08:10:46 local time CHINA
* Labour advocate helping Dongguan factory strike arrested over WeChat message:
Lin Dong facing public disorder charge over strike-related ‘online rumour’, but rights groups say it is part of crackdown on labour unrest
A labour rights advocate who was advising sports-shoe factory workers waging one of Dongguan city’s biggest strikes has been arrested on criminal charges of disturbing public order.
Lin Dong, a member of the non-governmental Chunfeng Labour Dispute Service, was detained yesterday by police in Dongguan’s Gaobu township, according to his colleagues.
His arrest was seen as part of the government’s wider crackdown on labour rights activists and groups in the wake of growing labour flare-ups in the vast factory belt of Guangdong province, according to lawyers and labour organisations.
Tens of thousands of workers with shoe manufacturer Yue Yuen Industrial (Holdings), which supplies Adidas and Nike, have been on strike at the Taiwanese-owned factory for 16 days over insufficient benefits such as insurance. The workers are demanding a one-time lump sum as compensation.
* Strike settled, but reveals wider pension problems:
A mass strike at a Chinese factory making shoes for Nike, Adidas and other brands has ended, with warnings that legal loopholes could become traps for companies.
The dispute broke out on April 5 at a factory run by Taiwanese firm Yue Yuan Industrial Ltd, in Dongguan city of south China’s Guangdong Province.
Tens of thousands of employees joined the strike demanding their social insurance and housing fund be fully paid, after negotiations with management failed.
An agreement between workers and management was finally reached on Monday, and almost all workers have returned to work.
However, the strike revealed loopholes both in the country’s social security scheme and investment conditions, and highlighted conflicts.
According to Chinese law, employers are required to make monthly social security payments to workers, to help provide a pension. But manufacturers often shirk their duties.
* Changing face of Chinese worker:
In a May Day special coverage, we profile what impact rising wages and changing demographics are having on the country.
The dream and reality for young Chinese workers
“When I look at other people using iPhones, I think to myself, I probably made that one.” Jiang is an avid fan of South Korean TV dramas. She loves reading. She misses her aging parents, but says her life was “going nowhere” back home.
In education, vocation is lesson
Foxconn, other manufacturing giants, and several prominent academics have added their voice to a growing call for more Chinese students to learn practical skills-based vocational training.
Self-taught chef cooks up good sales
When Li Zhiqiang was less than 14 he worked in a tiny noodle restaurant with only a handful of other staff cooking noodles all day. He was paid 50 yuan a month.
Outrider for the delivery brigade
For Zhao, the extraordinary popularity of online shopping has given him a job that pays up to 10,000 yuan ($1,600; 1,160 euros) a month, double the average wage for a university graduate in Beijing, and more than what his parents make from farming in a year. He also receives benefits including healthcare and a rental subsidy.
Migrant who wants to keep moving
Lu Erfeng has just handed in his resignation. After almost four years of punching out chips for Apple gadgets on the manufacturing line at Foxconn in Shenzhen, the 21-year-old migrant worker from Henan province says he has had enough.
“My hometown is warm and friendly, but very poor,” Hu says. “Even though it’s getting better now, there is no industry, and very few opportunities for young people. Many people there think there is no need for a woman to study, that they should just stay home and look after the family.”
The job is much more difficult than you might imagine. The structure needs to be studied thoroughly in advance. Some windows include eaves that can be an obstacle for cleaners. Surmounting that obstacle may be a cakewalk on the ground, but is something altogether 200 meters up.
A stitch according to the times
In one of those small spaces, Lu Keqin sits at a sewing machine with about half a dozen others, deftly making women’s business shirts. The 44-year-old has been at it since 8 am, and he won’t finish until midnight. It’s a work routine he follows every day, seven days a week.
* China’s Xintang continues to be centre of jeans production:
08:10:46 local time PHILIPPINES
* Labor groups, Dole remember workers who died at job sites:
Labor leaders and government officials held a ceremonial candle-lighting yesterday in honor of the millions of workers around the world who died from work-related accidents and illnesses.
The ceremony was part of the observance of the International Workers Memorial Day.
Before the candle-lighting, labor leaders and government officials made a pledge of commitment to promote occupational safety and health.
Art Barrit, spokesperson of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said aside from occupational safety and health, the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) should stop discrimination against employees diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
“This kind of discrimination persists and is spreading in the workplace,” Barrit said.
* Filipino region seeks govt aid for abaca fibre production:
The Philippine region of Zamboanga Peninsula is in urgent need of assistance from the Government to increase abaca fibre production in order to revive its abaca fibre industry, said Deogracias V. Maranga, assistant regional director of Philippine Fibre Industry Development Authority (PHILFIDA-9), the Zamboanga regional representative of Fibre Industry Development Authority (FIDA) of Philippines.
