17:06:11 local time VIET NAM
* Min wage fails to cover min living cost in Vietnam: survey:
A survey has shown that the current minimum wage in Vietnam can cover merely two-thirds of the minimal living cost, and this gap can only be filled when the minimum wage increases by as much as 33 percent next year, according to the chairman of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL).
The VGCL assigned the Institute for Workers and Trade Union to conduct an independent survey on wages and the lives of workers in 2014, chairman Dang Ngoc Tung told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper in a recent interview.
The survey was meant to identify the actual gap between the wage workers receive and the money they use to pay for their cost of living every month in each of the four regions of the country, Tung said.
The results of the survey show that the minimum monthly living costs in Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 are VND3,996,000 (US$188.3), VND3,423,000 ($161.3), VND3,050,000 ($143.7), and VND2,695,000 (127.5).
That means the current minimum wages in all four zones can only pay for 67-70 percent of the respective minimum living costs, Tung said.
* Garment group furthers investment in local market:
The Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) is striving to gain a firmer foothold in the domestic market by expanding its distribution system and increasing the quality of its products.
This year, the group is working towards a rise of 12 percent in total revenue, of which 30 percent will be contributed by domestic sales.
Tran Viet, head of the marketing department of Vinatex, said the local garment market is promising as domestic consumption for clothing and fashion accessories only ranked after food and foodstuff.
In the first six months of this year, the group’s domestic revenue is estimated at 11 trillion VND (517 million USD), a year-on-year increase of 10 percent.
17:06:11 local time CAMBODIA
* Unions up wage demands:
Deposite not coming close to achieving their goal of a $160 monthly minimum garment wage, unions announced yesterday that they will raise their demands to $177 for 2015.
Ken Chhenglang, acting president of the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia (NIFTUC), said about 10 union representatives had last week reached an agreement to push for this figure in a meeting with employers scheduled for Friday.
“The groups of unions have got a positive result by [agreeing] to $177 for LAC [Labour Advisory Committee] negotiations,” she said.
With the minimum wage now at $100 and the government having used deadly violence in January to crush demands for further increases, Chhenglang conceded the new demand was ambitious.
“We know the government increases the minimum wage in very small amounts,” she said. “I won’t know what they are willing to go to until the tripartite meeting in October between the Ministry of Labour, unions and employers.”
Kong Athit, vice president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said unions were prepared to ultimately accept less, without saying how low they would be willing to go.
“We do not want to see protests . . . but we will wait and see the situation,” he said.
According to a letter from the unions, $177 is an appropriate figure given the profits made in Cambodia’s billion-dollar industry and higher wages in neighbouring countries.
* Workers Get Loans After Fire, Vow More Protests:
About 900 employees of a Phnom Penh garment factory destroyed last week by a fire were provided with loans to cover their expenses while they are out of work, but will continue to protest to demand their full paychecks and severance, a factory administrator and the workers said Monday.
“We loaned about $85,000 to 885 workers this afternoon, but the workers still keep protesting to get their last payment,” said Hel Phalla, the head of administration at the Chinese-owned Cheng Sheng Garment factory, which made clothes for U.S. retailer Kmart.
Hong Chenda, a representative of the workers, said while some workers are happy to receive the loans, they still want to receive the entirety of what they are legally owed.
* Dismissed: Protests in S’ville over sacked staff:
Dozens of workers in Preah Sihanouk province marched on the local labour department yesterday after three days of protests against the sacking of seven employees.
Worker representative Keo Srey Pich, 22, one of the dismissed from Vantage River Textile factory in Mittapheap district who have refused a pay-off from the company, said factory management had shown no sign they would change their position.
“The management still holds firm that they will not reinstate us. They said the factory is not able to recruit more workers after they were fired, but in recent days, 30 new workers were recruited,” she said.
Yov Khemara, a representative of the labour department, said the case had been filed with the Arbitration Council.
“But . . . they have to wait for 15 days,” he said.
He added that the provincial governor wants renewed negotiations to end the dispute to be held at 8am this morning.
* UK Urged to Help Improve Cambodia’s Factories:
A group of unions in the U.K. is urging its government to make sure British brands sourcing clothes from Cambodian factories respect their workers’ rights, and to ask the European Union to negotiate a deal with the Cambodian government to improve factory conditions.
In a July 22 letter released last week, the Trade Union Congress urges U.K. Business Secretary Vince Cable to raise the “serious violations of freedom of association taking place in Cambodia” in talks with U.K. brands buying from Cambodia.
The Congress, with 54 affiliated unions representing more than 6 million workers, also requests that the business secretary ask the E.U. to replicate in Cambodia the Sustainability Compact it signed with Bangladesh last year.
With the help of duty-free access to European markets, Cambodia exported $1.14 billion worth of garments to the E.U. during the first six months of the year, a 32 percent rise year-on-year, leading the way to an overall jump in garment exports over the first half of 2013.
“As a condition for continued trade preferences, the E.U. has included important provisions that require beneficiaries to guarantee the exercise of fundamental labor rights in law and in practice,” the unions say. “However, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has for several years criticized Cambodia for its continued failure to respect and promote freedom of association.”
* Twenty-six injured in truck crash:
Twenty-six garment workers were injured, three of them seriously, in Pursat province yesterday morning when the truck they were in overturned, police said.
Ean Vanthorn, Krakor district deputy police chief in charge of traffic, blamed the accident on the driver, whom he said drove carelessly.
“He does not have much knowledge of traffic regulations,” Vanthorn said.
The truck, loaded with female garment workers heading to work, tried to overtake a freight truck on National Road 5. After passing the vehicle, the garment truck’s driver swerved to miss a motorbike and lost control. As the workers lay injured, the driver fled the scene.
* BetterFactories Media updates 19 July – 5 August 2014, Fire destroys factory, kills Chinese manager:
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
2014-07-22 Employees waste time on phones
2014-07-25 At factory in Kandal, flight over protest
2014-07-29 Fire at garment factory kills 1, leave workers fearful
2014-07-29 Mysterious smell lurks in factory
2014-07-30 Wages do not compute ILO
2014-07-30 Workers seek pay after fire
2014-07-31 Long shifts at factory killed worker, gov’t report states
2014-08-01 Workers ill after fainting at factory
2014-08-04 Striker’s demand violates constitution, international treaties
2014-08-05 Protests in S’ville over sacked staff
2014-08-05 Twenty-six injured in truck crash
12014-08-05 Unions up wage demands
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2014-07-19-20 Request rejected to have union head step down
2014-07-22 Brands dodge blame over substandard factory
2014-07-22 Chinese factory owners living in a world apart
2014-07-22 Garment exports keep rising despite unrest
2014-07-22 Ocean settles as other worker strikes gain steam
2014-07-24 After NEC reform, Rainsy says higher wages are top priority
2014-07-28 Odor causes nearly 200 garment workers to faint 2 factories
2014-07-29 Fire destroys factory, kills Chinese manager
2014-07-29 More garment workers faint in Kandal factory
2014-07-29 Workers end strike after factory makes concessions
2014-07-30 Fire ravaged factory’s former owner to give workers loans
2014-07-30 Kompong Cham sandal factory ends strike after compromise
2014-07-31 Unions want arbitration council deal renewed
2014-08-01 Dead worker’s family promised compensation
2014-08-01 Family free after alleged abuse of child workers
2014-08-01 Workers protest for speedy pay after fire destroys factory
2014-08-02-03 Staff of suspended factory demand wages
2014-08-04 Factory explosion in Eastern China province kills at least 69
2014-08-05 UK urged to help improve Cambodia’s factories
BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
16:06:11 local time BANGLADESH
* Eminent citizens: Prosecute Delowar for holding 1,600 workers hostage:
June unless he is out on bail in order to enable the release of the funds from the bank
Eminent citizens have called to prosecute Toba Group Managing Director Delowar Hossain on charges of securing bail by holding 1600 workers hostage in the Tazreen fire tragedy case.
“We think it is a threat to the independent judicial system in our country,” said 16 eminent citizens, including Syed Abul Maksud, Sultana Kamal, Khushi Kabir and Anu Muhammad, in a joint statement yesterday.
Delowar, also an owner of Tazreen Fashions Ltd, has been detained in connection with the devastating factory fire in which 112 people were killed in November 2012.
On July 28, a High Court bench granted two months’ bail to him, reportedly on the controversial grounds that 1600 workers of five factories under Tuba Group cannot be paid their salary for May and June unless he is out on bail in order to enable the release of the funds from the bank.
* Tuba workers continue hunger strike:
At least 1,200 workers from five factories under the Tuba Group have been on a hunger strike for eight consecutive days
The workers of Tuba Group vowed to continue their fast-unto-death until their demands were met, rejecting Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s (BGMEA) proposal of two month’s wages to be paid on Wednesday.
The agitating workers also announced at a press conference on Sunday that they would lay siege to the BGMEA building today at 11am to press home their demands.
At least 1,200 workers from five factories under the Tuba Group have been on a hunger strike for eight consecutive days at Hossain Market in the capital’s Badda area, demanding the payment of three months’ wages, overtime and Eid bonuses. As of yesterday, over 90 workers have fallen sick from days of fasting, and 20 of them have been admitted to various hospitals in the city in critical conditions.
* RMG trade unions, left political activists stage demo for Tuba workers:
The protesters also vowed to lay siege on the BGMEA office in the capital today to press home their demands
Several RMG trade unions and left political parties staged a demonstration in front of the National Press Club yesterday, demanding the payment of dues of the Tuba garment workers.
Around 150 activists formed several human chains under the banner of Ganatantrik Bam Morcha, a left political party, and tried to remove a police barricade during their protest.
The demonstrators also demanded safety at workplaces and job security. The police obstructed the activists when they tried to march towards the city’s secretariat building around noon.
A few people got injured during a scuffle that erupted when police barred the gathering from marching towards the secretariat building and sources said one person had been admitted to a local hospital.
After the incident, the agitators set themselves in front of the police barricade and chanted slogans to press home their demands.
Democratic Left Alliance leader Shuvangshu Chakraborty said: “The prime minister is the labour minister herself. She exchanged regards on the occasion of Eid but became blind when it came to take an initiative regarding the agitating workers.”
* Hunger strike continues for 8th day:
Workers of Tuba Group on Monday continued their fast unto death for eighth day pressing for arrear wages and festival allowance.
Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee reiterated that they would not accept partial payment offered by the owners and said that the owners must pay their wages for three months and the festival allowance at a time.
More than 100 protesting workers became ill so far and seven were sent to different hospitals on Monday when they became seriously ill, committee leaders said.
Several hundred Tuba Group workers and Garments Sramik Oikya Forum president Muahrefa Mishu were taking part in the fasting at the 7th floor of the Hossain Market at North Badda in the capital.
The committee staged rallies in different apparel industrial belts across the country on Monday to press its five-point demands including payment of arrear wages for three months to 1,600 Tuba Group workers, cancellation of bail granted by the High Court to Tuba Group owner Delwer Hossain and compensating workers who were taking part in the fasting.
The committee will lay seize to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association building at Karwanbazar today, its leaders said in a statement on Monday.
Democratic Left Alliance, a combine of the eight left leaning political parties, the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Socialist Party of Bangladesh, Nagarik Oikya, 30 apparel workers’ organisations and Textile Garments Workers Federation held separate programmes demanding resolution of the crisis.
* People rise for Tuba workers:
Demand all dues for them immediately, cancellation of Delwar’s bail
The demonstrators of Gonotantrik Bam Morcha try to break through a police barricade at Jatiya Press Club and head towards the Secretariat to besiege the energy ministry there in the capital yesterday, demanding the full payment of all dues of several hundred workers of Tuba Group’s five garment factories immediately. photo: star
Rights and political activists yesterday demanded the full payment of all dues of the Tuba Group garment workers and cancellation of the bail of the group’s Managing Director Delwar Hossain, saying the labourers could not be used as hostage to ensure his release from jail.
The demands came from a human chain of Sangkhuddho Nari Samaj (Aggrieved Women’s Society), a platform of human and labour rights bodies, held in front of the capital’s Jatiya Press Club. Representatives from at least 12 organisations participated in the programme.
The authorities of Tuba’s five garment factories have not paid their 1,600 workers the salaries of the last three months plus the Eid-ul-Fitr bonus, saying that since Delwar was in jail, the banks were not giving them loans and thus they could not pay the workers.
Delwar, also owner of Tazreen Fashions, was sent to prison in February in the connection with the devastating fire at Tazreen in November 2012, which killed at least 112 workers.
read & see more.
* Tuba workers stage demo before BGMEA office today:
Rejecting a proposal of BGMEA, the workers of Tuba Group yesterday said they would lay siege to the office of the garment makers’ platform today.
On Sunday, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) proposed payments of two months while the workers have been agitating for three months’ salaries along with festival bonus.
“We do not agree with the BGMEA. We want the full payment of three months and bonus,” said Khokon Mia, a senior operator of the group yesterday.
Today, their demonstration in front of the BGMEA office in the capital’s Karwan Bazar area will begin around 11:00am, he added.
“We don’t want any empty assurances. Our owners and the BGMEA have cheated us many times before and they would again betray us if we break our fast now,” Asma Akhtar, a 24-year-old worker, said.
“If necessary,” said Jyoti Begum, 30, who has been fasting since the Day 1, said, “I will commit suicide to set an example here.
“May be the authorities would begin to understand our hardship if some of us die here. We are dying of hunger anyway.”
* Did BGMEA play its due role?:
The painful saga of the Tuba Group workers’ agitation over a payment of dues has been quite revealing of the questionable role played by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in the crisis.
And that has been despite the fact that the association was tasked to streamline its member factories.
The BGMEA staged the payment drama at such a time when the whole world has been focusing on Bangladesh’s garment sector, particularly over safety and labour standards in the workplace.
The BGMEA was also supposed to monitor such compliance factors as timely payment of wages and safety and security measures for workers of its affiliated member factories.
Sadly, though, that role was conspicuous by its absence.
The laidback role of the BGMEA has, it appears, only encouraged member factories in perpetuating their bad practices. Their misdeeds touched the peaks.
The ramifications of the BGMEA’s laxity in monitoring the factories are all out there: there has been a collapse in safety and security measures in the garment units.
Memories are yet fresh in the public mind about the callousness which caused two of the deadliest disasters in the nation’s garments sector.
The Tazreen Fashions fire and the Rana Plaza building collapse occurred within a space of six months between 2012 and 2013.
It was the nation that paid the price when the US went for the harsh move of suspending trade privileges under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) on June 27 last year.
It is not too hard to see that the Tuba Group’s sister concern Tazreen Fashions was largely responsible for the suspension of the GSP facilities.
As if that was not enough of a shock, the collapse of the Rana Plaza only compounded the issue.
The suspension of the GSP status was clearly indicative of serious shortcomings insofar as labour rights and workplace safety in the sector were concerned.
It was a blow for the country since the United States happens to be the single largest export market for Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, there is the fear that the European Union, where 59 percent of the country’s exports are headed, might at some point be influenced by the US decision.
On July 8 last year, the Bangladesh government was compelled to sign a Sustainability Compact with the EU, promising an improvement in labour rights and workplace safety standards.
It was humiliating, but necessary.
Irony has been a striking feature in the garments sector despite the recent tragic incidents. Where after the Tazreen Fashions fire tragedy of November 24, 2012, Delwar Hossain, managing director of the Tuba Group, was not seen in public, he was spotted voting at the BGMEA election only a few months later.
That he enjoyed the protection of the BGMEA was made clear.
* Tuba workers to go for tougher movement:
Strike at all RMG units likely, security intensified
The Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee is set to announce today (Tuesday) tougher agitation programme, including observing strikes at the country’s apparel industrial belts to realise their demands, sources said.
The special committee, which was formed by the unpaid workers earlier, decided on Sunday night last to go for tougher movement to mount pressure on the BGMEA leaders and the government.
The sources said the announcement could come today (Tuesday) after their programme to lay seige to the BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) headquarters in the capital.
When contacted, organiser of the Sangram Committee Joly Talukder said they are going to announce fresh spell of movements like strikes in each of all apparel factories all over the country.
“The announcement could come tomorrow (Tuesday) during or after their earlier announced programme to gherao the BGMEA office,” she said. They would go for strike if the owners fail to respond to their demands by Tuesday evening.
Talking about the issue, President of Garment Workers Unity Forum Moshrefa Mishu, also convener of the Sangram Committee, said they have given enough time to the BGMEA leaders and the government to settle the issue. “Unfortunately, we’re yet to get any sign of settlement although the ongoing hunger strike of the unpaid workers stepped into eight consecutive days that left more than 100 workers ill,” she said.
* Cops foil left bodies’ bid to lay siege to ministry:
Failing to lay siege to labour ministry in face of police resistance, leaders and activists of Gonotantrik Bam Morcha staged a sit-in near secretariat in the capital for half an hour today.
The leaders and activists of Bam Morcha, an alliance of several leftist parties, ended their programme around 12:30pm through a brief rally.
Earlier in the day, several hundreds of the alliance gathered in front of Jatiya Press Club around 11:15am and held a rally demanding immediate payment of the due salaries and Eid bonus to the garment workers of Tuba Group.
After the rally, the activists started towards the secretariat in procession in a bid to lay siege to the ministry as part of their prescheduled programme.
As they reached near the barricades set up by police before the gate No-5 of the secretariat, the law enforcers resisted them, triggering the sit-in programme.
The alliance announced the programme yesterday expressing solidarity with the 1,600 RMG workers of Tuba Group who are continuing their hunger strike for the eighth consecutive day today to realise their five-point demand including payment of their three months’ salaries and festival bonus.
Garment makers platform BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association) yesterday agreed to pay two months’ salaries to the 1,600 workers of Tuba Group, but the workers rejected the offer.
* Force Tuba Group to clear workers’ dues: Left parties :
Members of thirty garment workers’ organisations staged a hunger strike in front of the National Press Club in the city Monday demanding payment of unpaid salaries and Eid bonus to workers of Tuba Group.— FE Photo
Left-leaning organisations on Monday warned that the government will lose ground under its feet if it fails to force Tuba Group to pay all the dues of workers.
The movement waged by Tuba Group workers for realising their dues will not remain restricted within themselves, rather it will spread everywhere if the demands are not met immediately, they observed.
The observations came from a rally on the road adjacent to the west boundary of the Secretariat, when police managed to thwart a siege to the Secretariat, organised by several leftist parties and platforms, including Gonotantrik Bam Morcha, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), Socialist Party of Bangladesh (SPB) in solidarity with the demands of Tuba Group workers.
Addressing the rally, Ganosanghati Andolan chief coordinator Zonayed Saki said although the hunger strike of Tuba Group workers is on its 8th day, the unpaid workers has got nothing but assurance from the government and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
He said, “BGMEA has assured the workers of a paying their two months’ dues by August 6 and another month’s dues by August 10. Why didn’t they pay the workers yesterday, or today?”
Speaking about the garment owners, he said, “You have passed your Eid vacation abroad, but your workers have passed their Eid doing hunger-strike on the factory floor; that can not happen.”
read more. & to read.
* Tuba workers continue fasting:
Police obstructs lefts’ march towards labour ministry
Workers of Tuba Group continued their fast unto death for the eighth consecutive day on Monday demanding payment of their arrears, wages and festival allowance, rejecting the authorities’ offer of partial payment.
More 30 organisations of apparel workers observed token hunger strike extending solidarity to the Tuba Group workers in front of National Press Club.
The left-leaning organisations faced police obstruction near Bangladesh Secretariat as they marched towards labour ministry to press for immediate resoloution to the demands of Tuba Group workers.
The hunger-striking workers of Tuba Group on Sunday rejected the authorities’ offer to pay two months’ wages.
They vowed to continue their protests until all their dues and festival allowance were cleared.
Police obstructed the activists of the Democratic Left Alliance, a combine of eight left
leaning political parties, putting barbed wire fences when they marched towards labour ministry after a brief rally in front of National Press Club.
The left activists scuffled with police and continued sit-in where they faces police barricade.
* BNP to wage movement if Tuba workers not paid dues:
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Monday urged the government and authorities concerned to provide immediate payment of all wages in arrear to Tuba Group workers.
If the payment is not madse immediately, the party would wage movement to relise the demands of the Tuba Gropu workers, BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi said at a press conference at the party’s central office in the city.
He said that the families of Tuba Group workers, now on fast unto death for the pauyment of arrears, were starving as the workers were not being paid wages.
* Buck-passing over paying workers should stop:
The failure of the management of the Tuba Group to clear the dues of some 1,600 workers leading to their fast-unto-death protest programme has thrown this already troubled garment sector into a fresh spiral of crisis.
Because, with the entry of the industry’s apex body Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the government in the negotiations to pay three months’ salary plus Eid bonus to the demonstrating workers, it is no more the internal problem of a particular company.
And with some 11 left-leaning organisations expressing solidarity with the agitating workers under the banner of the Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee to realise their five-point demand, the grievances of the Tuba employees have assumed a significance broader than that of a particular group of workers.
All this has been possible thanks to the shamelessness, chicanery as well as callousness of the people who own the company.
It is heart-wrenching that when their colleagues in other garment factories were happily enjoying the Eid holidays, reuniting with their families in the countryside, 1,600 workers of Tuba Group were forced into this pitiable condition.
When the whole nation was in celebratory mood, these people were crying in the wilderness to get paid for the work they have already done.
To think that the company earned Tk. 39 crore selling jerseys for the World Cup football and other garment products overseas from January until June, but failed to pay the workers with whose labour those products were created.
No wonder this is from the self-same owner whose callousness was to blame for the deaths of some 1,200 workers in another of his factories, Tazreen Fashions, in Ashulia in November 2012.
There is hardly any room for further wasting of time in meeting the demands of the workers of Tuba Group. If the BGMEA leaders fail to live up to their word, the government, the labour ministry in particular, must step in.
There has been a lot of buck-passing over paying garment workers their due.
We say enough is enough.
* Most federations inactive, active ones denied registration:
TRADE UNION IN RMG SECTOR
Many of the 38 trade union federations working in the ready-made garments sector are virtually inactive, while a number of active organisations working in the sector have failed to be registered despite numerous attempts.
A 2013 study of Transparency International Bangladesh, titled ‘RMG Sector:
Problems of Good Governance and the Way Forward’ claimed that no more than nine federations were active in the sector.
Trade union activists put the figure at, at best, 12.
Labour leaders allege that many of these unions only exist in name; some are limited to sending out a few press releases, while some are mired in leadership dispute.
A federation in a sector is an apex body of unions for respective industrial sectors.
At least two registered unions need to unite to form a federation.
Many federation leaders admit that they operate on a limited scale.
‘We are not linked or affiliated with any political party so our activities are limited,’ said Jatiya Garments Sramik Kalyan Federation president Shafiqul Islam.
Meanwhile, Jatiya Garment Sramik Jote president Mahtab Uddin said since they were not associated with any NGO they were financially constrained.
Meanwhile, organisations that have been actively working to ensure labour rights in the sector for years, have failed to get registration from the government despite numerous attempts.
The Garment Workers’ Trade Union Centre has so far applied three times for registration, starting in 2007, under different names.
‘We last tried in February 2011 and the labour directorate refused us a month later,’ said Kazi Ruhul Amin, general secretary of the organisation.
Meanwhile, the Garment Workers’ Unity Forum has been apparently trying to be registered since 1995.
‘We have been refused on different grounds but the real reason is that factory owners influence the directorate officials to not provide us registration,’ said the Forum’s president, Mushrefa Mishu.
* Review meeting on TICFA today:
USTR team in city
A two-member United States Trade Representative (USTR) team is now in the capital to review progress made so far in implementing Trade and Investment Cooperation Facilitation Agreement.
TICFA aims at making business between the two countries easier.
Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Mara M Burr is leading the team which is scheduled to hold the formal meeting with senior commerce ministry officials today (Tuesday) in the city.
Commerce Secretary Hedayetullah confirmed the FE about today’s meeting but refrained from detailing the agenda of discussion. He said media will be briefed only after the meeting.
“TICFA must deliver tangible benefits to Bangladesh. We are paying over $800 million duty to the US on RMG exports annually at the rate of 16 per cent. Contrary to it, Vietnam is paying at the rate of 8.0 per cent,” BGMEA Vice President Shahidullah Azim said demanding that Bangladesh must get duty free market access now under TICFA framework.
20140802 * The binds that tie: unions, ‘solidarity’, civil society and foreign policy in Bangladesh:
A look at the new unions emerging as part of the reforms of the garment industry – and Western influences on them. Plus workers continue to struggle to be paid what they are owed…
In the aftermath of the 2012 Tazreen and 2013 Rana Plaza factory disasters(1) all interested parties were agreed that the garment industry had to finally make major changes to working conditions in order to guarantee stability and industry expansion and to improve Western consumer perception of clothing brands. Local and foreign governments, NGOs, garment buyers, employers and unions have both cooperated and disagreed on what measures must be taken.
As well as the implementation of improved factory health & safety measures the freedom to form and join trade unions has been guaranteed by government. (Although previously legally possible, in practice employers and state used many obstacles to prevent workers using these rights.)
The US government had last year cited lack of workers rights as a primary reason for suspending the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) which gave Bangladeshi products preferential access to the US market. American Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have been at the forefront of lobbying for unionisation and aiding existing unions in becoming functioning workplace representatives and ‘responsible organisations of civil society’. (Till now existing garment ‘unions’ have been prevented by employer and government resistance from functioning as workplace representatives and negotiators and have functioned more as lobbyists and NGOs or in partnership with Western NGOs.)
One US NGO, the Solidarity Center, has recently become prominent in advising existing and emerging new unions. Before we analyse further its role we’ll describe a brief history of this organisation to try to determine its present function and goals.
* Eco-friendly leather: a niche to be exploited:
A local firm gets a foothold in global markets
RMM Leather Industries, an eco-friendly leather maker, aims to tap the growing prospects of green products in global markets.
The company that started exporting eco-friendly leathers in 2005 has received warm responses from foreign buyers.
“Eco-friendly products are a niche market for us to exploit, especially in the European and Japanese markets due to higher demand,” said Aniruddha Roy, managing director of the company.
The local leather industry can increase exports significantly if exporters focus on environment-friendly products, Roy said.
An increased number of companies are using eco-friendly leathers to make car seats, children’s shoes, handbags, covers for electronic gadgets and aircraft seats, he said.
* Jute exporters deprived of credit facility for huge default loans:
immediately take necessary measures for providing export credit facility for jute goods exporters
Country’s jute and jute goods exporters have not been getting credit facility from scheduled banks for last one year due to mounting default loans, official sources said.
Officials of Bank and Financial Institution Division said the amount of jute exporters’ default loan in commercial banks increased from Tk3,000 crore to Tk4,500 crore in last six years.
Bangladesh Jute Goods Association Chairman Mohammad Zakirul Islam sent a letter to Finance Minister AMA Muhith last week and urged him to immediately take necessary measures for providing export credit facility for jute goods exporters.
He wrote: “Honest jute exporters are being deprived of credit facility as scheduled banks are not interested to provide them with loan after some unscrupulous businessmen have become loan defaulters in scheduled banks.”
15:36:11 local time INDIA
* Textile policy to focus on new export markets:
Govt to make efforts to rejig labour laws, attract foreign investment
With an aim to grab one-fifth of the global textile business and increase exports to $300 billion in the next decade, the Government proposes to rejig labour laws, make special efforts to attract foreign investment and enter new markets with high export potential, such as Japan, China, Brazil and Russia.
The proposals are part of the vision strategy framed by the expert committee on textiles, and will be used as inputs for the National Textile Policy.
“The draft of the National Textile Policy will be placed before the Cabinet for approval after weaving in relevant comments from other Ministries and interest groups,” a Government official said.
Labour laws for the high employment generating sector will also be re-visited to make them both investor and labour friendly. The textiles sector is the second largest employment generating sector in the country after agriculture, providing direct employment to about 35 million people.
“There are a large number of workers in the unorganised sector who do not get benefits such as relief in case there are accidents. We are also discussing labour law flexibility with the Labour Ministry, but cannot elaborate on it now,” Textiles Minister Santosh Gangwar told BusinessLine .
The textile sector has been demanding less restrictive rules on working ‘over-time’, relaxed norms for application of the Industrial Disputes Act, and permission for export-oriented units to employ workers on contract without any restrictions.
* Revised health insurance scheme for weavers gets Centre’s nod:
The Centre has given its nod for the revised Health Insurance Scheme for Handloom Weavers with enhanced benefits under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Handlooms and Textiles Minister S. Gokula Indira told the Assembly here on Monday.
Replying to a debate on the demands for grants for her department, Ms. Indira said that the scheme would be implemented from the current fiscal.
Biometric smart cards would be issued to all enrolled beneficiaries who could avail themselves of cashless treatment in empanelled hospitals across the country.
A total of 2,70,046 beneficiaries now under the erstwhile health insurance scheme would be brought under the new scheme for which the State government had apportioned Rs. 5.45 crore for the current year.
* Rajasthan labour reforms: Trade unions to meet this week:
Proposed amendments say a state wouldn’t require Centre’s permission for retrenchment of up to 300 employees, against current 100
This week, central trade unions, including the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha (BMS), might hold a joint meeting to discuss a course of action against the Rajasthan Assembly’s passage of the labour reform Bill last month.
“We will hold a joint meeting of all the central trade unions on Thursday or Friday and, after discussion, we will decide on the action,” said A K Padmanabhan, president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). CITU is holding protests across the country, opposing the Bills passed by the Rajasthan Assembly. It is also opposing Cabinet approval to three labour Bills.
* Labour reforms to generate jobs: Govt:
The World Bank suggested simplification and modernization of labour laws in its World Development Report, 2014 to encourage higher productivity and employment generation in India, the union labour minister told Parliament on Monday.
Responding to a starred question in the Lok Sabha, Narendra Singh Tomar said the ministry is “addressing the issues of easing compliance burden to promote an enabling business environment”.
Amendments have been proposed for labour laws, including the Factories Act, 1948 and Labour laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988.
This has been done to bring them “in tune with demands of changing labour market scenario and to ensure ease of business”, the minister said.
The proposed amendments to the Apprenticeship Act, 1961 “are aimed to bring in desired flexibility for boosting training and employment opportunities for youth”, he said.
* One missing, two injured in fire at Tarapur chemical factory in Mumbai:
A supervisor is missing after a fire followed by an explosion took place at a chemical factory in Tarapur on Sunday night. Two workers of an adjoining industry sustained burn injuries.
According to the Boisar MIDC police, the fire broke out in plot number 72 of Nutraplus India Limited, a chemical manufacturing company at around 10.40 pm. While the seven to eight workers were rescued, the supervisor identified as Ajay Bore was reported as missing.
The fire spread to the neighbouring Vineet Textiles, injuring two employees Indrajeet Tiwari and Nandan Singh, both 40.
Police said that both sustained around 45 per cent burns and have been admitted to a private hospital said API Abbasaheb Patil.
Both the industrial units were badly damaged. Police said that the cause of the fire could not be ascertained. Eye-witnesses said that they heard an explosion and the entire building was in flames.
It is believed that some chemicals leaked and caused the fire and subsequent explosion.
15:06:11 local time PAKISTAN
* Baldia factory: HR body plans action against foreign firm:
While murder charges against the owners of Ali Enterprises — a garments factory in Baldia Town where hundreds of workers were burnt to death nearly two years ago — have not been dropped so far, they are once again pursuing European markets to sell their product, said the counsel for the victims at a press conference on Monday.
“We’ve recently heard that they have been trying to pursue European markets to sell their products which I think is alarming. We are trying to make sure that no one buys their product or does business with them after what had happened in September 2012,” says Advocate Faisal Siddiqi while speaking at the Karachi Press Club.
The Baldia factory fire, which is considered to be the worst industrial tragedy in the country’s history, had left as many as 259 workers dead and many others injured on Sept 11, 2012.
The lawyer, accompanied by rights activist Karamat Ali, said that murder charges against the factory owners were still there. A former prime minister had given instructions to the chief secretary to withdraw the charges but they had not been withdrawn so far. Bank accounts of the owners are frozen until further orders by a court, he explained, while a list of properties owned by them is also submitted in the high court.
Besides, Mr Siddiqi along with labour rights bodies is considering to pursue a legal case against the German company, KIK, for going back on its words to provide compensation to the victims on a long-term basis. The company, which used to buy 90 per cent of its products from Ali Enterprises until the 2012 blaze, agreed to pay for the compensation to those who died in the fire, the lawyer claimed.
Following the industrial fire and pursuing the KIK management for eight months, labour organisations from across Pakistan, headed by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), had a long meeting with the company’s management. “A Memorandum of Understanding was signed after the meeting,” said Mr Siddiqi. “We decided on three points: firstly, to ensure immediate relief to the families of the victims; secondly, payment of compensation to the families on a long-term basis; and thirdly, strengthening labour rights in Pakistan through collaborative efforts between KIK and labour organisations.”
He said the first phase of the agreement was completed after the KIK issued a cheque for one million dollars and the money was distributed among the families through a judicial commission constituted by the Sindh High Court.
“But it is the second phase of the agreement,” added Mr Siddiqi, “of providing long-term compensation to the families on which the company is behaving evasively. This has also put a question mark over the third phase of the agreement.”
In a copy of the document shared by Piler at the press conference, the company has signed beneath the agreement that says it “is willing to fund another $250,000 in the year 2013” that at present has become a bone of contention between the two groups.
* European court to be moved for compensation:
Labour rights organisations have decided to file a case in the European court against the German company that was buying the bulk of the products manufactured at Ali Enterprises – the Baldia-based garments factory, where over 250 workers died in a blaze on September 11, 2012.
Addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Monday, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) executive director Karamat Ali, senior lawyer Faisal Siddiqui, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Vice-Chairman Asad Iqbal Butt and Lateef Mughal of the People’s Labour Bureau said the organisations would also file a case against RINA, the company which granted safety certification to the ill-fated factory.
The Baldia factory fire was the worst-ever disaster in any industry. There is a growing concern among the trade unions of the world against precarious working conditions in South Asia, as over 1,000 workers also lost their lives in the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangaldesh.
With the second anniversary of the deadly fire approaching, the labour organisations of Europe and South Asia would organise different programmes.
The labour leaders pointed out that the German company KIK had signed an agreement with Piler to provide initial relief and long-term compensation to the affected families of Baldia factory fire.
The company also provided $ 1 million, which were distributed among the victims’ families via the Sindh High Court appointed commission headed by a retired Judge of Supreme Court.
* SHC declares federal legislature competent to enact laws on labour unions:
The Sindh High Court on Monday declared that the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) 2012 that granted the industrial and commercial workers the right to form labour unions was a valid piece of legislation.
With this ruling, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Faisal Arab, disposed of 52 different but identical petitions filed by several labour unions, including the CBAs of the K-Electric and Sui Southern Gas Company.
The larger bench that included justices Muhammed Ali Mazhar and Salahuddin Panhwar ruled that the federal legislature was competent to enact EIRA 2012 which was the only forum for the workers to seek remedy with regard to industrial disputes arising in trans-provincial industrial and commercial establishments having branches in more than one province.
* MoTI formulating five-year Textile Policy: National Assembly informed:
The Ministry of Textile has informed the National Assembly that it is in the process of formulating Textile Policy for the next five years to increase the country’s exports.
The ministry further informed the House that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has been issued directives for duty-free import of textile machinery and Rs 28 billion have been disbursed under Textile Policy 2009-14 initiatives.
The Commerce Ministry informed the National Assembly that as Pakistan’s biggest trade partner, the US is a key market for Pakistani textile and apparel exports.
The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) provides the framework for co-operation in trade between the two countries.
Bilateral trade showed growth in 2013. Exports from Pakistan to the US increased from the first half of 2012 to 2013 by 4 percent whereas imports from the US into Pakistan increased by 10 percent.
* Unresolved issues, political uncertainty hurt textile export:
Insufficient government’s efforts to augment trade, energy shortage, poor law and order and political uncertainty hurt the apparel textile export growth during the just ended fiscal year 2013-14, said textile exporters on Monday.
The usual growth dashed the textile exporters’ hopes on GSP plus gain, saying the duty-free market access to the EU has not paid off, as they had anticipated because of numerous unresolved issues.
Pakistan’s readymade garments’ export posted an increase of $156 million (9 per cent) to $1.955 billion in the just ended fiscal year 2013-14 as compared to the garments’ export of $1.799 billion in the corresponding fiscal year 2012-13, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) say.
* Japanese buyers eye Pak textiles:
Japanese garment buyers have invited Pakistani producers to tap their market as they intend reducing garment import from China.Japan Textile Importers Association in a presentation to Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) has underlined the business opportunities and presented the guidelines for tapping the Japanese market.
Japanese textile imports in 2013 stood at 4.003 Yen trillion out of which Pakistan’s exports to Japan stood at mere 9.34 billion Yen constituting 0.23 percent of their total imports.
The Japan Textile Importers Association noted that Japan was the third largest garment importer of the world following USA and Germany and offered huge potential for Pakistan’s exporters. Japanese imports from China are gradually declining, as Chinese garments which constituted 84 percent of Japan’s import reduced to 75.6 percent in 2013, while share of ASEAN surged by 8.4 percent.
* SACTWU issues ultimatum to clothing employers:
Settle or face national wage strike action by 80 000 clothing workers.
This is the ultimatum which the COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) has today issued to clothing employers.
The union had submitted its 2014 wage demands veryearly this year, on 20th March. The first round of wage negotiations was held on 15-16 April. Since then, there has been three further normal rounds of negotiations of two days each, plus three separate conciliation meetings and numerous bi-lateral discussions.
We cannot negotiate forever. Wage increases are due on 1st September this year, in less than 3 weeks from now.
The employers’ current final offer is a total labour cost increase of 7% and the union demands a 9% increase. We regard our final demand as reasonable and as affordable.
SACTWU has now called for a final meeting with clothing employers, which will be held in Cape Town tomorrow, in a last-gasp attempt to secure a resolution of this wage dispute.