04:34:27 local time CHINA
* Strikes see a new breed of labour activists: management:
Industrial action on the mainland is being initiated at the top end of the factory floor
Behind the mainland’s biggest strike in decades last month was a new player in labour activism: management.
A previously unpublished account from inside the strike at Taiwanese shoe manufacturer Yue Yuen in Dongguan shows that supervisors were the first to challenge senior plant leaders about the social insurance contributions that became the focus of the dispute. Hong Kong-listed Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings declined to comment.
The involvement of managers underscores the growing complexity and unpredictability of labour relations on the mainland. A generation of long-serving migrant factory employees is starting to retire just as the economy slows and social media makes strikes easier to organise.
Yue Yuen’s strike was not the first time in recent years that managers, rather than frontline workers, helped orchestrate industrial action on the mainland. Managers were also involved in leading a strike at IBM’s facility in Shenzhen in March, according to a worker and another person briefed on the strike. IBM declined to comment.
According to the account compiled by a labour group, a supervisor at Yue Yuen first raised a complaint about the issue of contributions to social insurance in late March, a few weeks before the strike began.
The supervisor and colleagues spread word among workers, who then went to look up their social insurance contributions. The labour group requested anonymity to protect its relationship with Yue Yuen staff.
A Yue Yuen worker, who declined to give his full name, said low-level managers were involved in pressuring workers to return to work once the company agreed to their demands.
03:34:27 local time VIET NAM
* Garment, textile industry promotes cleaner production programme:
The garment and textile industry has taken measures to protect the environment such as implementing cleaner production programme, encouraging enterprises to apply environmental management standards and creating a good workplace for labourers, the Vietnam Economic News reported on May 29.
Like many other producers, Vietnam’s garment and textile industry is facing environment pollution as the dyeing wastewater has a great amount of chemical waste disposal.
Being aware of this issue, many Vietnamese textile enterprises have recently not only built complex wastewater treatment systems but also applied a range of cleaner production measures like Nam Dinh Textile Company, Saigon Textile Company, Nhat Tri and Thuan Thien dyeing facilities.
03:34:27 local time CAMBODIA
* Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality:
Following January’s violent crackdown on Cambodian garment workers, a group of women decided they wanted a new way to draw attention to the workers’ struggle; something different where workers could express for themselves what was really going on.
They decided on a fashion show where workers would model the brand-name clothes they make everyday in the factories, but they’d do it with a very clear message to the brands – stop the violence, stop the exploitation, and pay a decent wage.
The show weaved together fashion, dance, music, and performance art; at one point men dressed in makeshift ‘Joe Fresh’ riot gear took to the catwalk before reenacting January’s violent crackdown and the death of a worker on stage.
Since the brutal crackdowns on Cambodian garment worker protests in January, the media attention has been dominated with stories of the exploitation and violence that these workers, mostly women, face daily.
What’s missing are the stories of how so many of these women are so often finding the bravery and ingenuity to stand up to this oppression. That’s why the recent garment worker event, “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly Reality” was so amazing to see.
* Cambodia: Garment workers parade beautiful clothes, ugly realities:
About 300 garment workers, NGO staff, civil servants and media staged a “fashion show” at the United Sisterhood Alliance-Worker’s Information Center (US-WIC) in Phnom Penh on May 25, called “Beautiful Clothes, Ugly realities”.
As the Cambodian government still bans its opponents from using Freedom Park for protests, the fashion show was seen as a new, creative way of getting across our message.
Realising that if they are silenced by fear and don’t take action, there is no possibility of change for in their lives, Cambodian garment workers confidently took to the catwalk carrying giant US$100 notes which they then tore up.
They then placed the torn strips into different boxes labelled “food”, “water”, “electricity”, “utility”, “transport” and “health” to make the point they are not paid enough to survive.
To meet their basic needs and to support their families, Cambodian garment workers have to work long hours of overtime.
20140601 * Cambodia’s ‘better factories’ are getting a lot worse:
The Southeast Asian nation was once a leader in the drive for cleaner sweatshops. How did mass faintings and union busting become the new normal?
Three months pregnant at the time, Sam Ath doesn’t remember collapsing two months ago at the crowded, muggy garment factory where she works at the southwestern edge of the Cambodian capital.
The 30-year-old woke up in a hospital bed, only to be told that she had fainted alongside some 60 laborers earlier that day. One worker later died.
“I was so weak and exhausted,” she said. “I was uncertain why I fainted. The doctor said nothing about the fainting. My eating was OK.”
The incident, though unsettling, was hardly a big deal for her factory. Sam was quickly sent back to work stitching clothes for Western brands.
Collective swoons have become a regular part of garment industry life in Cambodia, which employs an estimated 400,000 people, mostly women, and is by far the country’s biggest export earner.
Every few weeks, there’s a mass fainting at a factory here. Some 500 people have already collapsed this year. More than 4,000 have dropped unconscious at work over the past four.
So regular are these incidents that one senior government official, Meng Mong, called mass faintings a “normal” part of the industry, even though he said the government is working with several local clinics to address them.
* South Korean Embassy Asks Gov’t to End Strike:
The South Korean Embassy has called on the Labor Ministry to end a strike at a South Korean-owned garment factory in Phnom Penh, where workers are demanding regular raises and better benefits.
Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Suor confirmed Sunday that South Korean Ambassador Kim Han-soo met with Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng on Wednesday to ask for help in ending what the ambassador called an “illegal” strike at the Cambo Handsome factory.
“It is about the illegal strike in the factory,” Mr. Suor said of the meeting, which he did not attend. “The ambassador complained that the workers at the factory continue to do illegal strike and they [the embassy] asked for intervention.
“They want the ministry to comply with the law…to order them to go back to work,” he said.
* Convicts Emerge From Prison With Activist Zeal:
Pang Vanny says that before this year, he never thought of joining protests or fighting for labor rights.
Five months in prison changed that.
Mr. Vanny was arrested on January 3, when military police cracked down a violent demonstration on Veng Sreng Street—part of nationwide garment worker protests demanding a minimum monthly wage of $160.
At least five people were shot dead and more than 40 were injured during the clash, both of which Mr. Vanny denies taking part in.
“It is an injustice what they did to us,” said Mr. Vanny, a soft-spoken 38-year-old who has been working in the garment sector for 10 years. “I will join future protests because of what happened to me.”
Mr. Vanny was among 23 men who were locked up in prison and charged with intentional violence and property damage during the January protests, which dovetailed with demonstrations being led by the opposition CNRP.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down a verdict on Friday, convicting all 23 men with suspended sentences, allowing them to leave the court as free men with criminal records.
* High-profile cases stick to a script:
When a court on Friday granted freedom to 23 activists and workers arrested during a violent garment strike in January, another chapter in what has become a familiar tale was written.
Over the past two years, that tale has involved a series of high-profile cases against government critics, including Yorm Bopha and fellow land rights activists known as the “Boeung Kak 13”, as well as independent broadcaster Mam Sonando. And rarely has it deviated from the same plot.
Rights defenders have been arrested, swiftly convicted and imprisoned, or held in pre-trial detention and convicted later. Charges against them have been widely criticised, both here and overseas, as being “trumped up”.
Eventually, after trials or appeals in which little evidence has been presented and the charges even sometimes changed, the activists have been released to cheering supporters.
* EU welcomes release of 25 protesters:
European Union welcomed the release of 25 protesters including prominent trade union leader Vorn Pov.
The 25 unionists and garment workers were handed suspended sentences in last week’s hearing after they were sentenced to between four months and four years and a half in jail on charges of violence and property damage during the strikes in January 2014 and November 2013.
20140601 * HRW Calls For Cambodia To Quash Convictions Of 25 Activists, Workers:
The Cambodian government should quash the convictions of 25 human rights activists, factory workers, and others for lack of evidence, Human Rights Watch said today.
On May 30, 2014, the Phnom Penh municipal court convicted the defendants in three cases of committing violence during recent demonstrations and imposed suspended sentences of up to four-and-a-half years. While none received prison time, their convictions incur penalties such as a prohibition on serving as union leaders.
“The release of 25 people jailed for political reasons is welcome, but their convictions should be quashed along with their criminal records,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “These politically motivated convictions should not be allowed to stand and provide a false legal pretext for restricting their basic rights.”
Cambodia’s donors should publicly denounce the convictions and call for the defendants to be exonerated. Donors should together demand an end to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party control of the police and courts.
read more. & read more.
20140531 * S. Korea says protest at Cambo Handsome factory is illegal:
South Korean embassy in Cambodia expressed concern and called the protests at Cambo Handsome illegal.
Some 2,000 workers have been protesting since May 22, demanding that the factory employer remove old contract, and provide compensation to them who have been working for about 10 years. They also asked the factory to oust a Cambodian union leader who always threatened and prevented workers from protesting.
Kim Han Soo, South Korean Ambassador to Cambodia, raised the concerns during a recent meeting with Cambodia’s Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng.
Cambodia Handsome implemented undetermined duration contract, not fixed duration contract, said Kim Han Soo, asking the Labor Ministry to take immediate action to stop that illegal protest.
Regarding the issue, Ith Sam Heng said that the ministry would send officials to resolve the issue, and the ministry has already received the complaint from the Cambo Handsome factory.
The ministry would inform the union leaders to resolve the issue as soon as possible, and would take legal action against them if they don’t cooperate.
20140531 * 25 Found Guilty But Released From Prison:
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday convicted 25 people on a raft of charges stemming from three separate garment protests, but the 22 men whose bail had been denied ahead of the trials had their sentences suspended and left the court as free men.
The verdicts bring to an end a months-long legal battle that has placed a spotlight on government efforts to suppress unrest in an industry that employs more than 600,000 people, mostly young women. The unions behind the strikes complain of unlivable wages, a lack of state protection for workers’ rights and factory efforts to limit the freedom to assemble and organize.
What began as a tense morning outside the court—where barriers once again kept protesters at bay—ended in jubilation after the verdicts were rendered just before 9 a.m., as supporters hugged each other and shouted, “We have been successful!”
It did not take long for the orders of release to be carried out. The 22 men were transported in a van from the municipal court to Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1, where they were released before noon. The newly released prisoners were met by about 600 supporters and had jasmine garlands placed around their necks. They swiftly made their way by tuk-tuk in the direction of the Pur Senchey district office, only to be blocked by about 20 district security guards.
“You are dogs, you are bad people,” the marchers shouted. “You do not love your Cambodian people.”
Vorn Pao, a labor leader and the most prominent of the defendants, spoke of the international significance of the trial before being blessed by a group of monks after returning to the headquarters of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA), which he leads.
“Because of pressure from the Cambodian people, markets and international unions to improve the nation’s reputation, the court suspended my sentence,” he said.
“But I will discuss with my lawyer [about appealing the conviction], to get 100 percent justice,” he said.
20140531 * Human rights group welcomes the release of 25 protesters:
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) welcomes today’s decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of First Instance to suspend the sentences of the 25 human rights defenders, activists and protestors arrested during demonstrations in November 2013 and early January 2014 in the Kingdom of Cambodia (“Cambodia”).
In its statement, CCHR said however, CCHR strongly condemns the decision of the judges to convict them despite a complete lack of evidence, and serious violations of their right to a fair trial, as detailed by CCHR ahead of the verdict.
20140530 * Detained Factory Workers in Cambodia Are Released:
A Cambodian court on Friday convicted almost two dozen factory workers and human rights activists for instigating violence during protests early this year but then released them under suspended sentences.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled that the 23 defendants, who had been detained since their arrests in January, had served enough time behind bars and were free to return home.
Human rights groups welcomed their release but criticized the convictions, which carried suspended sentences ranging from one to four and a half years.
They said the ruling was politically motivated to quiet criticism from both the government’s opposition and from Western clothing brands that are made in Cambodia.
The authorities cracked down on the January protests that had been called to demand a higher minimum wage for garment factory workers, leaving at least four people dead. The crackdown drew criticism from human rights groups and drew attention to the conditions of the factory workers, who manufactured clothing for several global brands, including the Gap, H&M and Adidas.
02:34:27 local time BANGLADESH
20140601 * RMG workers protest factory closure in Ctg:
The workers of ‘Ambia Garments’ on Sunday blocked the Airport road at Agrabad Badamtala intersection protesting the closure of their factory and demanding payment of arrears.
Mohammad Arifur Rahman, Inspector of Industrial DB police, said factory owner Abul Hashem announced temporary closure of the factory at about 11:30 am due unavailability of order.
After the announcement, the workers staged demonstrations at the factory protesting the closure decision and demanded payment of their arrears immediately.
The workers later gathered at Agrabad Badamtala intersection at about 1 pm and blocked the road, creating traffic jam on the busy road.
Later, police pacified them at about 2pm.
to read. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Body suggests factory owner-worker consultation to set wage:
The working committee formed by the government to identify problems of the sweater factory workers who work under piece rate system has suggested that factory owners should set rates after consultations with their workers.
To resolve the prevailing disputes over payment on piece-rate basis, the committee on Monday submitted its eight-point recommendations to the labour ministry’s sub-committee.
The working committee recommended that categorisation of grades of the workers should be based on workers’ efficiency, factory owners should pay workers as per the piece rate during pick season, should pay workers on basis of the piece rate or grade, whichever will be higher, during the dull season and should give workers basic pay during off season.
The working committee comprising the representatives of the government, factory owners, workers and labour rights groups made the recommendations after visiting three sweater factories in Dhaka, Narayanganj and Gazipur.
The labour ministry officials said that based on the information gathered during the factory visit by the sub-committee and the recommendations made by the working committee, the sub-committee would prepare the final recommendations within a short time.
After getting the final recommendations the labour ministry will formulate a set of comprehensive guidelines for the sweater and knitwear factory workers who work under piece-rate system.
* BUET experts find 2 RMG factories risky for operation:
They are Hema Sweater in Tongi and Crystal Apparel in Mohakhali
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) experts have identified two apparel factories as structurally flawed and risky after safety assessment.
They are Hema Sweater in Tongi and Crystal Apparel in Mohakhali. Of them, Crystal Apparel was already closed as the building that housed it was found faulty during an Accord inspection earlier. Accord inspected other three factories in the building used by its signatories. The inspection review panel will decide on Hema Sweater only.
For another 25 factories the BUET team recommended detailed engineering assessment. The factories may need some retrofitting works, the experts said.
The recommendations were made on a report submitted by the BUET inspection team to the Department of Factory Inspection and Establishment (DFIE) after inspection of 252 factories.
“The BUET team has red marked two factories and the review panel will sit tomorrow (today) to take decision on Hema Sweater. Other factory has been already been closed after Accord inspection,” Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of DFIE, told the Dhaka Tribune.
* Factory inspection: After closure what?:
Now that the shutting down of noncompliant readymade garment (RMG) factories is apparently the only recourse to demonstrate the government’s vigilance in implementing its action programme, the issue of jobless workers is fast emerging as a serious problem with no other plan of action in sight.
Although closure involves manifold problems, not to mention losing markets overseas, the bottom-line that must not be contested is that a factory that poses safety threat to its workers has to wind up.
In the wake of the global outcry over the working conditions in Bangladesh RMG factories after the Rana Plaza collapse in April last year, the collaborative action plan of overseas retailers, International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the government has seen some progress.
The forum of the North American retailers–Alliance and that of the Europeans — Accord, are presently conducting inspection of the factories from where their members source apparel.
The ILO in collaboration with the government is to inspect the remaining factories. There is confusion over the actual state of factory inspection.
Presently, a number of inspection teams are working simultaneously.
Much of the confusion could have been dispelled if the government or the Bangladesh Garments’ Manufacturers & Exporters Association (BGMEA) could come up with a clear picture on how things are at work, as well as furnish the steps ahead, including information on the number of factories closed, number of workers out of job, and plans for reemployment of the workers.
According to a study conducted by the Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB), some 50,000 workers lost their jobs over the last one year following the closure of apparel units because of work order cancellation by buyers on grounds of compliance deficiency.
Besides, the study mentioned, the buyers’ forum formed to implement compliance recommended shutting down of 13 factories housed at shared buildings.
* The World Cup Football and our RMG:
Although Bangladesh is not a part of the World Cup Football as our national football team is far away from being qualified for the competition, we are still a part of this mega event as many of our ready-made garment factories are producing the jerseys of participating teams which will be worn by millions of football fans all over the world.
It is indeed a proud achievement. Bangladesh has the potential to become number one in the global apparel industry. RMG of our country has huge possibility and we need to explore it to our advantage. This sector alone is enough to wipe out poverty from the country.
Once Bangladesh was dependent on agriculture but now we are moving from it as the ready-made garment has become largest earner of foreign currency. In early 80s there were only a few RMG factories in our country and no one had thought one day it would be a giant sector.
Now the industry, consisting of some 3000 factories, employ directly more than 1.5 million workers of whom almost 80 per cent are females.
The government with its policy and action need to create businesses-friendly environment so that more and more people from home and abroad are encouraged to invest in this lucrative sector. (FE -EDITORIAL).
* BB imposes curb on buyers’, suppliers’ credits for import:
The central bank has imposed a restriction on short-term buyers’ and suppliers’ credits from overseas sources for import to minimise repayment risks.
Under the restriction, the payment will have to be made on a quarterly basis, if the import value exceeds $0.5 million or the loan tenure is more than six months.
The Bangladesh Bank (BB) issued a circular in this connection Sunday and asked all the commercial banks to follow the latest instructions relating to external financing for import through buyers’ and suppliers’ credits.
“We’ve imposed such a restriction on all external short-term buyers’ and suppliers’ credit arrangements to minimise repayment risks and ensure discipline,” a senior official of the BB told the FE.
He also said the central bank allowed buyers’ credit for imports in 2012 to facilitate the country’s overall industrial productions.
The latest BB move has come against the backdrop of the upward trend of deferred import payments in the recent months. The restriction has been put in place, as the trend might create volatility in the local foreign exchange market.
“Use of short-term (up to one year) external import financing for eligible deferred import payment has been increasing over the recent quarters,” the central bank said in its circular.
* Chinese investors may get special economic zone: FBCCI:
Bangladesh will offer either an industrial park or a special economic zone for Chinese investors to invest here in a larger scale during business leaders’ coming China visit, said the FBCCI president here on Sunday.
“Invest and develop your industries here. We promise, we’ll give you an industrial park or a special economic zone. We’ll tell them that Bangladesh is a safe destination for investment,” FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed told a press conference at its conference room.
“We’ll also have a meeting with business leaders in Beijing,” Kazi Akram said.
The FBCCI President said Bangladesh’s export might reach US$ 50 billion within a year if Bangladesh can grab 10 percent share of Japan’s total import.
BGMEA President Atiqul Islam said Japan imports apparels worth US$ 31.78 billion. “It’s a huge… Japan imports only 1.77 percent of its total apparel import from Bangladesh.”
He further said, “We told them to import more from Bangladesh and take it to 10 percent to minimise the huge trade gap (almost 50 percent) that remains in favour of Japan.”
read more. & to read. & read more. & read more.
* Japanese entrepreneurs urged to raise RMG import from Bangladesh:
Bangladesh has urged the Japanese entrepreneurs to raise its import of Readymade Garment (RMG) products from Bangladesh to at least 10 percent from the existing 1.77 percent.
“Japan imports RMG goods worth US$ 31.78 billion from global sources. But it imports only 1.77 percent of its total apparel import from Bangladesh,” M Atiqul Islam, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told a press conference at the conference room of FBCCI here today.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Living with toxic tannery:
There are few signs of reform at Bangladesh’s leather industry where business is booming thanks to the West’s growing demand for cheap leather items.
Living with toxic chemicals, Mokter Hossain loads animal hides into huge drums filled with still more dangerous liquids at a tannery in Hazahribagh in Dhaka.
Barefoot and sick with fever, Hossain stops every now and then to cough, a legacy of the job that his doctors warn could one day kill him.
Hossain’s tannery is one of 200 in Hazaribagh in Dhaka, where some 25,000 workers toil for as little as $50 a month to produce leather for shoes and other goods for stores in Europe and the United States.
Ramon Magsaysay Award-winner Syeda Rizwana Hasan blames a lack of headline-grabbing disasters in the industry that could make consumers think twice about where their shoes and bags are made.
Rizwana Hasan said, “In these tanneries, death comes slowly.” She referred to respiratory problems, cancers, skin diseases and other illnesses that doctors blame on long hours and few safety precautions.
“While Bangladesh garment disasters make headlines across the world, the even more terrible conditions at the tanneries don’t,” she added.
An Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporter recently saw children as young as 14 working inside one tannery, whose floor was awash with chromium effluent and where cow and goat skins caked in salt were stacked in piles.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Human bones, skull found in Rana Plaza site:
Police on Friday recovered some human bones and a skull from the site of Rana Plaza at Savar, on the outskirts of the capital.
Some street urchins found the human remains while playing at the site at about 11:30am.
Later, local people took the human remains from them and informed police.
On information, police rushed in and took the bones and the skull to the police station.
Human bones had been recovered from the collapse site earlier too.
* Auchan faces probe over Bangladesh garment factory collapse:
French prosecutors said Wednesday they have opened a preliminary probe into supermarket giant Auchan over complaints it misled consumers over social conditions at its clothes manufacturers in the wake of last year’s deadly Bangladesh factory disaster.
The prosecutor’s office in the northern city of Lille confirmed that following a complaint by three lobby groups, it had opened a preliminary probe over misleading advertising in the context of the disaster which killed over 1,000 people.
Auchan says it had never placed any orders at the Rana Plaza garment factory which collapsed on April 24 last year after a catastrophic structural failure.
But three lobby groups last month accused Auchan in a complaint of misleading customers about working conditions overseas and claim that an investigation found labels from the chain’s “In Extenso” range in the rubble.
Sherpa, a non profit organisation for the “victims of economic crimes.” Peuples Solidaires (People’s Solidarity), and the Ethique sur l’etiquette (Ethics on Labels) collective, claim a number of witnesses, including some in Bangladesh, are available to provide evidence.
02:04:27 local time INDIA
* Trade unions demand wage board:
The BJP leadership at the Centre has projected itself as being pro-business and industry-friendly. But some say that its grand vision of 10% GDP growth has made the party forget about one crucial aspect of the economy – the labour force.
Trade unions in Gurgaon said that the Centre has as yet kept mum on labour policy reforms which have been long overdue in this country.
“The fact that they haven’t got anyone to head the labour ministry sends across a bad signal. This means this government aims to carry forward the anti-labour policies of the previous one,” said Satvir Singh, secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Union’s district committee.
Singh said that the need of the hour is to set up a minimum wage advisory board for this region. “The government should also think seriously about implementing the existing labour laws, if not revising them for the benefit of the workers,” he said.
* Centre of Indian Trade Unions opposes move for 100% FDI in defence production:
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions today said it is against a government proposal to raise the FDI limit to 100 per cent in the defence sector because that will be “totally detrimental” to indigenous production.
“Such move (the government proposal to raise FDI in the defence sector to 100 per cent) is totally detrimental to the interest of the indigenous defence production network, mainly under government department and PSU’s, and also to national security management and preparedness,” the CITU said in a statement.
* Mills reject demand to cut yarn prices:
Textile spinning mills in the region have rejected the demand from garment manufacturers in Tirupur for a cut in the prices of cotton yarn.
Garment makers want mills to reduce yarn prices by 10 per kg for all counts citing the lifting of power cut in the state.
“It is a time for spinning mills to revise their pricing strategy accordingly, as it was being mentioned that the increased power cost was the reason, apart from (high) cotton prices, for the increase in yarn prices,” said A Sakthivel, president, Tirupur Exporters’ Association, in a letter to the heads of textile mills’ associations.
Textile mills in the region would be able to save 15%-20% in power costs following the lifting of peak hour restrictions and the 20% power cut imposed TNNHT (high tension) units.
Power accounts for about 12% of the overall costs in textile mills, which have been managing the shortage by using generators and by resorting to power purchase from third parties.
* Blame game begins after fire in Surat textile market:
After over 15 hours and Rs 400 crore worth property damage, the massive fire outbreak at the multi-storeyed Orchid Textile Market in Sahara Darwaja area of Surat might have ended but the blame game has begun.
Both the textile trading community in the synthetic textile industry hub and the local authorities are blaming each other for the third brigade call in a month. According to Pankaj Patel, chief fire officer at Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), a brigade call is given when a fire outbreak becomes uncontrollable.
But first, the statistics. There are roughly around 250 multi-storeyed buildings that act as textile markets. Each of these buildings house textile trading units or godowns (or both) ranging from anywhere between 200 and 5000. Over 95 per cent of these textile markets are located on the 3 km stretch of Delhi Darwaja (Gate) – Udhna Darwaja (Gate).
War of words has ensued over who is responsible for the spate of fire outbreaks. “Both the developer and textile traders are at fault here. Either there is inadequate fire safety measures ensured in the buildings or the security personnel are not trained enough,” said another senior fire and emergency services officer.
01:34:27 local time PAKISTAN
* Call for same labour laws for men, women :
Speakers at a convention on women workers rights were unanimous in their demands that labour laws should be the same for male and female workers and the draft bill on Home Based Workers (HBWs) should be passed without delay.
They also unanimously demanded to make the uplift plan for workers in informal sector a part of the manifestos of all political parties; fix minimum wages of HBWs and acknowledge them as workers; grant female agricultural workers the right to form unions; and give them lands instead of cash grants. Women workers should also be offered soft loans on a preferential basis, it was demanded.
The demands were made at a one-day “Convention of Women Workers” which was organized by HomeNet Pakistan under Gender Equity Programme (GEP) implemented in collaboration with Aurat Foundation (AF) and supported by USAID.
Those who participated in the convention included activists, union leaders, civil society organizations, public policy experts, officers from labour department, HBWs, politicians and female MPAs from the Punjab Assembly.
The participants discussed various problems faced by women workers and stressed that they should be recognized as labour. They said the work they perform in different sectors of economy is taken forgranted and they are not entitled to have social security cover, EOBI cards and other benefits availed by their male counterparts.
* A Pakistani’s perspective: Why Bangladesh is doing better than Pakistan:
From a western perspective, it makes eminent economic sense to outsource garment manufacturing to countries with 1/20th of its minimum wage rates. The cost reduces dramatically and profits go through the roof.
Last year, the West spent $200 billion on sourcing cheap garments from the developing world. The same were retailed for $1.0 trillion back home.
This forms the very basis for global apparel trade.
Bangladesh earned $21 billion of revenues last year by exporting garments to the West. We earned $2.6 billion. This brought 90% of Bangladesh’s foreign exchange earnings.
The industry currently employs 13 million people. That’s almost 10% of its population and 20% of its labour force. What’s even more impressive is Bangladesh’s continuous growth. In 2002, Pakistan and Bangladesh had identical export earnings from garments at $2.5 billion each.
A 2011 Deloitte-Touche study predicts that Bangladesh’s garment industry shall rise to $40 billion by 2018. Few doubt this number. Even industrial disasters – such as Rana Plaza’s collapse last year that killed more than 1,200 workers or the fire at Tazreen shirt factory a year before that killed 112 – appear but small bumps on its road to growth.
The Bangladeshi garment workers drive hard wage bargains too. Often they ransack factories and go on strikes. They have a strong case.
A trouser exported at $7.50 is retailed for $50. It contains $0.3 of labour component. Doubling the wages would hardly dent the profits of the western retailers; so goes their argument.
The owners can pass these extra cents to the western buyers. Historically, this argument has always won. Since 2005, when their minimum wages stood at $18 per month, they have fought long and hard and won raises every two years.
After last year’s successful standoff, their wages stand at $65 per month. Surprisingly, even these hikes have not stymied growth; the export numbers have kept increasing. This only tells how abysmally low and inconsequential the wages had been to begin with.
* Suraj Textiles plans 50MW solar power plant:
The management of Suraj Textile Mills Limited plans to make long-term equity investment of up to Rs50 million in the solar power projects by way of acquisition of 5,000,000 ordinary shares of Rs10 each of the proposed S2 Solar Limited, an official document revealed.
A new company in the name of ‘S2 Solar Limited’ will be formed. Based on the initial study, the company is expecting per megawatt cost of $1.5 million. Total investment has been estimated at $75 million approximately with equity investment of 20 percent of the total project cost, while the rest will be financed by obtaining loan, it showed.
* Value-added textile industry: New projects to ramp up demand for skilled workers:
With the establishment of the Quaid-i-Azam Apparel Park in Sheikhupura and Garment City in Faisalabad, the value-added textile chain’s demand for skilled workforce will touch 400,000 people annually, industry gurus believe.
This makes it all the more necessary to train new as well as existing workforce to cope with future challenges and meet demand that surges after the grant of Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union.
At present, they say, the value-added textile sector has a shortage of at least 40,000 skilled workers, including 20,000 in Karachi, 10,000 in Lahore, 5,000 each in Faisalabad and Sialkot.
Looking at the shortage of skilled workers, Turkish experts have offered cooperation in developing the skills of Pakistani labourers.
“Turkey will cooperate in upgrading the textile curricula in addition to providing experts and master-trainers to improve overall skills and expertise of the Pakistani workforce,” said Mustafa Giray Tezel, country coordinator of Turkish International Cooperation Agency.
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* Turkish experts to train textile workers:
The Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TIKA) will extend cooperation to improve the overall skill and expertise of the Pakistani workforce in the value-added textile sector.
This was stated by TIKA Country Coordinator for Pakistan Mustfa Giray Tezel during a meeting with the executive committee members of the Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) here on Saturday.
Mr Tezel said his country would cooperate in upgrading of textile curricula in addition to providing experts and master trainers to improve the overall skill and expertise of the Pakistani workforce.
“We would arrange Turkish experts to impart training to the Pakistani workforce in order to fulfill the requirement of local industrial textile units especially those engaged in export to European countries,” said Mr Tezel who was leading a TIKA delegation.
Earlier, PRGMEA executive committee members informed the TIKA delegation that the value-added textile sector of Pakistan was facing shortage of at least 40,000 skilled workers annually and after establishment of Quaid-i-Azam Apparel Park in Sheikhupura and the garment city in Faisalabad, the requirement will touch the level of 400,000 skilled labour per annum.
* Textile policy should be progressive, realistic: PTEA:
New five-year textile policy should encapsulate the entire textile spectrum providing directions for financial and industrial facilities as well as removing hurdles and provision of necessary incentives to enhance the textile exports to $26 billion by 2019.
Talking to newsmen, Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood Chairman and Adil Tahir, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) said that textile policy should be progressive and realistic as GSP plus trade incentives had opened a big window of opportunity for Pakistan to not only push up its textile exports to the world but also produce a trade surplus to help the government overcome its trade deficit.
* Textile policy after June 30: minister:
Federal Minister for Textile Industry Abbas Khan Afridi has said that next five-year textile policy for 2014-19 would be announced after June 30, however, its several major points will be incorporated in the upcoming budget.
Addressing a news briefing on Friday after a ‘Consultative Conference on Textile Policy- 2014-19’ at a local hotel, he said that the new textile policy 2014-19 will address genuine concerns of the industry with innovation and extraordinary solutions. He stated that the budget will announce incentives for the garment industry with a view to get benefit of GSP Plus status to Pakistan.
The minister said that textile sector was an engine of growth for creating employment and increasing exports and this sector might not be seen for revenue collection only. The conference was attended by representatives of textile sector including APTMA Punjab chairman SM Tanveer, group leader Gohar Ijaz, PRGMEA chief coordinator Ijaz Khokhar, senior vice chairman north zone Jawwad Ch and several other industry representatives.
* New textile policy to also focus handmade carpet sector: Secretary :
Federal Secretary Ministry of Textile Industry, Rukhsana Shah on Saturday said that government was determined to facilitate hand-knotted carpet industry to enhance trade volume for economic stability and growth.
Talking to the members of Pakistan Carpet Manufacturers & Exporters Association along with the delegation of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) who visited PCMEA office on Saturday, she said that the government was going to announce the new textile policy 2014-19, incorporating the major issues of carpet industry, to focus on infrastructural development, research, skill development and to enhance the product development centres in the country.
Rukhsana said that the govt believes on consultation process to get onboard all the stakeholders to evolve consensus on coming textile policy, including the carpet sector which is also part of textile ministry. She said that shortage of skilled manpower and practicing old methods in carpet industry was main barrier to achieve targets and enhance trade volume at international markets.
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* Govt set to increase tax on textile products:
In a move akin to straying into a political mine field, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is said to have cleared a budget proposal to increase tax rates on domestic sales of textile products. The move is aimed at plugging revenue leakages and fetching Rs20 billion in taxes.
The premier has cleared the proposal to increase tax rates at yarn stage from 2% to 5% and at fabric stage from 3% to 5% from fiscal year 2014-15, finance ministry sources said. The rate at the garment stage will remain the same at 5%, they added.
The decision was taken to discourage tax evasion as 90% of textile production is cleared at yarn stage by paying only 2% tax, according to ministry sources. They said the purpose of rationalising the rates was to capture the evasion at the domestic stage.
* Textile value-added sector opposes sales tax on exports:
The value-added textile sector has taken strong exception to the government proposal of imposing 5.5 per cent sales tax on its exports in the budget 2014-15.
Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea) Zonal Chairman South Arshad Aziz, Towel Manufacturers Association (TMA) Senior Vice-Chairman Iftikhar Ahmed Malik, Pakistan Cloth Merchants’ Association (PCMA) Chairman Abid Chinoy and Irfan Z Bawany of Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA) talking to Dawn on Saturday said that the move would be disastrous and further put them at disadvantage against regional rivals.