According to the PHILFIDA-9 official, the abaca fibre industry hasn’t been doing well in the region, specifically abaca fibre prodution, with production declining from 644.86 metric tons (MT) in 2012, to 529.66 MT last year, reports Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
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07:10:46 local time THAILAND
* Workers struggle with low salaries, rising costs:
A widening gap between rising living costs and the income of lower wage earners is leading to problems for working families and growing conflicts between employers and their employees.
A worker at a local factory typically earns around Ks 30,000 (US$ 30) a month or merely a dollar a day. With the rise of consumer product prices, increases in rental fees and government hikes on electricity and other services, many families are struggling to survive.
* Aid for needy workers urged:
Low-income earners turning to loan sharks
Academics suggest the government implement relevant measures to curb the growing distress of workers suffering a drop in income as the cost of living rises, often forcing them to resort to loan sharks.
Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) adviser Veerathai Santiprabhob said the drop in earnings reflects a slowdown in macroeconomic activities as workers’ overtime is cut and the recent manufacturing production index pointed to a decline in output. Domestic consumption has slowed since the middle of last year.
The rising cost of living is partly due to the government’s policy to raise the daily minimum wage to 300 baht from 2013, he said.
* Somyos’s plight makes wife an anti-lese majeste law activist:
With her husband Somyos Prueksakasemsuk languishing behind bars for three years now as a lese majeste detainee, Sukanya has emerged as a key campaigner for the release of all prisoners of conscience – including her husband.
She has come to terms with the fact that Somyos will most likely stay in prison for another eight years, but is hopeful that the controversial and lese majeste law will eventually be amended.
Sukanya, 47, said that though her work was in the field of science – she still works full-time at a medical research firm – the fact that her husband was arrested three years ago this day has changed her life and turned her into a part-time activist.
“We cannot determine everything in life, but we can make the most out of the situation,” she said referring to her current role as an accidental anti-lese majeste activist.
She said Somyos, who was editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine, has recovered from the court ruling, which sentenced him to 11 years in prison for publishing two articles deemed as insulting to the monarchy. The articles appeared in the magazine under a pen name that Somyos insisted had been written by someone else.
07:10:46 local time CAMBODIA
* Bavet factories close as protest continues:
Entire special economic zones (SEZs) in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town were closed yesterday after striking workers broke factory and car windows earlier this week.
Security guards and police blocked factory gates from workers as local authorities kept strikers from gathering at their employers, which they began protesting against in mid-April after Khmer New Year.
“Some workers are forcing others who want to work to join the strike,” Orn Bandol, a 19-year-old worker at Kingmaker Footwear in the Manhattan economic zone, said in front of his Bavet town home yesterday morning. “If we do not, they will throw rocks at us or destroy factory property.”
Workers at the Shandong Sunshell SEZ said security guards blocked all workers from entering, and security staff at Manhattan SEZ told Post reporters that all of the factories there were closed. Gates at the vast majority of factories at Tai Seng SEZ were closed before 7:30am, the beginning of the day for most factories.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers – which represents many of the striking workers – estimated that 30,000 were on strike as of yesterday, though only a couple of hundred showed up outside the gates of factories in the three economic zones. Strike activity petered out by mid-morning.
* Uneasy Calm In Bavet as Factories Ordered Shut:
The government has ordered all factories here to shut down until Thursday at the earliest in a bid to keep escalating strikes from spiraling out of control and spreading nationwide.
“[Provincial] Governor Chieng Am said in a meeting yesterday [Monday] that we should tell the factories they should close for a few days because the strike is getting bigger and bigger, but he did not say for how many days,” said In Visoth, the governor’s chief of administration.
“The government is worried the strike could spread if we do not take action soon,” he said.
The strikes started off small after the Khmer New Year holiday earlier this month, when some workers heard that colleagues at another factory had been paid a one-time $50 bonus for having not gone on strike over the past few months and decided to demand the same deal for themselves.
The strikers gradually rallied more workers to their case and brought work to a standstill on Monday at more than 30 Bavet factories employing some 30,000 workers.
* FTU Bows Out of May Day Rallies:
Chea Mony, president of the opposition-aligned Free Trade Union (FTU), said Tuesday that his union, one of the largest in the country, will not be joining other labor groups planning to rally on International Workers’ Day because he has been sick and traveling in the provinces.
However, plans remain in place for others in the labor movement to test an arbitrary ban on public assemblies on May 1 in order to call for workers’ rights to be respected and an increase to the minimum wage.
