18:16:04 local time CHINA
* Garment maker TAL re-engineers to stay in the game:
Garment maker TAL re-engineers itself to stay in the game in the face of challenges from industrial reforms, labour shortage and wage rises
I sign on a piece of collar fabric and pass it on to a sewing worker at one end of a production line.
Thirty-five workers and 19 minutes later, a custom-made, signature-bearing dress shirt emerges from the other end.
Welcome to one of the dozens of production lines at Hong Kong garment maker TAL’s factory in Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta. When I first visited the factory five years ago, it took the same number of workers three days to make that shirt.
The company, which makes one in every seven dress shirts sold in the United States, made a bold move in 2008 by casting away a 60-year-old production model, under which workers used to be paid individually in keeping with the person’s productivity.
The new system – modelled on the so-called lean system widely used in the car industry – replaced individual productivity with team productivity.
TAL, which produces mid to high-end dress shirts, polo shirts and trousers for brands such as Burberry, Charles Tyrwhitt, Tommy Hilfiger, Brooks Brothers and J Crew, was forced to improve its efficiency and flexibility as overseas orders began to arrive later in the season, with smaller volumes and shorter delivery time.
Like many others in the Pearl River Delta – “the factory to the world” – TAL spent the past few years re-engineering itself for the challenges brought about by this new procurement trend that favours nimbler producers.
Ken DeWoskin, a senior adviser at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, said the winners in this supply chain transformation would be those willing to invest in intangible assets and in the future.
“Manufacturers with modern techniques, including strong IT support, and the ability to integrate electronics with new materials and modern high-precision fabrication equipment, have the potential to maintain strong growth and market share,” DeWoskin said.
The losers will be those who remain in the lower end of the value chain, continuing to rely heavily on labour.
17:16:04 local time VIET NAM
* “How can we help free Hanh?” VTHC assistant secretary asked jailed unionist’s mother:
Hanh’s mother, Mrs Tran, fled Vietnam soon after her daughter was given 7 years in 2010 for helping to organise a 2009 strike in a shoe factory by 11,000 workers.
“IF I MUST GO TO HELL TO FIGHT, I WILL”
“Advocating for workers’ rights, as my daughter did, is the honorable thing to do. I will fight for her freedom. If I must go to hell to fight, I will”, said the determined, at times tearful, mother.
Victorian Trades Hall Council’s Assistant Secretary told Mrs Tran that the Australian union movement has raised the case of Hanh and her colleagues, Hung and Chuong, at several levels. In particular, the ACTU has raised their imprisonment with Canberra, and with Hanoi’s state-owned union VGCL.
“IT IS WRONG FOR VGCL TO BRAND [WORKERS RIGHTS ADVOCATES] AS CRIMINALS”
Mr Cragg asked Mrs Tran what else could be done. “If you talk with VGCL again, please tell them that their excuses for jailing her are shameful. It is right for Hanh to demand that workers be respected, and it is wrong for VGCL to brand her as a criminal,” she replied.
* Textile and garment industry eyes rural market:
After four years of implementation of the Buy Vietnamese Goods campaign, garment and textile enterprises have achieved many positive results.
Vietnam’s garment and textile brands have been enhanced and gained consumers’ trust, bringing a new face to the market and increasing revenues for enterprises, said Vietnam Economic News on May 22.
To achieve remarkable results, domestic enterprises have continuously invested in production and focused on renewing designs, developing brand and expanding distribution system. The campaign on bringing Vietnamese goods to rural areas has taken effect thanks to reasonable prices and higher product quality compared to made-in-China goods.
The Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) has focused on investing in production and promoting domestic business through the Vinatexmart distribution channel.
To date, Vinatexmart has expanded its distribution system to 82 retail supermarkets in 28 cities and provinces. In addition to Vinatexmart, member units such as Garco 10, Nha Be Corporation, Viet Tien, Hanosimex and Duc Giang Corporation has also actively expanded its stores to introduce products with nearly 4,000 sales points.
However, in terms of remote and rural areas, garment and textile goods’ competitiveness remained limited. Expanding distribution system in these areas remained difficult due to low consumption and small distribution channel.
According to Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), garment and textile exports in 2014 have posted a good growth in key export markets such as the US, EU, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
read more in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 26/5. (4th item).
* Leather, shoe exports to rise :
Sport shoes are made by workers at Huu Nghi Da Nang Joint Stock Co. The country’s footwear exports have risen 22 per cent year-on-year in the first four months to US$2.85 billion, driven by increases in exports to traditional markets. — VNA/VNS Photo Le Lam
Viet Nam has great opportunities to increase leather and footwear exports by this year end, according to experts.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) announced that the leather and footwear exports of Viet Nam in the first four months of this year has gained a year-on-year increase of 22 per cent to US$2.85 billion because exports of these products to traditional markets such as the US, Japan and the EU has had a sharp increase.
Vietnamese footwear products to some small markets in the East Europe and South America also surged sharply, the ministry noted.
The exports to these markets are stable at present, the ministry stated. Therefore, many leather and footwear export enterprises so far have export contracts until August. The enterprises have promoted cooperation to increase localisation rates of export products.
17:16:04 local time THAILAND
* Army searches Somyot’s house, detains Somyot’s wife and son:
Around 3.30 p.m, the army searched the house of Somyot Phueksakasemsuk, editor of a pro-red shirt magazine currently serving 11 years in prison for lese majeste.
The army arrested Sukanya Phrueksakasemsuk, Somyot’s wife, who has been campaigning for political prisoners, and his son Panitan Phrueksakasemsuk, a fourth-year Law student a Thammasat University and an activist himself, taking them both to the Army Club. According to Sukanya, the army also seized two laptops.
Somyot was active in labor movements before becoming the leader of a red shirt faction called June 24 for Democracy. He was sentenced on January 23, 2013, when the court found him guilty of publishing two articles deemed defamatory against the monarchy.
* Protect Somyot’s family:
On Sunday 25th May Somyot’s wife Joop and son Thai were detained by the Thai military.
Help protect them by sending them a message.
It will alert the Thai military to the fact that people across the world are aware of Joop and Tai’s situation, massively raising their chances of being treated humanely.
You can support and sign here.
17:16:04 local time CAMBODIA
* A ‘Reality’ check for top brands:
A garment worker participating in a re-enactment of the violent January strikes on Veng Sreng Boulevard dons a military police officer costume as others get ready backstage in Phnom Penh. Photo by Hong Menea.
Ahead of this afternoon’s planned talks between government representatives and international fashion labels, garment workers toting riot gear and fake guns yesterday staged a re-enactment of January’s lethal crackdown on protesting workers at the start of the year.
As Cambodian pop songs blasted from a speaker, dozens of men and women acted out the violent clash, which took place on Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 2 and 3, before a crowd of hundreds at the Workers’ Information Center, a labour rights organisation in Tuol Kork.
The scene was part of a politically motivated fashion show titled “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality”, which also featured workers strutting down a catwalk clad in factory-produced dresses, jeans and sweatshirts. The show was intended to support the stalled campaign to raise the minimum wage to $160. Today the government will meet with major brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, as well as IndustriALL Global Union, to discuss garment worker rights and wages in the second round of talks between the parties.
“We want to show the gap between the salary of the worker and the salary of the brand owner,” said Chan Reaksmey from the Workers’ Information Centre, which organised the fashion event.
“But we also want to talk about the crackdown that happened on the workers in January,” she added.
At least four people were killed when military police opened fire during demonstrations on January 2 and 3, and last weekend Moun Sokmean, who was injured in the unrest, also died. Twenty-three protesters accused of inciting violence during the riots are embroiled in an ongoing legal battle.
* Workers Turn Models on Political Catwalk:
About 150 garment workers turned out to the Phnom Penh offices of the United Sisterhood Alliance NGO on Sunday to watch a politically charged fashion show entitled “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality.”
Aimed to highlight “the income gap between Cambodian garment workers and the selected CEOs of brand companies,” according to show organizers, the two-hour program featured a medley of cat-walking, political theater and speeches calling for a $160 monthly basic wage.
After a brief dance described as “crackdown hip-hop,” which featured four young men “krumping” with their arms over house music punctuated by gun-shot sound effects, a group of about a dozen female garment workers, on their day off work, emerged onto the catwalk.
The workers-turned-models, who served as the stars of the rest of the show, presented a range of colorful clothing that had no unifying theme other than having been produced in a Cambodian garment factory.
Items spanned from unbranded plain black dresses to jacket tops and T-shirts displaying the “Puma” and “Adidas” logos.
Event organizers said the show was designed to stress to both the government and the brands being displayed—H&M, Adidas, Puma, Gap, Old Navy and Nike—the need for a higher basic wage.
“If we don’t demand, there will be no change,” said Phon Sreivin, one of the workers who took part in the program.
20140526 * Stay away from factory, court tells unionists:
Eight members of Cambodia’s largest independent union were released on bail yesterday after being tried at Takeo Provincial Court over their alleged involvement in a factory protest late last week, officials said.
Defence lawyer Kim Socheat said the members of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), who were arrested on Friday evening as they left a strike at the JSD Textile factory, had been released but were “under the control of the court”.
They each face four charges, which include incitement, though it is not clear when they will return to court for a further hearing.
Investigating judge Kao Sakorn put conditions on the unionists, including a ban on joining any strike or gathering in Takeo. The accused were also ordered to report to the court on the first day of every month and to cease their involvement with JSD.
“[If] the accused intend to escape, the investigating judge will arrest and detain them,” a court order says.
Speaking before the unionists’ release, deputy prosecutor Tin Sochetra said he had enough evidence for them to be convicted.
“We investigated before we arrested them. We have enough evidence such as the photos and video of them damaging factory property … [and] throwing a bottle of gasoline and stones into the factory,” he said. “They did not only destroy the factory property but they also threatened the workers and threw stones at the workers who carried on working.”
C.CAWDU leader Ath Thorn said that his union would continue to act on behalf of the workers.
20140526 * More Unionists Charged on Eve of Brand Meeting:
The Takeo Provincial Court charged eight union representatives with incitement Sunday for taking part in a garment factory strike, bringing to 17 the number of unionists charged this month alone.
The latest in the spate of recent arrests came just ahead of today’s high-level meeting between government officials and major brands including H&M and Puma, who say they are increasingly concerned about the deterioration of workers’ rights in the country.
Takeo Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Tin Sochetra said the eight union representatives had failed to heed a recent court order instructing employees of the JSD Textile factory to head back to work.
“The eight people were charged on the 25th with incitement to commit a crime and making threats…and they diWorkers Turn Models on Political Catwalkd not implement the court’s decision,” he said.
Kuth Piseth, a JSD employee, said about 1,000 of his fellow workers have been on strike since April 29, the day after the factory fired one of their colleagues for collecting signatures in hopes of starting up a local union branch.
“We went on strike immediately because they fired our representative,” he said. “After we were on strike for many days and there was no solution, our representatives called the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union [CCAWDU].”
20140524 * Factory workers show support for arrested unionists:
Today, hundreds of workers gathered in Takeo’s provincial town to show their support for eight union leaders and union members who were arrested yesterday afternoon during a garment factory strike at the JSD Textile (Cambodia) Co. Ltd factory.
The strikers were seeking a minimum wage of $160 and improved working conditions. Armed security forces have blocked the way to the court with barbed wire and to the provincial police station, where the arrested unionists are being held.
The eight unionists include six union leaders from the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) and two CCAWDU staff, who came to assist the striking workers.
20140525 According to @licadho: The eight unionists arrested on Friday were released about 7 pm this evening.
20140526 * Takeo court releases eight C.CAWDU unionists after questioning:
Takeo Provincial Court released eight unionists yesterday after they were questioned for several hours.
The unionists from the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) were arrested on May 23 after they led workers to protest at JSD Textile (Cambodia) to demand better work condition.
They were accused of inciting workers not to go to work, and causing damages to factory property.
After their arrest, about 200 workers gathered in front of Takeo police station, and Takeo Provincial Court, but there was no clash while they were rallying.
20140524 * Eight unionists arrested for leading protest in Takeo:
Police arrested eight labor unionists from the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), and sent them to the Takeo police station for detention.
Soeung Yoth, Soth Seam, Phin Sophea, Song Soeung, Keo Boeun, Tok Thoeun, Nok Sak and Ouen, were arrested yesterday after they had led workers to protest at the GSD factory in Takeo province, local police said, asking not to be named.
Takeo police commissioner Ouk Samnang declined to make comments on the arrest of the unionists, asking to turn questions to the court.
C.CAWDU’s president Ath Thon went to Takeo province on Saturday morning to meet the detained unionists, but he was not allowed by the provincial police commissioner to meet them.
20140524 * Gov’t Officials Prepare for Second Round of Talks With Brands:
Representatives from several major clothing brands and unions are to meet for talks with government officials on Monday to raise concerns about the deterioration of workers’ rights in Cambodia, an international union said late Thursday.
The meeting follows a previous round of talks between brands and government officials that were held in February. Since then, at least 17 union leaders and representatives have been arrested for their roles in planning strikes, including nine unionists on Friday alone.
“Despite assurances from the government in February, there have since been unprecedented levels of intimidation, violence, and a declining respect for the rule of law, which together constitute a grave attack on union and worker rights,” said Jyrki Raina, secretarygeneral of IndustriALL, in a statement.
Mr. Raina is to attend Monday’s talks, where she will also be representing the International Trade Union Confederation and the Uni Global Union. Also included will be brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, according to the statement.
Unions plan to ask the government about the failure to investigate the shooting deaths of workers, as well as the case of 23 unionists and workers who have been tried for their roles in January’s garment sector strikes, and for whom verdicts are due on May 30.
“[T]he lack of progress in forming a minimum wage determination mechanism” will also be discussed. Garment workers have spent months rallying the government to increase the minimum wage to $160 per month.
read more. & read more.
20140524 * US Army Shuts Down Website Cited in HRW Report:
Four days after Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report criticizing Washington for supporting Cambodia’s “abusive armed forces,” a Facebook page containing photos cited in the report has been removed from the Internet.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, the Facebook page titled “Angkor Sentinel 2014” is managed by the U.S. Army Pacific, which sponsored last month’s 10day Angkor Sentinel exercises in Kompong Speu province.
The exercises, held annually, are said to be aimed at improving Cambodia’s capabilities in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
HRW, however, charges that images uploaded to the Angkor Sentinel 2014 Facebook page—which show Cambodian soldiers pointing AK47 assault rifles—suggest that not all the exercises were related to humanitarian assistance or disaster relief.
This, HRW claims, is a breach of a bill signed in January by U.S. President Barack Obama that suspends all direct aid to Cambodia not used for humanitarian or human rights training.
“I am not surprised in the least that the page has been removed,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.
“They want to make sure it is down before Congress started looking into it and saw the pictures. Capitol Hill will be asking lots of questions.”
U.S. Army Pacific did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but U.S. Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh again defended U.S. training of Cambodian troops.
“The photos posted by the U.S. military on Facebook show Cambodians being trained to respond properly to the threat of improvised explosive devices, a persistent danger in Cambodia’s peacekeeping operations throughout the world,” Mr. McIntosh said.
18:16:04 local time INDONESIA
* Garment Factory Construction Guideline:
The devastating impact of the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh on 24 April 2013, which claimed approximately 1,100 lives, continues to reverberate throughout the region. In Indonesia, where the majority of labour are women, stringent measures must be taken in the construction of buildings to ensure the safety of all workers.
Learning from these tragedies, it is necessary to guide the construction of garment factories to ensure the safety of workers in the Indonesian garment industry.
This guide is expected to be a reference for investors, developers, consultants, contractors, and others who will be involved in the construction of garment factories in Indonesia.
This guide does not only contain regulations, but also provides initial information regarding the process and procedures in planning, designing, and constructing garment factories in Indonesia with a systematic approach. In addition, we will also provide guidance to maintain the safety of the building and its construction, and the utilization of the building when construction is completed.
16:46:04 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
20140522 * Garment factory workers protest better wages:
Over 300 workers have protested in front of the Asia Rose garment factory in Hlaingthayar industrial zone, after being expelled for demanding better wages.
The workers started their protest on May 7 and have demanded for respect of their rights including better in salary, which is curretly Ks 400 per day.
“At first, we didn’t intend to protest but the owner of the factory insisted in signing us not to participate in the protest. When the workers came to work on May 7, the factory was closed. Later the owner said that we broke the employees-employers contract and they expelled all the demonstrators,” said Thanda Moe on behalf of the demonstrators.
The workers have complained to respective authorities on May 15 and May 19. No agreement has yet been reached with officials from the factory.
The owner of the factory, Kyin Hmwe said they have not expelled the workers but they have been barred from work by the contract.
“We have set the rules for them to be disciplined. It is not oppressing. If they can’t follow the rules, they better not join the work. Because they demonstrated in front of the factory, our work faces many obstacles,” he said.
16:16:04 local time BANGLADESH
* Police attack workers’ demo in N’ganj:
Police dispersed the agitating workers of Ananta Apparels of Adamjee EPZ under Siddhirganj thana of Narayanganj when they tried to stage a demonstration. The picture was taken Sunday. — Focus Bangla Photo (FE)
Workers claim at least five have been injured in baton charges and rubber bullets
Law enforcers have dispersed agitating workers of the Adamjee Export Processing Zone (EPZ) during protest over dismissal of workers in a factory in Narayanganj.
At least five people were injured when industrial police charged batons and fired shortgun rounds during the clash on Sunday morning, workers and witnesses said.
Workers of Ananta, Supreme and Sinha garment factories were being forced to work overtime without pay, a worker of Ananta garment unit Taslima said.
“We were pressing for 11-point demand including wages for overtime and wages according to law.”
* Gazipur RMG workers block highway:
Agitate workers of Orchidia Garments Limited in Gazipur blocked the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway on Sunday demanding their arrear payments.
Several hundred workers staged the demonstration as the factory authorities shut it down four months ago declaring a 15-day closure.
Gazipur industrial police assistant superintendent Mosarraf Hossain, quoting the workers, said they went to the factory as the authorities assured them that they would pay their arrear payments and they blocked the road finding none at the factory.
Later the police went to the spot and resumed the vehicular movement on the road at about 12:15pm, he added.
* Set up industrial labour court:
The parliamentary standing committee on Labour and Employment Ministry Sunday recommended extending the ‘inspection sector’ and setting up labour courts in industrial areas, reports UNB.
It also suggested that the ministry should take actions against organisations in case of unilateral retrenchment of workers.
The committee made the recommendations at its maiden meeting held at the Parliament Secretariat with its chairman Monnujan Sufian in the chair.
It further recommended that the ministry should provide logistic supports to the manpower of the inspection sector as per its requirement, and suggested making the Transport Labour Law-1905 effective.
* Closed RMG unit workers denied due benefits, labour leaders allege:
Workers of the closed readymade garment (RMG) units are being deprived of their lawful facilities as owners are not following the existing law relating to wage payments and other service benefits, labour leaders alleged.
Since the beginning of inspection by the western retailers’ initiatives-Accord and Alliance-so far 20 garment factories faced production suspension while seven out of them might not reopen due to their structural condition, according to industry insiders and officials.
Out of these 20 units, one supplied products for Alliance signatories’ brands, six supplied goods to Accord members while the rest units shared the buildings.
But labour leaders alleged that workers of those units are yet to get their lawful payments and service benefits while manufacturers claimed that they had mutual understanding with the workers and paid according to the law.
However, the government authorities concerned are aware of the facts but are not monitoring the issues. They are in the opinion of giving some time to the owners considering their present situation including shutdown of a running factory with work orders, bank and customs liabilities, sources said.
* Jobless workers not getting lawful benefits:
More than 12,000 garment workers who lost their job due to production suspension at 20 factories at the suggestion of Alliance and Accord, two retailers’ groups, are yet to get their termination benefits stipulated in the labour act from their respective companies.
Labour leaders alleged that the owners of the garment factories were taking advantage of workers’ lack of consciousness and hapless situation and the government was protecting the interest of the owners.
Since February this year the inspection teams of Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a European Union retailers’ platform, and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, North American retailers’ platform, inspected more than 1,000 garment factories and detected serious structural faults at more than 30 factories.
The retailers’ groups sent the inspection reports to the review panel comprising representatives from the government, Accord, Alliance, BUET and BGMEA with the suggestion of immediate evacuation of the buildings.
The review panel has so far closed seven factories and suspended production at 13 others.
Of the 20 factories, six were on the list of Accord, one was on the Alliance’s list and rest of the factories faced the music as those were situated at the same risky buildings.
* Police fear unrest over RMG job cuts:
Syed Ahmed, inspector general of factory and establishmen had information, subject to verification, that retrenchment had been reported in some factories
Police fear there might be labour unrest in Savar and Ashulia belt as a few garment factory owners have allegedly resorted to retrenchment of workers while investing to improve the safety standard for workers.
Syed Ahmed, inspector general of factory and establishment, told the parliamentary standing committee on the Labour Ministry yesterday that he had information, subject to verification, that retrenchment had been reported in some factories.
He told the first meeting of the parliamentary body that around 11,000 workers of 16 factories lost their jobs as his wing had closed down those factories for poor safety standard.
State Minister Mujibul Haque said he took the matter seriously and convened on June 4 a meeting of the Crisis Management Committee dedicated to settle the unrest in RMG industry.
Abdus Salam, the deputy inspector general of the industrial police, told the meeting that many factories, including one of a leading businessman and ruling party leader, had cut jobs.
If the retrenched workers failed to get jobs ahead of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr, there could be unrest in RMG units in Savar and Ashulia, he said.
Garment worker Mohammad Alam, 25, is one who lost job two months ago and now runs a battery-run rickshaw in Mirpur area.
“I have gone from factory to factory, but the owners are not willing to recruit any worker…They will rather cut jobs,” Alam told this correspondent. “The owners now want 10 workers to do the job of 30 as they have been renovating their factories.”
* Over 200 workers missing in 9yrs:
STUDY ON RMG FACTORY ACCIDENTS
At least 200 apparel workers remained missing in different factory accidents that took place between 2005 and 2013.
The Activist Anthropologist, a group of researchers working since the 2012 fire in Tazreen Fashions, came up with the findings on Thursday at a roundtable titled ‘No grave to grieve: the search for missing garment workers and the challenges of DNA technology in Bangladesh.’
Saydia Gulrukkh, a member of the group, presented the keynote paper, based on news clippings and field surveys, at the roundtable at the Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.
The group assessed that more than 200 apparel workers had been missing in building collapses and fire incidents since April 2005, when the nine-storey Spectrum Sweater factory building collapsed.
The researchers considered the Rana Plaza collapse in April 2013 as the last incident in the study.
The government, however, has denied apparel workers remaining missing in the incidents, study observed.
Saydia in the paper said that there was no specific authority with which families could lodge complaints of workers going missing.
Helpless families of workers who went missing visited different government and private authorities dealing with the apparel sector but they failed to trace their relatives, she said.
The government introduced DNA profiling to identify the bodies disfigured beyond recognition after the Tazreen fire in 2012.
* 350 RMG units given one-month time to meet fire safety needs:
Fire department has given some 350 apparel factories a one-month timeframe for meeting the required fire-safety compliances in an ongoing initiative to ensure full-proof workplace safety in the sector, officials said.
Fire Service and Civil Defence issued the deadline recently after its inspection teams found those factories most vulnerable to fire incidents.
Such estimation is based on the field-level inspection by the department. It has found that nearly 32 per cent of the inspected RMG factories located in the capital city and in its adjacent areas are non-compliant with the minimum level of fire safety requirements. This implies that the country’s largest foreign exchange-earning sector, in gross value terms, is vulnerable to recurring fire incidents.
The units with dismal fire safety arrangement are located at Ashulia, Savar, Narayanganj, Gazipur and in the capital city. The department, which has so far inspected 1100 apparel units, also identified that around 54 per cent of them were following safety measures, though those were not up to the mark.
It also detected that only 14% of the units have adequate fire safety measures.
“We’ve so far issued letters to the owners of 287 apparel units with dismal safety measures and they were given a 30-day deadline to meet the required fire-safety compliances to avert any fire incidents,” Deputy Director of Fire Service and Civil Defence ABM Nurul Haque said.
* 67 inspectors’ appointment in RMG finalized:
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and Employment Ministry on Sunday finalized the appointment of 67 inspectors in ensuring the security to the readymade garment factories, said sources concerned.
An additional secretary level official has also joined as the director general (DG) of Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, said a competent source.
The information was revealed after a meeting of the committee held in the parliament on Sunday afternoon with committee chairperson Monnujan Sufian in the chair.
At the primary stage, the department began functioning with some 993 manpower in its headhunters and 23 different districts, according to the sources. At present, the recruitment process is also going on.
A proposal was set to Ministry of Public Administration to create a total of 93 new posts including an additional secretary, a joint secretary, and a system analyst for Labour and Employment Ministry as its field of activities has been expanded.
Of the posts, consent has already been gotten for 55 posts.
* EU praises factory safety efforts:
The European Union has lauded Bangladesh’s initiatives to ensure workplace safety, as the government has amended the labour laws and started recruiting additional factory inspectors following the Rana Plaza tragedy.
“I have initiated together with the ILO a compact with Bangladesh after the tragic industrial accidents in its textile sector — most prominently the Rana Plaza incident last year,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said.
“We have a special influence — and responsibility — in the case of Bangladesh for a clear tangible reason: The EU is Bangladesh’s largest trading partner, and exports to our market make up around 10 percent of that country’s GDP,” Gucht said.
* No trade privileges before GSP revival, says Mozena:
US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena said Sunday that there will not be any other trade privileges in the US market for Bangladeshi products before reinstatement of generalised system of preferences (GSP) which was cancelled in June last year after Rana Plaza disaster.
“Most of our quota system or trade privileges depend on GSP. If GSP is not reinstated there will not be any other preferences,” the ambassador said while replying to a question.
* Labour welfare to be added to rules for CIP selection:
The Ministry of Industries (MoI) has taken an initiative to update the existing rules on CIP (Commercially Important Person) by including labour welfare-related issues as a major criterion.
The draft of the CIP (Industry) Rules 2014 has already been formulated for finalisation soon, a top MoI official said.
Additional Secretary to the MoI Md Farhad Uddin told the FE that they have added the labour welfare-related issues to the CIP selection rules as it is very important to treat a business organisation as fully compliant.
“Ensuring labour rights and welfare is a key demand of all sections of the society. The international community is also very vocal about the issue. Considering this, the ministry has decided to include the issue in the CIP nomination rules,” he said.
* Entities failing to comply with jute bag use law to face actions:
The government will take actions against entities failing to comply with the mandatory jute packaging law from July 01 in a bid to ensure use of jute bags.
State minister for textiles and jute Mirza Azam said mobile courts will start drives in factories, mills and related spots from July 01 to monitor the compliance with the mandatory use of jute bags.
He said if any stakeholder violates the law, he or she will be jailed up to one year or fined Tk 50,000 or both the penalties will be applicable considering the degree of their non-compliance.
* Govt to introduce cultivation of GM ‘Bt Cotton’:
After introduction of genetically modified crop bt brinjal, the government is now going to approve cultivation of the GM non-food crop ‘bt Cotton’ to boost production of cotton, officials said.
The Cotton Development Board, through the agriculture ministry, has already forwarded its application to the environment ministry to get final approval for cultivation of the bt cotton variety in Bangladesh, they said.
Bt cotton is a variety developed through genetic engineering by inserting crystal protein genes taken from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, popularly known as Bt which is copyrighted by American seed giants Monsanto.
‘It is now at the final stage of approval by the technical committee on bio-safety,’ CDB additional director Md Farid Uddin told New Age on Friday.
After getting approval, the CDB would start ‘confined trial’ of bt cotton cultivation as per directions set by the government’s bio-safety rules, he said.
Farid said as bt cotton has a higher resistance to pests due to the toxic bt toxin given out by the crop, so it would increase production of cotton and also reduce cost of production.
Although annual demand of cotton is now some 40 lakh bales but the country can only produce around 150,000 bales, he said, adding that the CDB set a target to increase annual cotton production to 10 lakh bales by next five years.
After introduction of bt brinjal, the government has initiated move to introduce bt cotton along with GM crops– golden rice and GM potato, said Rafiqul Islam Mondal, director general of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council.
He told New Age that GM golden rice and potato were currently under field trial on the BARI premises in Gazipur and those crops would be released soon for farmers’ level cultivation.
* Sustained protests against GM crops called for:
The government appears adamant on introducing cultivation of genetically modified crops, food and non-food, despite widespread concerns about their adverse impact on human health and environment.
According to a report published in New Age on Saturday, the government has taken a move to introduce Bt Cotton. The additional director of the Cotton Development Board claimed on Friday that the board’s application, forwarded by the agriculture ministry to the environment ministry, is now at the final stages of environmental clearance.
A few months ago, the government distributed plants of another pest-resistant GM crop Bt Brinjal developed by the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute among farmers.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Victim families continue to demand justice:
Family members of the victims in Rana Plaza building collapse yesterday held a rally at the site in Savar on the outskirts of the capital, demanding proper compensation and justice.
At the rally under the banner of “Bangladesh Garment Workers Solidarity”, they said they had been leading a very inhuman life after losing their only earning members, but were yet to be compensated.
Taslima Akter, coordinator of the organisation, said though DNA profiles of Liza, Samapti, Sahedul, Zahangir and some others had matched with their respective family members, the families were yet to identify the graves of their dear ones.
Terming the building collapse a planned killing, she demanded punishment for the people responsible for the incident.
Survivors of the worst-ever industrial disaster also spoke.
Multi-storey Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories, caved in on April 24, 2013, leaving over 1,100 workers dead and several hundred injured.
* Apparel labour groups mark 13 months of Rana Plaza disaster:
Apparel labour leaders at separate programmes on Saturday called on the Awami League-led government to take steps for adequate compensations for Rana Plaza victims.
Labour rights groups held the programmes at Savar and in the capital marking 13 months of the Rana Plaza disaster in which more than 1,100 people, mostly apparel workers, were killed as the eight-storey building collapsed.
Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati held a rally in front of the Rana Plaza at Savar bus stand where the organsation’s convener Taslima Akhter and leaders Dipak Roy, Mehedi Hasan and others spoke.
A procession followed the rally.
National Garment Workers Federation leaders, in another incident, formed a human chain in front of the National Press Club at 11:00am demanding adequate compensations for the Rana Plaza victims.
The organisation’s president Amirul Haque Amin presided over the programme. Apparel labour leaders Quamrul Ahsan, Salauddin Shawpan and Nurun Nahar also spoke..
A procession followed the human chain.
* Compensation disbursement getting delayed:
The process of disbursing compensation to the Rana Plaza victims has slowed mainly due to non-cooperation by retailers and brands, said a senior official of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.
The International Labour Organisation gave away $1.8 million among 2,929 workers or their families on April 22, on the eve of the first anniversary of the tragedy, from its trust fund.
But, later no new brands deposited money to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund, which has collected $17 million so far against a target of $40 million, according to Roy Ramesh, general secretary to the IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.
Though 29 retailers had promised to contribute to the fund, only nine showed up so far, he said.
IndustriALL Global Union, a federation of global trade unions, initiated the compensation package last year involving the ILO.
“We could not disburse money to around 130 victims due to problems in their documents. They will be compensated after verification,” Ramesh said.
Of the total 3,639 victims, British retailer Primark gave compensation to 580 workers of New Wave Bottoms Ltd, a factory on the second floor of the ill-fated building from where the retailer used to source garment items.
15:46:04 local time INDIA
* Textile mills go in for solar energy projects:
Some power loom units in the district want to install solar energy systems; almost a dozen textile mills have gone in for solar energy plants; and foundries have opted for solar power at least for lighting.
R. Chellappan, Managing Director of Swelect Energy Systems, said here recently that the company has installed over 15 rooftop solar energy systems in Coimbatore for industries. The capacity of each system was about 100 kw.
Though several industries are reluctant to invest in solar energy systems because of the high cost involved, it looks like some have started tapping solar energy.
* Ludhiana’s hosiery industry gets Pakistan’s boost:
In good news for Ludhiana’s hosiery industry, buyers from Pakistan, Dubai and Havana too made their presence felt in the buyer-seller meet of the knitwear and apparel manufacturers association of Ludhiana for the first time.
“It was really encouraging for us to see buyers from Pakistan. They booked orders worth over Rs 2 lakh for woolen garments in this meet. There were buyers from Dubai and Havana apart from over 2,000 buyers from all across the country,” said Sudarshan Jain, president of the Knitwear and Apparel Manufacturers Association of Ludhiana.
He further informed that as dollar has become strong, imports from China have become costlier for buyers in Pakistan. As Pakistan’s fashion industry is not much developed, they are now looking towards India. Participation of Pakistan buyers though in small numbers is an indication of the same.
* Cotton yarn exports expected to be good:
1,082 million kg of cotton yarn exported between April 2013 and January 2014
Cotton yarn exports from the country in 2013-2014 are expected to be about 1,350 million kg, according to the Cotton Textile Export Promotion Council (Texprocil).
Chairman of the council Manikam Ramaswami has said in a press release recently that 1,082 million kg of cotton yarn was exported between April 2013 and January 2014. Every year, the yarn exports drop in April because the volume of exports in the previous months is high and cotton prices usually go up in April.
The domestic textile mills are concerned because of the recent developments in the Chinese cotton policy and since China is the largest importer of cotton and cotton yarn from India.
15:16:04 local time PAKISTAN
* PHMA holds training course on fire safety arrangements:
Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PHMA) organised one-day training course on fire safety arrangements in the industrial units at Faisalabad Garment City Company on Saturday.
Large number of people attended the course. The course was very useful to enhance the level of the expertise of professionals in the industry. Certifying body of the course is HSBC of UK which provides high level of training in different fields.
Participants of the course are required to implement the techniques learnt during the course in their respective factories and submit the implementation report to certifying agencies.
The course remained very useful for the industry and keeping in view its utility and advantage, the course will be held again in Faisalabad on May 31.
* Punjab-based textile industry unable to operate: Tanveer:
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer said an unprecedented fall in textile exports, particularly the basic textiles including yarn and fabric, is clear indication that the Punjab-based textile industry is unable to operate to its potential.
He said some 70% capacity of textile industry is based in Punjab. As per FBS, export data for the month of April against corresponding period exports of cotton yarn and cotton cloth has declined in quantity terms by 25% and 36%, respectively.
Similarly, growth in value-added textiles exports is unimpressive despite GSP plus facility from the EU. He said the prime reason behind the prevailing situation is eight hours a day electricity and 16 hours a day gas load shedding being subjected to the Punjab-based textile mills resulting into closure of 100 mills, both fully and partially, in the province.
In the situation, Textile exports would be merely $13.8 billion against a target of $16 billion envisaged by the industry, if energy shortage continues for next two months, he added.
* Textile exports decline likely to continue:
Massive decline in textile exports in April, both in value and quantity, is alarming and this trend is likely to continue in future unless the industrial crisis is addressed.
Textile exporters have been forewarning the Government about the fast looming crisis, but no steps have so far been taken to ratify the situation.
Talking to media, Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood, Chairman and Adil Tahir, Vice Chairman Pakistan Textile Exporters Association, said achieving target to double the exports appears to be a Herculean task in the perspective of 14.60 percent drop in textile exports in April over the previous month.
Numbers of coming months might be even worse, as the textile industry in Punjab is in grip of severe crisis. Giving details, they said country exported textile goods worth USD1.054 billion in April as against exports of USD1.235 billion in March showing a hectic decline of 14.60%.
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* Textile exports declining due to severe energy crisis:
Exports of the country have declined by about 15 per cent in April as compared to previous month despite free-market access to EU countries under GSP Plus facility, as challenges like prolonged power and gas loadshedding, high interest rate and severe liquidity crunch have not been addressed by the government.
Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association (PRGMEA) (NZ) Senior Vice Chairman Jawwad A Chaudhry has expressed grave concern over the sharp decline in exports and urged the government to take serious cognizance of the issue.
He said this drop in exports would have dire impact on economy with already under pressure current account balance.
He said that sudden surge of around 10% in rupee value against the dollar has disturbed the business cycle of entire textile chain and put a direct inventory loss of billions of rupees. Due to this depreciation, cost of doing-business could not decrease and have sky rocketed. He said that around 30 percent working capital of value-added textile industry is already stuck-up in refund regime creating severe liquidity crunch.
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* Power, gas outages behind steep fall in textile exports:
The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma), Punjab chapter chairman, S.M Tanveer, says an unprecedented fall in textile exports, particularly the basic textiles including yarn and fabric, is clear indication that the Punjab-based textile industry is unable to operate to its potential.
“Some 70 per cent capacity of the textile industry is based in Punjab. As per the FBS, the data for the month of April against the corresponding period shows the exports of cotton yarn and cotton cloth have declined by 25pc and 36pc, respectively,” Mr Tanveer said in a statement on Friday.
Similarly, the growth in value-added textiles exports was unimpressive despite getting the GSP plus facility from the EU, he added.
* Textile exports increased by over 6.5 percent: GSP status starts showing positive results: APTMA chief:
Muhammad Yasin Siddik, Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) said that the European Union’s grant of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status has started showing positive results, as Pakistan’s textile exports for the period July 2013 to April 2014 have increased by over 6.5 percent as compared to the corresponding period of the last year.
In a statement issued to the press, APTMA chairman said that although textile exports for the month of April 2014 were lesser by 6.08 percent or 68.255 million dollars as compared to April 2013 and 14.60 percent or 180.278 million dollars with March 2014 but it would grasp the momentum gradually absorbing the negative repercussions of sudden revaluation of Pak rupee.
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* Textile City to be launched in July, NA body told:
Pakistan Textile City (PCT) project will be launched in July 2014 and very good response is expected from the industrialists.
This was informed by Chairman PCT, Dr. Mirza Ikhtiar Baig during his comprehensive presentation to National Assembly’s standing committee on textile industry at a meeting here, which was chaired by Haji Muhammad Akram Ansari, a press release issued said. The 15-member committee reviewed the progress in work on Pakistan Textile City.
Dr. Mirza Ikhtiar Baig said that Pakistan Textile City is a dedicated textile industrial zone spreading over an area of 1250 acres of land near Port Qasim. The vision behind this project is to develop and operate value-added textile industries.
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* Chinese firm to set up textile industrial zone in Ethiopia: