.
“I think the workshop is just the first step.”
As of yesterday, Ath Thorn, president of Cambodia’s largest independent garment union, the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), had not received an invitation.
“I expect to be invited, but until now I did not receive an invitation,” Thorn said.
Dave Welsh, country manager for labour rights group Solidarity Center, also remained unsure whether the meeting would go forward, having not received an invitation or heard about the event in weeks.
Noting that the court suddenly pushed the trial of 23 people arrested during January strike demonstrations from last Friday to April 25, Welsh said he believed it possible this event could also be delayed.
* Strikes still on in some provinces:
Unrest in the garment sector spread yesterday, as hundreds of workers from Kandal province demonstrated outside their factory.
The 700 workers at Unity Fashion factory walked off the job after managers said they would dock wages of workers who did not show up on April 17, the first day after Khmer New Year, said Ry Sithinet, a Free Trade Union officer.
Striking that began on Saturday continued yesterday at three factories in Svay Rieng province’s Tai Seng Special Economic Zone, said Meas Sokna, the local Collective Union of Movement of Workers officer.
* Isolated Protests Emerge in Wake of Failed Garment Strike:
A day after union leaders conceded that a nationwide stay-at-home strike in the garment sector had failed, fresh strikes raged in Svay Rieng, Kandal and Kompong Speu provinces, with workers claiming bosses reneged on agreements for extra Khmer New Year vacation days.
Striking staff swelled to 10,000 at Svay Rieng’s Bavet City special economic zone, according to union leaders, while hundreds refused to work in Kandal and Kompong Speu provinces.
“The workers are still striking in Svay Rieng because the authorities have not made any effort to solve the problem,” said Pav Sina, head of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.
The strike in the SEZ began when factory bosses announced that staff who did not return to work after the Khmer New Year—from April 14 to 16—would be docked pay for their absence. Unions had called for the stay-at-home strike to start on April 17.
“The authorities only threaten activists,” Mr. Sina said, adding that unionists had received visits from police, warning them against “taking part in the opposition strikes or they will face problems.”
At the Unity Fashion Garment and Knitting Factory in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, workers claim they worked overtime in the lead-up to the new year, with a promise from bosses that they could extend their holiday through April 17.
Vuy Idie, a 20-year-old worker at Unity, said between 400 and 500 staff had been on strike since Friday, when they were told that they would not be paid for April 17. They claim that they worked two hours overtime on April 10 and 11 in exchange for the extra day.
“We request that the factory does not cut our salary for April 17, and we demand $12 per month for lunch and travel costs,” Ms. Idie said, adding that the Kandal provincial labor department had promised to solve the dispute today.
At the Victco Hand Bag factory in Kompong Speu’s Samroang Tong district, workers say that, upon going to work on Friday, they were told by factory managers to go home because there were no food vendors open near the factory, leaving them unfit to work.
* Remaining “Free the 23” detainees moved to Phnom Penh in preparation for Friday hearing:
Early this morning, the 21 men detained in Kampong Cham province’s CC3 prison since their arrest during January’s widespread strikes were moved to Phnom Penh and will spend the next two nights in CC1 prison.
The government’s clampdown left at least four people dead.
The 21, plus two others who were earlier granted bail, will be tried on Friday, April 25, at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in three separate trials. On the same day, a fourth trial will be held for two men arrested during unrest that followed the SL garment factory strike last November during which one street vendor was killed. One of the two is currently detained in CC1 prison whilst the other was previously released on bail.
LICADHO will be live streaming all four trials on Friday, and coverage will begin tomorrow afternoon.
* Harsh Restrictions Imposed on Union Leader:
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday ordered embattled union leader Ath Thorn to stay away from the SL garment factory and its workers and to avoid any public gatherings that could “damage public order,” drawing a tight circle around one of the country’s most influential independent union bosses.
Mr. Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), was charged in March with inciting violence at a September 20 protest at the SL factory that turned violent, leaving at least 11 injured. An SL staff member who was hit in the eye by a rock during the clash between demonstrators and security guards filed the lawsuit against Mr. Thorn.
On Saturday, Mr. Thorn said, he received a court letter ordering him to post $25,000 bail within a month or be placed in pre-trial detention.
On Tuesday, Investigating Judge Chea Sok Heang effectively added an injunction to the court orders against Mr. Thorn.
“Do not meet with people to form a group to damage public order in a public area,” the latest letter reads. “Do not visit the SL factory…in order to avoid any incidents. Do not damage public order around the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Do not meet with SL workers in order to avoid violence, and do not have or hold any weapons.”
If Mr. Thorn breaches any of the conditions, the letter adds, the court can again order him to be placed in pre-trial detention.
Court deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok and clerk San Sakny, who also signed the letter, both declined to comment on the new orders and referred questions to the judge, who could not be reached. The SL factory’s general manager, Koh Chong Ho, also declined to comment.
* Labor unions, associations ask to mark International Labor Day at Freedom Park:
Labor unions and association seek permission from Phnom Penh City Hall to celebrate 128th International Labor Day (May 1st) at the Freedom Park with expected 5,000 participants.
“International Labor Day is a historical commemoration of labor movement to promote rights and better working condition which has been marked worldwide,” said Ek Pheakdey, representative of labor unions and associations, in a letter to Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong
* BetterFactories Media Updates 23 April 2014, Wage-setting meet up in air:
* to read in the printed edition The Cambodia Daily:
2014-04-23 Exports increase 12.8 percent in first quarter
2014-04-23 Harsh restrictions imposed on union leader
* to read in the printed edition Rasmei Kampuchea Daily (Khmer):
2014-04-23 Taiwanese firm to register in Cambodia Stock Exchange
* to read in the printed edition Koh Santepheap Daily (Khmer):
2014-04-23 Nearly 6000 workers continue strike in Bavet
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
18:08:55 local time INDONESIA
* Laid-off Adidas workers demand severance:
Hundreds of workers of PT Panarub Dwikarya who were dismissed by the company staged a protest outside the company’s compound in Tangerang on Thursday.
The workers, all women, demanded the company rehire them or give them severance pay and health insurance.
“All we are demanding is our rights as regulated in the Manpower Law,” Muryanti, coordinator of the protest said. Muryanti is a member of the Union of Garment, Textile and Shoes Workers, which is under the umbrella of the Indonesian Labor Association Movement (GSBI).
In 2012, about 1,300 workers from Panarub staged a protest to demand better working conditions and workers’ welfare, Muryanti said. The company responded by giving the workers the option of voluntary resignation with severance pay of Rp 1.6 million (US$133). Those who refused to resign still lost their jobs but did not receive the severance, Muryanti said.
Kokom, the coordinator of the union, said most of the dismissed workers were now unemployed and protest every Thursday until the company fulfilled their demands.Panarub could not be reached for comment.
* Anemia Affects 40% of Indonesia Female Factory Workers: Study:
Nearly 40 percent of working women in Indonesia are anemic and another 20 percent are vulnerable to the iron deficiency, a new survey has suggested.
The survey, conducted recently by Project Hope Indonesia and the Buana Kusuma Foundation, two health NGOs, found that 39 percent of the total 365 working woman respondents surveyed suffered from anemia, while another 22 percent were at risk of being anemic.
All respondents were women working at four factories in West Java — three in Subang and one in Bekasi.
“When we performed anemia checks on them, we found their hemoglobin levels to be within the anemia category,” Project Hope Indonesia country director Nasaruddin Sheldon told a press conference on Thursday. “This problem of anemia impacts on a body’s ability to function and also reduces workers’ productivity.”
Untreated, anemic female workers may lose an average of 6.5 hours during the working week, while their productivity is around 10 percent lower compared with women who do suffer from the condition, Nasaruddin said.
16:08:55 local time BANGLADESH
* Fire at N’ganj cotton godown:
Fire broke out at a cotton and jhut (garments waste) godown in Dharmaganj area under Fatullah upazila of the district at 11:00am Tuesday.
Four fire fighting units are trying to extinguish the flame while the reason of the fire could not be known immediately.
* Another 100- 700 RMG workers fall sick taking tiffin:
In another incident of food poisoning, some 700 workers of a garment factory in Gazipur city fell sick after taking tiffin on Tuesday night.
Locals said authorities of ‘GMS Garment Factory’ situated in Sardaganj Sultan Market area of the city served tiffin to its workers at about 7 pm.
As the workers joined the work after taking the food, many of them started feeling vomiting and giddiness.
Later, the sick workers were rushed to different local hospitals and clinics. Earlier on Monday night, over 250 workers of sweater factory ‘Best Wool’ situated at Zarun in the city fell sick after taking tiffin provided by the factory, according to a news agency.
to read. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Union leaders complain about misbehaviour:
They said they had to face verbal abuse and even threats of job termination before and after the formation of the trade union
Leaders of newly formed trade unions complained about misbehaviour of the owners towards trade union leaders and members.
They said they had to face verbal abuse and even threats of job termination before and after the formation of the trade union.
They shared their experience in an orientation programme on Freedom of Association for the Newly Registered RMG Sector Trade Unions held in Dhaka yesterday.
The programme was organised by National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education (NCCWE), International Labour Organisation (ILO), Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC).
Officials of more than 140 trade unions formed in the last 15 months received training on the activities of trade unions. They vowed to work for the workers’ interest in future.
Sirajuddin, General Secretary of the trade union under Tekno Dress Ltd Garment,said he was ousted twice from his job due to his involvement in trade union movement but “I got back my job with the help of the united federation of trade unions”.
He demanded a separate government committee to work as a go-between to help stop misbehave of owners with the trade union activists.
President of Tuba Garments trade union Aleya Akter said her union was formed only two months back.“The owner didn’t allow us to form the union as they think workers will stage demonstration and never listen to them once the union is formed.”
She said: “They threaten to fire us if we protest any move of the owner that goes against the interest of the workers.”
* Sub-contracting root cause of safety risks in BD RMG:
NY University study report reveals
Indirect sourcing, a non-transparent practice of sub-contracting, is the root cause of safety risks and poor working conditions in readymade garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh, a study reveals.
Additionally, the two major remedial plans, launched last year by the Accord and the Alliance, have failed to address the risk factors caused by indirect sourcing, it said.
Though indirect sourcing has helped invigorate the garment industry and Bangladesh’s economy, global brands doing business in Bangladesh need to assess the overall condition of factories and address the most urgent risks, the report added.
The New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights released its report one year after the most deadly industrial accident in modern manufacturing — Rana Plaza – titled, “Business as usual is not an option: Supply chains and sourcing after Rana Plaza”.
The report examines a range of measures undertaken last year, none of which has yet addressed the fundamental problems facing the garment industry.
* Rebuilding hazardous BD factories to take years:
It will take years to repair and rebuild the most hazardous factories in Bangladesh and cost hundreds of millions of dollars that necessitate international community’s support to accomplish, suggests an international report.
“Due to the absence of infusion of significant international support, we’re destined to see recurring tragedies in Bangladesh which represent a growing threat to the long-term sustainability of its garment industry,” the report says in its recommendations to the international donor community.
The study report, titled ‘Business as Usual is not an Option’, was released on Monday by New York University’s Stern School of Business.
As Bangladesh is set to mark the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy on Thursday (April 24), this is a propitious time for the international community to convene a major donors’ conference on factory safety and critical infrastructure in Bangladesh, the report suggests, according to a news agency.
to read. & read more.
* Business as Usual Is Not an Option: Supply Chains & Sourcing after Rana Plaza:
In anticipation of the first anniversary of Rana Plaza, the Center for Business and Human Rights is releasing its report, “Business as Usual Is Not an Option: Supply Chains and Sourcing after Rana Plaza” on April 21, 2014 at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business.
The collapse of Rana Plaza in April of 2013 thrust the issue of working conditions in global supply chains back into the spotlight. Over the past year, the Center for Business and Human Rights at NYU Stern School of Business has conducted groundbreaking research on business strategies in the apparel supply chain and their effect on working conditions.
The report discusses business practices, governance, and infrastructure development as key elements of sustainability of the garment sector. It will provide new insights about the nature of indirect sourcing strategies in the supply chain and their effect on working conditions.
read more. & download the report here.
* Inside Nike’s struggle to balance cost and worker safety in BD:
Executives divided amid debate over controlling costs, maintaining safe working conditions
Hannah Jones, Nike’s head of sustainable business, had been lecturing colleagues for years about the dangers of manufacturing in Bangladesh.
Yes, the country featured some of the cheapest factories in the world, she argued, but the athletic-gear maker could ill afford another public pasting over its labour practices, according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report.
Her counterparts in the production division, charged with squeezing costs, countered that they should all visit the place together and then decide. So one day last year, five of them slogged up a dirty staircase to the top floors of an eight-story building here that housed one of Nike’s suppliers, Lyric Industries.
Rolls of fabric were strewn across the production floor and some windows were bolted shut, Ms. Jones recalls, clear-cut hazards in the event of a fire. The building was filled with other businesses, and there was no telling how safe those were. After spending the morning speaking with Lyric managers, workers and people in the neighbourhood, they flew home and decided to cut ties with the company.
The decision came not long before another garment-manufacturing hub known as Rana Plaza collapsed, killing 1,100 people in a suburb of Dhaka, in the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history. The tragedy, which happened a year ago this month, has forced Western apparel sellers to re-examine their world-wide search for cheap labour, which has turned Bangladesh into an exporter of $20 billion of clothing a year.
“Our competitors were moving fast into Bangladesh and the pressure was getting bigger and bigger,” says Nike Chief Operating Officer Eric Sprunk. “We needed a strong point of view to say, ‘Are we going to increase our source base there or not?’ ”
* 141 trade unions formed in 15 months:
ILO sheds light on the dramatic rise
At least 141 new trade unions were registered in the last 15 months against only three in the last three years, according to data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“Registration of over 140 trade unions in the RMG sector in the last 15 months is a staggering growth compared to registration figures for the preceding years,” said Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, ILO deputy director general.
“The formation and registration of new trade unions is a sign of a new era of collective bargaining and freedom of association in Bangladesh, which can act as a catalyst for change in other industries.”
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu asked the trade union leaders to help build a good relationship between the workers and garment owners for business-friendly working conditions.
“The leaders should acquire proper knowledge for running the trade unions, otherwise the workers will engage in vandalism and get instigated by the slightest incidents.”
“No worker leader could provide me with a list of the factories that are yet to implement the minimum wage structure,” Chunnu said.
* RMG WORKERS’ RIGHTS : A lot remains to be done: ILO:
International Labour Organisation deputy director general Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo on Tuesday hoped that the garment sector of Bangladesh will go ahead taking lessons from the tragic Rana Plaza incident.
In a day-long orientation programme on Freedom of Association for the officials of newly registered trade unions in the readymade garment sector held at a city hotel, he said the country made a good progress but a lot of things remain to be done to ensure workers’ rights.
The ILO deputy director general for field operations and partnerships, who arrived in Dhaka today, also attended the inaugural session of the orientation programme.
The programme was jointly organised by the National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education, IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, and the International Labour Organisation.
Leaders of 141 newly registered trade unions of the RMG sector along with leaders of over 80 trade union federations received orientation on issues like collective bargaining and freedom of association.
The programme was aimed at sensitising the trade union leaders on the issues of freedom of association, collective bargaining and related issues in the context of Bangladesh and the existing labour laws.
* ILO for effective partnership between apparel makers, labour leaders:
140 RMG trade unions registered in one year
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Tuesday called for an effective partnership of trust among apparel manufacturers and labour leaders for greater sustainability and better working atmosphere in Bangladesh.
The UN agency, which deals with issues like international labour standards and decent work atmosphere, also suggested to the leaders of the newly registered trade unions to be functioning as effective representatives of the workers and resolve issues through fruitful dialogues with the authority.
Senior officials of the ILO also urged the apparel manufacturers and state agencies concerned to provide all necessary supports to the unions for long-term interest of the US$ 22 billion industry.
“The formation and registration of new trade unions is a sign of a new era of collective bargaining and freedom of association in Bangladesh, which can act as a catalyst for change in other industries,” ILO Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo said at an orientation programme.
* ILO advocating for freedom of association:
International Labour Organisation encourages peaceful demonstrations of apparel workers without hurting the chain of production of a factory and the economy of the country, said Gilbert Houngbo, deputy director general of the Switzerland-based body.
“We are trying to develop mechanism for constructive dialogue among the parties concerned to protect workers’ rights,” Houngbo said in an exclusive interview with the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
Houngbo, also former prime minister of Togo, added: “We are advocating for freedom of association. But freedom of association also brings responsibility.”
DT: You visited Dhaka after the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013. You are again here after one year of the tragic incident. Have you observed any efforts to improve working conditions for RMG workers?
Gilbert Houngbo: Changes are evident right now and efforts are on. At least 140 trade unions have been created in the sector. Another thing is that about 900 factories were inspected. The government has increased minimum wage and many factories have started implementing new wage. New labour inspectors are appointed. So, it is a good beginning. Now everybody needs to speed it up and there are challenges need to be overcome.
* Safety lacking after Bangladesh factory disaster: US:
A year after the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory building left more than 1,100 dead, Washington says it remains concerned about worker safety and rights in Bangladesh.
In a briefing for journalists, a group of senior US officials said progress had been made getting the government in Dhaka to crack down on dangerous practices and give millions of workers in the country more power to protect themselves.
But the country still has a ways to go, they said, after the deadliest textile factory disaster in history left 1,135 dead on April 24 last year.
The poorly built nine-story Rana Plaza outside Dhaka was a warren of shops producing garments for export, including for major international brands like Italy’s Benetton, Britain’s Primark and Spain’s Mango.
* US for improving worker safety:
Labour issues, trade benefits on agenda at Apr 28 meeting
The US is continuing to press the Bangladesh government to fulfil a labour-related action plan designed to restore the country’s eligibility for the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), administration officials said on Monday.
Some progress has been made but more needs to be done, the US officials in Washington said in a conference call with reporters in advance of the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse on April 24.
New labour laws have been promulgated but regulations are yet to be implemented, Bloomberg BNA reported, quoting unnamed officials. They also said the laws fall short of raising the labour standards in export processing zones to the national level. They said there have been some improvements in workplace safety measures and cited an increased number of inspectors and inspections.
During a meeting on April 28 in Dhaka, US officials will attempt to verify the number of inspectors that have been hired and press Bangladesh to ensure workers have the freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively.
In June last year, President Barack Obama suspended Bangladesh’s tariff benefits under the GSP, a scheme that aims to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products. The programme benefits 126 designated countries and territories.
* Don’t bother for GSP, JS body tells govt:
The parliamentary standing committee on commerce ministry on Tuesday observed that the government should not so bother about the generalised system of preference from the US government.
Another parliamentary body recommended that the government take necessary steps to make mandatory for the rice mill owners to use jute-bags, while another watchdog asked the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha to submit the list of all the buildings constructed in violation of Rajuk approved design in Dhaka.
At its maiden meeting, the members of the parliamentary standing committee on commerce ministry made the observation on GSP, saying that that the volume of trade under the GSP was very ‘negligible’.
`Why do we need GSP…Is it so important as we earn only US $ 5 million annually exporting products under the system,’ committee chairman Md Ali Ashraf told New Age after the meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
He suggested the commerce ministry not to be so worried about regaining the GSP.
`Rather the ministry should concentrate on trade governance,’ said Ali Ashraf, a businessman by profession.
The commerce minister, Tofail Ahmed, while briefing the lawmakers raised the issue of the government’s move to regain GSP.
* 11-point US wish list ahead of first Ticfa meeting:
Washington is keen to utilise the Ticfa platform as a strong tool to realise their longstanding demands from Dhaka as revealed in the agenda the US put forward ahead of the maiden meeting under the framework agreement.
The U.S. trade representative’s office has sent an 11-point agenda on trade, economy and social issues for the first meeting of the Ticfa, scheduled to be held in the capital next Monday, top sources in the commerce and foreign ministries said.
The meeting, styled ‘US-Bangladesh Forum on Trade and Investment’ under the purview of trade and investment cooperation framework agreement will be led by commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed and assistant USTR for South Asia Michael Delaney, respectively.
The 11-point agenda the U.S. wants to be tabled for discussion at the upcoming meeting are : reduction of tariffs on fire, electrical and structural safety equipments, reviewing public tender specification, change in the insurance policy for importation, lifting the probation of fumigation of imported U.S. cotton, stringent import policy on diabetes drugs, currency related disputes, delayed payment, infringement of intellectual property rights, establishment of a regional economic development mechanism, formation of a women economic empowerment committee and a labour affairs committee.
* BGMEA signs MoU with GIZ:
Bangladesh Garment Manufactures’ and Exporters Association (BGMEA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) aiming to bring sustainable development in the garment manufacturing industries in the country.
BGMEA vice-president (finance) Riaz Bin Mahmud and Mr Magnus Schmid, programme coordinator of Promotion of Social and Environmental Standards in the Industry (PSES) of GIZ signed the MoU, on behalf of their respective organizations, on Tuesday at GIZ office here, a BGMEA press release said.
Under the MoU, GIZ, an international enterprise operating in more than 130 countries worldwide, will implement a joint project undertaken by the governments of Bangladesh and the Federal Republic Germany to increase the environmental capacity of the local apparel industries, which are lagging behind to comply with
the environmental issues.
read more. & read more.
* Trade Union leaders urged to work for workers’ interest:
State minister for Ministry of Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu yesterday called upon the leaders of the newly formed RMG sector Trade Unions, to work sincerely in the greater interest of the industry instead of serving any vested quarter.
He was addressing a orientation programme on “Freedom of Association for the Newly Registered RMG Sector Trade Unions”, jointly organised by the National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education (NCCWE), IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), and the International Labour Organization (ILO).
The minister said the country’s RMG sector needs some 4.5million more skilled workers. Realizing the demand, the government already selected 1,200 women from impoverished areas, including northern districts of Kurigram and Lalmonirhat, to provide them skill development training.
The training programme funded by the World Bank is likely to begin in next July, which the minister hopes to replicate intensively, if found fruitful.
* EPZs need 4.50mn more skilled workers: Chunnu:
State Minister for Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu on Tuesday said the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) need 4.50 million more skilled workers for its garment sector.
“We’ve already selected 1,200 women from impoverished areas, including northern areas of Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts, to provide them skill development training in collaboration with the World Bank,” he said.
Chunnu was addressing the opening session of orientation programme at a city hotel for the officials of the newly-registered trade unions in the readymade garment (RMG) sector with focus on freedom of association.
The three-month long training programme, to be jointly organised by the National Coordination Committee for Workers’ Education (NCCWE), IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC), Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS), and International Labour Organisation (ILO), will start in July next.
* Garment exports show resilience:
Shipments rise 16% in the last one year despite industrial disasters like Rana Plaza collapse
The one word that describes the garment sector is resilience. Exports beat doomsayers, rising around 16 percent to $23.86 billion year-on-year during April 2013 to March 2014 despite industrial disasters like the Rana Plaza building collapse.
“Our apparel exports are on a growth trajectory as major global brands are working with local garment makers to improve workplace safety,” said Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue.
The initiatives of the global retailers and brands to ensure fire safety and structural integrity in the garment factories send a positive message to the international community, he said.
Apparel exports grew at double digits despite various hurdles as the garment makers have welcomed the transformation initiatives undertaken by major retailers, said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
* Govt to set $70b export target in 7th five-year plan:
The government is set to fix the export target at US$70 billion in its 7th Five-Year Plan to be implemented at the end of the 6th Five-Year Plan next year, sources say.
To achieve this objective the government plans to take a set of pragmatic measures.
Diversification of export markets and items, inclusion of service sector in export business, taking necessary steps to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers for local exportables in different countries, development of human resources to strengthen export activities and fulfilment of commitments given to different international organisations like WTO are some of the steps.
“We are confident enough to achieve the target as the government has taken a set of realistic measures which would positively help the country go forward,” a high official of the ministry of commerce (MoC) told the FE.
* JS body for increased allocation for development of textile, jute :
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Textiles and Jute Ministry today recommended increasing allocation in next fiscal year for the overall development of jute and textile sectors.
The recommendation was made at the 1st meeting of the committee held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban with committee Chairman Saber Hossain Chowdhury in the chair, said an official release.
The meeting observed that the allocation of Taka 121.75 crore in annual development programme (ADP) of 2013-14 in textiles and jute sectors was inadequate.
* Averting tragedies in garment factories:
“While women find liberty in hard labour in the garment industry, the grim reality is garment factory workers toil for paltry wages. Nevertheless, such jobs have offered Bangladeshi girls a measure of independence in a traditional Muslim society.”
The above lines are part of a story by Kenneth R. Weiss, which was published in the Los Angeles Times, on March 13, 2014.
The article referred to Sajeda Amin, a renowned sociologist of Bangladesh, who claimed that the garment industry jobs have opened a new pathway for young girls, which is a transition from childhood to adulthood with a measure of independence.
Certainly, this is true for poor rural Bangladeshi girls and women, but its impact on their health and lives must not be ignored. Weiss mentioned that ‘even labour activists in Bangladesh and the United States who chronicle cases of workers being intimidated and forced to work long hours agree that the garment industry has given young women opportunities to move from the margins to the centre of society”.
Rushidan Islam Rahman, research director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, mentioned in an interview with a newspaper that the country faces the uphill task of absorbing the educated unemployed and building skills of the uneducated workforce.
Thus, the struggle to formalise employment and increase benefits and security for labourers remains unchanged. She is hopeful regarding the good sign of labour market growth. She has also cautioned about the high share of informal employment.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* ILO to give Tk 50,000 to each Rana Plaza victims:
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has said that it will provide Tk 50,000 to each of 3,000 Rana Plaza victim workers or their families.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu informed the journalists in the city after a meeting with ILO Deputy Director-General Gilbert Houngbou on Tuesday afternoon, according to a news agency.
Earlier, ILO Deputy DG for Field Operations and Partnerships Houngbou arrived in Dhaka, ahead of one-year anniversary of the nine-storey Rana Plaza building collapse at Savar Upazila in the outskirts of the city. Houngbou is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, ministers, employers’ and workers’ organisations, ambassadors of different countries stationed in Dhaka, and representatives of initiatives involved in improving working conditions in the country’s ready-made garment (RMG) sector.
On Thursday, Houngbou will speak at a high-level event – ‘One Year after Rana Plaza: Progress and the Way Forward’ – to be organised by the Government of Bangladesh and ILO in the city to mark the commemoration of Rana Plaza collapse. Participants will share the experiences of last 12 months and the progress that has been so far, and also discuss next steps in the Rana Plaza response, the news agency said.
to read. & read more.
* Rana Plaza victims to get Tk50,000 each:
The amount that has been deposited to the trust fund is only US$1.5 crore while a deposit of $4 crore is expected to complete giving compensations to all the victims
A total of 3,080 victims of the Rana Plaza collapse would be compensated, with each victim receiving Tk 50,000 from the global trust fund (GTF) created by international retailers, said State Minister for Labour and Employment Mojibul Haque Chunnu.
The minister made the discloser while talking to journalists on Tuesday after handing over cheques of Tk50,000 to two survivors of the deadly incident that took more than 1000 lives.
The GTF authority began distributing the compensation in a programme held at the labour and employment ministry conference room by compensating two of the survivors as a token distribution.
The people that received the compensation officially in the programme, are- survivor of the incident Jesmin Aktar and Shamsun Nahar, mother of deceased Shilpi Aktar.
ILO Deputy Director General of Filed Operation Gilbert Houngbou, ILO Country Director Srinivasa Reddy, global union federation IndustriALL’s Bangladesh chapter’s leader Roy Ramesh Chandra, Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar attended the programme.
While distributing the cheques, the state minister said the Rana Plaza victims and their family members would be receiving the compensations from Tuesday, a day before the first anniversary of the incident.
Chunnu said: “The rest of the victims will receive their due compensation through their mobile accounts by Wednesday. The shop keepers and owners were also included in the lists.
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* Rana Plaza Collapse: RMG workers, victims demand death to owners of bldg:
Garment workers and victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy on Tuesday demanded of the government to ensure capital punishment of the owners of the building and the factories housed in it.
They also demanded that the compensation to families of the workers killed in the building should not be less than Tk 48 lakh each.
The demands came from a press conference, organised by the Garment Workers’ Unity Forum, at the Nirmal Sen Auditorium at Topkhana Road in the city.
The Forum placed a nine-point demand that also include providing job to at least one member of the family of a maimed worker and taking quick steps to ensure the overall safety of the workers in garment factories.
Reading out a written statement of the Fourm, its president Moshrefa Mishu raised questions about the lack of disbursement of the funds that have been collected by the Prime Minister’s Office as well as by the joint initiatives of buyers, retailers and other stakeholders.
She said that although Tk 127 crore was deposited to the PM’s relief, only Tk 22 crore has been disbursed so far “Why the rest of the fund has been lying idle while most of the victims are suffering?”
Moshrefa Mishu also expressed her concern over ‘conspiracies by different quarters’ to lower the amount of the official compensation.
She noted that a high-powered committee appointed by the High Court in August last has primarily proposed a compensation of Tk 14-15 lakh to the families of the each dead worker.
“The compensation proposed for workers, who lost limbs, is even lower. We strongly condemn such moves to lower the compensation,” the Garment Workers Unity Forum president said in response to a query.
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* IBC to hold rally in front of collapsed Rana Plaza Wednesday:
IndustriALL Bangladesh Council (IBC) will form a human chain and a worker’s rally in front of the debris of collapsed Rana Plaza in Savar, on the outskirts of the capital on Wednesday.
IndustriALL, a global federation of labour unions, will hold its programmes from 10:30 am as part of its month-long programmes.
IndustryAll Bangladesh Council has taken the month-long programmes to mark the 1st anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy, according to a press release.
The multi-storey Rana Plaza came down crashing on April 24 last year killing at least 1135 workers and injuring many more.
* Payments from ILO-led RMG Trust Fund begin:
The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee Tuesday formally started providing Tk 50,000 as compensation to each of the Rana Plaza victims and their families.
The multi-stakeholder committee has made available approximately Tk 142 million to Bkash for payments to eligible claimants.
State Minister for Laobur and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu handed over cheques worth Tk 50,000 each to Jesmin Akhter, an injured Rana Plaza worker and Shamsunnahar, mother of Shilpi, who died in the building collapse, at his chamber at the Bangladesh Secretariat Tuesday.
Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Deputy Director General Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo and Country Director Srinivas B Reddy, among others, were present during the event.
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* Mark April 24 as national mourning day: rights activists:
Labour leaders yesterday urged the government to mark April 24 as a national mourning day to pay respects to those who died in the Rana Plaza tragedy last year.
All the garment units should also remain shut on the day, they said on the eve of the first anniversary of the nation’s deadliest industrial disaster that killed more than 1,100 workers.
Labour leaders and other discussants at a seminar also demanded safe workplaces at garment factories, a database system for the workers, and rehabilitation and compensation for the workers of Rana Plaza.
Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum organised the seminar on ‘One Year of Rana Plaza Tragedy: Works of Garment Labours, Safety, Compensation and Today’s Reality’ at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
“April 24 must be declared a national mourning day,” said Abul Hossain, convener of Bangladesh Labour Rights Forum.
Presenting a keynote paper at the seminar, he said the owners’ tendency to make hefty profits within the shortest possible time has often affected factory maintenance and worker safety.
Although foreign buyers have vowed to increase product prices on the back of a hike in worker salaries, they are yet to offer higher prices for Bangladeshi clothing, he said.
“We are requesting the international buyers to fulfil their commitments by increasing the prices.”
* Exhibit brings alive the agony of the dead:
The walls, floor, corners and classrooms inside the photography school Pathshala in the capital’s Panthapath came alive yesterday afternoon with the silent cries of hundreds of lives lost in the garment factory tragedies in the country.
Depicted through pictures, objects, audio visual and video installations as well as performance art, 20 artistes reflected the sorrows of the more than 1,100 people who lost their lives in the April 24 Rana Plaza collapse last year.
“Visual art has a strong language. We thus tried to include artists from all mediums of visual art to express their thoughts on the issue,” said Mahbubur Rahman, curator of the five-day exhibition titled “1134–lives not number”.
Runa Rani, mother of 18-year-old Shamapti Rani, who was killed in the collapse, inaugurated the event along with labour rights activists Taslima Akhter, Prof Ahmed Kamal and Mahbubur Rahman.
“These images remind me of the deadly hours spent inside the black hole,” said Rani, who along with her younger daughter Priti, were pulled alive from the rubbles. But Shamapti was never found. In February, her death was confirmed through a DNA report.
“But I could not find her grave in Jurain graveyard where all the unidentified bodies were buried,” she said.
* ONE YEAR AFTER RANA PLAZA TRAGEDY-III : Compensation still eludes victims:
One year after the Rana Plaza building collapse, the families of the deceased and injured workers are still waiting for long-term compensation.
Families of the deceased and injured workers were suffering hardship being uncertain about who would compensate them, when it would be paid and what would be the amount.
The government provided financial support for the families of the deceased and injured workers but did not make any clear commitment about the compensation package for the Rana Plaza victims.
Labour rights groups are not considering the financial assistance of the Prime Minister’s Office as compensation but an emergency relief.
Initiatives taken by the global trade unions in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation for compensation to the Rana Plaza victims got little response.
‘So far we have received only repeated assurances from the government and the BGMEA but not any compensation,’ Ayesha Khatun, whose daughter remained missing since the Rana Plaza collapse, told New Age.
She said she had received no compensation or financial assistance in last one year. She said her daughter, Khaleda Akhter, had worked on the fifth floor of the Rana Plaza.
‘Many agencies included the name of her daughter in lists and I donated blood for DNA test but I do not know the result,’ Ayesha claimed.
* Survived, only to suffer:
Thirty-five-year-old Feli limps to her rented room from the small grocery store she opened three months ago with the help of the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP).
One of the 1,500 pulled out alive from the rubble of Rana Plaza, she has a paralysing feeling in her left leg and is unable to bend her left arm. Her physical weaknesses have left her dependent on her husband to run the store and for household chores.
Feli’s husband Hasu Miah, 40, had to quit his job as a caretaker at a house nearby to take care of his wife and 11-year-old daughter. The family’s financial hardships have deepened as their monthly income has dropped to a third of Tk 18,000 that they earned collectively a year before.
“It has been two months that we cannot pay rent for our home and the grocery shop. Our daughter’s school fees are also due,” said an ailing Feli, who has no surname.
She had been trapped under a broken roof and beam for three days before she was rescued.
One year has passed since the deadliest apparel industry disaster in Savar on April 24 last year that killed over 1,134 workers and left nearly 2,000 injured. The families that had migrated from their rural homes in the hope of a better life are struggling to make ends meet.
* Rana Plaza victims urgently need assistance: HRW:
Human Rights Watch urged the international garment brands to help mitigate the damage by assisting with the full restitution of those who were injured or lost their lives in Rana Plaza collapse.
“One year after Rana Plaza collapsed, far too many victims and their families are at serious risk of destitution,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The deputy Asia director said, “International garment brands should be helping the injured and the dependents of dead workers who manufactured their clothes.”
International companies that sourced garments from five factories operating in the Rana Plaza building are not contributing enough to the financial trust fund set up to support survivors and the families of those who died, the New York-based rights organisation said in a report published in its website today.
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15:08:55 local time PAKISTAN
* Trade unions flay govt:
Various trade union representatives criticised the government of Punjab for ignoring labour problems and lack of implementation of labour laws in the province at a consultation meeting organised by the Working Women Organisation (WWO) and Pakistan Workers Confederation (PWC) at a local hotel on Tuesday.
The purpose of the consultation titled “South Asia Labour Conference-Labour Policy and Women Workers” was to discuss unaddressed grievances of labour in Punjab ahead of upcoming South Asia Labour Conference on April 24-26.
Talking to representatives, WWO Director and PWC General Secretary Aima Mahmood said all the labour groups present should focus on the agenda of Labour Conference being organised by the Labour and Human Resource Department Punjab, challenges faced by working women in Pakistan and opportunities for collaboration with trade union groups and labour organisations in South Asian region.
Trade union representatives present at Monday’s consultation meeting demanded that South Asia Labour Conference’s agenda of discussion include talks on improved labour information systems, occupational health and safety measures, freedoms for trade unions, maternal rights for working women, improvement of general working conditions, stricter implementation of labour laws, formalisation of informal sector, and protection of home-based workers.
They also called for stringent punishment of male employers abusing female employees at workplace.
* Over 7% growth in export of textile, clothing:
Pakistan’s exports of textile and clothing products witnessed an over seven per cent growth in the first nine months of the current fiscal year from a year ago, mainly owing to hike in export of raw cotton and low value-added products.
The export value of textile and clothing reached $10.384 billion in July-March period this year as against $9.616bn over the corresponding period last year, showed data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics here on Tuesday.
Only four products witnessed negative growth in exports among all the textile and clothing categories.
The growth of textile and clothing stagnated around seven per cent in the last few months owing to capacity issues, especially in the Punjab where it is faced with problems like shortage of electricity and gas.
On monthly basis, exports of textile and clothing witnessed a paltry growth of over 6pc in March 2014 over the corresponding month of last year.
* Ethiopian textile & garment exports earn $84mn in 9 months: