(Please see editor’s note at the bottom of this bulletin.)
New updates 20140917 *
Updates: 20140916 *
New under “special overviews” :
14:52:57 local time CAMBODIA
* Support Cambodian Garment Workers in their Fight for Fair Wages! $177 NOW!:
We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Cambodian garment workers and unions in their demand for an immediate increase to their minimum wage to $177(USD) a month.
We demand that companies such as H&M, The Gap, Adidas, Walmart, Puma, Levi’s, C&A, and Zara pressure their factory suppliers in Cambodia to respect workers’ rights and make immediate meaningful improvements to working conditions.
Cambodian garment workers are forced to work for poverty-level wages while the companies they manufacture for make billions of dollars in profits. Four major brands, H&M, GAP, Walmart, and Adidas, for example, had combined revenues of roughly $608 billion in 2012, an amount almost 43 times Cambodia’s entire GDP.
The legal minimum wage for garment workers is a miserable $100 per month. Thousands of workers have fainted at their sewing machines due to malnutrition, overwork, heat, poor ventilation, and fumes from chemicals used in the manufacturing process.
Earlier this year, when over 200,000 Cambodian workers stood up to demand a fairer wage, authorities shot four workers dead in the streets and threw 23 union activists in jail. Consumers don’t want clothes tainted with exploitation and repression!
We therefore support Cambodian union calls for the following:
read more & please sign.
20140917 * UPDATED: Two union members detained, soldiers mobilized hours before launch of union’s $177 wage campaign:
This morning, soldiers from military brigades 70 and 99 have been stationed along Veng Sreng road and inside Canadia Industrial Park ahead of this morning’s planned union events to launch the $177 minimum wage campaign.
Military helicopters have also been spotted flying over the factories on Veng Sreng road.
Earlier this morning CCAWDU federation members, Sot Seap and Kun Sokom, were arrested by police in front of the Kamchay Mea factory in Smorng Kangcheung commune, Kamchay Mea district, Prey Veng province.
They were released shortly after midday having spent several hours in custody.
20140917 * Workers Start Wage Battle a Day Early:
About 1,000 workers from a Phnom Penh footwear factory got an early start on Tuesday on a cross-union campaign for a $177 minimum wage, set to start today, protesting in front of their factory over internal workplace grievances.
Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, which led the demonstration, said the workers from Huey Chuen factory, on National Road 1 in Chbar Ampov district, walked out over the firing of a colleague.
“At the same time that we held the protest, we also started our campaign on National Road 1 to show other workers and people that we have started our campaign to demand a $177 minimum wage,” Mr. Saly said.
The push for a $77 increase to the current base wage of $100 per month, which is being organized by eight unions, is set to begin in earnest today.
Unions plan to hand out more than 100,000 stickers to workers at up to 300 factories, hand out T-shirts bearing “$177” and deliver speeches during lunch breaks. They will also petition global brands and foreign embassies for support.
20140917 * Factory walkout to kick off $177 drive:
More than 1,000 garment workers at a Phnom Penh factory entered their second day of striking yesterday, ahead of today’s start of global and national union campaigns to raise the minimum wage in Cambodia’s garment sector.
Workers at the Huey Chuen garment factory in Meanchey district began striking Monday, in opposition to the suspension of employee Heng Siheoun.
Huey Chuen’s administrative manager said Siheoun had come to work drunk and tried to force workers to protest, but Siheoun denies wrongdoing.
The industrial action seemed like a warm-up for today’s planned walkout at about 300 garment factories nationwide, in which 18 different unions plan to take part.
The protests mark the beginning of a campaign for garment workers’ minimum wage to be raised to $177 next year.
“Our campaign for demanding [a hike in the] minimum wage will start tomorrow, but the workers in Huey Chuen factory started today,” Fa Saly, president of the National Trade Union Confederation, said.
20140917 * Cambodian garment workers demand higher minimum wage:
H&M among the leading clothing brands urged to show leadership and commitment to achieving a living wage
Today garment workers across Cambodia and across the world will take action demanding an increase in the minimum wage to US$177 a month.
Clean Clothes Campaign partners are taking action in front of stores and on shopping streets in support of the Cambodian garment workers. They demand brands, including H&M – one of the largest buyers from Cambodia – show leadership by committing to the immediate increase in the minimum wage to US$177.
The day of action builds on intense campaigning by Cambodian workers who have been demanding an increase in the minimum wage in order to take crucial steps towards the payment of a living wage since late 2013. In early January, wage struggles escalated when police and military cracked down on wage protests and 23 workers were arrested and 4 died.
The current minimum wage level of US$100 a month is just 25% of the estimated living wage by the Asia Floor Wage, and means many of the 500,000 garment workers in Cambodia are unable to afford even the most basic necessities.
Year long struggle
At the start of October the Cambodian Labour Advisory Committee will reconvene its wage board with an expected announcement of an increase in the minimum wage. Trade unions and workers insist that this must be US$177 a month, whilstthe Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) propose just a minimal increase to US$115. Unions have rejected this as not being sufficient to cover basic living costs.
Unions including IndustriALL affiliate C.CAWDU, CLC and others across Cambodia have come together behind the demand of US$177 a month, and believe after a year of struggle it is the brands who can show leadership and take the important step of increasing the wages garment workers receive.
Ath Thorn, President of Cambodian trade union C.CAWDU says “Brands continue to squeeze the already small profit margins. It is high time brands take their responsibility and tackle the issue which lies at the heart of our protests: a living wage. The wage hike to US$177 is one step into that direction.”
H&M could lead the way
H&M last year announced a pilot project in Cambodia as part of its Road Map to a Living Wage, and yet they have failed to announce any benchmarks or figures around what a living wage would mean in the country. Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on them to show their commitment to the workers who produce their clothes.
Emma Harbour of Clean Clothes Campaign says “H&M have stated a commitment to improving the conditions of the women and men they rely on, this is the opportunity to show they can lead the way. Having identified Cambodia as a key focus for their Roadmap to a Living Wage, H&M should reinforce this commitment by recognising and implementing the workers call for US$177 a month.”
Alongside the day of action Clean Clothes Campaign has also released it’s latest report on the state of the Asian garment industry. The Asia Wage Report, builds on extensive research in six garment producing countries and lays out the the steps according the the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that companies and governments should take to ensure workers earn a living wage.
20140917 * Beyond Garment Sector, Worries Over Wage Hike:
When it comes to wages, business leaders this week agreed that what happens in Cambodia’s all-important garment industry does not stay in the garment industry, which accounted for a third of the country’s $15.25-billion GDP last year.
Representatives across industries, from restaurants and hotels to auto dealers, said during a conference in Phnom Penh on Monday that wage increases for the country’s 600,000 garment workers affected them all.
The event, which was hosted by the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (Camfeba) and drew about 150 businesspeople, came just as the government, factories and unions close in on a decision on where to set the garment sector’s monthly minimum wage, now at $100, for 2015.
The last time the minimum wage was revised in December, unions staged industry-crippling strikes after their demand for a mandatory $160 monthly wage was not met. They are threatening to do the same if their new demand for $177 is not heeded this time around.
“Today it’s not just a case of ‘Oh, it’s the garment sector, we don’t need to talk about it.’ It’s really affecting other sectors,” said Sandra D’Amico, vice president of Camfeba. “What happens in the garment industry affects all of us.”
