“We have to stop treating the garment workers as the untouchables. “
That wrote the Financial Express (BD) some time ago.
Has much has changed for the garment workers ?
08:07:05 local time CHINA
* Textile Export Increase Continued at Slower Pace:
On 8th May, the Customs published export and import statistics in the first four months of 2014, showing slight decline in total export & import value, and narrowed decline rate in April.
Although textile and apparel export continued to increase, total export value of the first four months was 81.884 billion USD, 2.14% up Y/Y, the increase rate was 14.36% less than the corresponding time last year.
In April, export value of textile and apparel totaled 23.754 billion USD, 6.61% up Y/Y, the increase rate was 4.86 point less than last month, and 11.91 point less than last April; the increase rate over the month was 27.45%, 43.93 point less than last month’s increase, and 5.81% less than last year.
08:07:05 local time PHILIPPINES
* ‘Aquino gov’t’s criminal neglect of occupational safety results in workplace massacres’ – Women, Labor groups:
“The government’s refusal to criminalize and prosecute safety violations consigns our defenseless women workers to modern day slavery. The Philippines will always be the worst place in the world for workers as DoLE stands idly by and merely counts dead women in killer workplaces.” – Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi de Jesus
Women’s group Gabriela and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) joined forces in a picket in front of the national office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in Intramuros, Manila, June 4, Wednesday to condemn what they call as “workplace massacre” under the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III.
They carried a big black banner with the words “Katarungan para sa walong manggagawang namatay sa sunog!” (Justice for the eight workers who died in a fire!) and placed lighted candles on the sidewalk to amplify their call for justice. The eight women workers died when a padlocked electronics warehouse burned down in Pasay City on May 30.
Juanito Go, the owner of the electronics shop Asia Metro Tech Inc., allegedly padlocked the doors of the warehouse, thus, when the fire broke out, eight women workers suffocated to death. Other women workers were able break out of the warehouse.
“We call for justice for the eight workers who died because of last Friday’s fire, and for all workers who died because of the Aquino government’s criminal neglect of occupational health and safety. The number of deaths in the workplace under Aquino already amounts to a massacre,” said Nenita Gonzaga, KMU vice-chair for women’s affairs.
Still one of the worst places in the world
“What happened to the eight female workers who died in Pasay is a reflection of the situation of thousands of workers who suffer dreadful working conditions. This is proof of the continuous neglect of DoLE and the Aquino government,” said Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador.
07:07:05 local time VIET NAM
* Minimum wage should reflect bigger picture:
Workers produce shoes at the Pou Yuen Viet Nam Company in HCM City. Experts have said minimum wage adjustments should take into account regional discrepancies and costs to employers. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu
The Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) has recommended that the regional minimum wages be increased by 10-12 per cent next year, lower than the 15.2 per cent adjustment this year.
The recommendation was made public at a workshop held yesterday to discuss employers’ attitudes towards minimum wages for 2015.
The chamber also said the minimum wage should be carefully adjusted, taking into account the financial burden on employers during economic downturns.
Apart from the chamber, others at the function included the Viet Nam Co-operative Alliance, Viet Nam Association of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Viet Nam Garment and Textile Association.
Vi Thi Hong Minh, deputy director of the Employers’ Bureau at VCCI, said the recommendation to raise wages by up to 12 per cent was based on Viet Nam’s GDP growth, inflation and the average living standards of the people.
According to VCCI, the growth rate of regional minimum wages was equivalent to that of Consumer Price Index (CPI) in 2010-2011, but three times higher than CPI growth since 2012.
Regional minimum wages grew on average by 9.9 per cent in 2010 and leapt by 30.1 per cent in 2012. However, Minh said this was not reasonable and placed huge burdens on struggling companies.
The increase in minimum wages, however, was more carefully adjusted this year at 15.2 per cent on average.
* Garment exports hit US$7.44 billion:
Garment and textile exports increased 17% to US$7.44 billion in the first five months of this year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).
MoIT Deputy Minister Do Thang Hai reported that from January to May 2014, domestic garment production experienced a decline due to disturbances in industrial zones in a number of provinces and cities.
He suggested local firms seize opportunities offered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to take a proactive role in ensuring adequate supply of input materials and reducing import value.
In the wake of tensions in the East Sea, the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) has asked businesses to seek other potential markets to avoid reliance on imported input from China.
Garment producers should keep a close watch on such promising market as Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, and the Republic of Korea, said VITAS.
to read in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 5/6. & read more.
* Thousands of foreign experts return to work in Binh Duong:
More than 2,100 out of 2,650 foreign experts have returned to their work in industrial zones in the southern province of Binh Duong as almost all riot-affected enterprises have resumed operation.
The information was revealed by Tran Van Lieu, head of the provincial management board of industrial zones (IZs) at a press briefing on the province’s socio-economic development situation on June 4.
read more. & to read.
07:07:05 local time CAMBODIA
* Garment Workers Vow to Continue Protesting:
About 300 workers from the Ocean Garment Factory in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district were again blocked from protesting outside the Labor Ministry Thursday as talks between factory owners and workers reached another deadlock, according to union representatives and authorities.
Production at the factory, which makes clothes for brands including Gap, was suspended between May 26 and June 26 due to subsiding orders. Factory bosses offered workers $15 for the month while workers have been demanding half their salary.
In a rerun of Tuesday’s attempt, workers began marching to the Labor Ministry at about 7:30 a.m. but were blocked about a kilometer from the factory, this time by a second row of police after having broken through the first barrier by following a number of cars and motorbikes that were ushered through.
After another brief standoff with police, the 300 workers returned to the factory where discussions between factory owners and workers reached another impasse.
Unionists were defiant Thursday and vowed to reach the Labor Ministry and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet today by vehicles.
“We will take tuk tuks, motorbikes or trucks to visit the Ministry of Labor and the Prime Minister to ask them to intervene and find a solution for us,” said Huon Vanna, a representative from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.
* Workers’ march halted:
For the second time this week, hundreds of garment workers were blocked yesterday from marching from their Por Sen Chey district factory to the Ministry of Labour to call for its intervention after a hefty wage cut instated last month.
Ocean Garment factory staff cited insufficient orders as the reason why workers would receive only $15 a month between May 24 and June 26.Since February, men and women staffing garment factories throughout the country have earned a minimum wage of $100 per month.
* 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.
“Before the government decided to give us only $95, but after the workers’ demand movement, the government agreed to pay us more—and we will continue to make demands until we can live in dignity,” she said.
The show soon transitioned into a more openly political segment, with the garment-worker models re-emerging onto the catwalk to present a list of problems faced by workers on the current $100 basic monthly wage.
Wearing white shirts and red bandanas, the women presented grievances including “forced overtime,” “fixed duration contracts” and “health risks.”
* Working Cambodian Women ”Too Poor” to Have Children:
The movement for reproductive justice sees women’s decision to have – or not have – children as a fundamental right. Should they choose to bear a child, women should have the right to care and provide for them; if they opt not to give birth, family planning services should be made available to enable women to space or prevent pregnancies.
In Cambodia, where women make up 60 percent of the population of 14 million people, this fundamental right is being trampled by insecure labour contracts, toxic working conditions and a near-total absence of maternity benefits for working mothers.
Take Cambodia’s garments industry, a massive sector that accounts for 80 percent of the country’s exports. A full 90% of the workforce is female, but labour rights have not accompanied employment opportunities.
Ever since the country entered into a liberalising agreement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2005, long-term contracts have been edged out in favour of short term or fixed duration contracts (FDCs), the latter being far more popular among East Asian factory owners and western clothing brands like Gap, Walmart and H&M.
These informal arrangements “abuse garment workers’ reproductive rights,” Sophea Chrek, a former garment worker and technical assistant to the Workers Information Center (WIC) – which recently staged a fashion show to highlight the issue – told IPS.
20140605 * Union Boss Called In for Further Questioning:
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summoned union leader Ath Thorn for a second round of questioning over his alleged incitement of garment workers at a Phnom Penh factory in November.
A bystander was fatally shot during the incident after workers started throwing rocks and police responded by firing live rounds.
Mr. Thorn, president of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, denied the incitement allegation during questioning in early April.
On Wednesday, court clerk Srey Sansakney said Mr. Thorn had been summoned to appear again on Monday, before hanging up. Mr. Thorn’s lawyer, Kim Socheat, said the court had since agreed to his request to postpone the questioning by a week.
“We asked the court that he [Mr. Thorn] not attend court on June 9 because he will be in Preah Sihanouk Province doing his work,” Mr. Socheat said.
“The court agreed with our request that we attend on June 16.”
* When justice is a prisoner:
In January, the government engaged in a violent crackdown on growing labour and opposition protests in and around Phnom Penh, resulting in the death of five people.
Military forces and police also beat up protesters, and arrested 23 of them over the course of two days. Those arrested, including four prominent human rights defenders, are now known as “the 23”.
The violence and arbitrary nature of their arrests, their five-month detention and the recent court verdicts finding them guilty illustrate the intolerance of the government towards anyone threatening its economic interests or its legitimacy.
Last Friday, judges announced the 23 had all been found guilty of acts of violence and related charges, and sentenced them to between one and four and a half years’ imprisonment.
However, all sentences were suspended and the 23 were released the same day, in part due to growing pressure from international brands, international unions and international and local civil society.
Brands such as H&M, Gap and Levi Strauss are important buyers for Cambodian factories and represent crucial economic interests, with the garment industry’s exports exceeding $4 billion in the first nine months of 2013 alone.
While it was heart-warming to see the mothers, fathers, wives and friends of the 23 cry with relief after learning that their loved ones would be set free and reunited with their families, their release should not overshadow the core issue that these verdicts represent and that is symptomatic of Cambodia’s judiciary: a lack of independence used by the government as a tool to suppress opposition voices.
20140605 * 19 of Released 23 Return to Prison for Prayers:
Labor leader Vorn Pao, along with 18 other members of “the 23” garment workers, unionists and protesters released from prison last week, returned Wednesday to the correctional center where they were detained for more than five months to pray to the spirit that helped secure their freedom.
The group held the traditional ceremony, known as Lea Bamnon, in the prison campus, offering up chicken, pigs and fruits to the shrine of Yeay Mao, a powerful local spirit.
“We gave thanks to Yeay Mao for helping lobby the court to get us out of prison,” Mr. Pao said.
“I am very happy I was freed from prison and I will continue to demand proper living wages for the garment workers.”
20140604 * GMAC offers training on how to terminate labor contracts:
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) says it will hold two one-day training courses next week on procedures for terminating labor contracts.
Some employees and employers are “confused” about the differences between contracts of specified duration and those of non-specified duration, the association said.
“GMAC is organizing the course in order to enlarge knowledge and explain about the labor contracts to members and other relevant parties,” it added.
The association said the first one-day course would be held in English in Phnom Penh next Monday while the second would be held in Khmer in Sihanoukville on Friday.
* BetterFactories Media updates 31 May – 5 June 2014, Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future:
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
2014-06-02 High-profile cases stick to a script
2014-06-03 Medical trips await 9 of 23
2014-06-04 A factory or family dilemma
2014-06-04 Factory faintings back on rise
2014-06-04 Out of jail, garment worker sees uncertain future
2014-06-04 Protest blocked workers at factory seek full salaries
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2014-05-31-06-01 25 found guilty but released from prison
2014-06-02 Convicts emerge from prison with activist zeal
2014-06-02 S Korea Embassy asks gov’t to end strike
2014-06-03 S Korea denies asking gov’t to stop strike
2014-06-04 After jail, Pov gains following
2014-06-04 Garment worker strike after factory faintings, secure demands
2014-06-04 Workers’ march blocked in Ocean factory dispute
2014-06-05 Union boss called in for further questioning
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
08:07:05 local time INDONESIA
* Indonesia Employers Seek to Cap Wage Gains as Labor Costs Climb:
Indonesia’s main employer group is seeking to cap wage gains well below what authorities and unions have sought in recent years, raising the risk of labor disputes that would test the country’s next leader.
The association, known as Apindo, wants to limit increases in the minimum wage next year to 1 or 2 percentage points above inflation, as a new social security program will add to costs for employers, Chairman Sofjan Wanandi said in an interview yesterday.
The government said last year it planned to set a cap of 10 percentage points above price gains, and the minimum pay in the capital rose 11 percent this year.
The country’s next president will take the reins of Southeast Asia’s largest economy in October, with annual wage negotiations usually due to be concluded in the final quarter.
Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, who approved a 2014 minimum-wage gain below the 50 percent level demanded by local workers, is the poll favorite to win the leadership election in July.
“Our costs will increase next year to pay social security for employees,” said Wanandi, who estimates the new program to fund health care, pensions and insurance coverage for workers could mean additional costs of more than 30 percent of salaries.
“We can’t avoid layoffs” if wages rise more than the 2 percentage points above inflation, he said.
Last year saw minimum wage gains of 44 percent in Jakarta, leading employers to cut 200,000 jobs, Wanandi said.
* ‘Indonesian textile sector should improve competitiveness’:
06:37:05 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Minimum wage to be announced by year-end:
Myanmar’s minimum wage will be announced in December, Htin Aung, deputy minister for labour, employment and social security, told parliament on Monday.
He reiterated that the government enacted a minimum wage law to ensure workers and their families could survive on a basic wage. The minimum wage is also intended to make workplaces more efficient and promote competitiveness, he said while presenting a report by a committee reviewing the rights of employees and employers.
Members of the national committee for setting a minimum wage held their first coordination meeting with region and state government ministers and ILO representatives from Yangon.
Respective region/state committees, including the Union committee, will conduct surveys in their areas to help set the minimum wage. The surveys will be submitted to the national committee the end of this month
“Plans are under way to set the minimum wage by the national committee in August,” Htin Aung said.
* Garment sector sees more investment:
Six foreign invested and three local invested firms were given the green light to invest at the first meeting of newly-reorganised Myanmar Investment Commission on May 31.
The meeting was held at Yangon Region branch with 43 items on the agenda, including investment proposals.
The companies receiving approval included garment makers, surgical-equipment producers and a petroleum distributor. They were from Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and China.
06:07:05 local time BANGLADESH
20140604 * Savar workers’ colony catches fire- 20 injured:
A fire has broken out at a workers’ colony in Narsinghpur Sarkar Market area in Savar, on the outskirts of the capital, on Wednesday morning.
The fire broke out around 10am, however, the reason behind the fire could not be identified immediately.
Dhaka Fire Service Control Room Duty Officer Ziaur Rahman confirmed about the fire to the Dhaka Tribune.
He said: “Six units from Dhaka Export Processing Zone and Tongi fire service station are trying to douse the fire.”
to read. & read more. & to read.
* Experts yet to reach consensus on concrete strength in RMG factory building:
Local experts and those appointed by the western retailers’ are yet to reach a consensus on the requirements of concrete strength in the buildings for safety assessment programmes, sources said.
Technical experts from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), Accord and Alliance held their second meeting Wednesday over the row but failed to come to a settlement, they added.
Earlier on May 15, the technical experts had their discussions on the issue.
The experts will sit again shortly with more documentations to resolve the issue, they added.
Following the row between the local and foreign experts, the government official review committee has stopped visiting the readymade garment (RMG) factories that have been identified as risky ones especially by the Accord inspection teams, they mentioned.
The official review committee comprising four engineers, one each from the Accord and the Alliance and two from BUET, Inspector General of DIFE and a BGMEA leader re-assessed the manufacturing unit following the western retailers’ findings of serious structural flaws.
Unanimous decision is required for suspending production at any garment unit or declaring any factory shut.
* Apparel, textiles to get tax benefits as Muhith rolls out budget:
Finance minister has proposed reduction of tax at source and duty withdrawal for the imports of prefabricated building raw materials and safety equipment as the textile and clothing industry struggles to meet global retailers’ standards.
The finance minister has proposed the reduction of tax at source from 0.80 per cent to 0.30 per cent for the garment exports while proposed to reduce it to 0.60 per cent for all other exports.
“To encourage the export sector, I propose to reduce the rate of tax at source on Cash Incentive from 5 per cent to 3 per cent,” the minister said in his budget speech.
These preferential rates will remain effective up to 30 June, 2015.
In order to help create favourable production environment compatible with international standards, the budget has also proposed conditional duty waiver for import of raw materials necessary for setting up prefabricated buildings.
read more. & read more.
* Duty-free import of fire safety equipment in RMG sector:
Muhith also proposed to duty cut on some RMG raw materials to 5% from existing 10% while 3% on artificial staple fiber from existing 5%
Finance minister AMA Muhith has proposed duty-free import of the prefabricated building materials and fire safety equipments for the RMG sector for factory relocation and also for bringing improvement in fire safety standards.
Muhith also proposed to duty cut on some RMG raw materials to 5% from existing 10% while 3% on artificial staple fiber from existing 5%.
* Duty exemption to make RMG units compliant:
Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Thursday proposed duty exemption on raw materials necessary for the manufacture of prefabricated buildings and all fire equipments to make the country’s garment factories compliant.
He also proposed deduction of tax at source on cash incentive and duty waiver on some raw materials used in textile industry.
‘In order to help create favourable production environment compatible with international standards, it is proposed to allow the export-oriented readymade garment sector to import without duties on certain conditions the raw materials necessary for the manufacture of prefabricated buildings,’ Muhith said while placing proposed national budget for the financial year 2014-15 in the parliament.
‘The existing duties on fire resistant door, emergency light, sprinkler system, etc are being proposed to be fully exempted in order to ensure internal security and compliance of standards by the RMG sector,’ said the finance minister.
read more. & read more.
* RMG owners asked to pay wages, bonus before Eid:
State Minister for Labour and Employment Md Mujibul Haque Chunnu on Wednesday asked the garment owners to pay their wages and bonus before the holly Eid-ul-Fitr.
The junior minister gave the directive at a meeting of ‘Crisis Management Core Committee’ with garment association leaders and workers at his office.
After the meeting, the minister told reporters that he asked the garment owners not to go for the retrenchment of workers before the Eid.
read more. & read more.
* Business brass to urge China to ramp up BD garment imports:
Bangladeshi business leaders will urge their Chinese counterparts to bump up apparel imports from Bangladesh, helping to raise the share to at least 10 per cent, the head of the country’s apex trade body said.
“China imports apparel products worth US$ 30 billion annually. But it imports less than one per cent of its total apparel from Bangladesh,” president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed told the FE Wednesday.
“We will request Chinese businessmen to import at least 10 per cent of their total garment imports from Bangladesh as we accompany the prime minister during her China trip,” he said.
* Garment accessories makers fear missing export target this fiscal:
Local apparel accessories and packaging makers might not achieve the target set for the fiscal year, hurt by last year’s political unrest and global economic recession, industry leaders said.
“We exported $3.90 billion in ten months to April, but it is highly unlikely that we can meet the current fiscal’s target of $ 5.00 billion,” Bangladesh Garment Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGAPMEA) president Rafez Alam Chowdhury said.
* Tesco suffers worst sales slump in ’40 years’:
Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco suffered its largest quarterly drop in sales for four decades, it said on Wednesday, hit by supermarket price wars and the rising popularity of German-owned discounters.
Tesco, the world’s third biggest supermarket group, is facing fierce competition from Lidl and Aldi, as well as from traditional supermarket rivals comprising Wal-Mart division Asda, Sainsbury’s, William Morrison and Waitrose.
to read. & read more.
* Exporters to benefit from Doha Round closure:
The successful conclusion of the Doha Development Agenda, the current round of the world trade talks, will open up further opportunities for Bangladeshi exporters, WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo said.
“Bangladesh has always been a strong supporter of the multilateral trading system. And it will continue to be its key player by maintaining and developing the leadership that has been so evident and so important in recent times,” he said.
A number of the Bali decisions for least developed countries will also benefit a country like Bangladesh. One of them is the duty-free and quota-free market access decision for LDCs, he said.
* BD fetches $1b from World Cup sportswear exports:
The World Cup Football that begins in Brazil from June 12 next has opened up new business window for the Bangladesh apparel industry, mainly for production and export of World Cup jerseys by the country’s knitwear factories.
The boost has come in the form of exports of over 500 billion pieces of jerseys, mostly T-shirts for the world cup fans, valued at about $1.0 billion dollar.
The country’s shipment of garments is estimated to grow by around 14 per cent this year with the world cup orders playing a key role, Mohammad Hatem, acting president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) told the Financial Express Wednesday.
He said the country’s garments exports may hit a record $25 billion this fiscal ending on June 30 next. The amount is $3.0 billion more than what was fetched last fiscal. A big part of this rise in export can be attributed to the world cup merchandise, industry insiders said.
Over 100 factories in Bangladesh worked on the orders mainly fielded by European retail chains like Puma and Adidas. They will supply the market with outsourcing obviously from some other apparel makers through their network in Europe, Brazil and Latin American countries, Mohammed Hatem said.
* Most garment factories ‘compliant’: UK envoy:
Terming most of the Bangladeshi readymade garment (RMG) factories compliant, British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Gibson on Thursday said his country is “sincerely” looking into the matter so that workers are not affected from the factory shutdown.
“Most of the RMG factories in Bangladesh are compliant; only a few faulty factories were shut down … we are looking into the matter so that workers are not affected from the factory closure,” he said.
He was addressing a function of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association¸ Bangladesh held at the National Press Club Press Club in the city.
The UK envoy expressed his satisfaction over the progress made in the readymade garment industry, saying: “We’ve worked together and try to ensure that the garment sector continues to flourish.”
“RMG sector is good for Bangladesh. We want it to be a success but not at the expense of human lives,” he said referring to the recent factory accidents.
* Relocate Hazaribagh tanneries in Savar on time, else face shutdown: PM:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday warned the tannery owners at Hazaribag of the capital of dire consequence if they failed to relocate their tanneries in Savar within the stipulated time.
“Construction of the central ETP in Savar has already begun. You’ve to relocate your industries there in time. Otherwise, we’ll have to shut down the industries,” she said.
The PM issued the warning while inaugurating the World Environment Day-2014 as well as National Tree Plantation Campaign and Tree Fair 2014 at a function at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC).
read more. & read more.
* Tax rebate for factory relocation from Dhaka:
The government has offered tax rebate of 20 percent from the next fiscal year for relocation of industrial units from Dhaka and major cities to economically-lagging regions in a bid to reduce congestion.
The move comes in the face of growing migration of people from rural areas to find income opportunities in the capital and its surroundings, which affected the city’s livability.
Dhaka has become the second least livable city in the world, according to the Global Liveability Survey of the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2013.
* Piketty, inequality and Bangladesh:
Although somewhat unknown in Bangladesh, Thomas Piketty, an economics professor at Paris School of Economics, is now possibly the most well-known economist in the world. He has written a book on inequality that has taken the West by storm.
Entitled Capital in the Twenty-first Century, the book evokes Marx’s Das Kapital. Magisterial in scope and ambition, the book parallels Marx’s earlier tome; but in data and method where Marx’s research falters, Piketty is extraordinary.
The book is deeply grounded in painstaking empirical research.
Along with a few collaborators, he spent more than a decade amassing an enormous quantity of data covering centuries and many countries. And the outcome is an elegant book that clarifies our understanding of long-term trends in inequality across the rich world.
The book provides readers with a simple explanation for rising inequality under capitalism: wealth generally grows faster than the economy, as the rate of return on investment normally exceeds the overall growth rate.
And if this trend continues, it leads to a concentration of income and wealth-as few natural economic forces exist to counter this tendency.
Except in periods of rapid economic growth or of exceptional geopolitical instability – such as the interregnum between two world wars -inequality grows unchecked. This is what Piketty calls “the central contradiction of capitalism”.
Now, how does Piketty’s analysis relate to Bangladesh? Although the analysis is insightful, it does not apply verbatim to Bangladesh. The nuance of inequality differs between rich and poor worlds.
Evidence – though fragmentary – suggests that the distribution of income as well as of wealth in the country has become more skewed over the years.
Along the way, the country has also experienced a significant reduction in poverty.
Though income as well as wealth inequality is a concern for the country, it is much less so than in many developing countries in Africa and Latin America.
On the other hand, poverty is a major challenge, but Piketty has little to say about abject poverty that largely afflicts developing countries.
In a fledgling democracy like Bangladesh, where the separation of powers between various branches of the government is often blurred, political capital is a powerful instrument for advancing one’s economic and social position.
Possession of political capital opens up myriad economic opportunities including preferential access to finance and business, restructuring and loan default options, lucrative employment, access to privileged information, tax evasion or even outright corruption.
RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Justice for Rana Plaza survivors:
Pay full and fair compensation to the 2,500 workers injured in the Rana Plaza building collapse and to the families of the 1,138 deceased. In order to prevent future deaths in your Bangladesh supply chain, join 175+ companies in the legally-binding Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
Why is this important?
My name is Aklima Khanam. I’m 20 years old. I started working in a garment factory when I was 14 years old. My dad was ill and couldn’t work and my mom had to take care of my four siblings.
I started working at New Wave Style at Rana Plaza on January 3, 2013. We made clothes for Walmart and Children’s Place. Managers would say “This is for Walmart, you need to make it beautiful.”
If I spent too long in the bathroom, they would pull my hair, kick me off the stool, call me “whore” or say “your parents are children of pigs” or many other kinds of abusive language.
They would give me a ton of work and if there was one or two mistakes, they would do this. All I made was about $125 a month.
My normal workday was from 8am to midnight. Sometimes they kept us there til 2am or 3am. I worked 7 days a week. The whole time January 3rd to April 24th, I was never given a single day off.
read more and please sign the petition.
05:37:05 local time INDIA
* Industry sinks as workforce goes on a ‘high’:
Drug addiction in Punjab has ravaged not just the domestic front, but is beginning to take a toll even on its industry. An increasing number of workers in the industrial hub of Punjab are taking to drugs, leaving the industrialists grappling with problem of labour shortage.
“Factory workers are becoming increasingly getting addicted to drugs. They take money from us in advance, squander it on drugs and just don’t come back.
This has led to production losses amounting to 20%. It is a major problem and I have no idea how to resolve the issue,” Dheeraj Setia, a garment manufacturer from Sundar Nagar, told TOI.
Since November last year, 20 of Setia’s workers have left work to do drugs.
He is not alone in his predicament, as much of the industry in the city is facing the same problem.
Parsan Jain, another garment manufacturer from Sundar Nagar, said, “Ten of my factory workers have left since February. The industry is already facing a crisis because of labour shortage.”
Industrialists say many labourers are blowing up their savings on drugs. Vinod Thapar, chairman of the Ludhiana Knitwear Club, revealed how one of his workers had left the job after withdrawing his savings of more than Rs 13 lakh.
“He spent his entire savings on drugs in one year and now wants me to take him back. He also wants some advance money, which I know he will spend on drugs and not show up again,” said Thapar.
* India overtakes Germany and Italy, is new world No. 2 in textile exports:
India has overtaken Germany and Italy to emerge as the world’s second largest textile exporter. But it lags China, whose exports are nearly seven times higher.
Data released by the Apparel Export Promotion Council, the industry body for garment exporters, showed that India’s textiles exports were estimated at $40 billion in 2013, compared with China’s $274 billion. Textiles includes everything from fibre and yarn to fabric, made-ups and readymade garments made of cotton, silk, wool and synthetic yarn.
Over 55 per cent of the global trade relates to readymade garments, where India ranked sixth in 2013 with exports of $16 billion, which is around 40 per cent of the country’s textiles exports. India beat Turkey to move up a notch.
For China the share of garments is estimated at close to 60 per cent, indicating that the government needs to provide a bigger fillip to the readymade industry.
India has overtaken Germany and Italy to emerge as the world’s second largest textile exporter.
But it lags China, whose exports are nearly seven times higher.
Apart from China, Italy and Germany, smaller countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam have overtaken India in recent years as major suppliers to retail chains in Europe and the US on the back of cheap labour and lower-duty access.
* Textile units install 20-MW solar project:
A group of textile units in Tirupur and Coimbatore districts have joined hands to establish a 20-MW solar project in the State. The project was commissioned recently in two phases.
M. Ramasamy, Managing Director of Alpine Knits India, and D. Prabhu, secretary of Texpreneurs Forum, told The Hindu on Wednesday that Alpine Knits commissioned a one MW roof-top solar project in March last year at its spinning mill.
* Cotton exports likely to fall in FY15 despite expectations of higher acreage:
The Cotton Association says India is likely to produce 38 mn bales this year. Sowing area is expected to go up by 10-15 per cent
The International Cotton Advisory Committee says India’s cotton exports could come down by up to 20 per cent in 2014-15, due to less global trade and more local consumption.
It said the volume of cotton traded internationally was expected to decline by eight per cent to 8.1 million tonnes in 2014-15, driven by reduced shipments to China from a record of 5.3 mt in 2011-12 to an anticipated 2.1 mt in this year.
05:07:05 local time PAKISTAN
* Bare minimum: ‘The federal budget was not meant to favour workers’:
“The federal budget 2014-15 favours capitalists and the elite… not labour or women,” Rubina Jamil, president of the Pakistan Workers’ Confederation, told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
Jamil said Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had claimed in his speech that privatisation of state-owned enterprises would generate employment opportunities. Jamil said privatisation was being undertaken on the International Monetary Fund diktat. She opposed the privatisation of PIA, OGDG, and Pakistan Steel Mills.
Jamil said in view of the inflation, the Rs2,000 raise in the minimum wage was inadequate. She said that the government should have consulted trade unions and established a privatisation committee taking all stakeholders on board, including workers.
Awami Workers Party general secretary Shazia Khan told The Express Tribune that there should be a formula for raising the minimum wage, rather than an arbitrary announcement. She said the government should raise minimum wage to offset inflation’s impact . “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure implementation. An announcement without implementation amounts to deception,” Khan said. She said that the Rs10,000 minimum wage announced last year had not been universally implemented.
She also said that those in the corridors of power should try balancing a household in Rs12,000. “No family can make ends meet in Rs12,000,” said Khan.
“We had demanded a Rs20,000 minimum wage,” Women Workers’ Union general secretary Shaheena Kausar told The Express Tribune. She said no relief had been announced for women workers who were more vulnerable than men.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
* Worker organisations reject federal budget:
Reprensentaves of Pakistan Workers Confederation, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, People’s Labour Bureau, National Labour Assembly and All Pakistan Clerks Association have rejected the federal budget 2014-15.
Talking to The News on Wednesday, veteran trade union leader and Pakistan Workers Confederation General Secretary Khurshid Ahmed said the PML-N government should have raised the salaries, wages and pensions of government, semi-government, autonomous bodies and private sector employees to at least 30 percent of their basic pay owing to price hike.
He said 80 percent of the country’s salaried workers contributed to Pakistan’s total tax revenue, whereas a significant majority of the country’s elite and rich industrialists paid little tax and evaded it by exploiting legal loopholes.
read more. & read more.
* Outlook: Stitching optimism for the textile sector:
The textile industry – that contributes over 50% in country’s exports – is jubilant on the textile package the government announced in budget 2014-15.
The package includes both short-term and long-term concessional loans, duty-free import of machinery and incentives on technology upgrade.
Most of the incentives announced are related to the value-added textile sector. This depicts the government’s keen interest in increasing the country’s exports of finished textile products.
“The textile package will definitely boost output,” said Fawad Anwar, managing director at Al Karam Textiles Mills —one of the country’s leading composite textile mills.
* Real estate and textile: Lobbies get tax plans changed in their favour :
The well-entrenched real estate and textile lobbies prevailed over the federal cabinet at the eleventh hour, as the government was compelled to drastically change its original plan of fully capturing the income generated from few of the most lucrative sectors.
The process of conceding to the demands had begun even before a special cabinet meeting, after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself amended a tax proposal that was aimed at levying 7.5% advance income tax on monthly electricity bills amounting to Rs35,000 of domestic consumers.
During a meeting held last week, the premier raised the ceiling to Rs100,000, defeating the purpose of the original idea, revealed sources privy to closed-door discussions.
The special cabinet meeting was held on Tuesday, hours before the government presented its second budget in parliament.
When various lobbies were fighting to protect their interests, the federal ministers too jumped into the bandwagon and demanded an increase in their salaries equivalent to the one given to civil servants, sources in the Ministry of Finance revealed.
The biggest setback came from the influential textile lobby that blocked the government’s move to increase sales tax on yarn from 2% to 3% and on fabric from 3% to 4%.
* APTPMA praises government for presenting budget against heavy odds:
Chairman All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPMA), Sheikh Muhammad Ayub, felicitated government for presenting a progressive, balanced, business-friendly, investment-friendly and people-friendly budget for the year 2014-15, despite enormous odds and resource constraint, which is a healthy augury for Pakistan; but we still need to do a lot more for keeping abreast with the massive challenges of Energy Crisis faced by the industry for the last several years.
He appreciated the decision of duty draw back regime for textile exporters on exports of processed fabrics, made-ups and garments products at the rate of one percent, two percent and four percent, respectively, at FoB value on additional incremental export basis on increase of more than 10% export from the preceding year, reduction of mark-up rate by State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) from 9.4% to 7.5% for the textile exporters on export refinancing scheme and two years’ extension of duty-free regime for import of textile machinery.
* Textile package welcomed:
The business community is appreciating the Federal Budget 2014-15, and some members from the textile sector have even termed it as a Textile Budget.
Textiles sector occupies a unique position in Pakistans economy as it accounts for more than half of the countrys exports. But recently, its performance has been subjected to bad harvest, delays in introduction of quality seeds, extensive energy shortages and high cost of borrowing.
However, the Finance Minister offered several incentives for the textile sector in his budget speech.
These include the beneficial duty drawback rates where exports increased by 10 percent, implementation of an Expeditious Refund System (ERS) with the aim to settle exporters refund claims before 30th September 2014, duty-free import of machinery extended till the year 2016 (SRO-809) and training of 100,000 Pakistanis in the garments and made-up sector.
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* PTEA hails federal budget as progressive:
Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) has hailed the federal budget as progressive and realistic providing incentives and support to textile export sector.
The new fiscal plan has set in place pro-growth measures to create jobs, increase revenue and attain higher export growth said Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood Chairman PTEA and Adil Tahir Vice Chairman.
The initiatives to promote textile industry would go a long way in giving necessary fillip to exports of the country.
They appreciated the announcement of incentives under textile package as complete settlement of all outstanding refund claims till September 30, and rationalisation of refund regime, allowing drawback of local taxes on 10 percent increase in annual exports, establishment of EXIM bank for export sectors, extending duty free import of textile machinery till June 2016 and reduction in mark up rate for export refinance from 9.4 percent to 7.5 percent and for long term finance from 11.4 percent to 9 percent.
* Aptma to set up 330MW coal power plant :
APTMA Punjab has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Machinery Engineering Company, a Chinese company, for installation of 330-MW coal-fired power plant.
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer and Vice President CMEC Li Jingkai signed the MOU at the APTMA Punjab office on Wednesday. Group leader APTMA Gohar Ejaz, besides other office bearers of APTMA Punjab, witnessed the signing ceremony.
As per the MoU, the APTMA being apprehensive of the acute power shortfall and the crisis facing the textile industry on account thereof and being concerned at the regionally uncompetitive electricity tariff in Pakistan and CMEC being willing to invest in Pakistan in the setting up and operation of a coal fired power plant have agreed to join hands to strengthen and give a formal shape to the understanding reached between them for setting up a 330 MW coal fired power plant.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Factory closures :
The collapse of the Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last year with the loss of 1,138 lives is having far-reaching consequences.
The building housed garment manufacturers, some of them making clothes for Western brands including Primark and Marks and Spencer. The outcry that followed led to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which in turn, has led to the forced closure of garment factories across the country.
Now factory owners are threatening to take legal action, saying they cannot afford to bear the costs of paying staff while the factories are closed and repair work is carried out. Hundreds of factories are being inspected every month, with some being completely or partially forced to close.
Pakistan also manufactures cotton goods, and also has a very poor record of workplace safety.
Our cotton manufacturing industry has largely collapsed because of the ongoing power crisis, with many factory owners relocating abroad — some of them to Bangladesh. If it is ever to be revived, it would be wise to learn from the Bangladesh experience and ensure that manufacturing units are compliant with international standards of health and safety.
The Baldia fire in 2012 killed 289 people, nothing like it must ever happen again.
05:07:05 local time UZBEKISTAN
* Uzbek makhallyas do nothing to protect children from slavery:
Local councils in Uzbekistan, known as makhallyas, are doing nothing to protect children from cotton slavery.
The Uzbek government recently announced an official plan for 2014-2016 to bring the country into greater compliance with a number of ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, and has deputized a broad number of responsibilities for the implementation of this plan to the makhallyas.
In 2008, giving into international pressure, Uzbekistan signed the ILO’s conventions Number 138 (on the minimum age for admission to employment and work) and Number 182 (on the worst forms of child labor). Since then the makhallyas should have been engaged in the fight to eradicate child slavery.
However, until as recently as 2012, schools all over the country were shut down during the cotton harvest and children from as young as 10 years of age were sent to pick cotton during normal school hours. On average, children spent two to three months working in the cotton fields each year
Even six years after the ratification of the ILO conventions employees at the makhallyas know very little about the national program, and as a result cannot be expected to inform citizens about the new regulations.
* Activists report state-orchestrated, systematic Forced Labor of children and adults in 2013 harvest:
Apparently in response to sustained international criticism around the use of child labor, in 2012 the government stopped mobilizing children younger than 16 to pick cotton on a mass scale.
The government instead shifted the forced labor burden to older students, including children age 16-17 studying in colleges [the equivalent of American vocational high schools] and lyceums [the equivalent of American college-preparatory high schools], and adults working in both the public sector and for private businesses. This pattern
* SACTWU settles General Goods & Handbags leather sector wage negotiations:
The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has settled its 2014 annual round of wage negotiations for the General Goods & Handbags Leather sector.
The settlement was reached during wage negotiations conducted under the auspices of the National Bargaining Council of the Leather Industry of South Africa. It involves a 7.5% increase in prescribed minimum wages, plus an increase in the holiday bonus by one extra day’s pay.
The wage increases will come into effect on 1 July 2014. This settlement will benefit approximately 2000 workers in 84 general goods and handbags factories, nationally.
20140527-28 * Affiliates commit to take action on living wages:
Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, affiliates from across Asia discussed strategies and mechanisms for delivering living wage outcomes for workers
The fight for living wages is particularly acute in the Asian region where countries compete to provide low wage environments to attract the business of global buyers in the garment, electronics and other supply chain industries.
Affiliates from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia are all engaged in struggles to raise wages, primarily by campaigning to raise minimum wages but also through collective bargaining. IndustriALL’s regional living wage workshop, which took place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on May 27-28 gave them an opportunity to share their experiences and develop action plans.
For most countries in the region, government minimum wage fixing mechanisms at national, regional or sectoral level are used as the principal means of increasing wages, but none of these are delivering living wages.
Where unions have sufficient strength and capacity, minimum wages are supplemented by collective bargaining at plant level.
In very few cases are unions able to negotiate wage increases that apply beyond individual factories.
Examples were given of company agreements covering several plants in the same country, factory agreements that also cover sub-contractors and regional level bargaining with industry employer associations.
* International Labor Organization details impact of global social counterrevolution:
More than 70% of the world’s population lack adequate income, health care, old-age pensions and other social protections, according to a new report by the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO).
Governments around the world have and continue to slash the remaining social safety net even as unemployment and poverty grows as a result of the global economic crisis, the report found.
The World Social Protection Report 2014/15 reviews several categories including protections for children, unemployed and injured workers, pregnant women and new mothers, and workers of pensionable age.
It uses as its baseline the minimum social protection floors recommended by the ILO in 2012 and endorsed chiefly as ceremonial “human rights” by the UN, the G-20 and various employer and union organizations in 185 countries.
The report is a damning indictment of the capitalist system, detailing the impact of the savage austerity measures implemented in Europe, the United States and the so-called developing countries following the financial crash of 2008.
Far from meeting the inadequate minimums proposed by the ILO, governments around the world have rolled back longstanding protections with devastating consequences.
Among the report’s findings are:
* 18,000 children die every day, mainly from preventable causes bound up with the lack of funding for nutrition, health, education, care services and protections against child labor.
* In 2012, 123 million people in the European Union, representing 24 percent of the population, were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, up from 116 million in 2008. Child poverty rose in 19 of the 28 EU countries between 2007 and 2012, with 800,000 more children living in poverty than in 2008.
* Of the nearly 202 million workers unemployed around the world, only 12 percent are receiving jobless benefits.
* Nearly half (48 percent) of all people over pensionable age do not receive a pension. For many of those who do, pension levels are not adequate.
* With the recent disasters at a Bangladeshi textile factory and a Turkish coal mine highlighting the devastating impact of industrial accidents on workers and their families, only 33.9 percent of the global labor force is covered by mandatory social insurance for workplace injury.
* Only 28 percent of women in employment worldwide have maternity cash benefits, which provide some income security during the final stages of pregnancy and after childbirth, forcing many women to return to work prematurely.
* Some 39 percent of the world’s population lack health care coverage, a figure that rises to more than 90 percent of the population in low-income countries. As a result, about 40 percent of all global health expenditure is shouldered directly by the sick.
This social catastrophe is the product of the historical development of world capitalism, now entered into a period of terminal decay.
Giant corporations and banks, mainly based in a handful of wealthy imperialist powers, plunder the population of the entire world—both the working class in their own countries, and the vast majority of humanity who live in the impoverished countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
These conditions have been exacerbated by deliberate policies implemented by governments around the world on behalf of the banks and financial institutions whose reckless speculation precipitated the 2008 crash.
After discarding their short-lived stimulus packages by 2010, the ILO report says, “governments embarked on fiscal consolidation and premature contraction of expenditures, despite an urgent need of public support among vulnerable populations.”