(Please see editor’s note at the bottom of this bulletin.)
08:08:15 local time CAMBODIA
20140908 * A Busy Week at Court Expected for Union Leader Ath Thorn:
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court will be seeing a lot of union leader Ath Thorn next week.
From next Monday through Thursday, it has summonsed the president of the country’s largest independent union to three rounds of questioning over three separate cases in which Mr. Thorn is accused of everything from embezzlement to committing aggravated acts of violence.
Mr. Thorn insists he is innocent of all charges and accuses the court of merely trying to distract him during a critical period in garment sector wage negotiations.
The summonses, all signed by Investigating Judge Chea Sokheng late last month, invite Mr. Thorn’s lawyer, Kim Socheat, to the court on September 15, 16 and 18.
In the cases, Mr. Thorn is accused of stealing $93,000 out of a 2013 labor dispute payout, inciting protesters at a Phnom Penh factory in September, and committing aggravated acts of violence and property damage during nationwide protests in January.
Mr. Socheat said he received all three summonses on Friday and would attend. Mr. Thorn said he would be there, too.
“I will go to answer questions in the three cases even though we are busy with our campaign for a $177 wage,” Mr. Thorn said.
The unions, factories and government are approaching the final stages of their negotiations over a scheduled raise to the minimum wage, currently set at $100. The final vote is scheduled to happen in October.
The government and factories want a modest raise of $10. Unions are demanding $177, but said last week they were prepared to go as low as $150.
20140906 * Proposal Aims to Bring Workers’ Voices to Negotiating Table:
A proposed project hopes to channel the widespread use of mobile phones among factory workers to bring the voice of the 600,000 Cambodians employed in the crucial garment sector into future wage negotiations.
The project, which would collect information about working hours, conditions, wages and expenses of garment workers, is seeking to win a share of a $130,000 award from the Innovating Justice Forum’s Living Wage Innovation Challenge.
Spearheaded by Jason Judd, a former technical specialist for the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Cambodia, the project aims to “collect and provide critical data to strengthen the voices of Cambodian garment workers in wage negotiations.”
“Our innovation engages tens of thousands of garment workers directly to help contribute the reliable and up-to-date wage data workers need to strengthen their voice in upcoming living wage debates,” Mr. Judd’s proposal says.
Unions and factory owners have already begun initial talks over a new minimum wage in the $5 billion industry.
The Labor Advisory Committee is scheduled to make its recommendation to the government in October, with a new floor wage set to come into effect in January.
The project aims to put forth a collective workers position despite a labor movement that is infested with corruption and severely fractured, even within individual factories.
Using the Labor Voices SmartLine, garment workers will be able to place free calls to provide information on their wages, hours worked, rent and bills as well as health and safety issues they may have.
20140905 * Labor Unions Soften Minimum Wage Demand:
Labor unions have agreed to lower their demand for next year’s minimum wage hike in the all-important garment sector as a vote on the new wage approaches.
However, they are yet to significantly narrow the gap between the figure being put forward by the government and factories.
The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC), made up of representatives from the unions, factories and government, is scheduled to vote in October on a new minimum wage that will take effect in January. Bilateral meetings among the three parties have been ongoing since August.
At the latest meeting between unions and factories on Monday, the unions agreed to drop their original demand—which topped out at $177—to $150.
Som Aun, director of the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, said the figure was a fair compromise between the needs of the workers, who must make a living, and those of the factories, which need to turn a profit.
20140905 * Donors called on to pressure gov’t after unionists charged:
An influential rights group is urging donors to Cambodia to apply pressure on the government concerning the case of six labour union leaders accused of playing an active role in violent demonstrations earlier this year.
In an open letter posted on its website on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says donors should tell the government to end efforts to prosecute leaders of unions behind a nationwide garment strike over wages that lasted from late December to early January. Soldiers shot dead at least five people during a demonstration on January 3, as protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails at authorities.
The six union leaders face charges of intentional violence.
“Cambodian authorities are pursuing trumped-up charges against labor activists in an apparent attempt to get them to abandon demands for better pay and conditions,” HRW Asia director Brad Adams says in the statement. “This is just the latest government effort to scare activists and the political opposition into dropping plans to use protests to advance their causes.”
* AFWA Press Statement: Cambodian Authorities End Brutal Repression of Cambodian Unions!:
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance condemns the legal charges against the Cambodian unions over Nationwide Protests during the last Jan 2014.
We regret that the court has processed the charges for seven union leaders including Rong Chhun, Ath Thorn, Pav Sina, Yaing Sophorn and Chea Mony on 2 Sept 2014.