20140916 * Poverty wages behind Cambodian garment workers collapsing:
Hundreds of garment workers pass out in Cambodian textile factories every year. As they fight for a raise in the minimum wage from US$100 to US$177 a month, Luc Forsyth finds that poverty wages are largely to blame…
When Neang Sokly woke up under a tree outside the Conpress garment factory where she has worked for the last two years, she screamed for help.
The last thing she remembered was seeing factory security guards directing workers to get out of the building and going to investigate.
“I went to see what the problem was and I passed a pile of jeans being dyed.
The smell was horrible. I realized it must be from chemicals so I started to run out of the factory, but I fainted,” remembers Neang.
She is just one of hundreds employed in Cambodia’s garment manufacturing industry, producing clothing for the world’s biggest brands, such as Puma, H&M and Nike, who have fainted on the job this year alone.
During a single week in July over two hundred workers were admitted to the Prek Anhchanh Health Center, a small rural clinic on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, after collapsing at work.
“I don’t remember what happened,” says Sao Nari, a 22-year-old seamstress employed at the Chinese-owned Sixplus factory, where she sews the elastic waistbands into Adidas sports shorts.
“I was working in the back of the factory and I saw people running out, but I didn’t know what was happening. I started to run out as well, but there was a strange odour I had never smelled before. Then I fainted outside.”
Hooked up to an IV drip in Prek Anchanch, she complained of lingering chest pains nearly three hours later.
Yet fainting workers could be considered lucky. At the New Archid and Sangwoo garment factories, located in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces respectively, Sokny Say of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC) reported that two workers died last month from factory-related ailments. Thirty-five year-old seamstress Nov Pas, who spent nearly four years making clothes for brands like Gap and Old Navy, passed out at her post in the Sangwoo factory at 8am on 24 July 2014.
By 9am she had been admitted to the nearest provincial hospital, and around 6pm she was pronounced dead.
When contacted for comment, Chea Sok Thong of the Korean-owned Sangwoo factory denied corporate responsibility for Ms. Nov’s death, claiming medical carelessness from the hospital where she was receiving treatment.
When questioned about the reason for her presence in the hospital in the first place, Chea stated only that “she seemed sick and weak,” but was adamant that it was unrelated to working conditions.
Sithyneth Ry, a labour resolution officer from FTUWKC, while agreeing that there is room for improvement in how garment workers are treated in hospitals, offers sharp criticism of Sangwoo’s official position.
“Excuses about illnesses not being related to work are very common. [The factories] will always try to avoid being responsible.” Ultimately, he asserts, it is the responsibility of the factory to provide a safe working environment.
20140916 * Cambodia Day of Action – Show Your Solidarity with Cambodian Garment Workers! :
On Wednesday, September 17, tens of thousands of workers across Cambodia will take action, calling on key brands including Adidas, H&M, and Zara, to commit to paying garment workers in Cambodia US$177 and to ensure these brands will continue to purchase their garments from Cambodian factories should the minimum wage increase.
September 17 will be a day of action not only in Cambodia, but a day of global worker solidarity! Cambodian unions are asking for people to join them in this day of action, to show our solidarity with Cambodian workers, elevating the calls of the Cambodian workers movement, and extending the reach of the movement to all corners of the globe. International solidarity is an extremely vital component to this Cambodia Day of Action and invigorating the Cambodian labour movements efforts towards being a paid a living wage.
Join us and answer this direct and urgent call for solidarity, here’s how:
20140916 * “We need US$177” :
On September 17th, Cambodian garment workers are taking action in factories and workplaces demanding an increase in the minimum wage to US$177 a month as a key step towards the payment of a living wage.
Activists around the world are taking actions in solidarity with the workers calling on brands to show their commitment to the garment workers.
20140917 * Orders sliding in ’14: GMAC:
Continued instability in the garment sector has led the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) to forecast a bleak outlook for the rest of 2014.
According to a sample of survey results supplied to the Post, 50 per cent of GMAC’s 247 members said they did not have enough orders to fill production for the remainder of the year. About 160 factories said orders had been reduced on average by 40 per cent, and 26 per cent said they had been forced to close lines or partially suspend operations due to a lack of orders.
“Buyers don’t have confidence in stability here, in the factories’ ability to deliver the goods, because we are under the constant threat of strikes, regardless of whether the unions, or those that threaten to strike, even have the ability or the power to deliver on their threats,” GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo said on Monday.
The main buyers that have reduced orders are Wal-Mart, H&M, Levi Strauss and Adidas in addition to a number of smaller buyers, factories said.
Contacted yesterday, neither Wal-Mart, H&M nor Levi Strauss would comment directly on the status of their orders in Cambodia, but all called for stability in the industry and respect for workers’ rights.
Loo denied the timing of the GMAC data had anything to do with Monday’s union announcement. He said he was sharing this information with unions, the government and the Labour Advisory Committee to demonstrate buyers’ reaction to industry turmoil and to support his members’ position that a $110 minimum wage rise was the maximum the sector could afford.
“Anything above this means that places will not be able to afford it and will have to close, so the higher the minimum wage the more difficult it will be for factories to continue operating in Cambodia,”
Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, said yesterday he could not verify the GMAC data but that there was no doubt that orders had dropped in the second half of the year after January’s protests.
“There is a decline, but our point is that the decline is not linked to minimum wage discussions – the decline is linked to buyers’ increasing frustration over so many unresolved issues from the events in January,” he said, referring to uninvestigated deaths of protesters and current charges against union leaders.
20140917 * Garment Truck Crash Leaves 47 Workers Injured:
Forty-seven garment workers and a driver were injured when the truck in which they were traveling crashed in Svay Rieng province on Monday evening, police, doctors and union officials said on Tuesday.
According to Svay Rieng City police chief Ngin Sophal, the vehicle crashed in Kompong Ro district, but there were no fatalities.
The truck, like so many around the country that ferry workers to and from garment factories, was carrying 50 people from a factory in the province when the driver allegedly lost control at about 5:30 p.m.
Chea Odom, a representative from the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said: “The driver could not control the steering wheel, because it was broken, so he crashed and many of the workers were injured.”
20140917 * Cops seeking garment truck driver:
Svay Rieng provincial police officials are seeking to arrest a truck driver who fled the scene of an accident in which 40 garment workers were injured Monday evening after the end of their shifts on the way home.
Hem Samuth, Kampong Ro district police chief, said yesterday that the truck was carrying 50 workers from many factories in the Bavet Special Economic Zone when it experience technical difficulties and collapsed.
“There were 50 workers in the truck when they left their factories and then the truck had the problem with the steering wheel. The driver could not control it and it collapsed on the road to make 36 workers lightly injured and four others seriously,” he said.
“We always tell them to keep only between 25 and 30 workers in one truck and they all have to sit down in order to make it easier for driving, but they never follow our instructions,” he said.
20140916 * Thousands of Workers Go on Strike in Prey Veng:
Some 3,000 workers protested in front of a garment factory in Prey Veng province Monday, calling for larger bonuses and better working conditions, according to unionists and factory representatives.
Employees of the Chinese-owned Komchay Mear Trading factory, which produces clothing for U.S. brand Gap, have been on strike since Thursday afternoon over a list of 25 demands including an extra 2,000 riel, about $0.50, for working on Sundays.
