10:34:19 local time CHINA
* Profitability of major textile companies improves in H1:
China’s major textile companies saw their profitability improve in the first half of the year, with profit margins rising 0.2 percentage point from the same period last year to 4.8 percent, according to data from the China National Textile and Apparel Council.
In the first six months, combined profits of major textile companies, or those with annual revenues of more than 20 million yuan (3.25 million U.S. dollars), increased 11.8 percent year on year to 147.76 billion yuan, the council said.
* China AgBank pledges more financial aid to Xinjiang development:
The Agricultural Bank of China, the country’s third largest lender by assets, has unveiled a guideline specifying a string of preferential policies to support the development of northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In the ten-item guideline, the bank pledged to increase credit to the region, planning loans of 100 billion yuan (16.26 billion U.S. dollars) over the next five years.
More financial aid will be extended to build the Silk Road Economic Belt, support the transportation system to connect the region to a wider world, the lender said.
Other policies include supporting the textile industry and small enterprises to boost employment, improving services for social welfare and agricultural projects in the region.
09:34:19 local time VIET NAM
* Vietnam makes strides in applying int’l labour standards:
Vietnam has made remarkable strides in the application of international labour standards, a means to ensure sustainable corporate growth and rights of workers, experts said at a Ho Chi Minh City workshop on August 14.
Adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1998, the set of standards groups the freedom of association and collective bargaining, the abolition of all forms of coercive, forced and child labour, and discrimination at work.
Deputy Director General of the Department of Legal Affairs under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) Mai Duc Thien acknowledged that some standard labour practices are made into the law, but several others remain under consideration, citing the freedom of establishing associations as an example.
* Vietnam textile industry urged to advance supporting industries:
Textile export has ranked second and made up 15 percent of total national export turnover, however Vietnam textile and garment industry has heavily relied on importing raw materials, hindering the industry to develop in a sustainable manner, said the Vietnam Business Forum Magazine (VBF).
According to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), the Vietnam textile supply chain is currently focusing heavily on exports (making up 86 percent of production capacity), and greatly depending on imported fabric sources (accounting for 86 percent of total demand).
In addition, bottlenecks still happen in the process of knitting and dyeing in Vietnam’s textile supply chain.
These have prevented the industry from sustainable development.
To increase profits and competitiveness, and reduce imports of raw material, the industry needs to advance supporting industries.
* New opportunities for leather and footwear exports:
The Vietnamese leather, footwear and handbag industry has more room for export development due to increased market demand and shifted production orders to Vietnam , the Vietnam Economic News reported on August 15.
According to the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (LEFASO), the leather, footwear and handbag industry has enjoyed many development opportunities as import demand from foreign markets especially the US market is recovering and Vietnam ’s competitiveness in the EU market has improved.
Starting in January 2014, Vietnamese footwear exports to the EU benefit from a Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) tax rate of 3.5-5 percent.
Many investors are looking for investment opportunities in Vietnam and increasing the number of their orders to Vietnamese businesses.
Foreign partners have tended to move their orders from China and Bangladesh to Vietnam .
* TPP opens the door to market expansion:
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is a double-edged sword that brings both challenges and opportunities to the country, said experts at a seminar in Hanoi on August 16.
- US ready to work with Vietnam to complete TPP
- TPP creates obstacles for timber processing sector
- TPP bears strategic significance: US senator
Speakers explained that when the agreement comes into effect, tariffs on 90% of Vietnamese exports will be reduced to zero, which provides a tremendous opportunity for businesses to greatly expand into other TPP member nations markets.
This should especially benefit key export products such as garments, footwear, timber and agricultural products and provide weaker exports a chance to penetrate foreign markets of other TPP members.
Currently, Vietnamese garments imported into the US are subject to tariffs ranging from 17% to 32%. The rates will be slashed to zero as soon as the TPP comes into effect, leading many economists to believe that Vietnamese exports could see exponential growth.
09:34:19 local time CAMBODIA
2010816 * Cambodia Garment Sector Small Fry for Suppliers:
In Cambodia, where the garment sector accounts for 80 percent of exports, hundreds of thousands of people depend on their slice of the $5 billion industry to survive.
But for suppliers currently exhibiting their wares at a trade show this weekend on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island, Cambodia’s garment industry represents a tiny fraction of their total sales, and is something of an afterthought for powerhouses such as Bangladesh, India and China.
And although Cambodia accounts for roughly four percent of the global garment industry, a number of the exhibitors were uncertain about the country’s investment environment.
The 4th Cambodian International Textile and Garment Industry Exhibition, and the concurrently held 4th Cambodian International Machinery Industrial Fair, are together billed as the largest industrial event in the country with 260 exhibitors from 21 countries.
Speaking at the event on Friday, Andy Laycock—the international business director for British firm Supercrease, which sells technology to keep permanent creases in clothing—was blunt about his company’s entry into the Cambodian market.