Mr. Mony—whose unionist brother and predecessor became a martyr for workers in Cambodia when he was assassinated in Phnom Penh in 2004—said the group would instead put out a statement.
“We will not join with other unions on May 1, since we have not met and discussed it with our union representatives in each factory, because I was sick and was traveling to some provinces,” Mr. Mony said.
“On labor day we will only release a statement calling on the government to improve working conditions and respect the rights of workers,” he added.
Mr. Mony said the abstention should not theoretically have any affect on existing plans, “because there are already many unions.”
* Authorities establish large barricades at Freedom Park denying access ahead of Workers’ Day and election campaign:
This morning, razor wire, caged trucks and fences were set up to prevent people from accessing Freedom Park for tomorrow’s International Workers’ Day events and during the election campaign which starts on 2nd May.
Also this morning, Mu Sochua, CNRP law-maker elect, together with 150 supporters and representatives from land communities tried yet again to enter the park. Sam Rainsy, CNRP leader, made a quick visit to Freedom Park before going to Wat Phnom, and then returning to the barricaded park to give a short speech. Between 400-500 police were stationed at Freedom Park to prevent people from entering.
Sochua’s scheduled attempt to enter Freedom Park was publicly announced on Monday. When Sochua and her supporters were blocked from entering the park, they placed lotus flowers on the razor wire and burned incense.
* Let unions register: HRW:
The government must stop stalling the registration of labour unions, says a letter from a major rights group sent to Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng and made public yesterday.
Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), raises concerns in the letter over “what appears to be a dramatic decline in the registration of unions” and urges Sam Heng to “immediately intervene and ensure that the responsible officials resume licensing unions”.
“Independent union federations in Cambodia have raised concerns that the Labor Ministry has put in place a de facto suspension of union registration even though there is no official written order suspending such registrations,” it reads.
* Cambodia: Stop Stalling Union Registrations:
The Cambodian government appears to be sharply limiting registrations of unions, which could harm workers who depend on union protection, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter tothe minister of labor and vocational training.
Unions in Cambodia primarily represent workers in individual garment factories, who are typically young women from impoverished families.
The Labor Ministry should restart the registration of unions and stop unilaterally amending union registration procedures without input from independent unions and other labor rights experts.Human Rights Watch’s findings are based on official government license registrations since 2011 and interviews with union leaders and representatives.
“The Cambodian government’s unjustified slowdown of union registrations harms workers who depend on unions to advocate for rights and a decent livelihood,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should make May Day meaningful to workers by resuming union registration and ending unnecessary interference in union activities.”
* GMAC calls for halt to ongoing protest in Bavet’s Special Economic Zone:
Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) appealed to Labor Minister Ith Samheng, and relevant institutions to immediately stop ongoing protests at Tai Seng and Manhattan Special Economic Zone in Svay Rieng’s Bavet town.
Workers led by Mr. Pav Sina, President of Collective Unions of Movement of Workers (CUMW) have been protesting since after Khmer New Year to demand incentive of US$50.
“By ignoring and allowing this union to do whatever they want, it will destroy the trust of the investors in the government to protect their safety and legal interests,” GMAC said in its statement dated April 28.
08:10:46 local time MALAYSIA
* Labour Day 2014 message — Liow Tiong Lai:
Labour Day on 1 May every year marks the struggle of workers battling for employee welfare and safeguarding their rights.
Workers are essential to national and social development. Their contribution determines the prosperity of a nation. We, at MCA, salute you and wish you all a meaningful Happy Labour Day.
As the world enters the 21st century, globalisation has expanded. The relationship between employers and employees too has undergone great changes. If Labour Day in the past was a campaign of struggle, Labour Day today means self-improvement, self-development and a pursuit of competitiveness for both employers and employees.
08:10:46 local time INDONESIA
* Thousands of Workers to Join May Day Rally:
More than a hundred thousand workers from Jakarta and its greater metropolitan area are expected to join May Day rallies on on Thursday, the head of one of Indonesia’s largest union organizations said.
“As part of the May Day 2014 celebrations, 120,000 workers in Jakarta and the region, along with 10,000 teachers on temporary contracts will demonstrate in front of the State Palace and Bung Karno stadium in Senayan, Jakarta,” said Said Iqbal, president of the Confederation of Indonesian Labor Union (KSPI), as quoted by state run Antara news agency on Sunday.
Workers in 20 other provinces were expected to join demonstrations as well, he said.
He said that the teachers working on temporary contracts were fighting for an additional Rp 1 million ($87) in monthly salary and to be brought into the formal sector as full-time employees.
“One of the issues which will be highlighted by the workers is a 30 percent increase of the [regional] minimum wage in 2015,” Said said.
The Jakarta Government hiked the capital’s minimum wage to Rp 2.4 million a month for this year.
* Thousands set to mark Labor Day:
As many as 100,000 workers are expected to take to the streets of Jakarta on Thursday in the first ever Labor Day in Indonesia, on May 1.
Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Unions (KSPI) chairman Said Iqbal said preparations for the day were in full swing.
He expected to see 100,000 workers at the rally, which will head from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta to the Presidential Palace.
“After the rally, we will gather at Bung Karno Stadium [in Senayan, Central Jakarta]. On Monday we received confirmation from over 70,000 workers who bought tickets to our event,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
* Thousands will March to State Palace on Labor Day:
The Indonesian government has decided to make the International Labor Day on May 1 a national holiday.
Nevertheless, workers will still hold protests. Nining Elitos, chairwoman of the Indonesian Trade Union Alliance Confederation (KASBI), said that tens of thousands of workers from the Greater Jakarta area will rally in front of the Hotel Indonesia (HI) roundabout, and proceed to the State Palace, Jakarta.
“We will have a long march [to the palace),” Nining said inJakarta, yesterday.
According to Nining, from Jakarta alone there will be some about 10,000 workers participating in the rally. They will gather with workers from other areas at the HI roundabout at around 09.00 am before reading their demands at the state palace until 17.30.
20140420 * Indonesian Labor Union wants wage rise by 30% in 2015:
We will bring this agenda in our rally next May 1, coinciding with International Workers` Day.”
The Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union (KSPI) demanded a wage rise by 30 percent in the year 2015, the organizations president Said Iqbal said here on Sunday.
“We will bring this agenda in our rally next May 1, coinciding with International Workers Day,” Said said.
According to him, a wage rise in Indonesia is necessary as the country will soon join ASEAN Single Market in 2015. Said argued the minimum wage standard in Indonesia is far behind other ASEAN countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia while the productivity in Indonesia is as good as other ASEAN countries.
“Minimum wage in Jakarta is Rp2.4 million (US$210), in Thailand its US$280, and the Philippines US$315 whilst the average cost of living in those countries is the same,” Said added.
* Thousands of workers to stage Labor Day rally in Medan:
Thousands of workers under the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers Union have announced their plan to stage a rally on thoroughfares in Medan, North Sumatra, as part of their observation of International Workers’ Day, which falls on May 1.
The federation’s coordinator, Minggu Saragih, said as many as 5,000 workers had confirmed they would join the rally.
“We will march our way to the governor’s office and the North Sumatra Police headquarters, to ask [whether there are] any updates on previous reports made by our colleagues,” he said.
He said the workers would demand that the government raise their salaries by 30% to help meet increasing living costs.
* Police gear up to secure Labor Day demonstrations:
National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto says officers are prepared to maintain security during planned Labor Day demonstrations.
“To secure the gatherings, all regional police chiefs have been instructed to deploy additional personnel as needed. The Jakarta Police, for instance, will deploy 18,000 officers to watch the protesters and manage traffic,” he said at National Police headquarters in Jakarta.
On Monday, National Police chief Gen. Sutarman and all regional police chiefs participated in a video conference to arrange security measures ahead of the public holiday known for protests by workers.
Agus said that according to the law, the labor unions were allowed to hold protests from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
06:40:46 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Trade Unions Federation calls for K8,500 minimum daily wage:
The Myanmar Trade Unions Federation has called for a national daily minimum wage of K8,500 in a statement released a day after the issue was discussed at a conference in Yangon attended by about 180 labour groups.
Speaking after call was made on April 28, federation chairman U Aung Lin said the figure of K8,500 was set on the basis of data gathered by the 180 groups in surveys involving 50 townships throughout the country and more than 186,000 families in 30 townships in Yangon Region.
U Aung Lin said the federation would discuss the minimum daily wage with employers after submitting the proposal to the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
The proposal called for a minimum daily wage to vary according to the cost of living, he said.
* Fixing a minimum wage to alleviate poverty:
ince Thein Sein’s government took office in 2011, it has promised to carry out three main tasks of poverty reduction, anti-corruption, and national reconciliation.
Four years on and the progress around these tasks has become questionable. Truthfully, there has been no significant progress and they continue to inch further away from reality. The poverty reduction program seems to be only backtracking instead of moving forward with life becoming more difficult for the general public.
During the previous administration, a privileged economy was in place where only a small elite with close ties to the military enjoying the benefits.