Negotiations held between workers and factory officials Saturday—the day after workers burned tires in front of the plant in Komchay Mear district—failed to produce a solution acceptable to both sides.
Buth Bunchhean, a representative of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), which organized the strike, said Monday that the factory had yet to respond to the workers’ demands, which were formally submitted on August 25.
“The workers will not go back to work if the factory does not respond to their requests,” he said.
Chan Chhorvon, Komchay Mear’s administrative director, disputed CCAWDU’s claim that the company had been notified about the strike ahead of time, but said the company was considering the workers’ extensive list of demands.
“During the workers’ strike, not only does the factory waste profits, but the workers lose their benefits as well,” Ms. Chhorvon said.
In a separate case, representatives of about 5,000 workers at the Taiwanese-owned Juhui Footwear factory in Kompong Cham province’s Choeung Prey district Monday said they would push on with a two-weeklong strike over pay and benefits.
20140916 * Wage fight heating back up:
Negotiations for next year’s garment sector minimum wage heated up yesterday, as eight labour union leaders threatened another industry-wide walkout, one even larger than the 10-day strike that began on December 25, if their demands are not met.
“I want to send message … that if the negotiation this year is similar to last year’s, I think a bigger strike will happen,” Seang Sambath, president of the Workers Friendship Union Federation, said yesterday at a press conference.
But signs of accommodation were evident too. As unions prepare the public campaign for a $177 minimum monthly wage with a protest outside about 300 factories planned for tomorrow, Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Workers’ Democratic Union, said they would be willing to accept as little as $150.
The prospect of a strike the size of the one that crippled the industry towards the end of last year is unnerving, according to Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour. That strike abruptly ended on January 3 when military authorities shot at least five demonstrators dead during a violent protest on Veng Sreng Boulevard.
“Of course we are scared, but we still have faith in the labour unions,” Sour said, warning that repercussions are out of the ministries’ hands if a strike turned violent. “If they cross the line then they are the ones responsible for the consequences.”
As union leaders spoke with the press, Free Trade Union (FTU) president Chea Mony, one of six union leaders charged with crimes allegedly committed during last year’s strike, was questioned in Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
20140916 * Second Union Leader Under Court Supervision:
Free Trade Union President Chea Mony on Monday became the second union leader to be placed under judicial supervision this month by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for alleged criminal activity during nationwide garment worker strikes in December and January.
Mr. Mony told reporters after emerging from three hours of questioning that he had been banned from meeting with other union leaders or joining any public gatherings until after his trial for charges of intentional violence, threats, destroying property and obstructing traffic.
“The court put me under supervision…and I must report to the commune office once a month, and I am prevented from participating in or holding rallies,” he said.
A date for Mr. Mony’s trial has not yet been set, but the timing of his summons—and that of five other labor leaders—means the heads of some of the country’s most prominent unions are barred from taking part in a campaign for a $177 minimum wage set to launch on Wednesday.
Mr. Mony announced earlier this week that his union would not be taking part in the campaign.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, was placed under court supervision on Friday. Court officials have not commented on the decisions against Mr. Mony or Mr. Sina.
Fellow union leaders Ath Thorn, Yaing Sophorn, Morn Nhim and Rong Chhun are also due to appear in court this week to be questioned over their roles in the garment sector protests, which were fatally suppressed by government forces after some turned violent in early January.
However, Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, said the group of unions would not be deterred from making workers’ voices heard.
“We are not afraid although the court has summoned or threatened to arrest us,” he said. “We will hold our campaign since we lost many workers during the protests on January 2 and 3.”
20140915 * As Union Bosses Face Charges, Wage Campaign Rolls On:
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday will question the second in a list of union leaders accused of playing a criminal role in garment sector protests in December and January, only days after the court placed unionist Pav Sina under judicial supervision for his alleged role in the events.
Mr. Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, was placed under judicial supervision on Friday, barring him from joining any public gatherings. He is one of at least five union leaders accused of fueling the protests, which ended on January 3, after military police fatally shot at least five garment workers on Veng Sreng Street in Phnom Penh.
On Monday, the court will question Free Trade Union president Chea Mony.
“Me and my lawyer will appear at the court at 2:30 [p.m.] and I am not concerned about my safety because I was not involved in the Veng Sreng incident and at the time I was at my office,” he said Sunday.
“If the court puts me under supervision I will file an appeal because it would not be fair.”
The court was also scheduled to question union leader Ath Thorn on Monday about allegations that he embezzled $93,000 after his union settled a labor dispute with the E Garment Factory last year. However, Mr. Thorn’s lawyer, Kim Socheat, said his client had requested a delay because he was busy with other work.
Mr. Thorn is also one of the union leaders charged in connection with the December and January garment protests and is scheduled to be questioned in that case on Thursday.
The sudden spate of court dates for the union leaders come just as negotiations between the unions, factories and government over a new monthly minimum wage for the garment sector, currently set at $100, enter the final stretch.
The government and factories, represented by the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), want the wage raised by $10. The unions are gearing up for a nationwide campaign to push for a new minimum wage of $177 and say the court dates are meant to distract and intimidate them.
20140915 * Wage protests still on:
Labour union leaders charged with crimes stemming from violent demonstrations during a 10-day nationwide garment worker strike in December and January say they will protest this week supporting a minimum wage raise.
Collective Union of Movement of Workers president Pav Sina, who was ordered by Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Chea Sokheng not to participate in demonstrations while the case is being investigated, will ignore the injunction, he said yesterday.
“I am not afraid or worried of being arrested,” Sina, who will also be under court supervision until his trial, said.
Sina and five other union leaders have been charged with several crimes, including intentional violence. The charges are connected to the strike, which came to a sudden end on January 3, when military authorities shot at least five demonstrators dead.
Today and Tuesday 18 union leaders and advocates will meet to discuss a mass protest planned for Wednesday. Garment workers will demonstrate in front of their individual factories, demanding the minimum monthly wage be raised from $100 to $177 next year, Sina said.
Charges against the leaders of six independent unions are meant to derail their wage campaign, which will officially begin on Wednesday, said Ath Thorn, president of Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union. Thorn is also charged and due in court on Thursday for questioning.
20140915 * Union leaders to hold major rally to demand USD 177 per month:
Union leaders from 18 coalition will hold one-day campaign this week in 300 factories throughout the country to demand wage increase to USD 177 per month for workers, said Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers.
Online campaign will also be part of the demand as the unionists will send emails to foreign embassies in Phnom Penh as well as main buyers.
“On September 17 unionists will start their campaign by distributing T-shirts featuring with name of buyers including H&M, WaLMART, Levi’s, Adidas, GAP, C&A, Puma … to show our message,” Sina said.
When the workers get out of factories during lunch break, the unionists will gather with them and wear T-shirts, hold banners and read statement to demand USD 177 per month, he said, adding that the campaign will last for only 20 minutes.
20140913 * Union boss vows to carry on:
A union leader charged with violence and destroying property during garment protests that ended with security forces shooting at least five people dead on January 3 has vowed to ignore a court order not to engage in union activity.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday over the incident at Veng Sreng Boulevard. Sina had said that his union members would strike and hold protests if he was arrested.
“Although I was prohibited by court from meeting with workers, organising or leading any demonstration, I will not stop,” Sina told journalists outside the court.
He said he would participate in a nationwide union campaign for a $177 per month minimum wage to begin on Wednesday, which has been declared a global day of action to demand a living wage for all garment workers.
20140913 * Union Boss Put Under Court Supervision:
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, was placed under judicial supervision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday for his alleged role in garment sector protests in December and January, some of which turned violent before being lethally suppressed by government forces.
The ruling comes just days before the planned launch of a campaign by Mr. Sina and other unions to demand the minimum wage in the garment sector be raised from $100 to $177, set to begin on September 17.
Investigating Judge Chea Sokheang, citing charges of intentional violence, threats, destroying property and obstructing traffic, ruled that Mr. Sina would be monitored by the court and could not join any type of public gathering until his trial, a date for which has not been set, the union leader said after being questioning.
“The ruling means that I cannot go out of the country. I cannot join a rally, protest or any gathering and I have to report to commune police once a month,” Mr. Sina said after emerging from the questioning.
Court clerk San Sakny confirmed that Mr. Sina had been placed under judicial supervision, but said she could not recall further details of the judge’s ruling.
Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mr. Sina said that the court’s ruling was a clear attempt to stifle the planned minimum wage campaign, which comes ahead of a new minimum wage announcement due in October and currently being negotiated by the government, unions and factories.
20140915 * Shoe Factory Locks Out Workers One Day After Walkout:
A Taiwanese-owned shoe factory in Kompong Cham province locked out its workers on Saturday, a day after workers walked off the job when management allegedly delayed negotiations between the two sides over demands for better benefits.
The roughly 5,000 employees of Juhui Footwear went on strike on September 1 to demand overtime pay and other benefits, then returned on Friday following an injunction from the Kompong Cham Provincial Court ordering them back to work.
But when the factory insisted on pushing back Friday’s scheduled negotiations on the benefits from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the workers again walked off the job, said Mom Sarem, the local representative for the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union. When the workers tried to go back to work on Saturday, she said, the factory locked them out.
“The workers walked out of the factory because the factory canceled negotiations with the union,” she said. “However, when the workers went back on Saturday, why did the factory close the gate and not let them in?”
Teng Sambath, Juhui’s administrative director, confirmed that the factory had shut down on Saturday but declined to comment on why or for how long it would remain closed.
“I cannot answer or tell you more about this because we are still looking for a solution,” he said.
13:52:57 local time BANGLADESH
20140915 * Fire at Gazipur garment factory:
A garment factory caught fire in Tongi BSCIC area of the city on Sunday afternoon.
Locals said the fire originated from an unknown source at a godown of ‘Northern Corporation’ factory on the ground floor of a three-storey building at about 2:15 pm and it soon spread to other parts of the RMG unit.
On information, four firefighting units from Tongi Fire Station rushed in and doused the blaze after one and half an hours of hectic efforts.
The factory authorities claimed that the extent of losses caused by the fire will exceed Tk 80 lakh.
to read. & read more. & read more.
20140915 * Tuba workers set deadline to government for paying compensation:
Later, they also submitted a memorandum mentioning their demands to State Minister of Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu
Workers of the Tuba group have set a September 25 deadline for the government to pay the workers their due compensation in accordance with the labour law or face stern demonstrations before Eid.
From a rally in front of the National Press Club yesterday under the banner of “Tuba Group Workers Action Committee,” they also called for the group’s five closed factories to be reopened before Eid.
Later, they also submitted a memorandum mentioning their demands to State Minister of Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu.
Addressing the rally, the committee’s convener Moshrefa Mishu said workers of the five shut-down factories were living their lives in inhuman conditions as they were unable to pay their house rent or buy necessary food and daily necessities.
They were constantly being threatened by their creditors, Mishu claimed.
Claiming that Tuba Group owner Delwar victimised 1,600 workers by shutting down the factories illegally, Mishu added that authorities concerned would have to pay the workers with wages for August and September as per the labour law.
20140915 * Govt to compel Tuba owner to pay workers’ dues before Eid: Mujibul:
The state minister for labour and employment, Mujibul Haque, on Sunday said that the government would take necessary steps to ensure payment of dues of the workers of five closed down apparel factories of Tuba Group by the owner before Eid-ul-Azha.
He assured Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee leaders that the government would keep pressure on the owner to force him to pay the workers as per the labour law.
Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee leaders met the state minister at his office and submitted their demands including payment of workers for the months of August and September and festival allowance by September 25, reopening of the five garment factories under government management and cancellation of bail of Tuba Group owner Delwar Hossain.
The minister said that the government would sit with the garment sector leaders on September 21 to discuss the issue. Earlier, Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee held a rally in front of the National Press Club pressing for the demands.
The committee convener Mushrefa Mishu, worker leaders Joly Talukder and Shahidul Islam and Tuba Group worker Rehana Akter addressed the rally. More than 1,600 workers of the five factories – Bugshan Garments Ltd, Taif Designs Ltd, Tuba Fashions Ltd, Tuba Textiles and Mita Designs Ltd – went on a hunger strike on the day before Eid-ul-Fitr demanding their wages for the months of May, June and July.
20140914 * Tuba workers’ salary, arrear before EId: minister:
The state minister for labour and employment, Mujibul Haque Chunnu, on Sunday said that the government would take necessary steps to pay the arrear allowances, compensations and other dues of the workers of five closed down factories of Tuba groups before Eid-ul-Azha.
The minister came up with the remarks as a delegation led by Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee leader Mushrefa Mishu discussed the issues with him at the ministry.
Tuba Group workers demanded the compensations as defined by labour law as the owners closed down the factories.
They also demanded payment of their other dues including overtime bills and festival allowances.
More than 1,600 workers of the five factories – Bugshan Garments Ltd, Taif Designs Ltd, Tuba Fashions Ltd, Tuba Textiles and Mita Designs Ltd –began a hunger strike on the day before Eid-ul-Fitr demanding their wages for the months of May, June and July.
Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee battled for realising the demands for several months.
20140914 * Pay salary, bonus before Eid: Chunnu:
State Minister for Labor and Employment Ministry Majibul Haque Chunnu asked the authorities concerned to pay the salary and bonus of Tuba Group workers before Eid-ul-Azha.
The ruling Awami League lawmaker made the plea in a meeting with Tuba Group Sramik Sangram Committee members led by its convener Moshrefa Mishu in secretariat of the city on Sunday.
The committee also handed over a memorandum demanding the due within September 25.
The state minister said they are taking steps to pay the arrears before the upcoming eid.
They will also sit with the garments owners including Tuba group owner on September 21 about the matter.
20140914 * Minister: Laws do not allow punishing RMG owners:
The government is trying its best to keep pressure on owners and force them to pay the due wages, says Chunnu
State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque Chunnu has said the existing laws do not allow to take punitive actions against the readymade garment factory owners.
The junior minister made the statement when a delegation of “Tuba Workers Welfare Association” met him at his office on Sunday morning.
The delegation, led by Moshrefa Mishu, met the minister and submitted their demands.
They urged the government to take action in order to ensure the payment of the due wage and festival bonus to the workers of factories under Tuba Group before the upcoming Eid.
20140914 * Rewarding RMG workers:
A US clothing company, VFC, and the garment owner have rewarded Bangladeshi garment workers for putting out a fire on their own.
The reward will encourage workers to gain some safety knowledge so that they can use it during the time of emergency. I hope other world- renowned clothing giants will follow this to make the whole working atmosphere of the ready-made garments congenial.
The RMG sector has been passing through a rough time as it is yet to recover its loss from the pre-election political unrest.
The RMG sector needs much more time to get back on its feet.
The Rana Plaza incident also hurt the RMG sector badly and we gathered a lot of negative publicity in the international media.
20140917 * Plea to set up mechanisms for safe working environs in RMG sector:
Speakers at a workshop Tuesday stressed the need for setting up institutional, regulatory and oversight mechanisms relating to building and fire safety to ensure a safe working environment in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector.
The workshop titled ‘Institutional Collaboration on Strengthening Building and Fire Safety Inspection Systems in the RMG Sector’ brought together key government institutions, employers’ and workers’ organisations to explore areas and opportunities for more effective collaboration on building, fire and electrical safety.
The programme, held in the city, was jointly organised by the government and the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
“We all recognise that responsibility to ensure a safe ready-made garment sector lies with the relevant government authorities here in Bangladesh,” ILO Country Director Srinivas B Reddy said adding the ILO, international donors, Accord, Alliance and the BUET are providing support in this regard by carrying out inspections and providing training.
“However, we need to look at what comes next and prepare for the day when the authorities are able to carry out this role with confidence and to international standards without donor or industry support,” he added.
20140917 * German enterprise to help improve safety, health standards in factories:
British certification assured
The German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ), in collaboration with the Bangladesh government, has taken an initiative to improve occupational safety and health standards in factories in the country.
GIZ, the international enterprise owned by the German federal government, has already inked a deal with the Health Ministry in this connection.
Under the two-year project from June 2014 till June 2016, GIZ will provide technical support to industries to obtain the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services (OHSAS) 18001 certification from the British Standard and Testing Institute governed by the Royal Charter of the UK.
A senior official of the GIZ told the FE they have already signed contracts with 10 industries which are interested and committed to improve health and safety environment of their factories and want to be role models for others by obtaining a certificate of excellence like OHSAS 18001.
20140916 * Improving workplace environment:
Readymade Garment (RMG) is the prime source of foreign exchange earnings for Bangladesh since the last two decades.
RMG accounts for about 805 of the total export earnings of the country.
There are about 5000 garment factories operating in Bangladesh with 3.6 million workers, of which 85 per cent workers are female– mostly from the rural areas.
The industry is now in crisis due to repetitive labour unrest.
Recent unrest in this sector has caused a serious negative impact on export.
The most common reasons claimed by the workers for labour unrest are non-payment of wages and the deferred payment.
Some garment owners, they allege, do not pay salaries and overtime allowance on time.
But the owners, in their turn, claim that they pay wages on time.
So, it is a growing sense of mistrust that is fuelling the unrest.
Examination of the situation, from what is being reported regularly in the media, reveals that there are a cluster of factors responsible for the unmitigated unrest.
These include lack of benefits and irregularities in payment of overtime, deferred festival bonus, lack of motivational training programme, conflicting perception about the rich people of the society, demand of minimum wage, collective bargaining arrangements through trade unions etc.
Given the magnitude of the issues, it is clear that unless meaningful improvement is brought to the system, things are going to deteriorate further in the days to come and the resultant impact on the economy would be too heavy to shoulder.
20140915 * Govt begins making RMG unit inspection reports public:
The government has started to make public the inspection reports of the readymade garment factories assessed by the government and global retailers’ platforms by publishing the reports of 185 RMG units on the web site of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments.
Making the inspection reports public is one of the key conditions the government requires to fulfil to revive generalised system of preferences in the US market and to retain the duty-free access to the EU market.
Last week the government started to publish the inspection reports on the DIFE web site and in the first phase about 200 inspection reports will be made public through the web site created for the purpose, a DIFE official said.
He said that a total of 185 inspection reports had so far been published on the web site with the technical support of the International Labour Organisation.
20140914 * Less than 2% of factories unsafe, Accord says:
Engineers of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the platform of 186 retailers predominantly based in Europe, found less than 2 percent of the inspected factories unsafe for production and occupancy.
The platform, which started its inspection drive in February, has so far examined upwards of 1,000 factories for fire, electrical and structural safety, according to a statement.
“The fact that the number is less then 2 percent indicates that Bangladesh’s garment factories are not as unsafe as thought earlier. I hope the buyers’ confidence will increase further after this,” Roy Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council, said.
Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the government formed-review panel has so far shut down 18 factories upon recommendation from the Accord engineers.
For such factories, the platform is focusing on expediting the required remedial measures such that they can be safely re-opened as quickly as possible.
It is also ensuring that workers’ employment is maintained and their wages paid while remediation is taking place.
20140913 * Odd incidents compel shutdown of 127 RMG units:
Around 32,000 workers of the industrial belt, particularly for the RMG units, lost their jobs although half of them managed to get job in other factories but the others had unfortunately remained unemployed or forced to change their profession
At least 127 medium or small scale ready-made garment factories in the capital’s outskirts Savar area have been closed down in last one year due to worker unrest, factory vandalism and declaration of new pay scale for the sector’s workers as well as the political turmoil centring the January 5 general elections.
Consequently, around 32,000 workers of the industrial belt, particularly for the RMG units, lost their jobs although half of them managed to get job in other factories but the others had unfortunately remained unemployed or forced to change their profession.
Confirming the information, Ashulia Industrial Police Director Mostafizur Rahman said their record from September last year has noticed that the RMG owners there had been forced to shut down their factories in the face of the untoward incidents.
60% of them were enlisted with Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) while the rest was small criterion without registration, which were largely dependent on sub-contract order of big factories, the director continued.
Sources at Ashulia industrial Police said there are about nine lakh workers in more that 800 factories in the area. Only in December, about 54 RMG factories had been shuttered down in the area because of failing to deliver the order timely owing to the aforesaid untoward incidents.
20140914 * Dependency on outsourcing RMG export reduced by 60% in 30 yrs:
Buying house dependency on outsourcing readymade garment export orders has been reduced by more than 60 per cent over the last three decades, BGMEA sources said.
Skilled human resources, better production, forward linkages, own fashion and designing technology and offshore negotiation skills have enabled the exporters to outsource export orders at their own initiatives.
Currently the big exporters prefer free on board (FOB) ways than cutting and manufacturing (CM) as they are capable of getting orders and shipments bypassing third party involvement.
Md Shahidul Islam, former vice president of BGMEA said: “We have the skill to outsource export orders at our own initiatives.”
He said the big exporters’ experience in offshore dealings and the world’s large buyers’ local office are helping reduce dependency on the buying houses.
The former BGMEA leader says currently more than thirty per cent small and medium exporters rely on buying houses as they do not have enough capacity in offshore dealings and cannot fulfil buyers’ requirements.
20140915 * Two official agencies quote widely varied figures:
Number of workers in RMG sector
A big gap has surfaced in the findings of separate surveys conducted by two state agencies on the apparel sector, raising a question over the actual number of workers engaged in the country’s largest export-oriented industry.
After carrying out a survey following the tragic Tazreen fire incident, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) recently released a database showing the number of garment workers at only 2.13 million.
A diametrically different figure came in the finding by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies’ (BIDS) that put the strength of garment-sector workforce at around 4.0 million.
On the other hand, the two apex trade bodies in the apparel industry –BGMEA and BKMEA — often claim that the country’s apparel sector is employing about 4.0 million workers, 80 per cent of them women.