“It’s not important for us, it’s not one of our biggest markets because we’ve only got three factories here,” he said.
However, Mr. Laycock said his company, which works with brands such as U.K. high street retailer M&S, was looking to increase its presence in Cambodia to take advantage of favorable export conditions and a “nicer working environment.”
“Bangladesh is more cutthroat [but] unfortunately Bangladesh is our biggest market because it’s cheap, dirt cheap, compared to Cambodia,” he said. “Vietnam is much more geared up than here but it’s more expensive. Here it’s much cheaper but costs are increasing.”
Mr. Laycock said the quality of garments being made in Cambodia is much better than in Bangladesh, “where they often strike and throw stones.”
Asked about Cambodia’s own industrial strife, which peaked in January when five garment workers were shot dead by military police, Mr. Laycock said he was unaware of the clash.
It is common practice in the garment industry for major factories with an international reputation to outsource their orders to smaller factories, a practice that labor activists say often obfuscates the actual conditions in which global brands are having their clothes produced.
Mr. Naumann said that so-called “fast fashion” brands, such as H&M and Gap, were chasing cheaper production costs across the region, and now had their sights set on Burma.
“[Brands] are moving from country to country but they are now being more careful about the effect of moving,” he said, noting that, despite its rising labor costs, brands are still attracted to China for the higher productivity and skills of its workforce. “They are looking for more than just cheap labor, [brands] have learned from the experience in Vietnam and Cambodia,” Mr. Naumann said.
20140815 * Mass faintings occur at 6 garment factories in Cambodia:
At least 127 Cambodian garment workers at six different factories got fainted on Friday due to poor health, a local police chief confirmed.
Yim Socheat, police chief of Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, where the incidents occurred, said the victims had been sent to hospitals soon after the incidents and all of them had recovered after medical treatment.
“We preliminarily concluded that workers got fainted because of their poor health,” he said.”Our experts inspected the factories and found no any problems with environment or chemical substances.”
He said after the incidents, the factories allowed other workers to take a day-off.
Mass fainting has subsequently occurred in Cambodian garment factories. Last year, 823 workers got fainted in various factories due mainly to overwork, poor health, exposure to chemical substances and hysteria, according to the report of the Ministry of Labor.
Garment and footwear industry comprises 960 factories with some 620,000 workers. The sector is the kingdom’s largest foreign exchange earner that generated nearly 3 billion U.S. dollars in revenues in the first six months of 2014.
* Cambodians block Poipet checkpoint- ended:
The Thai-Cambodian border checkpoint at Aranyaprathet in Sa Kaeo province has been closed due to a protest by Cambodian traders.
Some 300 Cambodians wanted Thai authorities to release the Cambodian traders arrested for attempting to smuggle copycat clothes onto the Thai side, forcing a shutdown of the checkpoint on Saturday.
The rally took place in the Cambodian border town of Poipet, blocking traffic across the border, according to a Thai Rath Online report.
The demonstrators used 10 two-wheeled wooden carts to block the border entry. Some held placards written in Khmer.
Poipet governor Ngor Mengchruon later reached the border and tried to negotiate with the protesters.
He said the demonstrators were labourers and second-hand garment traders who brought used clothes to be sold at Talat Rong Klau in Thailand.
They wanted Thai authorities to release the Cambodian workers and traders who had been arrested on Thursday for smuggling used brand-name clothes into Thailand.
08:34:19 local time BANGLADESH
* Compensation still eludes many Tazreen, Rana Plaza victims:
Roundtable highlights plights of workers
Many victims of Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse are yet to receive their compensation from the government for prolonged procedures and the delay in DNA profiling.
“I could not even trace the body of my sister. I am yet to get the compensation money from the government 21 months after the incident,” said Motiqul Islam Moti, brother of Rehana Akter, who died in the Tazreen Fashions fire in November 2012.
“The relatives of 98 victims have received Tk 7 lakh each after the incident, but nobody paid the compensation for the death of my sister, although I met so many people so far for the payment.”
Moti’s comments came at a roundtable on the present situation of the garment sector at the CIRDAP office in Dhaka.
Nijera Kori, a local NGO, organised the roundtable, where trade union leaders, government higher-ups, garment entrepreneurs and victims from Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse spoke.
Mohammad Akkas, relative of another victim of Rana Plaza building collapse, said his son died during the incident but his grandson is yet to get the compensation.
“I went to so many people for the compensation but in vain. My grandson is passing a miserable life,” he added.
* Reopening of Tuba Group factories demanded:
Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati leaders on Saturday demanded immediate payment of festival allowance to workers and reopening of all the apparel factories of the Tuba Group.
From an hour-long hour human chain formed in front of the National Press Club, the Sanghati leaders pressed the demands. Sangahi coordinator Taslima Akhter demanded immediate reopening of all the five factories of Tuba Group.
She also called for cancelling the bail of Delwar Hossain, the owner of the Tuba Group and Tazreen Fashion Limited.
Delwer was responsible for killing of 124 workers of Tazreen Fashion at Nischintapur in Savar in 2012, she said.
After 11 days’ hunger strike by Tuba Group workers they were paid partial arrear
wages but not the Eid festival bonus, Taslima said.
* Owners want to see workers as trade union leaders:
Workers received assistance only, not compensation
24 victims of Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions disasters to get PMO financial assistance soon
Workers received assistance only, not compensation
Government to conduct further DNA tests and take support from intelligence agencies to confirm identities of 80 Rana Plaza victims who remain missing
RMG owners have claimed that they are keen to allow the formation of trade unions in their factories to resolve different crises between the workers and the owners, but they want to put some conditions before approving such organisations.
Leaders of garment exporters, who earlier had opposed the trade union perception, yesterday said they had no problem with those unions if the leaders were selected from among the workers of the same factory.
“We are not against formation of trade unions, but it needs to be finalised first who will be the leaders of such unions – an educated person or a worker from my factory,” Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Director Syed Nurul Islam said.
“A person, who completed studies in economics at Dhaka University or Jahangirnagar University, cannot be the leader of a trade union in my factory. I will only allow a trade union if the leader comes from within my workers,” said Nurul, also chief executive officer of Well Group.
He made the statement while addressing at a roundtable on the current status of apparel industry, organised by Nijera Kori at Cirdap auditorium in the capital.
Echoing Nurul, BGMEA Vice-President Shahidullah Azim said: “The factory owners do not have any problem with the trade unions. If the workers continue their production properly, there should not be any problems to ensure their rights and responsibilities under trade unions.”
They made the observations responding to the claim made by different quarters that the owners do not want any trade union in the factories.
Other speakers including researchers, trade union leaders and activists recommended that the trade unions were necessary to improve relationship between the owners and the workers, and to resolve disputes, if any. They observed that lack of good relationship between the two key players of the sector had created gaps and crises.
Assistance, not compensation
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua claimed that none of the workers from Rana Plaza and Tazreen Fashions had received any compensation.
“All they received is financial assistance or donations as per the government documents. Should we continue the rehabilitation activities using only the donations after a disaster occurs?” he asked.
Saydia Gulrukh said the International Labour Organisation did not have any structure for distribution of compensation. “The government finalises compensation amount considering the aspects of the accidents. But it should change.
“Most of the factories do not maintain service book and registrar book as per the law. Because of this, we cannot find the actual list of people working in the factories,” she said while requesting the owners to maintain the documents properly.
24 victims to get PMO fund
The Labour Ministry official also said the families of 10 victims of Tazreen Fashions’ fire and 14 of the Rana Plaza collapse would get money from the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund soon.
Regarding the unidentified bodies of 80 workers of Rana Plaza buried in Jurain graveyard, he said: “The government may call the relatives of these victims again to collect DNA samples to identify the bodies. In addition, the government will take help of the intelligence agencies to confirm identities of the missing workers.”
* Savar factory closes amid unrest:
A garment factory in Savar has been closed for an indefinite period in the face of workers agitation for better pay and allowances.
The authorities of ‘Jhuma Apparels Ltd’ at Shahibagh Moholla of Savar municipal area announced the indefinite closure Saturday, according to a news agency.
A notice of ‘indefinite closure’ was put up outside the factory after around 300 workers held demonstration Thursday, said SI Ashish Kumar Sannal of Savar Model Police Station.
“The ownership of the factory is being transferred. The current management was forced to take the decision as it can’t meet workers demands,” he said.
* Savar RMG workers protest unpaid overtime:
Observe work stoppage also for termination of colleagues
More than 400 workers of Bovs Apparels, a garment factory at Hemayetpur in Savar outside the capital, yesterday observed work stoppage and staged demonstrations before the main entrance, demanding overtime pay and restoration of the job of some colleagues.
The protesters said they were forced to work extra hours but were not paid for that.
The regular working time is 8:00am to 5:00pm, but on most days after Eid they worked till 9:00pm, said a worker. Moreover, after the Eid vacation, 20-25 workers have been sacked on “lame excuses”, the worker added.
The protesters announced that they would not join work unless their sacked colleagues got back their job.
Talking to The Daily Star, the factory in charge (store), MM Tareque, said only 30-40 jackets were being produced a the factory per hour now, which should be 50-60. So, Deputy General Manager Md Jalal Uddin asked the workers to increase production, he said.
“The factory is passing a very hard time because it is not getting direct orders now. A shipment is due on August 22, so increasing production is a challenge,” he said.
Workers said they were forced to work till 9:00pm on Friday.
As some of them protested against the unpaid overtime, the management immediately sacked three of them, they said.
* Workers demand dues, RMG factory reopening:
The protests took place around midday in front of Jhuma Apparels at Savar municipality’s Shahibagh Moholla
Workers of a ready-made garment factory staged protests yesterday, demanding their salaries for July and the reopening of the factory, at Savar in the outskirts of Dhaka city.
The protests took place around midday in front of Jhuma Apparels at Savar municipality’s Shahibagh Moholla.
Workers Sohel, Faijul, Asma and others said they had been sent on Eid vacation without their salaries for July and when they returned, they had found the factory closed.
They had then approached the authorities who assured them that the factory would be reopened and their dues would be paid yesterday.
20140815 * Accord Policy Inspections Joint Accord – Alliance Factories:
The Accord is committed to completing initial inspections of all Accord producing factories in order to identify critical life safety issues.
These initial inspections represent a portion of the work of the Accord in Bangladesh. Although critical, identifying the greatest life safety hazards is just the start of a five-year program of factory remediation, establishing factory level health and safety committees, safety monitoring systems, and safety training that will guarantee an on-going safety culture. Worker’s rights and workers knowledge of safety, in particular, are essential to maintaining safe factories beyond the four remaining years of the Accord.
Within that broader context, the inspection and remediation of the factories is essential to providing a safe environment that must then be monitored and maintained by the people using the building on a daily basis. In this regard, the Accord is set up to provide the initial inspections, issue public inspection reports, approve corrective action plans, and closely monitor that the corrective actions are being implemented.
The Alliance inspections can be divided into two categories: inspections done by firms hired directly by the Alliance and inspections done by firms hired by Alliance brands.
The Accord requires inspections to be carried out independently of individual brands, by persons acting under the direction of the Accord’s Chief Safety Inspector. Inspection work directed by or on behalf of Alliance brands does not meet this standard.
With respect to the inspections done under the direction of the Alliance staff, the Accord’s Chief Inspector has advised the Accord Steering Committee of methodological concerns.
Additionally, there is no obligation under the Alliance program for brands to provide financial support for remediation to factories that need it.
Consideration of these Alliance inspections by the Accord requires a policy that addresses these concerns.
20140817 * Accord to inspect factories that were already assessed:
Duplication of inspection to create confusion
The Accord will inspect the factories that have already been assessed by the third party auditors of the Alliance brands.
“The Accord has adopted a policy regarding the joint Accord-Alliance factories and according to it Accord cannot consider Alliance inspection reports prepared as per direction of Alliance brands,” Accord’s Executive Director Rob Wayss told the FE.
“The Accord will give qualified consideration to inspection reports by firms working for the Alliance staff and utilise these reports in the formulation of corrective action plans,” he added.
However, industry leaders said the duplication of inspection would create confusion among the manufacturers and also create additional burden and unnecessary hassle for them.
There are about 340 to 350 factories that produce apparel products for both Accord and Alliance-signatory brands and retailers, according to sources.
Out of them, Walmart, a signatory to Alliance, alone has assessed 203 garment factories by third party auditor, they added.
More than 200 garment factories are likely to face overlapping in inspection, they further noted.
The Accord in a statement issued Friday said, “all corrective action plans must meet the approval of the Accord’s Chief Safety Inspector, the Accord programme will be fully carried out, including follow up inspections during the remedial process, which will allow Accord engineers to address any and all shortcomings of the Alliance inspections.
20140817 * Accord-Alliance rift deepens over RMG factory inspection:
Accord declines to consider inspection by individual Alliance brand
The rift between the North American retailers’ group Alliance and the European group Accord over the Bangladesh garment safety inspection has surfaced again as Accord on Friday declined to accept inspection of any factory by any individual retailer under Alliance.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in a statement on initial inspections at Accord-Alliance common factories said, ‘Accord cannot give consideration to Alliance inspection reports produced under the direction of Alliance brands.’
Alliance has already taken into consideration inspections of more than 200 garments done by the Walmart-appointed third party consultant.
Walmart is a member of Alliance. The group appointed engineering firms and completed inspection of around 400 factories with around 200 more Walmart factories marked as inspected.
Bangladesh garment factory owners said that the latest stance of Accord not to accept the individual factory inspection would be a further blow to the embattled garment industry. ‘As per the new stance of Accord, more than 200 factories will have to be inspected again even after the completion of inspection by the American retailers, mostly by Walmart,’ Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and
Exporters Association vice-president Shahidullah Azim told New Age.
* RMG factory sued for failing to move from risky building:
The government has filed a case with the labour court against a readymade garment (RMG) factory for continuing production defying an official directive for evacuation of the unit on safety ground.
On August 06, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) filed the case against Newtech Apparels Ltd located at Chittagong, officials said.
It is the first case that the DIFE filed since the beginning of garment factory inspection programmes by western retailers.
DIFE Inspector General Syed Ahmed, when asked, confirmed to the FE that they had taken the harsh move for the sake of workers’ safety as the factory authority defied the DIFE’s directive.
The government might take such a move against a few more garment units that are found violating the DIFE’s directive for evacuation, sources added.
* Accord Disclosure on Newtech Apparels:
Accord Statement on the Need for Immediate Evacuation of Newtech Apparels, Ltd. August 15, 2014
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is conducting independent safety inspections at all factories in Bangladesh producing for Accord signatory brands and retailers.
At the factory listed below, the Accord engineers identified “critical findings” during a recent structural inspection.
NEWTECH APPARELS LTD
SALEHA COMPLEX, 215 DT ROAD, DEWANHAT, DOUBLE MOORING THANA, Chittagong
A “critical finding” means that the engineers have determined that the factory is unsafe for production and occupancy in its current state. In the case of Newtech Apparel, Ltd., the Accord’s engineers found that the concrete columns supporting the structure are severely over-stressed.
When there is a critical finding, the Accord participates in the Government of Bangladesh “Review Panel “process and, where necessary, seeks to obtain a governmental order of evacuation.
In addition, it is the responsibility of all Accord signatory brands and retailers sourcing from the factory to make clear to the owners that they are required to evacuate the building.
* Upholding labour rights- USTR suggests training for factory owners, police:
The two-member United States Trade Representative (USTR) team that visited Dhaka early this month laid emphasis on holding ‘orientation training courses’ for garment leaders to make sure their trade unions function free of any hassle, sources with the trade body of apparel makers have said.
The team also has called for developing and implementing a mechanism for training industrial police who guard the ready-made garment (RMG) sector and oversee workers’ freedom of association at tense moments.
The purpose of the training should be to ‘prevent intimidation, harassment and violence against labour activists.
Senior commerce ministry officials told the FE that last week the team led by Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia Mara M Burr had reviewed the progress so far made in making the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) functional.
The review widely covered reforms in the garment sector including the improvement made so far in fire and factory safety, labour laws and peaceful functioning of trade unions in garment factories.
Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) Hedayetullah Al-Mamun said the talks concentrated on future of the TICFA, implementation of the National Action Plan in the garment sector now being executed with support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and improvement of garment workers’ living condition.
He also said out of the 1720 factories inspected by the Europe-based retailers’ group Accord and the North American retailers’ group Alliance so far only 27 factories were found non-compliant with fire and building safety requirements. Their operation was suspended.
He further said the government was already training industrial police alongside holding fire extinguishing and management courses to develop a quick response system to avoid fire and such other tragedies in the garment sector.
He said the review took place under the auspices of TICFA that provided a platform for discussions on important trade issues. In the meetings the Bangladesh side made a strong plea to withdraw suspension of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility in the US market and allow duty-free market access of Bangladesh’s exports, particularly garments.
* BGMEA and buyers must work together:
Both workers and factory owners alike would benefit
As the country’s largest industrial employer and export earner, the RMG sector is vital to the economy and responsible for the livelihoods of millions.
Factory owners and industry associations need to become more effective in representing the sector internationally in order to strengthen relationships with buyers and to secure the future of the industry.
It is welcome that the BGMEA’s plans for a major Apparel Summit in December to replace the annual BATEXPO event, are taking a more forward-looking industry wide approach to developing the industry.
Too often in the past, industry associations have wasted energy on internal matters or in becoming embroiled in defending bad factories and owners, rather than in helping the many compliant and successful factories in the country to spread good practice and build better relations with brands.
This is poor leadership and unhelpful for the industry’s image.
* Optimistic outlook for garment exports despite slow start:
Despite some unfavourable numbers in July, Bangladesh’s outlook on garment exports is bright this year too, with high demand from western customers due to competitive prices, industry insiders said.
Exports of woven garment declined by 4.14 percent to $1.21 billion in July, and knitwear export grew only by 4.32 percent to $1.3 billion, according to the Export Promotion Bureau.
Also, garment exports grew a tepid 0.1 percent last month from a year earlier, the smallest increase in 23 months, as foreign trade numbers indicate.
“My prediction is that Bangladesh will perform very well in the current fiscal year as the demand for the products is also still higher,” said Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a research think-tank.
* Improving BD apparel sector working conditions -VF Corpn vows to spend $ 17m:
The VF Corporation, a founding member of the Alliance, has pledged to spend at least US$ 17 million to improve working conditions in Bangladesh’s apparel sector.
The American apparel giant, owner of brands such as the North Face, Wrangler and Timberland, made a progress report, which was available Thursday, about the safety and working conditions at its supplier factories in Bangladesh.
read more. & read more.
* LaborDispatches from Bangladesh – Law at the Margins:
Last year, on June 27, 2013, I visited the site of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Savar, Bangladesh, two months after the death of over 1,100 workers.
A mother stood looking at the site, mourning the death of her daughter who worked in the garment factory.
Fixated on the debris, that had not yet been fully cleared, and by then covered by rainwater, she feared that no one would remember her daughter.
Other family members at the site surrounded me as they saw my camera, and learned that I was a researcher from the United States.
They urged me to take pictures of the photographs of their daughters, wives, sisters they carried in their hands.
The request seemed curious – to take a picture of a picture – perhaps they hoped then one other person might record and therefore remember their family member.
It is as if they felt their own “recording” through photographs of their family members was insufficient.
This scene reminds me of when I would interview workers for a case, and they would share in detail what happened, but then would end with the statement: But I have no proof. I open with this story because it foregrounds the importance of recording, researching, remembering, and underscores the value of the researcher/scholar being on the “ground”.
Anonymity of globalization must be one of the most disempowering experiences for workers.
The family members at the site understood intuitively that individualizing and humanizing the loss of life might lead to changes in the industry’s conditions.
The garment industry’s structure, where global retailers contract with local factory owners and workers do not have a voice at the table to negotiate working conditions, places workers in vulnerable positions in terms of improving workplace standards.
Global retailers deny accountability by placing blame on powerful garment factory owners or Bangladesh local labor laws, but then garment factory owners shift blame to buyers for demanding cheaper prices, which in turn depresses local wages.
In this shifting accountability game, workers are unable to control basic aspects of their workplace conditions such as safety.
The workers of Rana Plaza and other industrial accidents demand a rigorous examination of effective solutions so that such tragedies do not reoccur.
For the next nine months, I will spend time in Bangladesh as an American Institute for Bangladesh Studies (AIBS) Fellow investigating how labor conditions have improved since the implementation of the two international agreements, Safety Accord and Safety Alliance.
My proposal seeks to interview all relevant stakeholders in the garment industry, with a particular emphasis on workers who are the intended beneficiaries of these agreements.
I hope to explore safety issues, but also to engage in broader conversations around workers’ rights and the labor movement.
Through this blog, #labordispatches, I will share my observations.
* Fixing Fashion; beyond Rana Plaza:
Rethinking the way we make, market and buy our clothes
The staggering loss of life which splashed across the websites, television screens and print publications of global media outlets only hours after the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Savar, Bangladesh on April 24th, 2013 shocked the world.
In the days which followed, activists and consumers alike took to the streets and social media as the fallout from images which captured the human suffering of the country’s largest industrial disaster ever reverberated through the boardrooms of fashion brands and retailers caught up in the event. Calls for action mounted as governments and NGOs derided business leaders for their failure to ensure the safety of workers in an industry notorious for its poor human rights record.
As an 18 year apparel industry professional who has spoken out vocally against the social, economic and environmental costs of the global fashion trade, I have been deeply disappointed that few industry insiders have come forward to publicly address the real issues at the heart of the Rana Plaza tragedy.
Disappointed because after 20 years of industry focus on labour and human rights issues we should be much farther ahead than we are; understandable perhaps as so many in the industry are simply too afraid for their jobs to speak up, and frustrated that so many senior executives remain narrowly focused on the financial benefits of cheap labour and lax environmental standards overseas.
Few of us go untouched by the fashion industry. It is one of the most important sectors of the global economy in terms of investment, trade and employment.
And while few of us shop at the haute couture boutiques of Chanel, Vuitton or Fendi, the trickle-down lifestyle trends driven by high end designers influence everything from the vacations we take to the materials used in the latest fast-fashions of brands such as Canada’s Joe Fresh, Brussels based C&A and Spain’s highly successful ZARA brand.
With sales valued at well over $US 500 billion a year, international apparel markets yield a significant amount of leverage over industries employing tens of millions of men, women and in some cases children in the developing world.
These are the people whose lives are most impacted, whose stories I will tell and whose voices are rarely heard by consumers half a world away.
08:04:19 local time INDIA
* AITUC demands higher wages:
The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Goa petitioned Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday demanding an increase in minimum wages for all schedules of employment in the State of Goa.
The AITUC urged the Chief Minister to revise the minimum wages to Rs.15,000 per month for unskilled workmen for all schedules of employment.
* 33% hike in minimum wages soon:
The state government has announced plans to raise the minimum wage of Haryana’s workers to Rs 7,400 a month, a 33% jump on the existing salary slab of around Rs 5,547 for unskilled workers.
According to officials, the new wage scheme will come into effect from October, the beginning of the next quarter, and could be calculated retrospectively, though the government is yet to decide from when.
The hike is also likely to include a provision for a 5% annual increment.
“A notification will be issued on the wage hike, and we have invited suggestions and objections in this regard,” said a state official. If this proposal is carried out successfully, the daily minimum wages for Haryana’s industrial workers would hit the Rs 246 a day mark, surpassing the unskilled wages being currently offered in Punjab, and just short of Delhi’s Rs 270 a day.
In November last year, the state government had announced similar plans to implement what many saw as a generous minimum wage hike in Haryana.
* Labour Minister Narendra Singh Tomar seeks changes in Minimum Wages Act:
With proposals like covering all employments under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and fixing a statutory nationwide wage floor, Labour Ministry will seek Cabinet’s nod to bring in a slew of amendments in the 66-year old regulation.
The Labour Ministry has already circulated a draft Cabinet note for inter-ministerial discussion and a final note would be placed before the government’s highest decision-making body incorporating relevant feedback soon, official sources said.
“Government has been receiving suggestions from time to time for amendments in the Minimum Wages Act. Therefore, it was felt necessary that a comprehensive review of various provisions under the Act so made and necessary amendments to the Act carried out,” said an official.
* FDI in textile sector up 91% in 2013-14:
Country had attracted foreign direct investment of $103.89 million during April-March, 2012-13
Signalling a positive shift in investor sentiment in India’s textile industry, the country attracted $198.86 million foreign capital in the sector during April-March 2013-14, up 91.41 percent.
The country had attracted foreign direct investment (FDI) of $103.89 million during April-March, 2012-13.
According to the Textiles Ministry, the FDI inflow in the sector so far stood at $11.70 million during April-May, 2014-15.
“The government is implementing various schemes to ensure the maximum utilisation of FDI in textile sector like technology upgradation fund scheme (TUFS), scheme for integrated textile parks (SITP), integrated skill development scheme (ISDS),” the ministry said.
* Indian textile & apparel exports overshoot 2013-14 targets:
India has been able to achieve, in fact overshoot its targets set in the previous fiscal year 2013-14 for exports from its textile and apparel sector.
Albeit, the target for 2013-14 at $34 billion was down US $4 billion from the target set in its previous fiscal year 2012-13, however exports from the sector managed to cross $39 billion in 2013-14.
However, textile and apparel exports had a poor showing in 2012-13. Against a target of $38 billion, they could reach only $34.93 billion, according to the PIB website.
The best export performance was achieved in 2011-12 when against a target of $27 billion, exports touched $33.31 billion.
07:34:19 local time PAKISTAN
* Textile industry urges government to focus on productivity revival:
The Punjab based textile industry circles have urged the government to focus on the revival of productivity once prevailing uncertainty comes to an end.
They said the endurance of the Punjab based textile industry is under serious threat due to the prevailing political uncertainty amidst unprecedented electricity loadshedding and repeated gas supply suspensions to the mills.
According to them, the industry needs immediate attention of the government, as continuity of the industry wheel can be the only way forward of growth, employment and exports of country.
Both energy affordability and security must be ensured at all costs, they said.
It may be noted that Chairman APTMA Punjab had pointed out in pre-long march scenario that the industry was losing 26 million dollars per day due to the political deadlock.
He had made it clear that the industry was not in favour of aligning with any sort of agitation despite rising frustration on the part of textile millers, workers and other stakeholders.
* PTEA hails vision 2025:
“It is encouraging that emphasis has been given to entrepreneurship development and private sector-led growth in the Vision 2025 programme,” said PTEA Vice Chairman Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood. PHOTO: AFP -Tribune
Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA) hailed the launching of vision 2025 and termed it the right step to transform the country into an economically strong and prosperous nation and enhance exports to USD 150 billion by 2025.
In a statement here, Sheikh Ilyas Mahmood, Chairman and Adil Tahir, Vice Chairman Pakistan Textile Exporters Association said that the country required economic revolution for which the Vision 2025 has provided the base.
They appreciated the road map to enhance country’s exports to 150 billion by 2025 and hoped that this would lay the foundation for a stronger and prosperous Pakistan. Implementation of this long term development plan has the potential to put Pakistan on sustainable economic growth as well as improve its global competitiveness and bring prosperity to the country, they said.
They said seven pillars of Vision 2025 which include developing human and social capital, achieving sustainable indigenous & inclusive growth, governance institutional reforms and modernization of public sector, energy water and food security, public sector-led growth & entrepreneurship, developing a competitive knowledge economic through value addition, modernization of transportation infrastructure and greater regional connectivity, if fully implemented, would help to bring Pakistan as an economic power on the globe.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* ‘PJMA providing jobs to 125,000 workers’:
“We are providing jobs to 125,000 workers directly or indirectly still the Government has been continuously neglecting us,” said a spokesman of Pakistan Jute Mills Association (PMJA) while talking to media persons here on Saturday.
He said Thal Jute Mills in Muzaffargarh is providing jobs to more than 8,000 workers. He has urged the government to follow in the footsteps of Bangladesh which has adopted an aggressive approach to support its jute sack industry and saving this job-oriented industry from closure.
Spokesman of the Association said Pakistan should follow Bangladesh where recently appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has supported their government’s decision to make use of jute bags necessary for packaging rice/grain in order to provide assistance to jute sack industry against the polypropylene or plastic bags.
It may be added here that Bangladesh has already promulgated orders nominating jute sacks mandatory packaging for wheat grains storage.
* American GSP status should be revived for Pakistan: FPCCI:
FPCCI President Zakaria Usman has said that Pakistan was playing leading role in different regional platforms and having their headquarters here like SAARC Chamber of Commerce, D8 Chamber of Commerce, Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Islamic Chamber of Commerce.
The chairmanship of the ECO Chamber of Commerce will be transferred to Pakistan in next month for next three years.
Moreover, Pakistan is one of those countries which have great potential for trade with other countries as it has specialised in different fields like textile, surgical, sports and leather and diversifying its exports from traditional to non-traditional items.
* Price decline ruffling cotton sector:
Sharp decline in cotton prices has created a catastrophic situation in the sector, affecting everyone in the value chain, said industry officials.
After a long period of stability, cotton prices in the local market have witnessed a sharp decline in the past two months which is a cause of concern not only for growers but also ginners and finished good makers.
Cotton prices at the Karachi Cotton Exchange declined from Rs6,800 to Rs5,350 per mound, down 27% in two months from mid-June to mid-August 2014.
It is true that everyone has been hit by the situation, whether he is a grower, ginner or manufacturer,” said Karachi Brokers Forum Chairman Naseem Usman. “There is currently a chaotic situation in the textile chain due to the sharp slum in cotton prices.”
07:34:19 local time UZBEKISTAN
* South Korean Daewoo is forced to explain its use of Uzbek cotton:
POSCO, the South Korean steel company and Daewoo founder, is attempting to compensate for its support of the Uzbek cotton industry by sponsoring after-school programs in Uzbekistan.
The POSCO group has admitted to The Wall Street Journal that it is using Uzbek cotton, which is known to be produced by forced labor.
The company said that it appealed to the Uzbek government to stop forcing people to work in cotton production while admitting that it does not plan on stopping the use of Uzbek cotton.
In an attempt to redeem itself Daewoo reported that it provides financial support for after-school programs for kids whose education is disrupted by the cotton industry.
Activists from the Cotton Campaign, a group of human rights and non-profit organizations fighting to bring forced labor to an end in Uzbek cotton production, have long been making demands from Daewoo to recall its investments in Uzbekistan.
Two Cotton Campaign members sent their latest request to Daewoo a month ago. Furthermore, the activists have been calling on clothes manufacturers to stop buying cotton from the South Korean company.
20140815 * SACTWU update on clothing wage dispute:
We refer to our previous media statements relating the wage dispute in the clothing industry (for ease of reference it is reproduced below):
In our last statement, we undertook to provide a further update by late afternoon today. We are able to do so earlier, as follows:
We can confirm that the 5 employer associations with which SACTWU negotiates at clothing industry bargaining council level, have all finalised their new mandate seeking processes. This process was completed by Wednesday evening.
These employer associations have all confirmed that they have received firm mandates from their constituencies to settle the wage dispute. This is in terms of the recommended settlement package which had been developed by the parties during the special negotiating meeting held on 5 August 2014. We were so advised by early evening on Wednesday this week.
This is a major step forward towards settlement and to prevent a national wage strike of 80 000 clothing workers.
The union has accordingly commenced its report back sessions to our members yesterday. We are recommending a settlement of the dispute.
Our settlement mandate-taking processes continue today and this weekend. However it is unlikely to be finalised before Tuesday next week.
However, we can report that initial indications are that our members are prepared to accept the recommended settlement.
We have accordingly resolved not to proceed with a strike ballot in the clothing industry.
The union’s final demand was for a 9% package increase for metro area workers and double digit increases for non-metro area workers.
The recommended settlement is an 8% package increase for metro area workers and an 11% for non-metro area workers, with effect from 1 September this year. The due date for wage increases in the clothing industry is 1st September 2014.
We have sought a higher settlement for non-metro area workers, so as to significantly narrow the wage gap between them and metro area workers.
To help with a longer period of wage certainty and stability in the industry, the parties have in principle also agreed to a two year wage agreement. The technical modalities of what increases would be applicable in year two is being finalised between the parties.
The parties have tentatively set aside 21 August 2014 as a date on which the agreement would be signed, should the union secure a final settlement mandate from its members.
A further update announcement will be made on Wednesday next week.
* Future still uncertain on AGOA:
Tens of thousands of jobs in the African garment sector dependent on exports to the United States are at risk unless US Congress urgently addresses reauthorization of the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Trade and investment, specifically the extension of AGOA, topped the agenda at the US Africa Leaders Summit from 4 to 6 August 2014 in Washington DC.
AGOA is a non-reciprocal preferential trade programme under which products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries have duty-free access to US markets.
It was first passed by US Congress under the Clinton administration in 2000 and is due to expire in September 2015.
The uncertainty over its extension is having an increasingly negative impact on orders placed with African based suppliers.
As a result, IndustriALL Global Union is calling for AGOA to be a permanent programme to encourage longer-term and higher capital investment, which may also lead to increased diversity in exports from the region.
Tens of thousands of jobs in the garment sector are dependent on exports under AGOA, which make up one fifth of non-petroleum exports under the trade agreement. However, there are poor working conditions in many of these garment factories.