This group of people continues to receive the same privileges while the majority of the public live in poverty despite political changes. The average salary of a factory worker is between Ks 1,000 (US$ 1) and 1,500 (US$ 1.50) per day and around Ks 30,000 (US$ 30) per month. With commodity prices getting higher, this salary cannot hope to support a single person, let alone a family.
06:10:46 local time BANGLADESH
* Police baton charge injures 20 RMG workers:
At least 20 readymade garment workers were injured as law enforcers charged baton on their procession in protest against sacking and oppression.
The incident took place at a readymade garments factory at Shyampur area in Hemayetpur of the upazila in the morning.
Protesting the police attack, agitating workers gathered at Savar Press Club and made allegations against production manager and managing director of Jaisa Fashion Wear Limited for their physical and mental torturing in various times.
“Workers observed two-day strike as Production Manager and MD beat several labourers on false allegations on Sunday (April 27). As a result, authority retrenched 12 workers,” said one of the workers.
* 25% of BUET-surveyed units have structural flaws:
About 25% of 252 garment factories surveyed by BUET teams were found to have structural flaws and 4.0 per cent of them might require evacuation.
The BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) team in its findings is likely to recommend suspension of production in 10 assessed readymade garment (RMG) units, they said.
“Of the 252 factories, about 25 per cent are in relatively risky conditions in terms of structural integrity,” a source involved in the process told the FE Monday.
Of these units, the Detailed Engineering Assessment (DEA) is needed for about 53 factories within six weeks. The rest would be forwarded to the official review committee for production suspension, the source said citing its initial assessment report.
* Create special fund for factory safety upgrade:
The chief economist of Bangladesh Bank yesterday recommended that a separate fund be set up by high tariff-imposing countries like the US for upgrading factories in developing countries.
The fund, to be named “Tariffs for Standards”, could be administered by a third party such as the World Bank, said Hassan Zaman, chief economist of the central bank.
Zaman’s comments came at a seminar of Saarc Finance, a group of governors and finance secretaries in South Asia.
The argument for this fund is strengthened by the fact that aid from the US to Bangladesh has only averaged $150 million in the last five years. By contrast, Bangladesh is contributing $850 million in export duty to the US Treasury.
* RMG sub-contracting—an ‘overlooked’ risk factor:
The Bangladesh apparel industry has been at the centre of both national and international attention since the Rana Plaza collapse that had claimed an estimated 1135 lives on April 24 last year.
A flurry of activities involving both local and global stakeholders is now on to stop the recurrence of similar tragic accident in the future. Teams comprising local and foreign experts have been assessing safety standard of different apparel units. The issue of apparel workers’ right to trade union (TU) has also got attention of major importing countries, including the USA.
The workplace safety is more of a compliance issue and the TU rights for the garment workers have always been a matter of government’s policy decision, largely influenced by the owners of the apparel units.
Despite accidents that had taken place occasionally in a number of RMG units, the owners did never take the issue of work place safety that seriously.
And the government, too, was not serious to compel the owners to strengthen their safety standards. Nor has it shown any genuine interest in granting the workers their right to be involved in TU activities.
But the deadly Tazreen Fashion fire and the Rana Plaza collapse have brought about a sea-change in the approach of two key players, the government and the owners. Both the parties, for the sake of survival of the country’s RMG industry, are seriously trying to mend their lapses.
But the task of ensuring the safety standard, as suggested by the international buyers and the governments of the major importing countries, is proving to be a Herculean one, particularly for reasons of financial constraints.
In the days following the Rana Plaza tragedy, the international buyers promised to make available a substantial amount of funds and logistics to help the Bangladesh RMG industry to improve its safety standard.
But the assistance that has come by until now is very disappointing.
* LABOUR WELFARE FUND : RMG owners reluctant to contribute: labour secy:
Labour secretary Mikail Shipar on Tuesday said the owners of readymade garment factories were reluctant to contribute to the fund raised by the labour welfare foundation although law made it mandatory for them to do so.
The foundation has so far raised Taka 50 crore for the fund established in 2006 through the enactment of a law, he said, adding that most of the amount had come from multinational companies.
‘A factory which is making a net profit of more than Taka 1 crore a year must contribute five per cent of profit to the welfare of its own workers and donate 0 .5 per cent of the profit to the foundation,’ the secretary told a press briefing on the eve of May Day, 2014.
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* Garment factory owners contribute naught to labour welfare fund:
As per the law it is mandatory for an industrial unit to deposit 5% of their profit share from the net annual profit of Tk1 crore or more than that to the Labour Welfare Foundation Fund
The garment factory owners do not have any contribution to the Labours Welfare Foundation Fund of the Labour and Employment Ministry that has now a total of Tk50 crore deposited in its account.
