16:56:21 local time CAMBODIA
* Officials looking into deaths of two workers:
The government is closely examining the deaths of two garment workers that occurred this month, including one who died on company grounds, officials said yesterday.
Sam Onn, of the Labour Ministry’s National Social Security Fund, said it was investigating the death of Vorn Sitha, 39, on July 19, and Nov Pas, 35, five days later.
Sitha’s body was found inside Kandal province’s New Archid garment factory, where he worked. Sitha slept on factory grounds the night of his death after working from 7am until 10pm, said co-worker Pum Noun, 35, who discovered his body the next morning.
“We worked overtime from 4pm until 10pm [after starting at 7am] every day because we need the money,” Noun said. “Before he died, his health seemed fine; I never heard him complain about being sick.”
Officials from the factory could not be reached.
On Thursday, management at the Sangwoo factory in Kampong Speu province sent Pas, an employee, to the provincial hospital about 10 kilometres away after she fainted at about 8am, said HR manager Cheav Sok Theng.
Medical staff discovered Pas had a disease that caused her lungs to fill up with fluid. She died at the hospital at about 5:30 that afternoon.
Separately, about 139 employees at Sixplus Industry in Kandal province fainted over the weekend, the Labour Ministry confirmed.
* Odor Causes Nearly 200 Garment Workers to Faint at 2 Factories:
More than 190 workers at two separate garment factories fainted at work on Friday and Saturday, both times after complaining of foul odors, union leaders and workers said.
At the Chinese-owned Sixplus Industry factory in Kandal province’s Mok Kampoul district, which makes sportswear for retail giant Adidas, about 160 female workers passed out on Saturday morning, according to Moeun Chanthy, chief of the factory’s sewing section.
“The unpleasant smell is hard to describe—it smells like a gas, it has a bad smell like a poisonous chemical…but we do not yet know where that smell came from,” Ms. Chanthy said.
Some of the workers who fainted also experienced vomiting and dizziness, and most of them were sent to the Prek Anhchanh commune health center for treatment, according to Son Sophal, a doctor there. Three women with particularly bad symptoms were sent on to Calmette Hospital.
16:26:21 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Firms slow to use GSP benefits:
Take-up on benefits offered through the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) has been limited, even though most countries involved in the market access program have extended benefits to Myanmar, said Ministry of Commerce economist U Maung Aung.
Participation in the program, which allows Least Developed Countries such as Myanmar tariff-free market access, has been low, but it offers the potential to significantly increase exports, he said.
“Most Myanmar traders don’t know about GSP,” he said. “But if they learn about it, they will use it, especially if it gives them competitive advantages with other countries’ firms.”
The GSP program offers significant tariff reductions to United Nations-designated Least Developed Countries on most products. However, many countries did not offer the program to Myanmar as part of sanctions against the country, though this has gradually been changing.
The European Union offered GSP benefits to Myanmar in July 2013, joining other countries such as Japan and South Korea that offered the program to Myanmar.
15:56:21 local time BANGLADESH
* Govt no less responsible for plight of RMG workers:
A little more than two-thirds of apparel factories paying workers their wages for July and the festival allowance for Eid-ul-Fitr by Saturday is a good enough reason for a sigh of relief but the pang remains that about a third of the factories, as New Age reported on Sunday, did not pay workers the wage and the festival allowance by the deadline of Saturday that they had set at a meeting with the state minister for labour and employment on July 15 for the payment.
Apparel workers’ leaders said that the number of factories not paying their workers by the deadline accounted for 30 per cent while the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association said that most of the factories, barring a few, had made the payment.
The statement that a BGMEA vice-president made may not hold true as authorities, public or private, in most cases remain in a denial mode especially to head off untoward happening.
Apparel factory owners’ flustering about the issue of worker payment, by the deadline in question and also at other times, prompted workers to hold protests, which in some case turned violent, disrupting law and order and causing inconvenience to people.
The workers, who expected to get paid by Saturday but did not get the money, had hardly any option but to go on demonstrations, with only one working day, Sunday, in hand or at best two days in all before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Most of the 40 lakh apparel workers, with females accounting for about 80 per cent, would also need a day or two to travel to outlying areas to spend Eid with their families and friends.
They need the money for the travel and for clothes and food for their families. Such protests for payment, which the workers have been holding for a couple of weeks, are not typical only of this Eid. This has been happening for a couple of decades as the apparel workers are not paid in time.
* 200 RMG factories fail to clear wages, allowance in time:
About 200 apparel factories have failed to clear wages, festival allowances and other financial benefits although the government and manufacturers assured of clearing all kinds payments to the workers by Sunday.
Workers’ representatives in the apparel industry sought government’s immediate intervention in this connection expressing fear that the unpaid workers could go for violent protests.
They said payments were cleared in three categories as many factories cleared wages for running month, festival bonuses and overtime bills, a number of units cleared only wages and some others paid only festival allowances.
When contacted, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Industrial Police Abdus Salam said around 200 apparel units are yet to clear payments of the workers as 3069 units out of 3265 apparel factories in the country have cleared such payments by 6:00pm on the day.
* RMG workers of 2 Savar units still not paid:
Workers of a garment factory in Ashulia of Savar demonstrated yesterday demanding arrears and Eid-ul-Fitr bonus as the factory authorities are yet to pay them even though the festival is just one to two days away.
Workers of Fantasy Sweater Ltd went to the factory yesterday to find it shut. They then demonstrated at the factory gate demanding salaries for the months of June and July and Eid bonus.
The factory authorities could not be reached despite several attempts by The Daily Star.
Meanwhile, several hundred workers of Shamim Group Garment Factory in Fulbaria of Savar demonstrated for Eid bonus.
The agitating workers also brought out a short procession on the road in front of the factory, said witnesses.
* No salary, Eid bonus for 1,500 RMG workers:
The workers belong to four factories – Tuba Fashions, Bukshan Garments, Tuba Textiles and Mita Design of Tuba Group – all located in Badda
Families of at least 1,500 ready-made garment workers are likely to be deprived of Eid celebrations this year as the employer Tuba Group did not pay them the arrears of three months and festival allowances yesterday, the last working day before Eid-ul-Fitr.
Although the owners had promised to clear the dues by yesterday, the workers did not receive any money despite waiting in front of the Hossain Market in capital’s Badda area for around five hours.
The workers belong to four factories – Tuba Fashions, Bukshan Garments, Tuba Textiles and Mita Design of Tuba Group – all located in Badda.
Sitting in front of the market around 9pm, Obaidul, a cutting supervisor of Tuba Fashions, said: “We came here during evening. The management asked us to wait and said they would get back with the money. But they have not returned yet and also kept their cell phones switched off.”
* Some RMG workers yet to get dues:
Owners of around 20 garment factories have failed to pay wages and bonuses of their workers before Eid Ul Fitr, till Saturday evening, although they had committed to pay it by July 26, said labour leaders.
The leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association leaders on July 15, at a meeting with the state minister for labour and employment M Mujibul Haque, committed to pay the workers wage of the month July and bonus within July 26.
The BGMEA leaders on Sunday convened a press conference at its office to brief
the media about the latest situation in the payment of workers, but they cancelled the conference at the last moment.
National Garment Workers Federation president Amirul Haque Amin said some factory owners were yet to pay the wages and festival allowances of the workers.
Some of the owners have now made a new commitment to pay on Monday, Amirul added.
* RMG workers’ bonus in intricacy of law:
Workers of fifty percent garments factories did not get full bonus owing to the jugglery in law as there is no mentioning in the labor law about what percentage of salary will be given as bonus.
When demands were made from the workers for full bonus the owners use the intricacy of law rather a fixed amount was declared as bonus. The amount declared by the owners is some where one third of the basic salary, as informed by the labor organizations. Finding no other alternative the workers accepted it.
Bangladesh Textile Garments Workers Federation president Advocate Mahbubur Rahman Ismail told banglanews that in the labor law there is no direct provision about percentage still the owners so long used to pay equal amount of the basic pay as bonus. But the owners this year have broken that practice.
In a large number of factories including Future Knitwear, Regal Attires, NS New wear and Union New wear bonus was paid much less than basic salary.
Advocate Zafrul Hassan Sharif told banglanews about the jugglery in law where there is mentioned about bonus but nothing mentioned about the percentage or what portion of basic salary. Taking this scope the owners have paid bonus as per their will.
* Accord inspects over 800 factories:
Accord, which comprises of leading European garment brands, have inspected over 800 factories till June this year and hope to scrutinise all the 1500 from which they source ready-made garments by September, reports bdnews24.com.
The Alliance annual report published on July 23, which reveals the job done and sets the target, also says it is short of funds to complete inspection of 1500 factories.
So it has urged members to increase their contribution for the second year with the option of cutting back in subsequent years.
In wake of the Rana Plaza collapse that killed over a thousand garment factory workers, European clothing brands signed the 5-year Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, better known as the Accord.
read more. & read more.
* EPZs expanding upward to create coveted space :
The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) is vertically expanding factory buildings in several EPZs to create more space for expansion of the existing plants or setting up new ones to mitigate land scarcity.
The BEPZA is also looking for suitable locations closer to urban facilities for setting up a new EPZ to meet the growing demand of investors, especially the foreign investors.
BEPZA General Manager and spokesperson Nazma Binte Alamgir told the FE Monday that despite a slowdown in foreign direct investments in EPZs in the past few years because of political and other factors, the demand for space in some EPZs was still high and they were trying to meet the demand by vertically expanding the existing factories.
15:26:21 local time INDIA
* “Follow new wage pact”:
Tamil Nadu Thyagi Kumaran Pothu Thozhilalar Sangam has called upon the textile unit owners here to disburse wages to workers according to the terms and conditions in the new wage pact and further asked the district administration to operate public transport buses exclusively for women workers.
To highlight these demands, along with few other issues, the Sangam members staged a demonstration in the city on Sunday.
N.D. Rajasekar, the state president of the Sangam, alleged that many textile unit owners were still not paying wages to workers at the enhanced scales.
“Such acts should be considered an attack on labour rights,” he said.
14:56:21 local time PAKISTAN
* Factory fire: Two bodies found from debris:
The bodies of two employees of a garment factory were found from the debris on Sunday.
A warehouse of the garment factory in the Landhi Industrial Area caught fire on Saturday.
The warehouse was situated on the third floor of the factory.
A number of workers – both male and female – were present at the factory at the time. Although many workers were able to evacuate from the building, two workers, including a watchman, 55-year-old Abdul Qayyum and 45-year-old Ashraf were caught in the debris.
Their bodies were recovered in the early morning by firefighters during the cooling process. Firefighters managed to completely extinguish the blaze by 9am in the morning.
Speaking to The Express Tribune Quaidabad SHO Amanullah Marwat said that the watchman was crippled and could not escape from that area. As a result, he died of suffocation.
“The other man, Ashraf, who went to rescue him, died of suffocation,” he said. Neither of them sustained any burn injuries, the SHO added.
He said the fire broke out due to a short circuit. However, the police are waiting for the final report of the fire brigade before drawing any conclusions.
* Textile printing: Female entrepreneur finds place in shrinking market:
Until a few decades ago, female workers were restricted to a few areas like health and education, sowing crops on farmland and producing home-based handicrafts. With the passage of time, women have found a new place and are entering a host of fields equipped with higher education and better skills.
Apart from some big businesswomen, many female entrepreneurs are doing business on a small scale and making a healthy contribution to easing poverty and unemployment levels in the country as well as boosting overall economy.
Mona Nehal is one such entrepreneur who first transformed her interest in an area into a skill and then kicked off business with thin funds.
Before embarking on her work life, Nehal first took training in some courses where she found interest in block-printing on clothes and chose it as her profession.
“Though demand for block-designing has waned in recent times with the overwhelming popularity of printed lawns, still many women like to have their clothes printed with manual designs like printing of borders, flowers and other such work,” she said.
* Fault of the regulators: Pakistan failed where Bangladesh didn’t:
In 1986, the Bangladeshi government introduced landmark regulations for its emerging garment export industry, called the back-to-back Letter of Credit (LC).
Under the rules, banks would pay the suppliers directly for raw material acquired by the factory. The buyer would tell the bank the specifics of the raw material — including the value, supplier’s name and the date when the material was needed.
The bank would ensure that as soon as the supplier delivered the raw materials and furnished proof of delivery, he got paid by the bank within a specified period.
With this arrangement, the factory owners could raise funds up to 75% of the value of their orders. In short, a factory exporting $10 million every year could buy raw materials worth $7.5 million without spending its own money.
When the factory consumed these raw materials and shipped its orders, money the bank had already paid was deducted from factory’s export earnings.
The balance was then transferred to the factory’s bank account — the only money the factory ever touched. Under these regulations, the factory owner had no access to capital but had an easy access to raw materials.
This is an important distinction. In Pakistan, factory owners can get preferential export credit for buying raw materials and meeting working capital requirements. But once they lay their hands on this easy money, it proves tragic.
In the long run, they squander this money to enact their personal dreams of grandeur, and prematurely.
* Skyrocketing prices of garments frustrate buyers:
As Eidul Fitr approaching fast, the prices of all range of stuffs, especially garments, lady footwear, shoes, and artificial jewellry have increased manifold this year.
Though, the Eid shopping has gained momentum as huge rush of women buyers seen in major bazaars, shopping malls, plaza and local streets, wherein salespersons have displayed various of stuffs, but the buyers are frustrated with skyrocketing prices.
In a survey conducted by Business Recorder here on Sunday, it was noted that the buyers showed their great concern about the prevalent situation of hike in prices of essentials on such occasions.
The customers mostly women along with relatives and other family members thronged to bazaars eagerly for Eid shopping were seen in gloomy mood over the skyrocketing prices. The housewives were cursing the shopkeepers and the price-control and vigilance committees of the government for their negligence.