Rong Chhun is president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, Ath Thorn is president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, Yaing Sophorn is president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Union, Pav Sina is president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers and Chea Mony is president of the Free Trade Union.
We regard the charges as being part of the criminalization of internationally acknowledged legitimate activities of unions to deter them from pursuing the demand for better minimum wages in Cambodia. This move is obviously timed to stop the unions and workers from continuing to demand and campaign for USD 177 MW for the coming year, 2015.
We reaffirm that the garment workers’ strike is a legitimate expression of the desperation of garment workers and unions who are crushed under poverty level wages.
We also call upon key brands and retailers such as H&M, Gap, WalMart, Adidas, C&A, Inditex, Levi, Next, Tchibo, and VF to act swiftly to support the implementation of USD 177 minimum wage in Cambodia.
They must show their commitment by bearing their share in their supply chains so that garment workers in Cambodia are able to receive a minimally dignified wage.
They must protest against the criminalization of the union leaders of Cambodian workers who are producing millions of profits for the brands.
The Asia Floor Wage Alliance will continue to support the demand for the implementation of USD 177 as minimum wage in Cambodia. We support USD 177 as the wage that can provide minimal dignity to Cambodian workers, and not the poverty wage of USD 100.
20140905 * Workers Strike Again After Ultimatum:
Thousands of striking workers on Thursday returned to their jobs at a Kompong Cham shoe factory—only to resume striking after their bosses allegedly told them to choose between their union and the company.
About 5,000 workers from the Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in Choeung Prey district went on strike on Monday to demand increased benefits including overtime payments and higher pay for skilled employees.
Mom Sarem, a representative of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), which organized the strike, said about 40 percent of the laborers had agreed to return to work while union and factory representatives joined talks mediated by the provincial labor department.
20140905 * Court Orders Striking Workers Back to Factory:
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered 400 striking workers to return to the Xin Fang garment factory by Thursday morning after deciding that their industrial action was in violation of the labor law, according to factory and union representatives.
A court injunction dated August 29 but only delivered to the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU) on Tuesday gives workers two days from the time of notice to return to their stations.
The decision from Judge Yet Molin “orders the staff, workers and employees who are striking at Xin Fang (Cambodia) Garment manufacturing to go back to work within 48 hours.”
About 300 workers returned to work already Wednesday, while about another 100 protested in the morning outside the court over the decision. However, a union representative said they too would follow the order and today call off their strike over 19 demands including a lunch allowance, benefits for pregnant women and new mothers, and a $15 monthly housing allowance.
20140908 * Garment workers injured during commute:
More than 60 garment workers from Chung Fai Knitwear in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district were injured on Saturday on their way to the factory when their truck turned over after swerving to avoid a pothole in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district, a union official said yesterday.
Tith Phat, president of the Free Trade Union (FTU) at Chung Fai Knitwear, said that he went down to visit the workers in the hospital. He said out of all the commuters, only five were seriously injured.
“The workers will come back to work tomorrow, but for those who were seriously injured, they will stay to get better,” he said.
* BetterFactories Media Updates 3-9 September 2014, Protest Continues as Shoe Factory Spurns Talks:
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2014-09-03 Protest Continues as Shoe Factory Spurns Talks
2014-09-04 Court Orders Striking Workers Back to Factory
2014-09-05 Group Calls for Charges Against Unionists to Be Dropped
2014-09-05 Labor Unions Soften Minimum Wage Demand
2014-09-05 Workers Strike Again After Ultimatum
2014-09-05 Cambodia Slips in Global Competitiveness Index
2014-09-06 Proposal Aims to Bring Workers’ Voices to Negotiation Table
2014-09-08 A Busy Week at Court Expected for Union Leader Ath Thorn
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
* BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
07:08:15 local time BANGLADESH
20140908 * Police stop Tuba workers:
Police on Sunday stopped a procession of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee near the National Press Club which was heading towards the labour ministry.
Police stopped the marchers with fence barricades on the road near Press Club, in front of the Bangladesh Secretariat, at 12:00noon.
Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee was scheduled to hold a demonstration in front of the labour ministry to press its demands for immediate reopening of the five garment factories of Tuba Group, payment of festival allowance and other dues of the workers, cancellation of bail granted to the owner of Tuba and Tazreen Fashion, Delwar Hossain.
The marchers instead sat on the street and held a rally near the barricade and voiced their demands.
20140907 * Police foil Tuba workers’ procession:
Police on Sunday barred procession of Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee, who struggle for realising several demands including to take steps to reopen its factories immediately, near at National Press Club as they marched towards the labour ministry.