* Leading export-oriented sectors against increase in ST rates:
The five leading export-oriented sectors, particularly textile sector are strongly agitating against a possible increase in sales tax rates on textile, leather, carpets, surgical and sports goods in the FY2014-15 budget though the Ministry of Textile and Industry has proposed zero-percent sales tax on the sector.
During a budget preparation exercise for 2014-15, the Federal Board of Revenue proposed that sales tax rate of industrial input to be raised from two percent and three percent to five percent. The sales tax rates for finished products are proposed to be increased from five to 17 percent.
Likewise, supplies made to unregistered persons may attract 17 percent sales tax instead of any other reduced rate. The sales tax rate of value-addition sales tax on commercial importers has been proposed to be increased from two to three percent, sources said.
* Textile industry concerned over possible change in RGST:
Spokesman APTMA said the textile industry across the value chain has lodged serious concern over a possible change in the existing Reduced Rate Regime of Sales Tax in the upcoming budget.
He said it is being widely apprehended that the government considers introducing Increased Rate Regime for Sales Tax in the budget 2014-15 for the entire textile industry value chain output irrespective of direct exports or through domestic sales for export purposes and subsequent payment in the shape of refunds.
Spokesman APTMA said the refund regime has already proved inefficient, blocking liquidity of industry and inducing corruption, misuse of the system under which the government pays more refunds than due at times. He said liquidity worth Rs 270 billion of the industry, based on direct exports, across the value chain would be stuck up in the system if Sales Tax rate is fixed at 5%.
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* Sialkot: textile sector seeks an end to power, gas crises:
Sialkot’s value-added textile sector at a second round of consultations with the Federal Textile Minister Abass Khan Afridi has sought incentives and an end to the power and gas crisis to help increase its annual apparel exports to $700 million.
At a meeting held on Friday in Lahore, representatives of textile sector from Sialkot asked the minister to help the stakeholders establish processing and weaving industrial units in the remote areas of the city.
* Tanneries ask govt to drop tax on raw hide:
Pakistan Tanners Association has asked the government to include raw hide and skin in the sixth schedule of Sales Tax Act, 1990 like Phutti (raw cotton) to fulfill the domestic needs of the leather sector, which is the second largest exporting sector of Pakistan.
Chairman PTA Saqib Saeed Masood said if this happens, leather products exporters might avail exemption from the sales tax and could play their vital role in propelling export. The leather industry earns the country the annual export revenue of $1.14 billion. It provides jobs to one million people and is the mother industry of leather garment, footwear, glove and other leather good, he said. Sheikh Masood said Pakistan produces one of the world’s finest quality leather products.
He said if the government provides level-playing field, the leather industry can reach worth three billion dollars in the next three years. The tanners chief said the industry contributes billions of rupees towards national exchequer through customs duty, sales tax, income tax, withholding tax, EDS, tax on services, employees’ old age benefits, social security etc.
During the last six years, the leather exporters paid $15.81 million in EDS i.e. approximately $2.63 million per annum.
* Footprints: Made in Pakistan :
The closest to Syed Tasawar Hussain’s craft is a spider busily weaving a web.
Hussain, 28, sits in a hall at Phedra, a sports goods factory in Sialkot’s Industrial Estate. Every now and then, he pulls out a hexagonal leatherite panel to stitch into the patchwork that is a football’s skin.
Eighteen years of stitching footballs has synchronised Hussain’s hands and mind into a needlework sequence that is impressive in its precision. He thrusts needles held in both hands into alternate holes, stitch after deft stitch. He finishes with a tight pull at the twine, neatly suturing the hexagonal panels together.
“Football stitch-work has spread out from Sialkot into surrounding districts,” says Hussain, inserting a bladder in the football body, synchronising the hole in the bladder with the one in the football coat and beginning the “toughest part of his job”: stitching together the last two of the 32 panels. “Labour is cheap elsewhere. Workers from all over also come here.”
01:34:27 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Forced Child Labour in Uzbekistan:
* Tell Forever 21 to Stop Forced Child Labor in Cotton!:
The government of Uzbekistan continues to remove millions of children across the country from school and force them to pick cotton during the harvest season.
While over 70 of the world’s largest apparel brands and retailers have developed policies related to Uzbek cotton, Forever 21 has remained silent.
While Forever 21 says that it “enters into a comprehensive agreement with each of [its] suppliers and vendors under which they promise to utilize legally qualified workers,” this company has not publicly addressed the unique state-sponsored practice of forced child labor in Uzbekistan nor has it provided any information about how it ensures that its suppliers do not use Uzbek cotton tainted by these egregious human rights abuses.
So far, Forever 21 has refused to support human rights and speak out against forced child labor in the cotton industry, unlike its top competitors like Abercrombie & Fitch, the Gap and Levi’s.
read more & please sign the petition.