They are not interested in contributing their profit shares to the fund, Labour and Employment Secretary Mikail Shipar said yesterday.
“We failed to draw their attention after communicating with them several times. Which is why the government has decided to create an independent fund for welfare of garment workers,” he said at a press briefing on the occasion of May Day held at the secretariat.
He said seven organisations agreed to donate Tk8 crore to the fund. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will receive the cheques at a discussion meeting marking the May Day at the Osmani Memorial Auditorium.
* ‘Compliant’ garment factories shining as orders roll in:
Smaller units suffer as global buyers turn away
Apparel factories with a good track record of workers’ welfare are receiving increased orders from global retailers and buyers, industry insiders said.
Big factories compliant with labour standards have seen a sharp increase in work orders in recent months.
Workers’ safety system, firefighting equipment, evacuation mechanism, proper installation of machines and healthy work environment are among the social compliance issues.
Leading groups say they are now busy meeting the growing orders as buyers have kept faith on the compliant companies.
On the other hand, export orders have been decreasing with non-compliant factories running on shared buildings.
“Global buyers have been turning to some of selected RMG factories placing fresh orders, which are maintaining good compliance,” Aminul Islam, general secretary of Bangladesh Garment Buying House Association, told the FE.
* Safety compliance a make-or-break for many garment factories:
According to a BGMEA survey covering over 400 factories, foreign buyers have cancelled orders worth $110m from 37 factories over the last year
Official data shows that many garment factories have lost business in the past one year since the Rana Plaza collapse, but stakeholders say cancellations have not affected the compliant units.
In fact, compliant factories are more optimistic about rising from the slump that followed the collapse, because the industry overall has been making progress in terms of ensuring fire safety and workers’ security.
According to a BGMEA survey covering over 400 factories, foreign buyers have cancelled orders worth $110m from 37 factories over the last year.
Industry insiders said most of these factories had not done much to become fire and safety compliant.
* Improving working condition for workers:
The World Labour Organisation (ILO) along with almost all the countries of the world may have chalked out elaborate programmes to observe the May Day.
Bangladesh is not likely to miss it to make the world believe that it is heading towards building a society which is free from labour exploitation and ensures safe work place as well as due wages.
It is true that our government has provided enough economic freedom; patronised SME sector which includes almost 5400 RMG units in the country. It proves the previous statement. Five million female workers are dependent on this sector which seems to be a positive sign for elimination of extreme poverty. It also reduced the unemployment problem as well as helped women empowerment.
Bangladesh had the experience of fire incident at Tazreen Fashion House, Rana Plaza collapse and death of one labour union leader which have created negative impression in the world media regarding safety of working environment, implementation of the labour union law, security of female workers etc.
The Bangladesh Labour Law-2013 provided the opportunity of Labour Union as per ILO convention directives and pressure from foreign buyer groups could make 140 RMG units only to comply with it and almost 3,400 units still do not allow trade unionism. It has been reported that the government has shown lack of sincerity in providing compensation to the families of the Rana Plaza victims.
Nearly 200 RMG units have already been closed down and almost 2,000 workers have become jobless.
* Govt to take up $1.6b training, job scheme:
The government is planning to invest US$ 1.6 billion to train and employ 1.5 million workers to meet the shortage of skilled labour force in the country’s burgeoning manufacturing sector, officials said.
The programme is likely to start from the next fiscal year and will continue for 10 years.
Asian Development Bank and Switzerland would provide 85 per cent and the government 15 per cent of the programme cost.
Leaders of the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association said the readymade garment sector that employs around 4 million workers is facing shortage of 25 per cent skilled workers.
Lack of skilled manpower has already been identified as a major problem for the sector that shares nearly 5 per cent of the global US$ 450 billion apparel trade after shipping out US$ 21.51 billion worth of products in 2012-13 fiscal year.
* ‘Ticfa not the forum for GSP’:
Michael J Delaney, the Assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia, has said Ticfa is a forum where they would identify obstacles towards boosting two-way trade and investment.
Ticfa will not be the forum for discussing duty-free market access for Bangladesh exports to the US market, he affirmed. Delaney, who led the US side in the Trade and Investment Cooperation framework Agreement (Ticfa) talks in Dhaka, said this in reply to a question at a joint press conference in the city. He said the decision about reinstating Bangladesh’s GSP would be based on the WTO decision.
* Appoint lobbyists for duty benefit from US: analysts:
Bangladesh can appoint lobbyists for getting a duty benefit for export of garment items to the US market, as the chance of the duty-free access is very thin through bilateral negotiation, analysts said yesterday.
Though Bangladesh is a least developed country, its businesses have to pay 15.62 percent duty for exports of garments to the US. But China, the largest apparel supplier worldwide, pays only 3 percent duty to the American customs.
Michael J Delaney, assistant US trade representative for South Asia, told the first Ticfa meeting in Dhaka on Monday that it was not possible to reduce duty on Bangladeshi garments as the issue depends on the World Trade Organisation.
* Germany reassures support to implement RMG action plan :
The head of visiting German Parliamentary Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development, Dagmar G. Woehrl, reassured Berlin’s continuous support to help Bangladesh implement the garment sector action plan.
Briefing journalists about the outcome of the four-day visit to Bangladesh at German House in the city, Woehrl, the chairperson of the Committee said Bangladesh had made progress in promoting safety and standard after the Rana Plaza tragic building collapse a year ago.
“With the help of Accord and ILO, and also with the support of Alliance, some progress has been made, no doubt, and all stakeholders deserve praise for this. But it is only the beginning of a long road, which Germany is ready to go with Bangladesh,” she said.
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05:40:46 local time INDIA
* Leaders’ apathy adds to their misery:
For the widows of the weavers at Kappaladoddi village of Guduru mandal and Pedana town, where 12 weavers committed suicide since 2013, life has hit the crossroads for there is no improvement in their living standards.
Adding misery to their lives is the indifference of leaders representing various political parties from Pedana or Machilipatnam in the general elections-2014. They have neither visited their colonies nor pledged support to them.
“Several trips made to the officials for a white ration card have yielded no results till date. I feel there is no purpose for me to cast my vote,” Perisetti Nagalaxmi, a widow, told The Hindu.
Ms. Nagalaxmi, wife of P. Dattatreya (36) who committed suicide last year, is now suffering with kidney ailment. She works on a handloom to take care of her 15-year-old daughter P. Lavanya.
Syama Kumari, wife of another weaver Somasekhar, who hanged himself last year, narrated her pathetic tale. “No political leader has visited our village. I was denied compensation from the government as we did not want to perform post mortem on my husband’s body,” she added.
* ‘Good potential for technical textiles in India’:
There was a good potential for technical textiles in the country but players in the industry will have to equip themselves for the same, said Shashi Singh, Executive Director, Indian Technical Textile Association.
Speaking at the inauguration of the ICIC 2014 Indo-Czech International Conference, organised by the Kumaraguru College of Technology and Technical University of Liberec, Czech Republic, she said that technical textiles had a market of around Rs. 14 billion.
* Dream Knitwear Technology Mission project to become reality next week:
The long awaited Knitwear Technology Mission in nearby Tirupur to promote product and fabric diversification and value addition across the apparel value chain, would become a reality from May six.
The Rs 13 crore Mission Center, under the aegis of Apparel Export Promotion Council, would offer necessary services to trade and industry to develop innovative apparel categories for sports wear, swimwear and varieties of performance wear mainly from man-made fibres like polyester and nylon, A Shaktivel, Chairman, KTM, told reporters last night at Trirupur.
With majority of the countries now going for high fashion wear from man made fibre yarn, as against almost 95 per cent cotton yarn in India, KTM has imported latest version of Tricot Warp knitting machine from Germany, which can be utilised by Indian apparel exporting community for their sampling needs, he said.
* Tirupur garment exporters upbeat on business prospects:
Higher costs in China and non-compliance of factory norms in Bangladesh give India an advantage
Exporters in the knitwear hub of Tirupur are gung-ho about business prospects.
With exports surging to ₹17,817 crore in the just concluded fiscal after stagnating at around ₹13,000 crore for almost three years in a row, exporters are now confident of the country’s prospects on the garment export front.
FTA with EU
Índia will emerge as the number one country in export of garments in the near future if the new government that comes to power at the Centre clinches the free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Union, which has been delayed by administration and technical hurdles, said the past Chairman of the Apparel Export Promotion Council and President of Tirupur Exporters’ Association A Sakthivel.
05:10:46 local time PAKISTAN
* Importance of workplace safety:
The fire incident of Baldia Town Garment Factory was revisited in a highly effective presentation at the 9th EFP/ILO OSH Seminar highlighted the importance of workplace safety for the workers and business sustainability on the eve of world labour day in Karachi.
Director Mr. Wajahat Ullah Khan of Fire Protection Association of Pakistan while ecalling the incident which occurred on 11th September, 2012 at M/s. Ali Enterprises, identified the causes of the fire and solution to avoid such incidents.
Secretary (Labour), Government of Sindh reiterated the efforts of the Sindh Gov-ernment to make the workplaces hazard free.
