15:31:13 local time VIET NAM
* SMEs not yet ready for VN-EU FTA: officials:
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are still not prepared for the Vietnam – EU Free Trade Agreement that is expected to be signed this October, officials warned.
- Vietnam seeks to foster exports to FTA markets
- Vietnam proposes accelerating FTA talks with EU
- FTA with EU would boost exports
Deputy Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, Vo Tri Thanh said, though the date is fast approaching, SMEs are not really prepared for the bilateral agreement.
Echoing Thanh’s view, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT)’s European Market Department, Tran Ngoc Quan said that big enterprises are well aware of the agreement as they have taken active part in the negotiations. However, that does not hold true with SMEs.
Quan said that currently, MoIT makes public all information about the agreement to business associations, which then introduces these to its members. However, many SMEs are not association members, due to which they do not have updated information about the agreement.
14:31:13 local time BANGLADESH
* Garment worker electrocuted in Ctg:
A readymade garment worker was electrocuted while working at his workplace in Aturar Depot area under city’s Panchlaish thana early today.
The deceased was identified as Mohammad Shamim, 22, son of Mohammad Mizan, hailed from Bishambar thana of Sunamganj district.
Police outpost sources at Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) said Shamim was electrocuted while working at Rubina Shoe Factory.
He was rushed to CMCH where the attending doctors declared him dead.
* EPZ Labour Act 2014 draft approved:
Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan informed the reporters about the approval after the meeting at the secretariat
The cabinet has approved in principal the draft of Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act 2014 keeping provision of the right to form trade union.
The act got cabinet nod in the regular meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday.
Cabinet Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan informed the reporters about the approval after the meeting at the secretariat.
The Export Promotion Bureau Act 2014 and Nuclear Energy Control Act (amendment) 2014 also got final approval in the cabinet meeting.
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* Cabinet approves draft EPZ Labour Act:
Provision allows TU right
The cabinet approved Monday in principle the draft ‘Bangladesh Export Processing Zone (EPZ) Labour Act, 2014’ aiming to ensure welfare of the workers by allowing them to form trade unions (TUs).
“The proposed law was drafted keeping consistency with the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2013 along with maintaining all the existing extra facilities of the workers employed in the EPZs,” cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told the media after the cabinet meeting at the conference room of the cabinet division on the day.
The right to formation of trade union has been incorporated in the draft in line with one of the conditions set by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for restoring the preferential trade benefit for Bangladeshi products in the US market.
He said the name of the workers’ organisation in the EPZs would be ‘The Workers’ Welfare Association’ that would allow the workers in EPZs the right to collective bargaining.
* EPZ workers get rights to union:
Cabinet okays draft law
After an unpleasant outcome of last week’s US review on GSP, the cabinet yesterday approved the draft EPZ law protecting workers’ right to freedom of association.
As per the proposed Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act 2014, at least 30 percent workers of a factory within an export processing zone will have to apply for registration to form an association.
After the registration with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority (Bepza), there will have an election to the association’s executive committee of one-year tenure.
One candidate or a panel will need at least 50 percent votes to be winner and there will be a fresh election in case of fewer votes.
Right now, the EPZ Workers’ Association and Industrial Relations Act 2009 do not allow trade union, a term also not mentioned in the draft okayed by the cabinet.
However, existing workers’ welfare associations in the export processing zones will act like trade unions under the new law, cabinet sources said.
Reforming the rules related to the EPZ was one of the major conditions in the US action plan for Bangladesh to regain the GSP status to the US market.
The United States Trade Representative (USTR) suspended the trade benefit in June last year citing serious shortcomings in workplace safety and labour rights.
* EPZ workers allowed to bargain:
Cabinet okays draft EPZ labour law
The cabinet on Monday approved in principle the draft ‘Bangladesh EPZ Labour Bill – 2014’, allowing workers in the export processing zones to form welfare associations with the capacity to bargain for rights.
‘The EPZ workers will now have the right to form workers’ welfare associations that will have the bargaining capacity to protect their rights,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told a press briefing after the cabinet meeting.
He said the draft of EPZ labour law had been prepared in line with the labour law and the EPZ workers’ welfare association and industrial relations law.
Musharraf said the workers in the EPZ remained outside the jurisdiction of the Labour Act of 2006, which was amended in 2013, as they got higher pays in dollars and other facilities.
‘This law will help protect the rights of workers in the export processing zones, which play an important role raising the foreign investment in Bangladesh,’ he added.
He said the new law having 16 sections and 204 articles would regulate workers’ appointments, safety, wages and working hours, among others.
There will be an EPZ Appellate Tribunal to deal with offences under the law, according to the draft.
The Prime Minister’s Office placed the draft at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina at the secretariat.
Asked about possible reactions of the investors who set up factories in the EPZs on the condition that the workers’ right to trade unionism would not be entertained in the exclusive areas, the cabinet secretary said the draft was prepared in consultation with all stakeholders to ensure rights of the workers.
He said 30% workers of a factory will have to apply for constituting a workers’ association, which will be registered with the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority.
Each factory will have one association, which will have an executive committee elected by workers.
‘The association will function as a bargaining agent to be registered with BEPZA… But a trade union is registered with the department of labour,’ state minister for labour Mujibul Haque told New Age.
He said family of an EPZ worker would get two lakh if s/he dies as a worker while the amount was Tk one lakh for a worker outside the EPZ.
The primary objective of an EPZ is to provide special areas where potential investors would find a congenial investment climate, free from cumbersome procedures, according to officials.
* Cabinet approves EPZ Labour Act:
The act was prepared following the existing labour act after consulting with the investors, owners and stakeholders of the industries established in the EPZ areas
The cabinet yesterday approved in principle the draft of Bangladesh Export Processing Zones (EPZ) Labour Act, keeping the provision of forming ‘EPZ Workers’ Welfare Association’ and protection of “EPZ Labour Court” for violation of the law.
After the cabinet meeting, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told media that new draft of the act was prepared following the existing labour act after consulting with the investors, owners and stakeholders of the industries established in the EPZ areas.
“The terms and conditions of appointing workers, system of appointment, working environment, working hours, leaves, compensations for accidents, independence of forming organisations, joint business, provision of forming EPZ labour court and EPZ labour appeal court have also been included in the draft,” he said.
The state minister told the Dhaka Tribune that the government had prepared the draft of the new act due to the pressure from the International Labour Organisation and the US government. Bangladesh had already agreed to implement all the conditions of labour rights. The initiative is one of the conditions.
According to the draft act, the EPZ workers will have the right to forming workers’ welfare association with the written consent of 30% workers of an industry. They will apply to the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority for registration. The authority will give them permission for organisation and registration.
At the same time, the BEPZA general manager will have the power to take steps against any worker or workers welfare association for violation of the law.
Now there are about 12 export processing zones in the country including seven public EPZs. Around 300,000 workers are working in those EPZs.
* Bangladesh allows welfare unions in special economic zones after factory building collapse:
The Bangladeshi government has approved in principle the draft of a law for economic zones that includes the provision to allow workers to form welfare unions to bargain for their rights.
The approval for “Bangladesh EPZ Labour Act-2014” draft came at the regular cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Monday.
Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters that the draft has been made after consultation with all stakeholders in Export Processing Zones (EPZs) which accommodate 431 industrial units under operation while 134 are under implementation.
Investors from over 40 countries including Bangladesh, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, and the United States have invested in the eight EPZs, enjoying a large number of fiscal and non-fiscal privileges.
Since its inception, the EPZs has bagged investment worth over 3 billion U.S.dollars while the number of employment at the EPZs totaled 384,644, according to the BEPZA (Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority),which has been placed directly under the country’s Prime Minister’s Office and was set up by an act of parliament in 1980 to woo particularly foreign capital and technical know-how and thereby boost exports through the establishment of export- oriented industries in special zones with special facilities.
The approval to the draft law came about a year after the government decided to allow garment workers in factories outside EPZs to form trade unions without prior permission from their factory owners.
Bhuiyan said all workers in factories in EPZs will elect leaders of the welfare unions every year.
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* Labor law relaxed, conditionally, for Ramadan:
According to the powers vested under Section 324(3) of the Bangladesh Labor Law, 2006 the effectiveness of Section 101(Ka) will remain suspended, conditionally, during the Holy month of Ramadan, a government handout said.
The conditions are: All workers/employees will be entitled to half-an-hour’s leave, every working day and concerned organizations must curtail their activities by at least 2-and-a-half hour, every week.
* Govt panel finally orders closure of six RMG units:
A government panel has ordered closure of six garment factories housed in one building in Dhaka and recommended partial evacuation of each floor of a six-storied building in Chittagong.
The decision on closure of the six readymade garment (RMG) factories came Sunday based on the recommendation made to this end by the RMG retailers’ group Accord after detection of major structural flaws in the building.
The six RMG units that employ about 2,500 workers are Cherry (Pvt) Ltd, Florence Fashions, Ultimate Fashions, Chandana Apparels, Joya Fashion and Maxtim Industries.
“We took the decision on shutdown of these six units Sunday,” said Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, while talking to the FE.
* Tofail slates US congressmen:
Terming the letter is nothing but a politically-motivated one
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday slammed the US congressmen for sending a letter to the prime minister, seeking her assurance to facilitate proper investigation into the allegation of intimidation and violence on workers leader at Valuka, brought by the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF).
Terming the letter is nothing but a politically-motivated one, Tofail said there has been no reflection with the real status of the country’s apparel sector in the letter by six congressmen, who had also lodged complaints against the commerce minister and the BGMEA chief for “intimidating” the RMG trade union leaders.
He was talking to the reporters after a meeting with the US ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena at his secretariat office in the capital.
Strongly criticising the US congressmen, Tofail said, “It is also indecent for the congressmen and the government will send a letter to them by this week to clarify the real situation in RMG sector in Bangladesh.
* Tofail slams US Congressmen:
He says sending letter to Hasina on labour issues is indecent
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday criticised six US Congressmen who in a recent letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed concern over alleged intimidation and harassment of labour activists in Bangladesh.
“Sending such a letter to the Prime Minister is indecent. I hope they [the Congressmen] will not interfere in our internal affairs,” the minister told reporters after a meeting with US Ambassador Dan W Mozena at his secretariat in Dhaka.
“Still, I am sending letters in a couple of days to the Congressmen and USTR Chief Michael Froman inviting them to visit factories in Bangladesh,” Ahmed said.
The Congressmen wrote to Hasina following recent comments on labour rights and workers’ freedom of association by the commerce minister and the president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
In the letter, they called upon the government to create a friendly working environment where workers, factory owners, police and the ministers will come together to support workers’ rights and their freedom of association. “Public statements to the contrary by the government and industry officials are not only inappropriate, they send signals that are unhelpful to our common goals,” the letter read.
The minister termed the letter a highly political one. “They are not aware of the progress that Bangladesh has made in improving workplace safety after the Rana Plaza building collapse. Only one of the six Congressmen visited Bangladesh,” Ahmed said.
On media reports that a trade union leader had sent a letter to the US Congressmen on torture of workers in Bangladesh, the minister said the trade union leader has denied ever having sent such a letter.
* Tofail terms US Congressmen’s letter indecent:
INTIMIDATION OF WORKERS
Six US Congressmen, who last week wrote a letter to prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressing concerns over the alleged intimidation of labour union in Bangladesh, will be invited soon to see for themselves the ‘improved’ labour rights situation, said commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Monday.
He said the letter to be sent to the congressmen will also elaborate how the transformation in the country’s apparel sector is taking place to benefit the workers in the RMG sector after the industrial disaster of Rana Plaza.
Tofail made the comments after a meeting with the US ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena at his secretariat office.
He said the letter sent by six Congressmen was ‘indecent’, given the ‘satisfactory’ improvement prevailing in the apparel sector involving its workers and labour leaders.
‘The letter is indecent and political’, Tofail told reporters.
The commerce minister said based on false information provided by IndustriAll, the US Congressmen had raised their concern.
* Govt to reply to USTR review report: Tofail :
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Monday said the government will reply within two weeks through the envoys of the two countries to the review report of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published in its website recently.
He came up with the information while talking to reporters after a meeting with US Ambassador Dan W Mozena at the Secretariat.
On July 3, the USTR in their review report said Bangladesh has not yet implemented substantial parts of the Action Plan given by the US administration to retain GSP benefit in the US market.
An interagency review led by the Office of the USTR has concluded that Bangladesh has made some important progress, but must do more to address the worker rights and worker safety issues that led US President Barack Obama to suspend the country’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits in June 2013.
The review concluded that the government needs to develop a credible and effective mechanism for responding to and addressing allegations of unfair labor practices.
Tofail said the government will invite USTR representatives and six US Congressmen to visit garment factories in Bangladesh to see for themselves the overall situation.
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* BD needs further progress in RMG sector: Mozena :
US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena on Monday said Bangladesh needs to make progress in many areas related to its RMG sector.
“Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in RMG sector and more progress is needed in critical areas such as many more factory needs to be inspected, labour inspectors to be hired, progress in publicly assessable data base which exists currently,” said Mozena.
* Making BJMC a holding co: 7 Khulna jute mills besieged :
Workers of seven state-owned jute mills laid a siege to the administrative offices of their respective factories on Monday protesting the government move to transform Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) into a holding company.
The jute mills include Platinum Jute Mills, Crescent Jute Mills, Star Jute Mills, Jessore Jute Mills and Industry, People’s Jute Mills and Appeal Jute Mills.
Witnesses said workers of the seven jute mills registered their protest simultaneously laying siege to the offices of their respective mills in the morning.
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* Khulna jute mills’ workers protest privatisation decision:
Employees of state-owned jute mills in Khulna yesterday laid siege to administration buildings of the mills for two hours protesting the government’s decision to privatise the factories.
A total of 50,000 workers of Crescent, Platinum, Star, Khalishpur, Daulatpur, Eastern, JJI, Aleem and Carpeting jute mills laid siege to the factories’ administration buildings at 10:00am.
Convener of Jute Mill Workers Employees Samannyo Parishad Hafizur Rahman Khan, among others, was present at the demonstration.
To press home their demand, the demonstrators will blockade several roads in Khulna and Jessore today.
14:01:13 local time INDIA
* Monsanto to directly market its cotton seeds in India:
Set to launch its global brand Deltapine from the current kharif season
Monsanto will start selling cotton hybrid seeds in India under its global brand ‘Deltapine’ from the current kharif season.
Currently, Monsanto Holdings Private Ltd (MHPL) – the 100 per cent-owned Indian subsidiary of the US agri-biotech major – is marketing cotton seeds under the ‘Paras Brahma’ brand. This brand belonged to Emergent Genetics India Ltd, a firm that Monsanto had acquired in 2005.
“The introduction of the Deltapine brand from this year shows our commitment to growing the cotton hybrid seeds business in India,” Jesus Madrazo, Vice-President (Corporate Engagement) of the St Louis, Missouri-headquartered company told Business Line. There is no plan, though, to phase out the ‘Paras Brahma’ brand, he said.
Monsanto has a four per cent market share of the estimated 45 million-packets-a-year Indian cotton hybrids seeds market.
* Indian textile sector presents wish-list from Union Budget:
* Trade unions come up with ideas to revive mill:
While the management has been incurring huge loss to operate the mill , the trade unions have suggested various measures to revive it.
The All Trade Unions’ Action Committee of Anglo French Textiles has urged the territorial administration to take steps to provide order for manufacturing school uniforms to the AFT Mill.
Similarly, the government should ask the police, jail, hospital and other departments to place order for making uniforms with the mill and ensure marketing of AFT products.
The trade unions also demanded that the Union government provide Rs. 500 crore expeditiously to the mill for its revival. V.S. Abisegam, convener of All Trade Unions’ Action Committee, said that the management should run the mill with existing workers as well as trainees .
The Union government should act immediately on the memorandum of the territorial administration seeking permission to enable the mill management to sell its land at Pattanur to carry out interim measures for smooth functioning of the mill.
13:31:13 local time PAKISTAN
* Shocking negligence: Workers protest against labourer’s death:
Power loom workers staged a demonstration on Monday after a labourer died from electric shocks at a factory there.
Afzal Ali had worked at a power loom at Sadhar, located in the Thikriwala area.
After the worker’s death, the demonstrators gathered at Sadhar Bypass Chowk and blocked the road for all kinds of traffic. They placed the body on the road to block the traffic.
Shafiq Anwar, one of the protesters, said the deceased, Afzal Ali, a father of four children, had been a resident of chak 67-JB.
“He was working at the power loom factory where when he touched a short-circuited machine,” Anwar said.
Anwar said the accident was a result of the negligence of the factor owner, who had not installed safety devices.
“All factory owners are legally bound to install circuit breakers to stop such incidents from occurring, but some of them try to avoid the expense,” Anwar said.
The protesters chanted slogans against the factory owner and held him responsible for the worker’s death.
* Bangladesh surpasses country’s leather exports : Pakistan only country in region with negative leather products’ export growth:
Pakistan is the only country in the region with negative leather products export growth rate even export of Bangladesh has surpassed country’s exports.
All the countries in the region are using imported hides/skins to boost their exports but unfortunately despite negative growth rate of Pakistan the government imposed 1 percent duty on import of hides and skins, which would further decline our exports, said Agha Saiddain Chairman regional Standing Committee on leather industry Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Lahore.
He said letters were also written to chief executive officer Pakistan Trade Development Authority and related ministries in order to devise a strategy bringing back the exports of leather and leather products more than $1.10 billion.
* Govt to launch textile skill plan for youth:
Ministry of Textile Industry will launch a Skill Development Programme for youth shortly. According to Radio Pakistan, 120,000 men, women will be imparted training during next 5 years under the programme.
The main objective of the training programme is to provide skilled workforce to textile industry and make it more competitive in the world market. The Ministry would bear cost of skill development programme including stipend to the trainees and provision of raw material.