12:15:26 local time VIET NAM
* Workers hospitalised after chemical container explodes:
Three workers at Phong Phu Corporation in District 9 on Monday were treated at Cho Ray Hospital in HCM City for severe chemical burns after an accident at the company’s factory.
According to the workers, a container in which they were pouring chemicals exploded.
The workers in the factory, which specialises in producing yarns, towels, denim fabric, garments and sewing threads, said the accident had occurred at 1 pm.
However, a company representative gave another account, saying that the workers had not followed regulations, and had failed to turn off the device used to stir the chemical liquid into the containers.
Thus, the containers had overflowed with the chemical liquid and splashed onto the workers’ bodies, said the representative.
The official cause is under investigation, according to local news reports.
Two of the men had third- and fourth-degree burns and severely damaged eyes. The other man had second-degree burns, doctors at the hospital said.
12:15:26 local time CAMBODIA
* Unions Want Arbitration Council Deal Renewed:
Trade unions at either end of the political divide Wednesday said they were eager to renew their agreement with garment factories to abide by the rulings of the country’s Arbitration Council, with some changes, despite a new report showing that both unions and employers often failed to stick to the deal.
However, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC)—which represents the country’s more than 400 exporting garment factories—was non-committal at a Phnom Penh roundtable meeting on the deal that occasionally grew heated.
GMAC and eight of the country’s union federations and confederations in October 2012 signed the two-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a bid to reduce work stoppages due to strikes.
The unions agreed to strike only as a last resort, and never during the arbitration process, in return for a promise from the factories to comply with whatever decisions the Arbitration Council—whose decisions are not legally binding—hands down.
* Chinese Factory Owners Living in a World Apart:
Eight years ago, Lo Koon Piu left Hong Kong to set up a garment factory in Kandal province, leaving behind his family.
Living more than 1,000 km from home, the owner of Wing Ying garment factory struggles to stay focused on his business.
“It’s a lie if I say I don’t [miss them],” Mr. Lo said of his wife and relatives in Hong Kong. “But I’m a man and I have to support my family.”
“We call this ‘lonely money,’” he said of his work in Cambodia. “We are earning the ‘lonely money.’”
As the country’s garment factories shuttered during nationwide protests in the sector in December and January, workers, unions, brands and industry bodies clamored to have their voices heard.
But one of the most influential groups, factory owners and managers, stayed largely silent.
About 65 percent of garment factories are owned by investors from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These middlemen in the global garment supply chain pay the salaries of more than half a million Cambodians and call the shots in an industry that accounts for some 80 percent of exports leaving the country.
Mr. Lo, who supplies high-end brands Calvin Klein and Armani, said only some of the 20 Chinese managers at his factory could communicate with his 800-strong Cambodian workforce.
“For basic stuff, I can understand, but I can’t really speak [Khmer] because I don’t really need to learn the language now,” he said. “When I was young, I wanted to talk to more local people, to meet different people. Now I am old, it’s not necessary to speak the local language,” said Mr. Lo, who claimed to be in his 60s.
But although they may not communicate directly with the people making the products they are shipping out of the country, the Chinese business community pays keen attention to the situation facing Cambodia’s working class.
Lak Chee Meng, news editor of the Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily newspaper, said the Chinese community is closely attuned to issues affecting the country’s political stability and economy.
“I can observe they are monitoring the situation and leaders from governing and opposition political party more closely than locals,” he said via email.
But many factory owners live a life far removed from that of their Cambodian workers, mixing predominately with other factory owners who speak their language, and indulging in the same kinds of pursuits they might at home—karaoke, Mahjong (a popular game of strategy), and dining at Chinese restaurants.
Lu Wei Gang, the Chinese owner of Compress Holdings garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, says there is “no difference” between his life here and in his home province of Guangdong.
“When there are festivals in China, we will go to Chinese restaurants together. We also go to karaoke sometimes,” he said.
“Because of us having to come so far to Cambodia we should help each other to make life easier, not just spending time on work, otherwise we would be very lonely.”
Mr. Lu set up his factory, which produces jeans for export to the U.S., Canada and Europe, three years ago after working in China’s textile industry for decades.
Cheaper labor and the lower price of materials in Cambodia brought Mo Chang, the Chinese owner of A M M Garment factory, to the country two years ago.
Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser at Better Factories Cambodia, said cultural misunderstandings between garment workers and foreign managers sometimes led to industrial disputes.
“That’s one of the reasons that for a long time Better Factories has tried to train Cambodian supervisors…so that more of the Chinese and foreign supervisors can go home,” she said.
12:15:26 local time THAILAND
* Unity to fight precarious work in Thailand:
The number of people in precarious work in Thailand has reached a critical limit. Last April, Yongyuth, the general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate The National Metal Federation (TEAM), gave several examples from the garment, electronics and auto industries, where less than 50 per cent of the workers have permanent contracts
In the paper sector, many unions have lost their bargaining power and some even exist by name only. The newly created Confederation of IndustriALL Labour of Thailand (CILT) bringing together the auto, metal, textile, chemical and petrol workers of Thailand vows to fight precarious work.
According to the Ministry of Labour, agency workers are classified as employees of the service sector. Under the law, unions can only represent employees of their company or workers in the same industrial sector.
This prevents unions in the manufacturing and energy sectors to organise and bargain for agency workers, even when they perform the same work as permanent and direct hired workers.
Trade unions also face the opposition of the companies. Even though unions are allowed to organise and represent employees of sub-contractors in the same industrial sector, often they cannot.
11:15:26 local time BANGLADESH
* Day 3 of Occupy Tuba; 5 hospitalised:
Five garment factory workers were hospitalised and 12 others were receiving treatment after falling sick during the third day of a hunger strike to realize their unpaid wages plus bonuses Wednesday in North Badda.
Around 1200 workers of five factories owned by Tuba Group, occupied the three factory premises of the group at North Badda’s Hossain Market and started a ‘fast unto death’ Monday, the eve of Eid ul Fitr, demanding payment of 3 months’ wages plus festival bonus owed to them.
Workers sources said at least 20 workers fell sick on Wednesday. Among them, five were admitted to Moghbazar Community hospital, while 12 others were under treatment receiving intravenous saline at the site of the unprecedented occupation.
Agitated workers said they will continue their hunger strike until their wages are paid. But till the filing of this report on Wednesday evening, no BGMEA representative or factory-owning authority had contacted them with any news in this regard, they said.
* 40 RMG workers fall sick in Badda demo:
At least 40 workers of a garment factory who were observing a hunger strike since yesterday in an ongoing demonstration in capital’s Badda area fell sick on Wednesday.
Several hundred readymade garment factory workers of Toba Group started demonstrating in front of their factory there on Eid day yesterday.
Among the sick, five agitating workers were taken to a local community clinic as their physical condition took a critical turn, a participant, Monir, told The Daily Star.
Around 200 workers are observing the hunger strike.
Many of them were observing hunger strike, demanding full payment of their salaries and bonuses, Abdul Jalil, officer-in-charge of Badda Police Station told The Daily Star.
Toba group, which owned the Tazreen Fashions Ltd, have five other factories, where workers did not get paid for last few months as the owner Delwar Hossain is in jail.
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* No Festival to Celebrate – Garment Workers Keep Protesting After Eid:
Eid is a moment of chaos for garment workers in Bangladesh.
For what is a time of celebration and joy for the rest of the country, garment workers are found lamenting their fate and staging hunger strikes in factories which make them work but deny them their dues.
After the chaos of Eid, most workers of the main contracting factories in Dhaka saw their arrears paid except for the 1600 workers of the Tuba Group which consists of Tuba Fashions, Bukshan Garments, Tuba Textiles and Mita Design.
With its Chairman and Managing Director behind bars due to the infamous Tazreen Fashions Fire (another factory under the same Tuba Group), the factories under this group have effectively denied its workers their rightful payment amounting to 3 months worth of salary, 1 month with of overtime, and Eid bonus, pushing them to a hunger strike during a time for which every one including all the garment workers in Bangladesh wait to celebrate.
Already, to this moment, at least 15 workers have fallen ill due to the hunger strike they are observing since 28 July 2014, Monday. With the Industrial Police on high alert with water cannons, it doesn’t look positive at all for the workers who are there only to demand their right.
The workers in Tuba Group have stitched jerseys for German, Brazil, French and other football fans with a contract worth of 260 Million BDT (2.5+ Million Euros), however, they remain protesting wage denial.
10:45:26 local time INDIA
* Workers demand ID cards, perks:
A meeting of the CITU-affiliated Powerloom Workers Union’s state committee held here on Tuesday has called upon the State Government to make mandatory dearness allowance, minimum wages, issuance of identity cards and ESI medical facilities in all power loom units.
“At present, the wages and social security of the workers in the power loom units spread over 20 districts in the State have been pathetic.
Many of them are made to toil for 12 hours a day and they were given poor scale of wages,” M. Chandran, state vice-president of CITU, told The Hindu .
According to him, the minimum wages should be fixed at Rs. 10,000 a month.
The workers were not given dearness or house rent allowances and the unit owners were not recognising them as employees by issuing identity cards, the Union alleged.
* Modi Cabinet clears labour reform Bills:
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to three labour laws. Among key proposals cleared is doing away with the clause that allows arrest of employers for not implementing the Apprenticeship Act.
However, relaxed norms for retrenchment, like those proposed by Rajasthan in its labour reforms, were not part of these Bills.
Besides the Apprenticeship Act, 1961, amendments to the Factories Act and the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act were okayed, said officials.
These pieces of legislation, according to them, are expected to be tabled in the current session of Parliament.
There has been a growing feeling that employers tend to avoid hiring apprentices over fear of arrest under the Act. “Training facilities available with them go unutilised,” the labour ministry had said while drafting the proposal.
10:45:26 local time SRI LANKA
* Grant salary hike, suits for cost of living- write to the president:
The National Trade Union Centre that states, the cost of living which was Rs.25343 when the president Mahinda Rajapaksha came into power , is doubled up to Rs50792 per month now and the basic salary was not increased since 2006, requests from the president to take actions for the granting of salary hike which suits for the cost of living today.
The letter sent to the president by the president of the National Trade Union Centre comrade Lal Kantha, further mentions that the cost of living allowance of Rs.10300 hanged to the salary of state employees, could not be used fruitfully.
Further details are included in the letter. We request from you to take necessary actions promptly to grant salary hike suits for the cost of living value of Rs 50792 according to the cost of living index 181.4 exists for the month of June 2014, and to add all allowances for the basic salary of state servants, and if the proper response is not received, we emphasize that actions are taken to organize working people for trade union actions.
* Monthly expenditure is Rs 50792; struggle for salary hike is commenced:
The struggle that for the government to increase the salary, suitable for the present living conditions as the todays unbearable living cost of Rs 50792 which was Rs 25344 when the president Mahinda Rajapaksha became for the ruling, add the all the allowances for the basic salary, was commenced today in front of the Fort railway station.
As an initial step, leaflets were distributed among the public. All the leaders of National Trade Union Centre including comrade Lal Kantha participated on this occasion. Several events are depicted below.