Sources said there are no accurate data either with Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, or the BGMEA or BKMEA.
20140917 * Apparel exporters fear losing US market:
Bangladesh’s apparel exporters fear losing market following a dip in sales in Western countries including the United States over the past three months.
They expressed the fear at a views-exchange meeting with journalists in Dhaka on Monday. Bangladesh Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) chief Atiqul Islam said Indonesia had recently left Bangladesh behind in export of RMG products to the American market.
Former President of BGMEA Anisur Rahman Sinha said the US buyers were looking to source apparels from alternative markets. Sinha, chairman of Opex Group, said: ‘Bangladesh’s apparel exports are falling.
Our business is being taken by other countries.’
He said the US was trying to develop African countries as alternative to Bangladesh. ‘Europe is also joining America.
If we don’t resolve our problems regarding gas, power and roads promptly, the fate of our RMG sector will be same as jute,’ he added.
20140916 * RMG exports to US fall by 1.75%:
Vietnam, India gain
Exports of Bangladesh’s readymade garments (RMG) to the US fell by 1.75 per cent to $2.94 billion during the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period of last year, according to the data of the US Department of Commerce.
On the other hand, apparel exports to the US by Vietnam, one of the main competitors of Bangladesh and India grew by 13.75 and 5.76 per cent respectively during the period.
Exporters attributed the tragic industrial incidents including the Rana Plaza building collapse and Tazreen fire and political turmoil to the declining trend in the US market.
Following the political turmoil last year, a large number of orders were shifted to Vietnam and India, they added.
During January-July period of the current calendar year, the readymade garment export of Vietnam to the US market stood at $5.17 billion from $4.54 billion in the same period of last year, according to the US Commerce Department data.
India fetched $2.12 billion during the period which was $2.0 billion during the same period of last year.
China’s export to US fell by 0.29 per cent to $15.63 billion during January to July of 2014.
20140916 * H&M signs deal with ILO to improve supply chain:
Swedish retailer H&M yesterday signed an agreement with International Labour Organisation to improve its supply chain management, according to a statement.
The cooperation between H&M and the ILO dates back to 2001, when H&M joined the ILO Better Factories programme in Cambodia, the retailer said in the statement. The new strategic partnership will promote a wide range of activities with the aim to further strengthen the sustainability work in H&M’s supply chain.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
20140914 * Unfortunate – for govt, for Rana Plaza victim families:
It is unfortunate that families of the workers killed in the Rana Plaza collapse, along with the workers maimed or injured, have to take to the streets demanding proper compensation even 16 months after the disaster.
As New Age reported on Saturday, they held a sit-in under the banner of Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati in Dhaka on Friday to push for the demand. What is worse is that, as speakers at the programme said, many of them were even starving in the absence of proper compensation.
The Rana Plaza that housed five clothing factories collapsed on April 24, 2013 resulting in the death of more than 1100 people, mostly apparel workers, and injuries to more than 2,000.
Necessarily, the disaster, worst among such incidents the nation ever saw, sent a huge shockwave not only across the nation but also the world giving rise to flurries of promises, particularly from the government and apparel retailers in the United States and Europe, major destinations of Bangladeshi apparel products, to stand by the victim families with financial and other supports, including measures to rehabilitate the people who became unable to work because of the accident.
In addition, hundreds of local businesses and individuals reportedly contributed more than Tk 100 crore to the prime minister’s relief and welfare fund over the issue while the Rana Plaza coordination committee, a body of representatives of global trade unions, retailers, government and factory owners, decided in line with the relevant ILO convention to provide about Tk 20 lakh for 3,059 people each affected by the disaster.
Regrettably, however, there are reportedly still many victim families who have hardly received money from the prime minister’s fund, and the coordination committee has so far provided only around 580 beneficiaries with Tk 50,000 each.
Unfortunately, as the mother of a victim alleged, they have had to face police threats for demanding the promised compensation.
20140913 * Rana Plaza victim families want proper compensation:
Families of the victims of Rana Plaza collapse at sit-in in front of the National Press Club on Friday demanded exemplary punishment of people responsible for the disaster and proper compensations for victim families.
The nine-storey Rana Plaza at Savar that housed five apparel factories and a market collapsed on April 24, 2013, leaving more than 1,100 people, mostly apparel workers, killed and scores maimed.
Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati, an apparel worker organisation, organised the sit-in in front of the National Press Club which was also addressed by families of the Rana Plaza victims.
The families of the people killed, missing and injured attended the programme.
Mother of Shahida Begum, who was killed in the collapse, said that they were facing police threats when they demanded proper compensations. Like her, many of the victim families alleged that they were not compensated properly.
Garments Sramik Sanghati coordinator Taslima Akhter called on the government to disburse the money which was accumulated in the prime minister’s fund for the families of the Rana Plaza victims. She called on the government, the owners of apparel factories that were housed in the collapsed building and the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association leaders to take steps to compensate the victim families properly.
20140912 * Families of Rana Plaza victims rally for compensation:
Families of the Rana Plaza victims on Friday at a sit in programme in the city demanded exemplary punishments for the people responsible for the Rana Plaza collapse and adequate compensations for the victims and their families.
Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati organised the sit in programme in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka where the family members of the Rana Plaza victims spoke. Shahida Begum, mother of Shanta who was killed in the building collapse, said that they were facing police threats whenever they come with demand for compensations.
Khalil Mia, family member of another garment worker demanded more compensation to run their family. Taslima Akhter, the coordinator the organisation, called on the government to disburse the money which was accumulated in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund for the family members of the Rana Plaza victims.
She demanded exemplary punishments of the responsible for the collapse.
12:52:57 local time PAKISTAN
20140910 * KiK stalling on further compensation: Victims prepare to launch lawsuit in Germany:
Immediate aid: check; long term compensation: still outstanding – that’s the status of negotiations between KiK and survivors and surviving dependants of the fire in the Ali Enterprises textile factory in Pakistan two years ago.
254 people died and 55 were injured in the catastrophe on 11 September 2012. German textile discounter KiK, the factory’s biggest client, made an immediate relief payment following the fire but has been stalling during negotiations on long term compensation.
In light of considerable public pressure, KiK entered into a contractual agreement in December 2012 undertaking, among other things, to take part in negotiations on long term compensation.
These payments would aim to compensate for instance for the permanent loss of earnings of a family’s main provider.
“KiK has been dragging its feet on these negotiations for almost a year,” says Frauke Banse from the Clean Clothes Campaign who is taking part in the negotiations.
“If this persists, legal steps will have to be taken to ensure compliance with the agreement.”
The case is not just about the money. “The victims are looking for justice.
They want KiK to finally acknowledge responsibility for its overseas supply operations,” says Miriam Saage-Maaß from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).
“Should the negotiations break down again, they are prepared to take legal action against KiK in a German court.”
ECCHR and the Frankfurt-based relief organization medico international are supporting six families through the legal proceedings surrounding the incident and in the preparation of a lawsuit in Germany.
Last week they were in Pakistan to meet with those affected, who have formed the Baldia Factory Fire Affectees Association.
“KiK will only meet its obligations if the public pressure in Germany is sustained,” says Thomas Seibert, South Asia Coordinator at medico international.
To mark the second anniversary of the fire, the heads of DGB, ver.di and IG Metall have launched a petition named “Wir stehen am Anfang” (We are just beginning). In Berlin, a vigil will be held today at 5pm outside the KiK store in Neukölln (Hermannstraße 214) in remembrance of the deceased. Memorials will also be held in Cologne, Amsterdam and Karachi.
20140915 * A continuing tragedy:
Two years after a devastating fire ravaged the Ali Enterprises garment factory in Karachi’s Baldia Town, killing 259 workers, all but a small handful of their families have not received even a small portion of the compensation amounts publically promised to them in 2012, after the tragedy occurred on September 11.
Some victims have lost their only bread winners.
The owners of the factory, which lacked sufficient safety exits or fire protection measures, are still to face anything resembling punishment, as the investigation lingers on, holding up the trial process.
This then is the state of justice in our country.
The impoverished victims, who gathered in large numbers to mark the anniversary of the tragedy, essentially have nowhere to turn and no means to seek redress for their grievance.
Some have not even been able to conduct funeral rites, since some bodies were never found or identified.
International labour bodies have termed the fire amongst the worst accidents in industrial history anywhere in the world.
This was highlighted by labour leaders speaking at the second anniversary gathering in Karachi on Thursday.
What the Baldia tragedy also reveals is the condition in which millions of labourers toil in our country.
According to estimates 60 million people work in factories or similar establishments. For most of this labour force safety conditions are poor with existing labour laws intended to protect them poorly implemented.
20140914 * Factory owners put fire system on the back burner:
With over only three dozen fire tenders being operated by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to cater the needs of the spiraling city of approximately 20 million people, the majority of buildings are also devoid of fire-safety measures
The city administration has never attempted to take up the matter and adopt necessary steps to avoid any untoward incident.Talking to journalists during a visit to the blazed factory in Baldia Town that claimed over 289 lives,
Administrator Karachi Muhammad Hussain Syed conceded that majority of city buildings lacked fire safety system besides city fire department also lacking modern gadgets and equipment for prompt rescue operations.
Karachi has witnessed several arson incidents in past in which several human beings lost their lives, but the massive loss of lives in Baldia factory blaze implies that the concerned government agencies were inactive and unconcerned towards the grave public-concerning matter.
One of the incidents was Empress Market blaze occurred a year ago that had reduced more than 100 shops to ashes; however the loss could have been minimised had the fire-safety system was installed at the market.
Senior official at the city fire department, wanting not to be named, said buildings here in the city were not equipped with fire safety systems and emergency exits that hamper speedy working of fire fighters in case of emergencies.
Business community and other stakeholders also don’t equip their buildings with fire safety measures turning it to be serious concern.
Thousands of other buildings in the city have no fire safety systems where massive public movement is seen almost every day.
20140913 * Baldia fire: Families yet to be compensated, records say otherwise:
The federal finance department has deducted Rs129.5 million from the budgetary allocation of the Workers Welfare Fund so the amount can be paid to the workers who died in the Baldia factory fire but none of the families have received the promised amount.
This was disclosed before a Sindh High Court division bench, headed by Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar, during the hearing of a petition seeking compensation. Official figures say 259 workers were burnt alive inside the garments factory on September 11, 2012.
On Friday, the court was informed that compensation of Rs500,000 each was announced for the families of the victims by the Workers Welfare Fund on November 20, 2012.
The court was informed that the finance department has already deducted the amount, which was to be paid in addition to the compensations announced by the prime minister and the provincial government.
In a letter, the provincial labour secretary, who is also the Workers Welfare Fund board chairman, had requested the Workers Welfare Fund Islamabad secretary to personally ensure the release of the Rs129.5 million grant.
The bench directed the secretary to release the amount for distribution, especially since the amount has already been deducted from the budget.
The provincial labour secretary informed that the then Pakistan Peoples Party federal government had provided Rs84 million to the provincial government for the payment of Rs400,000 to each family as part of the compensation pledged by the prime minister.
The amount has been disbursed among 210 families, while 45 are still waiting to receive their payments. The secretary’s lawyer, Samiullah Soomro, said the provincial government has distributed all of the funds that it had received from the Centre.
20140913 * SHC seeks progress report of DNA tests on unidentified bodies:
The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the in-charge and project director National Forensic Science Agency to submit a report of the progress on preparing the DNA reports of the unidentified bodies of Baldia factory fire within two weeks.
The order came on an application filed by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), seeking compliance of the court directive of March 12 last year that ordered the chief secretary to conduct DNA tests of unidentified bodies.
The Piler and others filed the petition in the SHC for the constitution of a judicial commission which may fix the responsibility on the persons responsible for the fire incident at the Ali Enterprise in Baldia that claimed the lives of as many as 289 people on September 11, 2012 and suggest monetary compensation for the legal heirs of the inferno victims.
Piler’s counsel Faisal Siddiqui also submitted in the application that the investigation officer of the case, Jehanzaib Khan, was benefiting the accused persons and delaying the proceedings of the trial, saying that despite the lapse of two years even the charges were not framed against the accused persons.
20140912 * Unsafe garment industry needs trade unions:
11 September marked the second anniversary of the deadly fire at a factory owned by Ali Enterprises in Karachi.
The fire was one of the worst industrial accidents in Pakistan; 259 workers died, many were seriously injured and 1,500 were left with no employment.
The factory was a disaster waiting to happen. Ali Enterprises was not registered under Pakistan’s factory Act; the building structure was not legally approved by the Building authority; the majority of the workers did not have appointment letters; all worked under an illegal third party contact system with working hours ranging from ten to 14 hours a day without overtime; the majority of workers were not registered with the Social Security Institute and Old Age Benefits Institute which is mandatory. And as there was no trade union, there was no right to collective bargaining.
In an ironic twist of events, the factory had received a clean sheet from an international social auditing company merely two weeks before the inferno broke out, certifying that all was according to standard.
The fire turned the factory into a death trap. More than 600 workers were trapped inside the factory which had no functional fire extinguishing system, all windows were closed and covered with iron rods and all exit door were forcibly locked preventing the workers to escape before all merchandise was recovered from the fire.
After spending five months in jail, the owners of Ali Enterprises were released on bail.
Few unions in the garment industry
The garment industry accounts for 65% of Pakistan’s economy. 60%of the country’s total workforce in the garment sector with everything raw cotton to ready-made garments.
The deadly fire two years ago sparked a small-scale debate on work safety and working conditions, but it in a country with 60 million workers without basic labour rights the discussion soon died out.
Traditionally, factory owners and local administration have come down hard on attempts to form trade unions. As a consequence, less than two per cent of the garment workers are unionised.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan (NTUF) joined forces with other labour and human rights organizations to find those responsible for the tragedy.
A commission was established to find cause and responsibility of the fire. A report was submitted to the government with the findings, but even two years after the tragedy the government refuses to make it public.
Some families of deceased workers have received partial compensation, while many are still waiting for the compensation. Following pressure from international and domestic trade unions and labour organisations, German brand Kik, who sourced form the factory, have committed to provide USD 1 million USD as initial compensation.
Nasir Mansoor, Deputy General Secretary of NTUF says:
“We achieved this thanks to a great show of global solidarity, but we still have a long way to go. In countries like Pakistan where injustice becomes law, workers have no choice than to start resistance.”