Police stopped the marchers putting barricade in front of the Bangladesh Secretariat at about 12:00pm. Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee called for demonstration in front of the labour ministry to press its demands of immediate reopening of the five garment factories of Tuba Group, paying festival allowance and other dues of the workers, cancellation of bail granted for the owner of Tuba and Tazreen Fashion Delwar Hossain.
Facing police barricade, the marchers sat on the street and held impromptu rally there.
20140907 * Tuba group fails to submit detailed report on workers’ dues by deadline:
Tuba Group authorities have failed to submit a detailed report on the dues of workers of their closed five factories within the stipulated timeframe and sought more time in this connection, sources said.
On the other hand, labour leaders have prepared the details of the dues from their part and submitted the same to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
The labour leaders, however, alleged that the Tuba authorities are dillydallying in preparing the details.
The government in a meeting held on August 26, gave the Tuba Group authorities a four-day time to submit a detailed report on the workers’ dues including service benefits.
Later, in another meeting held last week with the labour state minister, Tuba Group Managing Director Delwar Hossain sought another four days’ time in this connection.
President of Sammilito Garment Sramik Federation Nazma Akter said, “We have submitted our report to the BGMEA but the Tuba authorities are dillydallying in preparing their details.”
“We have calculated the dues in two ways,” she said.
According to the article 20 of the existing law of the land, the dues of 1,306 workers of five Tuba Group factories stand at Tk 38.37 million (Tk 3.83 crore), she said adding that one month’s basic pay and the duration of workers’ job have been calculated as per the article.
The workers’ dues stand at Tk 54.98 million, according to the article 26 of the labour law, she added further.
20140907 * Tuba workers staging demo:
The agitated workers of Tuba Group are staging demonstration in front of the secretariat in the capital’s Shegunbagicha area.
Police stopped the workers when they were staging demonstration under the banner of Tuba Sangram Committee in front of the secretariat gate on Sunday afternoon, reports this correspondent.
In their protest, the workers demanded immediate payment of compensation declared by the government and scrapping of Tuba Group owner Delwar Hossain’s bail.
20140907 * Tuba Group yet to estimate workers’ benefits:
Tuba Group has failed to submit an estimate of benefits and compensations to be paid to the workers of its five closed apparel factories to the government in time.
Earlier, the government had asked the Tuba Group owner and trade union leaders to set the amount of benefits and compensations for the workers and to submit to the labour ministry in four working days.
The deadline expired on September 1.
Trade union leaders said that they had already estimated the arrears and benefits of the workers under the Sections 20 and 26 of the Bangladesh Labour Act 2006.
Factory authorities said that they were working on it and got the deadline extended by the government as the task was not so easy.
On August 26, at a tripartite meeting, the state minister for labour rejected the notice issued by the Tuba Group managing director declaring closure of the apparel
factories under citing Section 13(1) of act.
At the tripartite meeting, the government representatives, labour leaders and the owner decided that the notice was not appropriate and the owner must pay the workers as per the law.
20140906 * Govt efforts on to reopen Tuba factories: Minister:
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said Friday the government has been making all possible efforts to reopen the closed units of Tuba Group to fulfil workers’ legitimate demands.
The labour leader-cum-minister also made a promise of clearing all the arrears, saying that they have instructed the owner of the struggling apparel group to pay overtime bills and festival bonuses of its workers before the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha.
“The government has been working for the wellbeing of the workers. It would also force the Tuba Group owner in this connection,” he said while addressing a rally in the capital.
Garment Sramik Samonnoy Parishad, a platform of several workers’ groups, organised the rally in front of National Press Club demanding immediate resumption of production at the closed Tuba factories.
Speaking as the chief guest, the minister said Tuba Group has an insurance claim of Tk 180 million to Karnaphuli Insurance Company Ltd.
He said he sat with owners of Karnaphuli Insurance and Tuba Group Thursday to deal with the issue. But the insurance authorities failed to give any satisfactory response relating to the compensation claim.
20140906 * RMG workers want reopening of Tuba factories:
Garments Sramik Samannay Parisahd, a combine of 28 government-backed apparel worker organisations, on Friday demanded reopening of five apparel factories of Tuba Group and payment of festival allowance and dues to the workers.
The demands were made at a rally organised by Samannay Parishad in front of
the National Press Club. Addressing the rally, the Samannay Parishad coordinator, Shajahan Khan, also the shipping minister, said that the Tuba Group owner must pay the festival allowance and dues to 1,600 apparel workers immediately.
‘We have resolved the Tuba Group crisis paying the wages of the workers and now we are also working on payment of others dues and festival allowance to the workers,’ Shajahan said.
He called on the Tuba Group owners to take steps to reopen the factories to save the workers. ‘Some quarters had tried to use the Tuba crisis politically and we called them to refrain from inviting politics in trade unionism,’ the minister said.
20140905 * Tuba owner will be forced to pay dues before Eid: Shipping Minister:
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan has said that the government would force the Tuba Group owner to pay arrears, overtime bills and festival bonuses of its workers before Eid-ul-Azha.
The veteran labour leader also threatened that Delwar Hossain – the owner of the group would also be forced to reopen his five garment units to meet the workers’ legitimate demands.
Khan was addressing a programme arranged by Garment Sramik Samanya Parishad demanding immediate resumption of the five factories of Tuba Group in front of the National Press Club today.
Khan also convenor of the Garment Sramik Samanya Parishad blasted the people who criticised him calling him an agent of the government instead of the workers.
“I am telling without any hesitation that we would ensure the rightful demands of the Tuba Group workers in exchange of our blood if necessary,” he cautioned.
20140908 * Apparel scrap warehouses catch fire in Gazipur:
A fire broke out in a cluster of warehouses where fabric scraps of six apparel factories were stored at Gajipur on Monday morning.
Six firefighting units controlled the blaze after two and half hours of efforts, said a fire service control room official.
The official of the station at Kaliakoir said that the fire broke out from a tin-shed warehouse of an apparel factory at around 4.00am and spread rapidly to the other facilities around.
Firefighters from Joydebpur, Kaliakoir and Savar EPZ rushed to the spot and controlled the fire at around 6.30am.
However the cause of the fire and amount of loss couldn’t be estimated yet, the official added.
to read. & read more. & read more. & read more.
20140905 * After Rana Plaza, what can we do for world’s apparel workers?:
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.— Maya Angelou
More than a year has passed since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh.
Not a lot has changed in Canada — despite the huge public outcry in its immediate aftermath. Several international organizations, unions and NGOs did initiate a legally binding agreement with some retailers, The Accord on Fire and Safety in Bangladesh, to ensure that workers’ rights are respected.
Their efforts have been opposed by large brands such as Walmart and the Gap, which have promoted a more ‘industry-friendly’ agreement that is not legally binding. In Canada, only one retailer has signed onto the accord.
For their part, governments have taken little action on public policy. As consumers
we often feel powerless, even when economists assure us that we can force retailers to be responsible through our purchasing choices. Many of us, plagued by stagnant wages and rising costs, are not able to contemplate paying higher prices for ‘ethical products.’ Others of us, who are willing and able to pay more, are not sure how or where to shop ‘ethically.’
The fact is that big retailers, with their huge marketing budgets, are largely insulated from the actions of individual consumers.
Change requires our collective action — as consumers, as citizens, as communities and as a democracy.
20140905 * Sacked JB Fabrics workers hold sit-in:
Leaders and activists of Garments Sramik Karmachari League on Thursday held a sit-in in the city demanding restoration of jobs of 100 workers of JB Fabrics, situated at Rajendrapur in Gazipur.
The workers of the garment factory held a two hour sit-in in front of the Need Asia Group head office in Gilshan 1, the mother company of JB Fabrics.
At the sit-in, Lima Ferdaus, the president of Garments Sramik Karmachari League said JB Fabrics had sacked 100 workers of the factory ‘illegally.’
She called on the owners to reinstate the workers in their jobs, otherwise to give them service benefits.
The factory owners also filed cases against the workers without any reasonable cause, the garment labour leader said.
She demanded withdrawal of the ‘false’ cases field against the workers.
Workers of JB Fabrics, Shahin Rahman, Palash Ahmed, Halima Akter and others, spoke at the rally.
The garment labour leaders called on the owners to resolve the problems of the workers immediately, or face tougher programmes.
20140904 * RMG blues give rise to alarming unemployment:
The number of jobless garment workers is on an alarming rise as the RMG factories are being shut day by day since the collapse of Rana Plaza building that brought bane to the RMG sector.
Lack of enough work orders, non-compliance with the rules, labor unrest, exit from business and factory relocations are attributed to the closure of the factories.
According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) latest data, since the Rana Plaza collapse last year, a total of 209 RMG factories were closed for the aforesaid reason.
Of the total units, 56% or 118 factories were subcontractors, while 45.45% or 95 were housed in shared buildings.
At least 1.20 lakh workers, mostly women, were employed in those factories, of which most were in trouble as they had to lose jobs.
In a recent visit to Savar, Ashulia, Gazipur, the Dhaka Tribune found that the garment workers were craving for jobs in garment factories but failed as the owners hung notice of no vacancy.
“Of the jobless, 40% manged jobs in another factory, while 20% remained unemployed, 25% were working on contact basis, 10% left Dhaka and 5% male workers changed their professions,” Sirajul Islam Rony, president of Bangladesh National Garment Workers-Employees League (BNGWEL) told the Dhaka Tribune.
“I have tried several times to get a job in the city as well as outside the city but failed,” said Helena Akter, a worker of Juki Garments, which had been closed recently. She also said most of the factory hung notice that there was no vacancy.
“Being failed to avail a job, now I have gone back to my village,” said Taslima Akter, a worker of Tuba Group.
20140904 * Trade unionism and Export Processing Zones:
A few days back, as has been reported in the news media, a Japanese investor in Chittagong Export Processing Zone (CEPZ), preferring to remain anonymous, said: “We are worried about protecting our investment as Bangladesh government has agreed to amend the EPZ law, which will allow unionism in the EPZs.”
Amendment to the EPZ law allowing unionism inside export processing zones had to be made, as was reported, under pressure from the US government.
There is a belief among some western observers that the tragedy of Rana Plaza building collapse at Savar in April last year that caused deaths of hundreds of readymade garments workers could be averted if the workers had been affiliated with a strong ‘Trade Union’ that could ensure the workers’ safety in their workplace. Such is the well-founded belief of anyone who has read the history of trade unionism and its contribution to the welfare of workers around the world.
It was the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) established in 1890 that compelled the US government to guarantee safety for all the mineworkers who earlier would frequently die in great numbers due to their exposure to different hazards.
It is the trade unions that organised the labour forces to raise their voices against discriminations. It is the pressure of the trade unions that guaranteed laws favourable to workers, safety in their workplaces, higher wages commensurate with labour, shorter working hours and mandatory weekend and other holidays.
20140904 * Boosting competitiveness in textiles, RMG thru’ newer tech stressed :
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu said Wednesday introduction of technical renovation and new production technology is the key to further enhance the competitiveness of textile and apparel industry in the country, reports UNB.
“Bangladesh is gradually emerging as a very important destination of quality textile and apparel products for global buyers,” he said laid emphasis on the introduction of technical renovation and newer production technology for further boosting the production and improving the quality.
The industries minister was addressing the inaugural session of the four-day 15th Textech Bangladesh International Expo 2014 in the city.
Korean Ambassador to Bangladesh Lee Yun-young, BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam, BKMEA first vice president Mohammad Hatem and Group Managing Director of CEMS-Global USA & Asia Pacific Meherun N Islam also spoke on the occasion.
20140908 * Tofail: Recruitment of 200 fire inspectors by October:
The long pending recruitment process of 200 fire inspectors, out of the BCS candidates who have been waiting for postings after passing all the-three tiers of the examination, will be completed by October this year.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday came up with the disclosure at a media briefing after holding a regular meeting on Social Compliance for the RMG sector held at commerce ministry in the secretariat in the city. The meeting discussed about the progress of the overall social compliance issues.
Meanwhile, the government had appointed 67 class-one fire inspectors, out of the 200 in different categories, while rest of them would have to join as 2nd class inspectors by October.
Although, we promised to accomplish the appoint process of all the 200 inspectors by August, we could not full-fill our pledge as yet due to some legal complications, said Ahmed.
20140908 * Govt to recruit 120 factory inspectors by Oct 20:
The government marked October 20 as the deadline to recruit 120 factory inspectors to fulfil the conditions of an action plan provided by the US, in an effort to win back trade privileges from the Obama administration.
The labour and employment ministry has managed to recruit only 59 inspectors in two categories so far.
The ministry missed its target to employ 200 officials by December 2013.
“We have fulfilled almost all conditions set by the US to regain the GSP,” said Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, senior secretary to the commerce ministry.
20140908 * Risky RMG factories rate less in BD: Tofail:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Sunday said the rate of the risky garment factories in the country is much lower than the internationally accepted rate.
“The international rate of risky factories is two percent while the rate is below two percent in Bangladesh,” he said.
The ruling Awami League lawmaker came up with the disclosure while addressing the 25th meeting of the Social Compliance for RMG at his secretariat office in the city.
Buyers from Europe and United States of America (USA) revealed the data after they inspected some 1,900 factories, the journalists were told.
20140908 * RMG must keep eyes on the future:
Inspections are only part of the process, not an end in themselves
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety has announced that it has made “good and real progress” towards the goal of turning Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing into a safe and sustainable industry.
Its statement, that just 2% of the 1,000 units it has inspected for fire, electrical, and structural safety have been deemed unsafe for production in their current state, is certainly encouraging .
However, it is of utmost importance, to view inspections as only part of the process, and not as the goal in themselves.
20140905 * Accord: Real progress made towards safe RMG goal:
Corrective initiatives being implemented include things like reducing weight loads and adhering to load management plans
Accord claimed that it has made a “good and real progress” towards the goal of turning Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing into a safe and sustainable industry.
In a statement posted on its website on Friday, the Western buyers’ initiative said more than 250 corrective action plans have been agreed so far while implementation of many such plans is already underway.
Corrective initiatives being implemented include things like reducing weight loads and adhering to load management plans.
Other corrective actions are a matter of cleaning up, organising, and then being disciplined in maintenance practices, said Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.
These also include properly connecting and sealing electrical wires and keeping wires and circuits free of dust and lint.
20140905 * Accord makes good progress towards safe factories in Bangladesh:
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh is working towards a safe and healthy Bangladeshi Ready-Made Garment Industry.
Since the signing of the legally binding agreement between companies and trade unions in May 2013, good and real progress has been made to reach that goal.
The Accord has conducted fire, electrical and structural inspections in more than 1.000 factories covered under the agreement. As expected, the inspections are identifying safety risks in all three areas, and the Accord is working with the signatory companies and factories to correct these risks as soon as possible.
More than 250 Corrective Action Plans have already been agreed and posted online. Many of the corrective actions such as reducing weight loads and adhering to load management plans are already being implemented.
Other corrective actions are a matter of cleaning up, organizing, and then being disciplined in maintenance practices.
These include properly connecting and sealing electrical wires and keeping wires and circuits free of dust and lint.
20140905 * Accord statement on fire at Cordial Design Ltd storage facility:
The Accord has learned of a factory fire at Cordial Design Ltd in Mirpur, Dhaka on August 31, 2014, injuring five factory workers.
The factory is listed as producing for Accord signatories companies, and was inspected for fire and electrical safety on the 15th of July, 2014.
The Accord is informed that the fire broke out in a separate storage building. This storage facility was however not inspected because the factory owners did not inform the Accord engineers of this additional storage facility.
This event again highlights the urgency of assessing RMG facilities for safety and working in earnest and across all factory facilities to ensure safety problems are properly corrected.
The Accord has learned that a video was taken showing the dangerous escape of trapped workers.
The video highlights again the importance of protected exits (fire doors and fire seperations), automatic fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems which would have prevented the dangerous situation that the workers faced.
20140905 * $10m fund for fire, building safety:
An American retailer along with IFC to hand the amount to its Bangladeshi garment suppliers
The International Finance Corporation (IFC)—a member of the World Bank—and VF Corporation, an American retail giant, will provide $10 million to the Bangladeshi suppliers of VF to ensure fire and building safety.
VF, the parent company of many well-known brands like The North Face, Vans, Wrangler and JanSport, will provide a full corporate guarantee in support of the loan, IFC said in a statement yesterday.
20140906 * ILO to give 95 bikes to factory inspectors:
International Labour Organization (ILO) will give 95 motorbikes to factory inspectors to ease their inspection to Ready Made Garment units in Bangladesh.
State minister for labour and employment Md Mujibul Haque (Chunnu) will hand over the motorbikes to inspectors at Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) auditorium in city on Sunday afternoon.
Public Relations Officer of labour and employment ministry SM Arifujjaman told banglanews that ILO will give the bikes to help strengthen compliance standards in ready-made garment (RMG) sector.
20140905 * New EU GSP won’t affect Bangladesh’s exports:
Speakers at a seminar opined Thursday that new Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) of European Union (EU) will have a negligible impact on Bangladesh’s export to the EU market except a little effect on readymade garments sector.
Presenting a keynote paper on the topic, Director of the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) Dr. Mostafa Abid Khan said Bangladesh has emerged as a new competitor in the EU market. The new GSP, introduced from January 01 this year, will affect RMG sector a little, but that is not a matter of concern.
The BFTI organised the seminar titled ‘Revised GSP Scheme of European Union: Implications for Bangladesh’ at CIRDAP auditorium in the city to release findings of a study, conducted by the BFTI on revised European Union GSP.
20140908 * Owners threaten to shut RMG units over gas shortage:
Owners of readymade garment factories on Sunday threatened that they would shut down 245 factories in Gazipur if the authorities concerned would not ensure adequate gas supply to the factories.
Md Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, conveyed the owners’ stand at a meeting with the state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid.
Energy division secretary Md Eunusur Rahman, power division secretary Monwar Islam, Petrobangla chairman Hossain Monsur and other power and energy sector officials attended the meeting.
Atiqul said that production in the 245 factories had been interrupted for 15 to 16 hours a day due to low pressure of the supplied gas.
The interruption in production has already made many upcoming shipments
of the readymade garments uncertain in due time, he said.
20140908 * Apparel products export earnings decline in Aug:
Earnings from shipment of apparel products declined in August 2014 compared to those of July 2014 despite having a 2.07 per cent growth in the country’s overall export receipts.
Apparel manufacturers attributed the ongoing compliance and workplace safety issues after the Rana Plaza building collapse and recent political turmoil to the decline in garment products export.
The merchandise shipment from knit products stood at US$ 898.44 million in August 2014 compared to $ 1.30 billion in July 2014.
On the other hand, woven garments fetched $ 815.34 million in August while the amount was $ 1.21 billion in July 2014.
During the first two months of current fiscal year (FY), export earnings stood at $ 2.20 billion from knit items, showing a 4.97 per cent growth compared to that of July-August of 2013-14, according to official data released Sunday.
20140908 * RMG export to US faces setback:
It falls 9% during July-August after compliance issues hit the country’s biggest industry
RMG exports to US market have seen an 8.8% decline to $831 million in the first two months of current fiscal.
A set of compliance issues and lack of proper infrastructure are attributed to the failure in grabbing enough orders from the United States buyers.
According to the Export Promotion Bureau data released yesterday, Bangladesh earned only $831 million by exporting apparel products to the US market in July-August period of the current fiscal, which is 8.81% less compared to $911 million earned in the same period of last fiscal.
THE TAZREEN FACTORY FIRE
20140907 * Delay in execution reports stalls Tazreen trial :
Public prosecutor says police need to be more cooperative and responsible
The trial of the case filed over the devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions in 2012 that killed 112 workers is yet to begin as execution reports on four fugitive accused are yet to reach the court.
Police, however, said they had already sent the reports.
Washim Sheikh, senior judicial magistrate of Dhaka, issued arrest warrants against the fugitive accused on December 31 last year and asked police to submit execution reports.
Earlier on December 22, 2012, investigating officer KM Mohosinuzzaman Khan submitted the charge sheet to the Dhaka Chief Judicial Magistrate Court accusing the Tazreen chairman, the managing director and 11 others.
Soon after the incident, four chargesheeted accused – engineer M Mahbubul Morshed, Production Manager Mobarak Hossain Manju, Factory Manager Abdur Razzak and Quality Manager Sahiduzzaman – went into hiding and their whereabouts still remain unknown.
06:08:15 local time PAKISTAN
20140906 * Work it out: Discussion stresses need for better labour standards in Pakistan:
It is not businesses alone that drive the demand for fair labour standards, but also the customers in America and Europe who take a very strong interest in the products they purchase and the labour standards of the factories that manufacture these products, said US consul general Brian Heath, stressing the need for labour compliance in Pakistani companies trying to export to US and European markets. “The pressure is from the consumers.”
The US consulate general in Karachi was hosting a roundtable discussion on ‘Promoting Labour Compliance in Pakistan: A Sourcing Perspective’ on Thursday at the Movenpick Hotel.
Heath said that the US was committed to increasing trade with Pakistan, but added that Pakistani suppliers and the government had to play their part in making themselves attractive to the international markets too.
“Complying with international labour standards will not only help Pakistan in the foreign markets, but it will also increase competition in the local market,” he said.
He also pointed out the benefits of good labour standards for a strong, healthy and efficient workforce.
20140905 * Baldia fire tragedy likened to 9/11 attacks:
“The second anniversary of the Baldia factory fire is coming up. What happened on Sept 11, 2012, carried an uncanny resemblance to America’s 9/11,” said Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Research and Education.
He was speaking at a discussion on ‘Promoting labour compliance in Pakistan, a sourcing perspective’ organised by the US consulate and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan. “The workers were locked inside the burning factory.
They just couldn’t escape. And there were more than 1,500 there but only 160 of them were registered employees. All kinds of laws, including building control laws were violated and the labour department didn’t even know of the factory’s existence,” he said. “We should list what had happened and what was done and what needs to be done in order to avert such a tragedy.”
US consul general in Karachi Brian Heath said: “US businesses face strong pressure from domestic consumers to source from safe factories that treat their workers fairly.”
Explaining the benefits of a healthy, safe, well-trained work force, he said: “Workers stay at your company longer; they are absent less often; and they produce more.” When labour rights are honoured, said Mr Heath, supply chains are more robust, reliable, and resilient. “Denying workers their universal rights costs society dearly in lost productivity, innovation, and growth, as well as undermining the rule of law and creating instability.”
20140904 * Women cotton pickers of Sindh await recognition:
For 60-year-old cotton picker Mai Bachil, life is grim in the vast and rich land of this largely out-of-sight Jamal Dahiri village where her bare hands, marked with old and new abrasions, are her only asset used adroitly to feed herself, her divorced daughter and grandchildren.
She lives in a small mud-thatched house, surrounded by shrubs and trees, where she and her young daughter, Razia, find little rest after a punishing work schedule and nurse their hands that suffer new cuts every day.
They work long hours in the fields to pick cotton as much as they can and yet merely eke out a miserable existence.
The two are part of a large population of women cotton pickers across Sindh who remain unaccounted-for in the overall labour activity across the province. They find no protection from the law and are completely at the mercy of landlords who decide their wages and the circumstances in which they work.
“There are five phases of cotton picking that completes in three months,” says Mai Bachil, recalling that she was a child with a fair complexion but her work in scorching heat over the decades has deprived her of everything including her skin colour.
In the first phase, a landlord hires cotton pickers on a daily wage basis ranging from Rs150 to Rs200 and allows no one to ‘waste time’ to relax in blistering heat. For every phase that follows, one or a group of cotton pickers have to pick at least 40 kilos of cotton to earn Rs300 regardless of the time spent on achieving the target.
“Even if we achieve that target in one day, the amount has to be distributed among many labourers of the group and comes to a measly sum,” says Laadi, another worker.
20140905 * Delay in energy supplies: worries of textile industry pile up in Punjab:
Worries of the Punjab-based textile industry are piling up fast with undue delay in uninterrupted energy supply to textile mills.
The industry circles said they are trying their level best to approach the Ministry of Water & Power for having latest update of government’s strategy towards the issue but all in vein. No response has so far been received despite repeated requests, they added.
It may be noted that the government had reduced energy supply to the Punjab-based textile industry in early July with the start of Holy month of Ramazan.
There was a clear commitment from the ministry that energy supply would resume to the industry in early August after Eid. However, this dream of industry could not be materialised till date.
The ministry expressed its inability to resume supplies as per industry’s requirement due to long march of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
* Garment-making finds new low-cost home in Ethiopia:
As basic wages soar in China, low-end manufacturing is starting to shift to cheaper locations around the world, and frontier African nations such as Ethiopia are positioning themselves to reap the benefits.
With rock-bottom wages, cheap and stable electricity and improving transport infrastructure, the continent’s most populous nation after Nigeria is building a reputation for producing clothes, shoes and other basic goods.
The sector is still in its infancy in what was for decades a Communist-run economic backwater. Bureaucracy and poor transport links mean business costs aren’t quite low.
But state investment in factory zones and the arrival of firms from Turkey, India, the Gulf and China suggest industrialisation is finally taking root in the east African giant, where many still rely on subsistence agriculture.
“We have to move because of manufacturing’s development in China, due to the high increase in wages and in raw materials,” said Nara Zhou, spokeswoman for Huajian, a Chinese company that makes over 300,000 pairs of boots and sandals a month for retailers such as Guess from a factory near the capital. “Ethiopia enjoys stability, the government is eager to industrialise and there is also the low labour cost here — a tenth compared to China,” she added.
For years, investors gave Ethiopia a wide berth, wary of the heavy role played in the economy by a government that shuns the liberalisation seen in other African nations and which has retained its monopoly on telecommunications and bar on foreigners in the financial sector.
read more. & read more.
* Why did fashion become so fast? :
Abuse in the name of capitalism remains the same; it has simply shifted east and south, writes Joanna Lovatt
Many of us are aware of the high turnover in high-street clothing shops like Zara and Primark through our own lives — camouflage jackets are in and out of vogue in six months, and those pleather Topshop trousers you bought and wore once will never see the light of day again.
The annual fashion season cycle, I was told by one retailer, has increased from three seasons to six seasons in just the last decade.
It is not just fashion either.
You buy any Apple product today and a new and better version will probably be announced in a month of your purchase (iPhone 5S, anyone?).
Our consumption is increasing at a dizzying and unsustainable rate.
Meanwhile, to keep up with this incredible pace, garments workers in Cambodia are fainting en masse from hunger on the job, and in 2013, more than 1,100 people in Bangladesh died when a factory manager decided that meeting an impossible production deadline was more important than evacuating his staff
from a visibly crumbling building.
As a dedicated follower of fashion, I have always been curious to know: when did consumers decide that they wanted cheap, disposable clothing at the price of human dignity?
And did they even really make that choice?
Ever since the first age of globalisation, developing countries have been subject to the whims of those who live in more developed countries.
Indian farmers stopped growing food to keep up with Europe’s demand for Calico in the 1800s, for example, and when trend faded a few years later, as trends tend to do, the farmers starved.
The ideological foundation of the global economic system codified this principle from the beginning.
After all, Adam Smith, forefather of modern economic thought, said that ‘… consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production; and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to, only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer. ‘
* Note from the editor:
Due to various maintenance work there will be no regularly (almost) daily bulletin published, for a period, a while.