16:38:14 local time MALAYSIA
20140725 * Two Factories In Desa Tun Razak Razed In Fire:
A textile factory and another manufacturing vehicle spare parts in Desa Tun Razak here were razed in a fire last night.
However, no casualties were reported and losses are estimated in the millions.
City Fire and Rescue senior superintendent Muhd Izwan Arief Mohd Noor said some 100 firemen from nine fire stations from the city and Kajang battled the fire and prevented it from spreading to other factories nearby, after receiving a distress call at 10.24pm.
“The fire started at the upper floor of the two-storey textile factory before spreading to the adjacent vehicle spare parts factory,” he told reporters.
He said there were no workers at both factories when the fire broke out.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
15:08:14 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Myanmar’s garment industry is poised to surge :
Myanmar’s garment industry is expected to receive US$4 billion in foreign investment this year, following three consecutive year’s of record-breaking growth as the industry poises itself to become a major playing the global garment supply chain, officials and industry executives say.
Aung Naing Oo, secretary of the newly revamped Myanmar Investment Commission, forecast that $4 billion of investment would flow into the labour-intensive industry this fiscal year, adding that it and the telecom sector were seeing the swiftest rise in foreign investment.
Khine Khine New, a joint secretary general of the country’s largest business association – the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry – agreed, saying foreign investors had identified the telecoms and the garment industry as having immense potential for growth.
Khine Khine New, who is also secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Myanmar, said the garment production was the fastest growing sector in the manufacturing industry last year.
Total investment in the sector shot up from US$300 million fiscal 2011-12 to $1.9 billion in fiscal 2012-13 and $4.1 billion in the last fiscal year, she said. She also said that most factories were cutting, making and packing (CMP) suppliers.
Myanmar also allows 100 per cent foreign investment in the garment industry, as well as joint ventures with existing manufacturers and potential ones.
The EU’s inclusion of Myanmar in its Generalised Scheme of Preferences last year also allows Myanmar garments and footwear unfettered access to the world’s largest market.
Outsourcing labor to Myanmar offers significant cost savings to western manufacturers, as Myanmar workers are among the lowest paid in Asia, earning an average US$2 per day versus US$20 per day in neighboring Thailand, the consultancy said.
Investment and tax incentives in special economic zones are also attracting interest, the consultancy said. These include five-year holiday on tax, custom duty exemptions on imported machinery and equipment as well as the value of the machinery being considered as part of the capital investment requirement.
Steps have also been taken to prepare the legal basis for the implementation of a Better Factories program here, which will allow ILO monitors to assess factories for compliance with labour laws and its conventions.
This will provide Western brands some confidence that their images will not be tarnished if they outsource production to Myanmar factories, industry analysts say. These steps include a minimum wage law and another covering occupational health and safety, as well as efforts to eliminate child labour.
* Factory workers rubbish labour ministry’s comments:
Workers from the defunct Master Sports shoe factory have criticised comments made by the deputy minister of labour in a press conference held on July 24.
Some newspapers had reported deputy labour minister Win Maw Tun saying that more than 600 workers from factory were now gainfully employed in other factories.
“We have read the deputy minster of labour’s statement about us in some newspapers and her words are not true. It contradicts our present situation. They didn’t meet with the representatives of workers. We want our June salary and compensation for closing the factory. If the owner gives the salary and compensation separately, we will accept,” said lawyer Htay Oo who is representing the workers’ claims.
The Korean-owned factory shut down leading to protests by more that 600 workers in front of the Korean embassy, claiming unpaid salaries and due compensation. Nearly all of them remain without work.
* 42 workers returns from China:
Forty-two Myanmar workers have returned from China, saying their employers failed to pay due salary and put them in severe work conditions, according to a joint report from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group and the International Labour Organisation.
They worked at two garment factories in Xiban Industrial Zone in Chendai Town, Jinjiaing City in Fujian province.
In the joint report, the workers said the salary payment was delayed without any notice. They said they were beaten when asking for the payment.
laborA worker died, unable to obtain medicine. In their accounts, the workers continued working for the factories for fear of being deported, because they were illegal workers.
They were lured by brokers’ promises that they would be paid Ks 200,000 (US$200) a month on top of food allowance.
There is no detail yet how they managed to return home.
14:38:14 local time BANGLADESH
20140727 * Law silent about festival allowance:
RMG workers paid at varied rates, deprived
Garment workers are deprived of their desired festival allowances ahead of every Eid for what experts and labour leaders described as loopholes in the law.
Usually workers of other sectors get one month’s basic pay as festival allowances.
But many apparel-factory owners were not following the practice, labour leaders alleged with barely two days to go before celebrating one of the two largest Muslim religious festivals.
Before Eid, every year, labour unrest breaks out over non-payment of wages and the payment of festival allowances at varied rates, they have pointed out.
There is no clear directive about festival allowances for garment workers in the existing labour law. And many of the factory owners take this advantage and hand out the festival allowances less than the basic amount. In some cases, they provide festival allowance at the rate of only Tk 500 per head, the labour leaders have alleged.
They have demanded a fixed amount-the basic pay of one month-as the festival allowance for all workers by incorporating a provision on it in the labour law.
“Irregularities over payment of festival allowances are happening in the garment units, mainly because nothing is made clear in the labour law regarding this,” Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh National Garment Workers-Employees League, told the Financial Express.
Roy Ramesh Chandra, secretary-general of IndustriAll Bangladesh Council, said the law should be equal for all. The provision with a clear directive about festival allowance must be incorporated in the law.
“Workers are getting festival allowances conventionally and it should be equal to the basic payment,” he added.
Workers were being deprived of proper festival allowances in the absence of a clear directive in the law, said Trade Union Centre secretary Wazedul Islam Khan. “Some owners are also taking its advantage, which is an unhealthy practice.”
The Industrial Police in a recent report to the government authorities concerned conveyed their apprehension about labour unrest in about 500 garment factories, mainly over payment of wages and festival allowances.
There have already been some outbreaks of unrest in factory areas.
20140727 * Many RMG workers get poor amount instead of legitimate festival allowance:
Workers of many apparel factories are being deprived of legitimate festival allowance as there is no specific provision in the Bangladesh Labour Act.
As per the convention workers are entitled to festival allowance equivalent to monthly basic pay, but the apparel workers are getting a poor amount as festival allowance because of loopholes in the law causing labour unrest in the sector ahead of Eid almost every year, labour leaders said.
‘Taking the advantage of the loopholes in the law, some apparel factory owners are depriving their workers of legitimate festival allowance,’ Bangladesh Trade Union Centre secretary Wajedul Islam Khan told New Age on Friday.
There is no specific provision for festival allowance for apparel workers in the Labour Act, but it has become a convention that owners will pay the basic pay of a month as festival allowance, he said. ‘If any owner deprives the workers of the legitimate festival allowance and pay a poor amount citing the law, it will be an “evil practice” and the sector will continue to face labour unrests,’ Wajedul said.
On July 15, after a meeting with the apparel factory owners and labour leaders, the state minister for labour, Mujibul Haque, told reporters that the owners would decide how much they would pay as festival allowance for Eid according to their abilities since the law was silent on the matter. At the meeting, the factory owners agreed to pay the workers partial wages for July and festival allowance by July 26 ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. ‘Festival allowance for the apparel workers is not a of labour law but it is a convention and owners must pay the allowances before Eid,’ said National Garment Workers Federation president Amirul Haque Amin.
20140727 * Wait for salaries, bonus gets longer:
Garment makers delay payment to several thousand workers
With Eid only a day or two away, thousands of garment workers did not receive their salaries and bonuses even yesterday, the deadline earlier set by the garment owners.
The owners have sought one more day, which is today, to pay the workers before the Eid festival.
This means the workers are going to have an Eid they never expected, if they are not paid by today, the last banking day before the Eid holidays begin. And even if they do get paid today, many of them may not be able to spend the biggest religious festival with their near and dear ones back home away from the capital.
The garment makers at a meeting with State Minister for Labour and Employment Ministry Mujibul Haque Chunnu and workers’ leaders on July 15 had said the salaries and bonuses would be paid by July 26, which was yesterday.
Sirajul Islam Rony, member of the minimum wage board for the garment workers, said, nearly 500 garment factories did not pay the workers till yesterday.
“I personally talked to many owners and they took one more day, meaning they will pay the workers on July 27 [today],” Rony told The Daily Star over the phone.
Nazma Akter, president of Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation, said still there are at least 20 factories, including Tuba Group, which are in such a weak state that “these factories may not pay the salaries for the current month, although they may pay the bonuses”.
20140727 * Workers of 6 Savar units demonstrate for payment:
Eid Bonus, Arrears at RMG Factories
Workers of six garment factories of Savar demonstrated yesterday for arrears and Eid-ul-Fitr bonus as the factory authorities are yet to pay them even though the festival is just two to three days away.
Workers of SMN Sweater (Pvt) Ltd in Mozidpur demonstrated on the factory premises for the fourth consecutive day demanding salaries of May, June and July and Eid bonus.
Later, they marched to the Rana Plaza site and formed a human chain there. The workers claimed Mamunur Rashid, managing director of the factory, told them that they would be paid on July 10, but he has been missing since then.
The factory authorities could not be reached despite several attempts by The Daily Star.
Workers of Five Star Sweater Ltd in Ashulia demonstrated at the factory gate demanding July’s salary and Eid bonus.
20140727 * Many factories fail to clear wage, bonus:
Authorities of several readymade garment factories did not pay wages and festival allowances to their workers even on Saturday, in breach of their commitment, creating uncertainty about whether these garment workers will get their outstanding wages before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Garment workers, meanwhile, continued their agitation at different factories, demanding the wages and festival allowances, with only one day left before the Eid holidays.
Leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufactures’ and Exporters’ Association at a meeting with the state minister for labour and employment M Mujibul Haque on July 15 committed that the factory authorities would pay workers’ wages for the month July and festival allowances, within July 26.
But workers’ leaders on Saturday alleged that owners of at least 30 per cent garment factories in the country did not pay the wages in line with their commitment, till the filling of this report Saturday evening.
BGMEA vice president Shahidullah Azim, however, claimed that most of the factory owners paid wages and bonuses on Saturday barring a very few.
20140726 * Rendered Jobless-Left Penniless – Garment Workers Cry Out Before Coming Festivities:
While victims of Tazreen Fashion yearn for a complete compensation package from the brands and government, and victims of Rana Plaza look forward towards the fulfillment of an unfulfilled promise to get a compensation with which they may hope to survive on, more workers have been pushed to streets and a higher number scratching for the very last pennies from those who they helped earn millions.
Brands, factories and governments have always been true to their history when it comes to the treatment of workers, and have unfortunately been consistent with their reputation against women workers who constitute the biggest portion of the 4.0 million worker strong garment industry in Bangladesh.
While economies and wealth have multiplied with export volumes reaching over $24billion (2013-14) with over 16 percent rise in shipments in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13, usual issues such as festival bonuses still plague the lives of workers protesting against factories who refuse to pay the due bonuses or even the rightful wages for the upcoming festival of Eid (the biggest festival celebrated in Bangladesh).
Recent protests, however are not limited to bonuses, wages and layoffs, but rather have increasingly comes across due to factory closures by either the Alliance or the Accord (or both) where the closing time remains indefinite (or not communicated well enough with the workers) and compensation for their loss of employment/income being either inadequate or none-existent.
Catalysts of Chaos
Unfinished Story of the Tazreen Fashion Tragedy:
After almost 2 years of suffering, the Tazreen Fire victims can still be found on the streets of Dhaka, begging the government to come to their aide with the promised “Prime Minister’s Relief Fund” which had been offered to them repeatedly.
Rajia, Tazreen Fashions Limited
Ms. Rajia, a 26 year old injured ex-Sewing operator from Tazreen Fashions Limited worked on the 3rd floor.
On the day the factory was on fire she suffered from severe burns and injuries due to jumping off the building.
She received BDT 1,00,000 each from the BGMEA immediately after the incident and a constant supply of medical treatment from C&A and Li-Fung via Caritas Bangladesh and their basic wage monthly wage according to the upper work grade scale from C&A and Li & Fung via Caritas until April this year.
Around 40 injured workers from Tazreen Fashions received a 3 month long vocational training in Zirabo from C&A and Li & Fung via Caritas Bangladesh that ended in April 2014.
Morsheda, Tazreen Fashions Limited
“Only around 13 victims of us from Tazreen Fashions Limited received BDT 50,000 from the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.”
Morsheda says she also received BDT 1,00,000 from the BGMEA. C&A and Li-Fung via Caritas Bangladesh paid her monthly wage according to the upper grade scale until April 2014 when they abruptly stopped doing so.
Also in the case of the medical bills reimbursement, Caritas refused to pay for the lump sum BDT 20,000 which Morsheda spent in Rangpur Medical College and Hospital for her back bone injury in July 2014.
Rupali, Tazreen Fashions Limited
Another injured victim, 22 year old ex-Sewing Operator Ms Rupali worked on the 4th floor in Tazreen Fashions Limited.
She attended the 3 month vocational training rendered by Caritas in Kamalapur, Savar, on Animal husbandry and poultry farming. She reports that she has learnt well. She received BDT 1,00,000 from the BGMEA but only BDT 50,000 from the Prime Minister immediately after the fire.
Awaiting Justice and Compensation for the Rana Plaza Tragedy:
The biggest ever tragedy to hit Bangladesh was the Rana Plaza Tragedy, and it happened in quick succession to the Tazreen Tragedy.
In a similar way to its predecessor, Rana Plaza workers have still been denied of their rightful compensation.
The Rana Plaza arrangement is less than half way into their goal of collecting 40 million dollars for the victims, with Primark leading the compensation attempt by taking care of its workers from the New Wave Bottoms factory.
The protesters declared today, 26 July 2014, that they would observe the upcoming Eid-u-Fitr at the Rana Plaza site and march towards the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital like the previous year, if they were not compensated before the festival.
20140726 * Pay wages, bonus by Saturday: labour leaders:
Garment labour leaders on Friday at a rally in the city called on garment factory owners to pay wages and festival allowances by Saturday, in accordance with their commitment to the government.
National Alliance for Protection of Garments Workers and Industries, a combine of the garment labour rights bodies, held a rally in front of the National Press Club to press their demand.
Labour leader Abul Hossain said the owners of garment factories had committed to the government they would pay wages and bonuses to workers by July 26.
He called on garment owners to clear the payments avoid labour unrest in the industry.
Some garment factories in Dhaka, Narayanganj, Tongi, Gazipur, Savar and Ashulia are yet to pay the wages and bonuses of workers, and as a result, workers have begun demonstrating for their payments.
Chaired by Abul Hossain, the rally was addressed, among others, by its leaders Lovely Yesmin, Shahidullah Badal, Zahanara Begum, Tapan Saha and Shahida Sarker.
20140725 * Arrears: RMG workers threaten to gherao owners’ houses on Eid day:
Garment workers here on Friday threatened to lay siege to the houses of factory owners on Eid day if they are not paid their salaries and bonuses before the festival.
President of central committee of Bangladesh Textile Garments Workers Federation Advocate Mahmudur Rahman Ismail issued the threat while addressing a protest rally in the court (old) area of the city in the morning.
Narayanganj chapter of the federation arranged the rally demanding payment of dues to the workers of Future Knitwear and Regal Garments Ltd located in the city.
Workers’ leaders Mahmud Hasan, Sabur Hossain and Ahmed Ali, among others, addressed the rally.
After the rally, the workers brought out a procession which paraded different streets in the city.
to read. & to read.
* Unrest feared if RMG workers not paid:
$150m needed in 18 months for factory safety: Alliance
Intelligence activities and vigilance in and around the apparel manufacturing hubs have been beefed up in apprehension of violence over non-payment of wages and festival allowances ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, officials have said.
Workers’ representatives in the readymade garment (RMG) sector said fresh unrest might break out in the garment sector before the Eid, if owners fail to clear workers’ wages, festival allowance and other benefits by Saturday (today).
They say workers in several factories already staged demonstration over such demands and it could lead to violence unless necessary measures are taken immediately.
The labour leaders’ apprehension came Thursday, a day after two factories witnessed protests in the capital over the same issue.
About 300 workers of Shishir Knitting and Dyeing Factory, a unit of Shishir Group, which employs around 1,000 workers, demonstrated in front of the Planners’ Tower demanding their dues.
At the same time, nearly 1500 workers of Tuba Group also demonstrated in front of the BGMEA headquarters demanding their three months’ wage arrears, along with festival allowance.
Tuba Group is the parent company of Tazreen Fashions where a fire broke out on November 24, 2012 killing at least 112 workers.
Seeking anonymity, an intelligence official said they had information about possible violence in garment factories and shared with those to the headquarters of Industrial Police, Police Headquarters, the Ministry of Home Affairs and BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) for taking necessary measures.
London-based The Guardian adds: Work to bring Bangladesh factories used by north American retailers, including Walmart and Gap, up to fire and building safety standards will cost more than US$150 million (£87.9 million) and take at least 18 months to complete.
In its first annual report, the US Alliance for Bangladesh Workers Safety, formed in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka killing more than 1,100 people in April last year, said it had completed fire and building safety inspection of all the 587 factories its members were using now.
Ten factories had been closed or partially closed, as a result of structural faults revealed in inspections.
* Accord seeks short-term funds for inspections:
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the platform of mainly European-based retailers, has called on its 178 signatories to provide additional short-term funding to meet its target of inspecting 1,500 factories by September.
Subsequently, the retailers have been asked to contribute $16 million this year, up from $9.2 million last year.
“We are confident however, that a reduction in member’s contributions in the latter years of the Accord five-year agreement will compensate for this additional short-term funding requirement,” said the organisation’s board of directors in its first annual report.
Basically, the group still expects to spend up to $48 million on the project over five years but needs to frontload expenditure to complete inspections, instead of spending in equal amounts over five years.
The group had a surplus of $4.434 million for the year that ended on December 31, 2013, owing to the political instability at the tail-end of last year, which delayed the roll-out of the inspection programme.
The surplus funds have now been utilised in the inspection rounds that took off in full swing in February this year for completion by September.
Subsequently, the budget for the financial year ending on December 31, 2014 is projected to generate a deficit of $7.786 million owing to absorption of the full costs of the inspection programme.
* $150m, 18 months needed to make factories safe in BD :
Work to bring Bangladesh factories used by north American retailers, including Walmart and Gap, up to fire and building safety standards will cost more than US$150 million (£87.9 million) and take at least 18 months to complete.
In its first annual report, the US Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, formed in the wake of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka in which more than 1,100 people died April last year, said it had completed fire and building safety inspections of all the 587 factories its members now used.
Ten factories had been closed or partially closed, as a result of structural faults being revealed by inspections, and members now used 600 factories against nearly 800 registered a year ago, reports London-based The Guardian.
Ian Spaulding, a senior adviser to the Alliance, said: “People are realising that they can’t just buy from any factory.”
The report says, overall orders from Bangladesh had not been cut, but consolidated among fewer suppliers.
read more. & read more.
* Small garments units get activated in Syedpur:
Small garments units are flourishing is Syedpur.
Nearly 500 such mini-garments industries are making shirts, half pants, zinc pants and so on.
At the beginning of the month of Ramjan thay started making garments by collecting cut-piece cloths of the big garments industries of Dhaka.
They are expecting to earn Tk 20 million during the holy month. They collect cut pieces to make garments throughout the year. But during two Eid festivals they make brisk business. Sources said they also export the products to Jalpaiguri and Shiliguri of India.
While contacted Hamidur Rahman, owner of MR garments of Shahid Atiar colony said, “We are small entrepreneurs so we do not get bank loan. If the banks support us with loans we will prosper.
Another small entrepreneur Motiar Rahman said”, last year SME foundation provided us Tk 25 million which was distributed by NCC bank among the small entrepreneurs.”
* Quick shipment of RMG cargo before Eid urged:
BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) first vice president Nasiruddin Ahmed Chowdhury has asked for cooperation from the private inland container depots (ICDs) to take all necessary steps for quick shipment of the RMG export cargo before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Directors of BGMEA Chittagong region Md Abdul Wahab, Syed Nazrul Islam, Shaikh Saadi, Anjan Shekhor Das and senior executives of the association accompanied the first VP during his visit to different ICDs including the OCL Depot and Essack Brothers in the port city.
During the visit he said they are facing problems in cargo discharge and smooth shipment of cargo from the ICDs due to shortage of skilled manpower, accommodation facilities for storing cargoes in the ICDs and lack of necessary handling equipment and other infrastructural shortcomings.
As a result, many covered vans carrying export cargo become absorbed causing shortage of such vans. This situation hampers quick delivery of the export cargo from factories to the ICDs, he said.
Long stay of covered vans with export cargo in the ICDs also causes delay in shipment creating apprehension of cancellation of the export orders and air-shipment of the cargo that calls for extra cost of freight.
* Apparel accessories makers fail to achieve export target:
The country’s apparel accessories and package makers have failed to achieve the export target of last fiscal year (FY), 2013-14, blaming political unrest and global economic recession for the setback, industry insiders said.
“We exported products worth US$ 4.75 billion last FY whereas the target was $ 5.0 billion,” Bangladesh Garment Accessories and Packaging Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGAPMEA) president Rafez Alam Chowdhury told the FE.
* Khulna jute mill workers blockade roads, railways:
A half-day railway and road blockade programme called by the workers of two private-run jute mills at Mirerdanga, which remained fully closed for the last one year, demanding reopening of the mills and payment of their arrears, got underway on Saturday.
The workers of ‘Sonali Jute Mills’ and ‘Agax Jute Mills’ put up barricade on the Khulna-Jessore Highway in Phulbari Gate area around 8:00 am, disrupting traffic on the busy road.
Several hundred vehicles got stranded on both sides of the road, causing immense suffering to the commuters.
Earlier on Friday evening, the workers and employees of the two jute mills brought out a torch procession in Phulbari gate area demanding payment of their due arrears and reopening of the mills.
* RMG worker ‘denied maternity leave’:
Factory authorities allegedly forced her to sign white paper
A female worker of Fashion Craft Knitwear Ltd, a readymade garment factory at Beron of Ashulia, on the outskirts of the capital, yesterday lodged a general diary with police, saying she was denied maternity leave and forced into signing a white paper on Thursday.
Sathi, 26, a finishing operator, is eight months pregnant and was advised by a nurse at the factory health centre on July 14 to take leave, and she had been at home since that day, the worker told The Daily Star by phone. She said the management assured her of maternity leave, the salary of July, and the Eid bonus.
Sathi said she had been working in the factory for the last one year and four months.
“The management paid my salary of June on July 10. As I got some money, I went to the Centre for Woman and Child Health Care and did some medical check-up on pregnancy. According to the test result, the probable delivery date is September 12,” she said.
“As I submitted my papers to the factory medical department, a nurse named Akhi informed the factory admin officer Shofiqul Islam Swapan and requested my leave. And the management staff asked me not to attend office from July 14.”
Akhi confirmed to The Daily Star that she examined Sathi and advised her to take leave.
Sathi said she was paid the salary for 14 days of July and Eid bonus on Thursday but when she requested maternity leave, the administration office asked her to give a resignation letter and submit her identity card and attendance book.
RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Joyless Eid awaits Rana Plaza victims:
Victim families of Rana Plaza collapse form a human chain on the site in Savar, outside the capital, yesterday demanding compensation for those who lost their lives, sustained injuries and went missing in the nine-storey building collapse on April 24 last year. Photo: Star
Compensation still eludes hundreds
Hundreds of survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse and relatives of the deceased and missing victims continued their demonstrations at the building site in Savar for the third day yesterday, demanding compensation which has been eluding them for the last 15 months.
The protesters again declared that they would observe the upcoming Eid-u-Fitr at the Rana Plaza site and march towards the Central Shaheed Minar in the capital like the previous year, if they were not compensated before the festival.
Different labour bodies are organising the demonstration, which is supposed to continue today.
At the protest site, Zobaida Begum, mother of the deceased Ruhul Amin, said she lived on the income of Ruhul, and was now struggling for survival now, as her poor eldest son could not meet the needs of his own family, while her husband was too old and sick to work.
Showing her torn sari, Zobaida said, “Every Eid, Ruhul presented me at least two saris, which I used year long. But it stopped last year.” The wretched woman said, “Eid brings no joy for me except some sorrowful memories of my dead son Ruhul.”
“I cannot manage three meals a day. What will Eid mean to me?”
14:08:14 local time INDIA
20140725 * Garment workers protest in Chennai, but minimum wages are low across India:
It has been nearly five months since the Tamil Nadu government announced an increase in minimum wages for labourers across different industries, but the state’s garment and tailoring workers have had little cause for cheer.
On Tuesday, hundreds of workers from the Garment and Fashion Workers Union, which represents labour from most of the major garment factories in the state, organised a day-long protest in Chennai to demand that the wage increase announced in February – around Rs 3,000 more than the average garment industry wages announced in 2004 – be actually implemented on the ground.
As of now, workers in garment factories are still getting paid between Rs 4,000 and Rs 6,000 a month, based on the range of minimum wages stipulated by the Tamil Nadu government’s labour and employment department in 2004.
These 2004 wages were themselves implemented only in 2012, after several years of agitation by the Garment and Fashion Workers Union.
The garments manufactured in these factories – by more than two lakh workers in Chennai alone – are supplied to several prominent, high-end international brands from the US, Europe and Japan, say union workers.
Such delays and violations in the payment of minimum wages to labourers are neither new nor surprising, but the ongoing protests by the garment workers in Chennai reveal the abysmal and arbitrary pay scales that workers across India are forced to survive on, despite rising costs of living.
Minimum wages in India are determined by different states under the Minimum Wages Act of 1948. “India does not have a common minimum wage policy that cuts across different industries,” said Sujata Mody, president of the Garment and Fashion Workers Union. “We have a backward policy in which wages are arbitrary and different for different states, regions, sectors and genders.”
* Labour reforms: Govt to ease rules on apprentices, women:
Cabinet may take up amendments to 3 laws on Wednesday; but no relaxed retrenchment norms yet
The Narendra Modi Cabinet is likely to consider amendments to three labour laws on Wednesday. These include dropping a provision that permits arresting employers under the Apprenticeship Act.
However, relaxed retrenchment norms, like those proposed by Rajasthan in its labour reforms, are not part of the current scheme of things.
Besides the Apprenticeship Act, 1961, the Factories Act, 1948, and the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988, will come up for discussion in Cabinet. If approved, these pieces of legislation will be tabled in the current session of Parliament.
“The Union labour ministry plans to take these laws to Cabinet. The Bills will be taken up in the ongoing session of Parliament after Cabinet’s approval,” said a senior labour ministry official who did not wish to be named.
“Due to fear of imprisonment, employers tend to avoid coming under the Apprenticeship Act purview and training facilities available with them go unutilised,” the labour ministry said while drafting the proposal.
* Indian textiles export target fixed at $45bn for 2014-15:
13:38:14 local time PAKISTAN
* Fire breaks out at garment factory, firefighters rescue all those inside:
A warehouse of a garment factory in Landhi Industrial Area caught fire on Saturday. However, firefighters were successfully able to rescue all those who were caught in the fire.
The fire broke out at around 2pm and fire brigade officials claim that two fire tenders were immediately dispatched to the site. “After dispatching the two fire tenders, within minutes, we dispatched six more, and after that fire tenders from all over the city were called to the site,” said Muhammad Qadeer, an official of the fire brigade department.
The fire broke out at the warehouse situated on the third floor of the factory. A number of workers – both male and female – were present at the factory at the time. The workers on the floors below the third remained safe and were able to evacuate the building themselves.
However, a few of the workers who were at the warehouse were caught in the fire and had to be rescued.
Due to the unavailability of a snorkel – a hydraulic platform used to fight fires that break out above ground level – the fire was able to spread over the entire 2,000-squareyard third floor.
“The fire tenders reached the site on time but since there were no fire snorkels available, it took at least an hour and a half for the firefighters to put out the fire,” said a factory official, Zain.
As the fire broke out during a prayer break, there were not many people inside the warehouse at the time and those that were present do not know how the fire broke out.
“We became aware of the fire when we were returning after praying,” said factory worker Kashif.
“The watchman was shouting and informing everyone about the fire”
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* Punjab textile industry hopes energy issue to be resolved after Eid:
The Punjab-based textile industry is looking hopefully towards the government for resolution of energy supply issue soon after Eid. Especially, the SNGPL has notified an increase in gas supply to the captive power plants from six hours a day to eight hours a day from Eid onwards.
It is a bit respite for the energy-starved textile industry in Punjab.
The Punjab-based textile millers have further expressed the hope that the Ministry of Water and Power will also reduce electricity load shedding from 10 hours a day to 8 hours a day from Eid onwards.
Accordingly, they said, 8 hours gas supply coupled with 16 hours a day electricity supply will enable the industry to continue its operations 24/7.
* Efforts to augment annual output: textile manufacturers spend $599.219 million on machinery import:
Textile manufacturers and exporters spent 599.219 million dollars during outgoing fiscal year 2013-14 to import machinery to replace the existing equipment to augment their annual output, exporters said on Friday.
They said their industrial machineries had slaked production, which were replaced with a better technology to improve the output.
The textile industry investment for machinery replacement grew by 54.28 percent in the outgoing fiscal year 2013-14 from 388.4 million dollars in the corresponding fiscal year, official figures suggest.
They said the textile machinery was imported just to make good replacement of the old or worn-out equipment to improve the production. “Import of textile machinery is largely linked to replacement of the dilapidated equipment,” they said.
* Textile exporters voice concern over army’s deployment in Islamabad:
Textile exporters on Saturday cast fears over the army’s deployment in Islamabad, saying the government’s move has globally signalled a negative message towards the country’s security and stability.
“The army’s deployment in the country’s capital will further divert international businesses from Pakistan,” said the chief co-ordinator of Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (Prgmea), Ijaz A. Khokhar.
He said the global buyers were already reluctant to place orders with Pakistani exporters for fears of delays in shipments in the wake of low production from the energy crisis and the fresh political uncertainty will jeopardise the future international deals.
He was of the view that the government should show restrain while dealing with political matters of the country, saying the handing over of the capital city to the military will give a negative perception to the world textile buyers.
* Drop in garments’ sales seen amid rising cost of living:
Shopkeepers at shopping malls and big stores of garments on Saturday blamed rising cost of living for a “drop” in sales of readymade garments ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.
In random survey, shopkeepers complained that the demand for clothes was weak although Eid-ul-Fitr is only a few days away and only few days left in the festival to be celebrated.
They noted that the sales used to peak in the days before Eid, when families traditionally buy new clothes for self and for their children. However, they expect hope of picking up the business as the Eid-ul-Fitr is approaching fast and number of visitors increasing day by day.
13:38:14 local time UZBEKISTAN
* US Department of Labor to inspect cotton fields in Uzbekistan:
A US Department of Labor delegation met today with a group of activists before proceeding to the cotton fields to inspect who is working there.
Elena Urlaeva, head of Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU), said that the meeting took place at the US embassy in Tashkent this morning.
The members of the US delegation said the reason for their visit was to “assist in the advancement of workers’ rights protection”.
The current visit was meant to clarify if the situation with forced child and adult labor has changed in the country in comparison to the previous years.
It was not by accident that the US delegation has chosen to speak to PAU activists as it is they who do much of the groundwork to uncover instances of forced labor in Uzbek cotton fields.
* Foreign contracts are being signed and the problem of child labor ignored:
South Korea is investing billions of dollars into the Uzbek economy while closing its eyes on human rights violations.
The first official visit of South Korean president Park Geun-hye to Uzbekistan on June 16, 20014, seems to confirm South Korea’s interest in the Central Asian region and the increasing influence of Seoul on the Uzbek economy.
“South Korea is the fourth largest trading partner with Uzbekistan, after Russia, Kazakhstan, and China, accounting for about 6.4 percent of all trade,” says Alisher Taksanov, an economics expert.
“We have observed an increase in Uzbek-Korean trade cooperation since the mid-2000s. In 2004 and 2005 Uzbek exports to South Korea were 56.8 million USD and 51.5 million USD respectively, and imports totaled 351.9 million USD and 531 million USD. In 2010 and 2011 these numbers were significantly higher with exports amounting to 164 million USD and 142.5 million USD, and imports amounting to 1,457 billion USD and 1,485 billion USD respectively.”
South Korea pretends not to see slave labor
Evidently these problems are not an important issue for South Korea. And in any case its government clearly realizes the danger for its investors of raising these sorts of questions with the Uzbek government.
For instance, South Korean businesses eagerly process Uzbek cotton and import ready-made cotton products disregarding appeals by international organizations and campaigners to boycott this particular sector of the Uzbek economy due its use of child and adult forced labor.
* South African govt will continue to support textile sector:
The Government of South Africa will continue to support investments in the textile and clothing sector over the next year, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said during his Budget Vote Address.
* Li & Fung may invest in Kenya’s Textile City:
Li & Fung Limited, the world’s leading multinational consumer goods sourcing, logistics, and distribution group, is considering investment in the proposed Textile City which is to come up at the Export Processing Zone complex in Athi River, according to capitalfm.