20140915 * Yarn dealers, stockists protest against defaulters:
Yarn dealers and stockiest have staged a protest against the defaulters of the Faisalabad Yarn Market in front of the defaulter house and demanded to government speculators and defaulters should be apprehended immediately.
According to details, nine different parties, traders and yarn dealers of the local Yarn Market have defaulted during the last weeks due to prolonged load shedding of gas & electricity as well as Textile crisis.
During ongoing crisis, deferent parties had made blind transitions of yarn with various dealers and merchants but after some times they found themselves in deep waters and were unable to settle their transactions and could not make payments to parties who had supplied them the yarn.
It is reported that there are many businessmen, who have entered the yarn market and start doing business buying and selling yarn right and left without verifying the suppliers and the buyers.
20140914 * Business stories: The rise and fall of the Chenab Group:
The Chenab Group of Industries would want to forget the year 2007.
Considered as one of the leading manufacturers of textile goods in the past, Chenab Group owns Chen One – Pakistan’s first home textile brand having 29 branches in the country and abroad.
The Group also owns and manages several other companies such as CGI Limited UAE, InterFab in Australia, Chenab Fibres Limited, ChenSoft, Chenab USA, ChenOne Worldwide, House of Chenab and ChenOne Foundation.
Once a shining star, boasting annual sales of Rs9 billion, the Group’s slide began seven years ago. While it is desperately looking to claw its way back, lack of working capital is proving to be a massive hindrance.
In 2006-07, Chenab Limited recorded sales over Rs9 billion and was eyeing the Rs15-billion mark by the following year. Suffice to say that the dream never bore fruit as various issues caught the Group off guard.
Mian Latif, the chief executive officer, was asked the reasons behind the fall and if the Group could re-emerge from the slide.
Wearing a grim look, Latif began narrating.
Latif’s family had an agricultural background before it established industries. The CEO’s forefathers had moved from what is now a part of India, settling in Toba Tek Singh in 1883.
Fast forward to the 20th century
In 1973, after completing graduation, Latif set up a small-scale business – a power loom factory in Toba Tek Singh. Sixty power looms were installed as the first step was taken towards success. Chenab Textile Mills, the first weaving unit, was setup and marked a big day for Latif.
12:52:57 local time UZBEKISTAN
20140916 * Angren college students leave to pick cotton:
Third-year college and lyceum students from Tashkent province’s city of Angren departed to the cotton fields on September 15.
Students from eight colleges and one lyceum were ordered to help with this year’s harvest.
Be a patriot otherwise …
On the eve of their mandatory cotton works the students were told at an assembly that picking cotton is a way to help their country and is an expression of patriotism.
Those who do not wish to be patriotic were threatened with expulsion and other consequences.
A parent of one of the students said that her son is studying to be a mechanic and a driver in a consumer services college. At his rally the students were told that those who do not work in the cotton fields would not get their driver’s license.
“So my son went,” says the mother.
Many students brought their own camp-cots with them. Trucks departing to the fields were loaded up with refrigerators, cooking stoves, pots and pans, food, and coal and firewood for cooking and heating.
About 50 percent of college teachers are also supposed to be going to pick cotton and keep an eye on the students.
Many teachers, however, choose to hire cotton pickers to replace themselves in the fields. The cost is anywhere from 500 to 800 thousand soms.
20140916 * Karakalpakstan students pick cotton:
Karakalpakstan university students have been picking cotton since September 11 despite the harvest being not yet ready.
On September 11, staff and students at the Nukus State Pedagogical Institute found out about the start of their cotton shifts mere hours before actually being taken to the fields. Students rushed to pack their possessions and to buy groceries. In years past students were at least given two or three days warning before they needed to depart for their force cotton work, some students complained.
In the late afternoon they were sent to the cotton fields in Amudaryo and Shumanajsky districts of the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan.
However, Karakalpakstan farmers say that cotton is not yet ripe, especially in the northern areas of the province, such as in Shumanajsky district. The late harvest cost the Shumanajsky district Khokim, Ibragim Davletmuradov, his job – he was fired in August.
Despite the plants not being ready for harvesting the forced laborers are already toiling in the fields. Insiders say there was an order from Tashkent – begin the harvest – and no one had the courage or desire to contradict orders coming from the capital.
20140915 * Cotton harvest in Uzbekistan: Doctors and teachers in the fields:
Angren medical workers, teachers, and kindergartens employees were sent to pick cotton on September 13. Interviews with forced cotton laborers offer insights into this year’s harvest.
40% of medical employees are to pick cotton
Angren Health Department is sending about 40 percent of its employees to pick cotton this year – about 10 percent more than last year.
Almost all doctors are able to privately hire laborers to replace them in the fields. Nurses and other junior medical personal, however, cannot afford to pay for such replacement workers, and will therefore have to pick cotton themselves for the next month.
A women’s hospital in Angren was also required to provide half of its staff to the cotton harvest – with most of its workers hiring replacement workers.
The first two mandatory shifts of the cotton harvest will each be 25 days long. It will be decided at a later point if a third shift is needed.
20140912 * Departing for the cotton fields:
On September 11, Angren teachers, doctors, and other public sector employees as well as students sent their luggage to the cotton fields. The cotton pickers themselves will be transported on September 13-14. Maybe. No one knows the exact date yet.
Until the people arrive their suitcases with clothes, bedding, and other personal belongings will be watched over by people specifically sent along with the luggage for that purpose.
The forced laborers are confused about this situation: In previous years they were always able to travel with their possessions.
The people who gathered expecting to be driven to the rural areas for cotton picking posit various hypotheses: Maybe there was not enough transport or not enough diesel? The likeliest version, however, is offered by an employee from the Angren’s office of the Uzbek Ministry of Culture.
“I think this is just for show,” says the Ministry of Culture employee who wished to remain anonymous. “This is an attempt to show off that everything is ready to receive the cotton pickers. However, in reality the living quarters and everything else is not yet prepared. There is no ‘there’ there yet.”
20140911 * Majority of teachers at Kokand school sent to pick cotton:
The cotton harvest has started in Uzbekistan and at least one of the schools in Kokand is losing most of its teachers (40 out 75). Those left behind are supposed to cover for their colleagues’ classes while their colleagues are in the fields picking cotton.
Makhlie, one of the teachers going to pick cotton, told Uznews.net that she sometimes wonders if she is a professional teacher or a professional farmer.
She has worked at the same school for 15 years and has been sent to pick cotton each year. She spends three months out of the year in cotton production – either weeding or harvesting.
A typical school year is nine months, three of which Makhlie spends in the cotton fields. If one takes into account the autumn, winter, and spring breaks as well as other interruptions to teaching – like participating in mandatory cleaning squads in the school and surrounding neighborhood or the collecting of metal scrap – what is left for teaching is a mere three months.
20140915 * 2014 Clothing industry wage dispute resolved:
The COSATU affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU), has now finally resolved its 2014 clothing industry national wage dispute with clothing employers.
The new wage agreement was adopted by and signed at a Special Council meeting of the clothing industry bargaining council, earlier today.
The meeting was held in Cape Town, at the Head Office of the bargaining council.
Approximately 80 000 clothing workers nationally will benefit from the agreement. The key elements of the agreement are as follows:
* Note from the editor:
Due to various maintenance work there will be no regularly (almost) daily bulletin published, for a period, a while.