He informed about the actions taken to form an effective Inspection Team yo check the compliance of Safety and Health standards by the factory owners.
The inspectors will also identify the weaknesses observed during inspections. He referred to the Joint Action Plan prepared by the ILO after the Tripartite Consultation to improve Safety and Health conditions at the Enterprise level through-out the Province of Sindh.
The Joint Action Plan is being implemented by the Government of Sindh and the most important issue at present is the development of OSH Policy.
Speakers at a seminar on occupational safety and health (OSH) have stressed the importance of hazard-free environment to mitigate the risks facing workers and to attain business sustainability.
The seminar was organised by the Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the occasion of ‘International Day on Safety and Health at Work’ on Monday.
Sindh Secretary Labour Noor Muhammad Leghari said an inspection team had been formed to check whether or not factory owners were complying with safety and health standards in the province. He said presently the province was in the process of evolving its occupational safety and health policy.
In his presentation, Fire Protection Association of Pakistan’s Director Wajahat Ullah Khan recalled Baldia factory fire — considered to be the country’s deadliest industrial incident in which 250 people were killed — and identified the causes of the fire and solution to avoid such accidents.
* A long way to protecting labour rights:
A three day first South Asia Labour Conference (SALC) has been held in Lahore. The Punjab Labour Department organized the event to promote labour-friendly polices among the South Asian countries.
The conference was attended by SAARC countries, the International Labour Organization, European Union and the World Trade Organization.
A joint ministerial statement was presented at the closing ceremony.
The statement acknowledged challenges faced by the South Asian countries in providing decent work in line with international labour standards; better working conditions; improved living standards of ordinary labourers and better work opportunities, etc.
Home to 70 percent of the world’s market, South Asia is one of the important players in global development. It has the world’s largest working-age population, a quarter of the world’s middle class consumers and growing labour force.
A young population being its key assets does not however mean a windfall of economic growth unless the governments arrange for an additional 1-1.2 million jobs every month for the next 20 years.
The matter is not as simple as absorbing this gigantic population into the workforce though. The actual challenge lies in increasing the level of productivity that comes through education and skill development.
The focus of the SALC had been precisely on making efforts and planning to increase the skill level of the workers so that they break out of the vicious poverty circle and start living a decent life.
* Energy crisis: APTMA chief urges emergent meeting of Prime Minister committee:
Chairman APTMA Punjab, S M Tanveer has urged holding of emergent meeting of the committee constituted by the Prime Minister on Textile industry issues to resolve energy crisis of Punjab based textile industry.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, he said the committee comprises Federal Ministers for Finance, Water & Power, Oil & Gas, Textile and Commerce, yet to meet despite constituted by the Prime Minister two weeks back.
He said the Punjab textile industry is unable to perform with eight hours electricity load shedding. Consequently, he added, the cost of energy for Punjab based textile mills is almost double to the cost of energy for mills in rest of the country. This situation has ended up on unbearable provincial disparity, burdening the textile mills with Rs 80 billion additional cost.
* Quaid-e-Azam Apparel Park: foundation stone to be laid next month: Shahbaz:
The foundation stone of Quaid-e-Azam Apparel Park near Motorway and industrial estate in Faisalabad would be laid next month.
Prominent Chinese company Ruyi Group will cooperate with Punjab government for these projects. Apparel Park project is very important as it will play a significant role in the achievement of the targets of GSP Plus status given to Pakistan by European Union while Ruyi Group will make an overall investment of two billion dollars, which will help promote textile and garments industry.
This was stated by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif while presiding over a high level meeting on Tuesday, which reviewed Quaid-e-Azam Apparel Park Project.
* 55,000 Bolivian textile workers may lose jobs: COTEXBO:
Around 55,000 workers operating in the textile sector of the western-central South American country of Bolivia are at a risk of losing their jobs, owing to the Government’s decision to increase the minimum wage by 20 percent and basic salary by 10 percent, said Bolivian Textile Conglomerate (COTEXBO) CEO Jesus Acosta.
According to the COTEXBO official, around 15,000 entrepreneurs operate in the Bolivian textile sector, and around 55,000 workers are at risk of losing their jobs, as these entrepreneurs would not be able to provide the increased wage rate, reports Bolivian newspaper Erbol.
Mr. Acosta explained that medium enterprises in the textile sector of the country employ around 100 workers, whereas small enterprises employ a minimum of 25 workers and micro enterprises employ only 10 workers.
If the Government constantly increases the minimum wage rate, small business enterprises would end up closing operations because of inability to cover production costs and salary increases, he added.
* German govt to hold Roundtable on Textiles Industry: