(Please see editor’s note at the bottom of this bulletin.)
05:03:32 local time CAMBODIA
* Unions Claim Garment Factory Fired 1,200 Workers for Strike:
Unionists claimed about 1,200 striking workers at Kandal province’s Now Corp. garment factory were fired when they went to collect their salaries Tuesday, but the company rejected the claims, saying the workers are still employed.
Workers at the Cambodian-South Korean owned factory in Ang Snuol district, led by the Workers Friendship Union Federation (WFUF) and the National Trade Union Coalition (NTUC), have been striking since December 1.
Factory management agreed to eight of their 12 demands but have refused to concede the remaining points, including a $1 daily lunch allowance.
NTUC president Far Saly said the factory fired the 1,200 striking workers after paying last month’s salaries to the 1,800 total workers employed at the factory.
“Today, the factory agreed to pay them their salary for November, and then fired them from their work because they have been striking to demand benefits,” Mr. Saly said.
* Report Highlights Lack of Safety Standards in Garment Industry:
A new report on the risk of accidents in garment factories highlights the inadequacy of regulations intended to prevent fires, along with a complete lack of building standards and a failure by authorities to conduct thorough inspections.
The International Labor Organization-commissioned “Fire and Life Safety Risk Profile,” a summary of which was released Tuesday, comes in the wake of a number of accidents at factories in Cambodia, including a fire at Phnom Penh’s Chang Sheng Garment factory in July that killed a Chinese supervisor and injured three others.
In October, at least eight people were injured when the floor of the Nishiku Enterprise factory in Takeo province caved in, and in May last year, a section of the Wing Star Shoes factory in Kompong Speu province collapsed, killing two workers.
As well as noting a lack of legislation to ensure that factories adhere to fire safety and building standards, the report says there are no clear mechanisms in place that allow factories to report fires or structural failures, while labor inspections are “conducted irregularly due to a lack of budget and personnel.”
The report also sets out a list of recommendations for key industry players, urging the government to properly implement fire and building safety standards, and calling on brands, factories, unions and factory owners to also take responsibility for safety in factories.
* Warehouse blaze: Garments set alight in factory fire:
An electrical malfunction in a warehouse at a garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district sparked a fire yesterday morning, officials said.
The fire at the Chin Mei Yong factory started when an electrical outlet near a box of discarded garments set the box alight, said Saom Som Ath, director of the capital’s firefighting department.
“No workers were injured in the incident and the damage was not significant,” Som Ath said after the blaze was extinguished yesterday.
“The warehouse where the fire occurred stocked pieces of damaged clothes.”
Fire officials were alerted at about 9:20am, Som Ath said. By 10:25am, fire brigades from Phnom Penh and Kandal province had extinguished the flames.
“The fire started due to the negligence of the owner or a factory manager, who did not care about safety on the factory’s premises,” Som Ath said following an investigation.
* Dilemma for garment factories:
Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce has issued an ultimatum to Cambodia’s garment factories to sign up to the automated Certificate of Origin service by the end of the year or risk delays in receiving their certificate after this date.
“From 1 January 2015 onwards, the Ministry of Commerce will give priority over the issuance of CO for the companies that have registered with the online system,” a December 4 statement released from the Ministry of Commerce reads.
“[The Ministry of Commerce] will not be responsible for any delay in issuing CO for the companies that have not registered with the online system, even the issuance via the ordinary system,” the announcement continues.
A CO certifies a product’s place of origin and is a requirement for many export destinations. The process for gaining the certificate has been moved online in a bid to cut back on red tape and informal fee requests that occur in face to face applications to the ministry.
04:03:32 local time BANGLADESH
* RMG factory closed sine die following protest:
‘The factory has been declared closed for an indefinite period due to the tension prevailed among the workers’
A ready-made garment factory in Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) area of Ashulia has been closed down for an indefinite period following a clash between two groups of its workers.
The Pradac Jeans Limited authorities yesterday hung a closure notice on the entrance of the factory and the workers staged a demonstration in front of it in the morning in protest of the decision.
Being informed, police rushed to the spot and moved away the agitating workers resulting in the situation under control without any untoward incident.
Sources at the factory said ten workers got injured on the previous day when two group of workers locked into a clash while demonstrating protesting less wages than usual, which had been paid by the factory authorities.
* Hike prices of garments:
Manufacturers urge retailers
Garment makers and trade union leaders yesterday called upon international retailers to raise prices of the apparel items they buy from Bangladesh.
The apparel manufacturers also suggested the retailers follow ethical buying practices, which they said will ultimately benefit workers.
Amid rising pressure from global brands to reduce prices of their products, the suppliers are often forced to compromise safety issues and wages of their workers, they said.
Costs of production rise every year, but the prices of garment items do not, the apparel makers said.
They spoke at a session — reinventing the apparel model: the race to responsible buying and productivity enhancement — at the Dhaka Apparel Summit being held at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital.
* US retailers to lobby for trade privileges for Bangladesh:
Big brands in the US are committed to staying in Bangladesh, says Nate Herman of American Apparel and Footwear Association
The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) will urge the Obama administration to reinstate trade benefits for Bangladesh, as the country is an important sourcing destination for American customers.
“We will try to propose USTR [United States Trade Representative] to withdraw the GSP suspension on Bangladesh next year, if the GSP scheme is renewed again,” Nate Herman, vice president (international trade) of AAFA, told The Daily Star in an interview in Dhaka on Monday.
AAFA is the highest trade body for apparel and footwear traders in the US, representing more than 1,000 retailers and brands in the $361 billion US retail sales market.
Herman was in Dhaka to attend the Apparel Summit, which was organised by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, as a discussant.
“Once GSP is revived for Bangladesh, we will try to include leather goods, backpacks, luggage, wallets and smartphone covers that originate here,” he said. “This will be our first step next year so that Bangladesh is benefited.”
* Mozena asks brands, buyers to continue RMG support:
US Ambassador in Dhaka Dan W Mozena Tuesday called on the brands and buyers to keep up their unprecedented commitment of support to transform Bangladesh’s apparel sector reports UNB.
“Over the next three and a half years, you can do much to help Bangladesh set the global standard for the apparel industry,” he said adding that Bangladesh endeavours to bring the sector to standard for fire safety, factory structural soundness and respect for workers’ rights.
* Three apparel units get $1.3m funds from US retailer for safety upgrade:
US-based VF Corporation and IFC have provided loans worth $1.3 million to three Bangladeshi garment factories under a new programme for funding fire and building safety improvements.
Through the financing arrangement, VF Corporation, a global leader for branded apparel, footwear and accessories, provides a full corporate guarantee for up to $10 million that the IFC and its partner Brac Bank lend to VF’s contract suppliers.VF’s guarantee to back the loans makes it possible for IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, to lend at lower interest rates, according to a statement received yesterday.
This initiative will help VF suppliers in Bangladesh overcome financial obstacles to improving workplace safety conditions.
“Providing these loans to help supplier factories fund the necessary improvements is another positive step forward in VF’s efforts to ensure the safety of the people making our products in Bangladesh,” said Tom Glaser, VF’s president of supply chain.
* IFC, VF to enhance credit for small RMG factories:
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has planned to expand its newly-launched small credit facility for readymade garment (RMG) factories, not covered by Accord and Alliance as it continued discussion with 10 more brands in line with the IFC product to ensure workers’ safety.
IFC Global Sector Head, Tourism, Retail and Property Sector Olaf Schmidt said the speedy but low interest rate credit facility will be provided depending on strong audit reports of the factories and their action plans to meet IFC environmental and social compliance issues which include safety.
The IFC senior executive talked to the FE in line with the Apparel Summit on Monday evening after the Corporation announced its support to three apparel factories with US$1.2 million credit in partnership with VF Corporation, a company having highly diversified portfolio of 30 powerful brands.
* Germany to provide €50m RMG compliance fund:
The German delegation came on a three-day visit to Bangladesh
The German government will give €50 million compliance fund for Bangladesh’s textile industry to cope with global standard.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed yesterday at secretariat in this regard between two countries.
The German delegation headed by its Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Hans-Joachim Fuchtel and Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed signed the MoU from their respective sides.
Addressing the signing ceremony, Hans-Joachim Fuchtel promised he would request German buyers to raise the price of each pair of jeans by one euro on top of the existing price.
* Alliance applauds Bangladesh’s work safety progress:
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a group of North American retailers, yesterday applauded Bangladesh for its progress in improving working conditions in garment factories.
“We have seen amazing commitments from the government, factory owners and buyers to ensure workplace safety in Bangladesh,” said Donald P Bliss, vice president of National Fire Protection Association, an American trade body and a partner of the Alliance on fire safety.
“Bangladesh can be a model for other countries,” he said.
* Factory relocations to cost $3b:
The fund is manageable, a leading economist says at Apparel Summit
The apparel sector needs around $3 billion to relocate factories from the capital, which is necessary to ensure workplace safety and environment compliance, a leading economist said yesterday.
“The fund is manageable as it is not a big amount,” said Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute.
The government should discuss the matter with global lenders, such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency to find a finance mechanism with low interest rates to transform the garment industry, he said.
Around 1,000 factories need to be relocated from the capital, according to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association. “Relocation will help the sector attain $50 billion in annual exports by 2021,” Mansur said.
* Apparel Summit ends listing challenges, opportunities:
A three-day summit meet of Bangladesh apparel-makers with the industry’s international clientele concluded in Dhaka Tuesday, identifying the prevailing challenges and opportunities for attaining a $50 billion export goal, organisers and participants said.
The apex body of the country’s readymade garment industry organised the Dhaka Apparel Summit at a time when the largest export-earning sector has been facing some odds, especially in respect of workplace safety and labour-right issues.
Terming the mega-event ‘successful’, the organizers said they were able to present some emerging issues before the global community, especially the global buyers, which will help in brightening image of the industry.
The business carnival, especially the expo, brought garment-industry leaders together with leading international safety-equipment vendors and experts to help increase access to the latest safety expertise, tools and technologies in Bangladesh.
* Safety key to RMG success:
All stakeholders need to act together
Speakers at the Dhaka Apparel Summit on December 8 agreed that workers’ safety in readymade garments (RMG) factories remains one of the key prerequisites for ensuring Bangladesh’s dominance in the global apparel sector.
Guarantee for physical safety in terms of proper fire preparedness, field inspection and training of workers to tackle an emergency will have to become part and parcel of the way the industry is run.
And it is not merely about more unionisation at the workplace, but finding and putting in place various forms of dispute resolution which can help workers and management resolve issues without matters turning volatile.
For any of this to work seamlessly would require government institutions to build their capacity to work as proper regulators particularly in the area of ensuring that faulty structural designs are remedied and these adhered to. There is need for industrial zones replete with fire stations to combat emergencies.
* Experts hammer out 8 RMG priorities:
Infrastructure emerges on top as 3-day Dhaka Apparel Summit 2014 concludes
Ensuring better infrastructure, mainly availability of power and gas, has been voted to be the top most priority of Bangladesh to reach an apparel export target of US$50 billion by the year 2021, when the country aspires to become a middle-income one.
The requirement for skilled workers and managers is the second top priority to achieve the goal as Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) conducted a survey among the industry stakeholders and experts as part of the Dhaka Apparel Summit 2014 concluded in Dhaka yesterday.
The survey was based on eight specified questions with multiple-option answers picked from different discussion sessions of the summit while the respondents were given options to choose the priorities.
* RMG’s $50 billion ‘Golden Jubilee’ export target:
Targets, financial or otherwise, that are set by the government, do usually evoke scepticism. Failure to meet targets more often than not is to blame for this.
The private sector players are not used to fixing sectoral or industry-wise targets since their performance remains confined to micro-level.
However, a section of them — the apparel exporters — has ventured to take a bold move, perhaps as a departure from the old tradition, and set a sectoral target of earning $50 billion in gross export receipts by 2021– the year that marks the Golden Jubilee of the country’s independence.
And they made their goal public at the first-ever Apparel Summit organised by the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on December 7-8 last.
The target, in comparison with the current level of export earning from apparels — $25 billion — might appear too big, on the face of it. Yet none has come out in the open expressing his or her doubt.
Relevant circles have a gut feeling that the apparel sector has acquired the strength needed to reach any height, provided the environment, both domestic and external, remains conducive to their business growth.
The target does otherwise look “achievable”, in terms of the share of Bangladesh’s exports in the global apparel market from the current level of less than 5.0 per cent to about 8.0 per cent, as projected, by 2021.
By that time, the size of the global apparel market, as estimated, will reach about $650 billion, from the current level of less than $500bn.
Being now the second largest exporter to the global market after China that has a much larger share at over 37 per cent of global clothing exports, it is not an unachieveable target for the year 2021, for the Bangladesh apparel exporters, if they are in a position to consolidate further their existing strengths and also if the sector-wise current weaknesses through government’s effective public policy actions are overcome.
The country’s apparel sector that had entered the global market with a paltry export order worth $2.4 million back in 1978 has achieved a near miracle. It has successfully overcome many odds, including phase-out of the multifibre agreement (MFA) on textiles, child labour issue and major industrial accidents.
* Export earnings fall short of target by 5pc in July-Nov:
The country’s export earnings in the first five months of the current fiscal year 2014-15 fell short of target by US$ 665.44 million or 5.23 per cent mainly due to either sluggish or negative growth in export of major products, mainly apparel items.
Export earnings in the period, however, came out from negative territory which the country experienced in July-October for the first time in last five years and grew by 0.92 per cent on remarkable growth in November, according to official data of Export Promotion Bureau.
THE RANA PLAZA BUILDING COLLAPSE
* Benetton targeted over Rana Plaza compensation on International Human Rights Day:
Labour rights campaigners across Europe and the USA are marking this years’ International Human Rights Day by calling on Italian fashion brand Benetton to finally pay into a Fund set up to pay compensation to thousands of families affected by the Rana Plaza disaster in April 2013.
On and around 10 December 2014, activists will be participating in street actions in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and the U.S. demanding that Benetton immediately pay into a Fund set up by the ILO to provide compensation to those injured in the collapse and the families of those killed. These street actions will be complimented by online actions from all over the world, coordinated through the launch of a new website by the Clean Clothes Campaign targeted at Benetton: https://payup.cleanclothes.org. Campaigners have also called on franchise holders of Benetton stores throughout Europe to support the campaign by asking the Benetton Group to take immediate action.
“We are using International Human Rights Day to remind citizens that compensation is a right for all workers and that until compensation is paid in full there will be no justice for the Rana Plaza workers,” said Deborah Lucchetti from the Campagna Abiti Puliti. “We are determined to continue our campaign until Benetton pays what it owes.”
& ASK BENETTON TO PAY UP : Please sign! here.
* Rana Plaza factory owner gets bail:
The High Court yesterday granted six-month bail to the chairman of New Wave Bottoms, one of the five garment factories housed in the ill-fated Rana Plaza.
Bazlus Samad Adnan, chairman of New Wave Bottoms, has been detained in jail, pending trial, since April 27 last year in connection with the two cases filed on April 24 and 25 last year against the owners of Rana Plaza and the garment factories housed in it for violating building rules and endangering people’s lives.
The government will appeal to the Appellate Division to cancel the bail, Deputy Attorney General Bashir Ullah told The Daily Star.
Justice Syed AB Mahmudul Huq and Justice Md Akram Hossain Chowdhury issued the ad-interim bail after Adnan filed a petition on November 30.
The judges also asked the government to explain why Adnan should not be granted regular bail.
Adnan’s lawyer AM Amin Uddin said he does not know whether his client is arrested in any other case or will be released from jail following the HC order.
Rana Plaza collapsed on April 24 last year, leaving 1,135 dead and thousands injured.
to read. & read more.
* Garment owner Bazlus Samad granted 6-month bail:
The High Court on Tuesday granted six months’ bail to Bazlus Samad Adnan, the owner of New Wave Bottoms and New Wave Styles Garments, accused in a case relating to the Rana Plaza disaster that had killed 1,135 workers and maimed scores.
The bench of Justice Syed AB Mahmudul Huq and Justice Md Akram Hossain Chowdhury also asked the government to explain why Bazlus Samad should not be granted a regular bail.
03:03:32 local time PAKISTAN
* Multiple hazards :
The 400 or so workers present at a textile mill in Karachi’s SITE area on December 5, where a fire erupted and was controlled only after a 24-hour long struggle, are all fortunate in the sense that they escaped and survived. In this sense, they are more fortunate than the 289 killed in the Baldia fire at another textile mill in 2012.
But they are certainly not safe. With the building razed to the ground, looms, yarn and machinery destroyed, the workers have suddenly been rendered jobless, with no means to put food on the table for their families. Who knows how long it will be before they can find employment.
They are not alone in their plight. Similar fires at workplaces in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad, where at least half a dozen factories or plazas have been completely destroyed by fire over the past two years have added large numbers to lists of the unemployed. Smaller fires, too, at shoe factories, at warehouses and other places have led to employers laying off workers to recover their own losses. Poor fire-fighting abilities, as seen at the SITE fire, of course add to the problem.
* Industrial units temporarily allowed to pay below minimum wage:
The Peshawar High Court on Monday granted interim relief to 19 industrial units, saying they do not have to pay the minimum wage of Rs15,000 to unskilled workers as fixed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government till further orders.
The division bench of Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Musarrat Hilali issued the stay order against the government notification during a hearing of several similar petitions filed by Feroz Sons, Associated Industries, Saif Textile Mills, Kohat Textile Mills, Lyallpur Textile Mills Limited and Babri Cotton Mills.
The stay order would remain effective till December 17 and the court sought comments from the K-P Labour department secretary. For the time being, the industrial units would pay the unskilled workers the same salaries they received before the government issued its notification.
Rehmanullah Shah, the counsel for the petitioners, told the court that the provincial government had passed the K-P Minimum Wages Act 2013 and introduced wages and allowances for different categories of workers employed by industrial units.
* Sindh wants minimum wage raised:
The Sindh Minimum Wages Board has proposed to increase the minimum wage of unskilled adult and juvenile workers in commercial and industrial undertakings across the province from Rs10,000 to Rs12,000 a month with effect from July 1, said a statement issued on Monday.
This has already been notified in the Sindh Government Gazette (Extraordinary) dated December 4, 2014.
Objections or suggestions may be sent to the Sindh Minimum Wages Board secretary within 30 days, latest by January 3, 2015.
* Pakistan’s women cotton pickers find power in uniting over wages:
Azeema Khatoon, a mother of five, has spent most of her life labouring in Pakistan’s sunbaked cotton fields for less than $2 a day.
Last year, she and a group of around 40 women struggling to feed and clothe their families on their meagre wages did something almost unheard for poor women working in rural Pakistan – they went on strike. The gamble paid off.
Khatoon, 35, says she has nearly doubled her wage in the past year, now taking home $3.50 a day compared to $2, with her success just one story cited by labour activists to encourage rural women to band together and form a united workforce.
Illiterate women like Khatoon make up the bulk of the estimated half a million cotton pickers in Pakistan, the world’s fourth largest cotton producer, after China, India and the United States, but their working conditions are often poor.
Khatoon said she worked for hours for little money in the fields of Pakistan’s rural southeastern Sindh province where she lives in Meeran Pur village about 140 miles (225 kms) north of the provincial capital of Karachi.
05:03:32 local time CAMBODIA
* Authorities warn union leader:
Police on Friday warned labour union leader Pav Sina that if he continues to lead protests – thereby violating the rules of a court order – he will be arrested.
Sina, however, said the meeting failed to intimidate him.
The Collective Union of Movement of Workers leader was called to the Choam Chao commune police station in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district on Friday afternoon. There, Sina said, police warned him if he continued leading protests, like the thousands of striking Chim Li factory workers who marched with him to the National Assembly and Ministry of Labour last week, he will be jailed.
“[Police said] if I did not do what they tell me, I will be arrested one day,” Sina said. “I told them that I am not scared of being arrested and I will not escape to anywhere.”
* Workers Block Road in Protest Over Bonuses:
About 2,000 workers from the Ghim Li garment factory blocked traffic Monday on National Road 4 in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, demanding the Singaporean-owned factory raise their bonuses and reinstate an employee the workers say was improperly sacked.
“I joined the protest and blocked the road because I wanted to pressure the factory and the government to find a solution for us,” 27-year-old worker Meng Srey Tea said.
“We want the factory to reinstate the machine worker and give 4,000 riel [about $1] for a lunch allowance.”
The workers said they are also demanding a transportation stipend. From about 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m., workers stood across the road, creating a traffic jam stretching about 1 km.
* Chim Li factory workers block road:
National Road 4 was blocked for about two hours yesterday while about 1,000 garment workers in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district went on strike demanding government intervention to solve their grievances.
Employees of Chim Li garment factory flooded the road at about 10am yesterday, demanding a resolution to their appeal for management to reinstate a fired employee and pay a daily lunch allowance of 4,000 riel ($1), among other points, said Do Sopha, a 39-year-old worker.
* Grand Twins Revenue Down After Year of Unrest:
Revenue has dropped significantly at the Taiwanese-owned garment factory Grand Twins International in 2014 due to nationwide labor strikes that began last year, according to the firm’s latest quarterly financial statement.
According to a filing on the Cambodian Securities Exchange (CSX) on Friday, the sportswear manufacturer reported revenue of $10.96 million for the three-month period ending September 30, down 40.7 percent compared to $18.49 million during the same period last year.
* Grand Twins revenue plunges:
Grand Twins International (GTI), one of two listed firms on the Cambodian Stock Exchange, has blamed third-quarter revenue losses on garment-worker demonstrations in December and January.
On November 21, GTI posted a 40 per cent decline in revenue to $10.9 million for the three-month period ending September 30. The poor third-quarter performance contributed to an 8 per cent fall in revenue over the first nine months of 2014.
“Due to the mass strike last year, our customer has re-allocated some productions to different [parts of the] region to assure the stability of the supply,” Stanely Shen, spokesman for GTI said yesterday.
“Although GTI continued the daily operations without being affected [by the strikes], our customers took the necessary precautions by reallocating orders to avoid shortages that might have been caused in the future.… This order reallocation has caused our revenue to decrease dramatically,” he said.
* BetterFactories Media Updates 25 November 2014, Grand Twins Revenue Down After Year of Unrest :
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2014-11-25 Grand Twins Revenue Down After Year of Unrest
2014-11-25 Workers Block Road in Protest Over Bonuses
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
2014-11-25 Grand Twins revenue plunges
* BetterFactories Media Updates Overview here.
06:03:32 local time INDONESIA
* BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates:
1. West Java Minimum Wage 2015: Vice Governor welcome Apindo to bring the minimum wage of 4 regions to court. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
See the Google Translate English Version here
2. Workers pressing Ahok to revise the Jakarta Minimum Wage of 2015.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
3. Here are the West Java Minimum Wage for 2015.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
4. Central Java City Minimum Wage in 6 regions had not reached 100% Decent Living Needs.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)See the Google Translate English Version here
5. Here are the City Minimum Wage of Banten Province for 2015.
Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
See the Google Translate English Version here
6. Local Government of Yogyakarta gives chance for nominating revised Minimum Wage of 2015. Read the full article here (Article is in Bahasa Indonesia)
See the Google Translate English Version here
7. Buying time on BPJS health. Read the full article here
BetterWork Indonesia Media Updates overview here.
04:33:32 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Demands grow for minimum wage:
Workers’ rights activists are demanding that the government take action to carry out labour laws enacted in March last year. One says failure to do so amounts to a continuation of forced labour.
The activists want the government to fix a minimum wage as soon as possible, through the enacting of necessary bylaws.
At a meeting between the activists and labour department officials two months ago, the government said the bylaws would be enacted in December. But the activists say they see no signs of progress.
Daw Ei Shwe Zin Nyunt, communications coordinator of Labour Rights Defenders and Promoters, said the government could not start talks on the minimum wages because the employers had rejected labour’s demands of a minimum of K5700 a day against the employers’ offer of K3500, which she dismisses as inadequate to keep up with price rises.
04:03:32 local time BANGLADESH
* Rising living cost, wage delay major reasons:
INSTABILITY IN RMG SECTOR
The home ministry has identified about half a dozen factors, including failure of owners to pay wages to the workers timely and rising cost of living, which are causing instability in the ready-made garment sector, officials have said.
Besides, termination of workers without notice, workers’ demand for increase in different benefits, unusual increase in house rents and instigation by the workers’ associations remained the other major problems facing the burgeoning RMG industry, they said.
The home ministry officials discussed their findings and overall situation in the RMG sector with leaders of the owners’ associations at a meeting at the secretariat on Thursday.
State minister for home Asaduzzaman Khan presided over the meeting amid pressure from the RMG workers to disburse wages and allowances before the Eid.
He told reporters after the meeting that the government had asked the owners to clear the festival allowances and wages by September 28 and October 2 respectively. He said they had also asked the owners to settle the problems to prevent unrest.
* Transparency must to boost RMG sector growth:
The founder of Transparency International (TI) Peter Eigen yesterday said the joint approach of government, business sector and civil society is necessary to promote transparency in garment sector as a means to improve labour conditions in Bangladesh.
Eigen who is also the initiator of Garments Industries Transparency Initiative (GITI) that was launched in August 2013, tabled a new formula of a ‘Magical Triangle’, involving the government, private sector and civil society to tackle growing menace of corruption around the world.
“Though these three actors are antagonistic to one another but their consensus can play an effective role in ensuring transparency in garment sector in Bangladesh,” he said.
He made the statement at a press conference at the office of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in the capital yesterday.
GITI sets out as a joint approach of governments, business sector and civil society in both producing and consuming countries.
It aims at finding agreement between the involved parties with regard to comprehensive standards on labour conditions.
Eigen said that GITI process in Bangladesh would be a possibility and could generate a meaningful impact if a consensus amongst the stakeholders regarding its set-up and participation of the international buyers in the country could be ensured.
“The government alone cannot do anything.
They need the cooperation of civil society and the media to fight against corruption,” he added.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* TI founder in Dhaka over RMG labour standards:
A platform consisting of the government, civil society and the private sector is badly needed to ensure sustainable development of the readymade garment sector, Peter Eigen, founder chairman of Transparency International (TI), yesterday said.
Eigen was speaking at the “Meet the Media” programme of the Garment Industries Transparency Initiative (GITI), organised by the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) at its office in the capital.
Terming the proposed platform “the magical triangle,” Eigen, who served as TI chairman from 1993 to 2005, said the platform brought together all of the related stakeholders – the government, civil society, buyers, manufacturers and labourers.
The government alone cannot ensure the proper and sustainable development of the sector, he said.
* The issue of compliance in the RMG sector:
It’s better to face the reality upfront when meeting compliances with a set of standards is essential to retain Bangladesh’s apparel market globally.
None of the market players denies the compulsion either, but we are still far short of an objective assessment of the state of compliance in garment factories.
While taking a position in the debate, stakeholders distance themselves from each other’s demands and responsibilities.
As a result, the sector stands on the edge of losing competitiveness despite steady progress made in this US$ 22-billion export industry.
In a study focusing on ready-made garments (RMG) sector, which is yet to be published, Dr. Binayak Sen, a Research Director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), has tried to portray a clearer picture of the industry, including improvements and challenges in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013.
The “state of compliance” has emerged as a major policy concern in recent years after the growth of the RMG sector in a haphazard fashion. And the economist has found it extremely complex to assess the compliance standards as it is ‘often exceedingly difficult to get an access to the inner world of a RMG factory’.
* Alliance launches training for RMG factory security guards:
The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, a platform of North American retailers, on Monday launched a safety training programme for factory security guards in an approach to protect the lives of readymade garment workers.
Security guards can play a leadership role in ensuring safe evacuation during a fire by clearing pathways and exits, supporting fire brigades and assisting with worker evacuation, the Alliance officials said at a news conference held at its office at Gulshan in Dhaka on the day.
Alliance managing director M Rabin said the critical need for the training was exposed with the fire incident of Tazreen Fashions Ltd factory on November 24, 2012. During the blaze in Tazreen Fashions factory, workers were unable to escape due to locked exit, he said.
Rabin stressed on changing attitude of the factory owners about the safety issues. ‘Fire may catch in a factory but a guard cannot lock the exit,’ he said.
Sabina, a survivor of the Tazreen Fashion fire, said many of her colleagues were burnt to death in the Tazreen blaze as the exit was locked.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
TAZREEN FACTORY FIRE
* Tazreen two years on:
Some improvement, but a long way to go
It is reassuring to note that safety conditions of factories have improved since the devastating Tazreen Fashion fire incident back on November 24, 2012.
The credit for this goes to diligent inspection efforts by the two buyer-sponsored agencies — Accord and Alliance — assisted by the government, labour rights organisations and BGMEA.
But we have to bear in mind the fact that improvement work is still in its initial stage and a large number of factories remain beyond any form of oversight. Inspection of all factories and at the same time proper functioning of the already safe ones should be ensured to create a failsafe work condition in this vital export sector.
Another relevant question is: how far will the oversight system be sustained?
So far the oversight work has been done largely due to buyer pressure. The government and all the key stakeholders have to play a concerted role in continuing the oversight operations.
In spite of the improvement, compensation remains a big issue for the victims. They are yet to get recompensed in line with ILO conventions and many injured workers are suffering due to lack of proper treatment. So far only a Dutch buyer has agreed to pay compensation to the victims.
We would urge all other buyers that sourced from Tazreen to follow suit.
The government and BGMEA also cannot avoid their responsibility in this matter.
* Safety standards improve:
TAZREEN TRAGEDY: TWO YEARS ON Lack of compensation for Tazreen victims aggrieves labour leaders
Workplace safety in the garment sector have improved since the Tazreen fire disaster two years ago, but the absence of justice yet for the victims has set off anger and distrust among the observers.
Inspections by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, the platform of mainly European-based retailers, the government’s corrective action plan and the efforts of the owners reflect that workplace safety conditions are improving, said Roy Ramesh Chandra, secretary general of IndustriALL Bangladesh Council.
“Things are moving in the right direction. If we can capitalise on all these developments, we will have a safe and sound industry in the next five years. But, we need to improve further and bring momentum to the process.”
The fact that the Tazreen victims are yet to get compensation in line with the International Labour Organisation conventions and good practices in the country though has left a bitter taste in the mouth, Chandra said.
* Garment workers’ rights activists and family members of Tazreen fire victims:
Garment workers’ rights activists and family members of Tazreen fire victims offering munajat at Jurain graveyard in the capital on Monday on the second anniversary of the tragedy. — Focus Bangla
* Tazreen fire victims demand compensation:
Family members of the victims and injured workers attended the rally
Ready made garment workers and labour leaders yesterday demanded that proper compensation be paid soon to the victims of Tazreen Fashion fire incident.
They made the demand at a rally in front of the National Press Club organised to mark the second anniversary of the devastating fire which killed 112 workers and injured over 200 people.
On November 24, 2012, the fire broke out at a factory of Tazreen Fashions in Savar, on the outskirt of the capital.
Family members of the victims and injured workers attended the rally.
* Tazreen victims to get compensation:
Victims and families of the Tazreen Fashions fire will receive a package under the same system developed to compensate Rana Plaza victims, as one retailer has just agreed to pay, a full two years after the incident.
“We are extremely pleased to be able to announce that we and IndustriALL have reached an outline agreement with C&A on the principles of a compensation process,” said Ineke Zeldenrust from rights group Clean Clothes Campaign. Dutch retail giant C&A used to source garment items from Tazreen Fashions.
“The system will be the same as that followed for the Rana Plaza victims. It covers compensation for loss of income, provision of independent medical assessments and ongoing treatment,” Zeldenrust said.
* C&A Foundation keen to contribute more for Tazreen victims:
The C&A has agreed to provide more funds to compensate the victims of Tazreen Fashion
In addition to its prior commitment, the C&A Foundation has expressed its willingness to contribute more fund to compensate to the Tazreen victims fairly and fully.
C&A, an international Dutch chain of fashion retail clothing stores, with its European head offices in Vilvoorde, Belgium, and Düsseldorf, Germany, has retail stores in many European and Latin-American countries.
After two years of Tazreen Fashion fire incident, an agreement has been reached between IndustriALL Global Union and their local affiliates, the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) and C&A Foundation on a system for delivering compensation to the victims of the tragedy, said CCC in a statement yesterday.
* Early review of current damages law called for:
After the Tazreen fire of November 24, 2012, the government adopted the national action plan with a promise to set a national standard of compensation for workers in case of death and injury from workplace accident based on the relevant ILO conventions and taking into account local environment.
The government even pledged to complete the job by December 31, 2013. Regrettably, however, as New Age reported on Monday, there has so far been little progress in this regard. Besides, as the labour secretary said, it was impossible for them to complete the task in near future as they were busy meeting ‘many other important conditions like workers safety and factory compliance’.
Under the existing law, a worker in the case of death from industrial accident is entitled to compensation of Tk 1 lakh only, an amount that is not only paltry, particularly compared with the loss of earnings that victims could make in their life time until retirement or losing ability to work, but also a mockery of the promise that the government and owners made on almost every occasion of industrial disaster to stand by the victims’ families.
Against the backdrop, various labour rights groups have for long been demanding the national standard of compensation for workers and their families affected by workplace disasters after the review of the current legal provisions over the issue.
* Punishment of owner demanded:
Leaders of different apparel worker organisations on Monday reiterated their demand for exemplary punishment of Tazreen Fashions owner Delwar Hossain.
They blamed him for the deaths of 114 workers of the factory in a fire and demanded adequate compensations for the families of the victims.
They made the demand in a programme at Jurain Graveyard in the capital to mark the second anniversary of the deadly fire at Nischintapur in Savar in 2012 which also left several hundred workers injured.
Garments Sramik Sangram Parishad leader Mahbubur Rahman Ismail demanded immediate arrest of Tazreen owner Delwar Hossain by cancelling his bail.
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* Tazreen fire: They still suffer, unnoticed:
They only received primary treatment, and left in the sea since then, even though they were supposed to get necessary treatment at free of cost
When the devastating fire broke out and spread quickly, they found the exit door locked – due to negligence of the factory officials. But desperateness to remain alive was so high among them that they did not hesitate to jump off the building’s windows.
Hence, they escaped death – from suffocation inside the readymade garment factory building – at the cost of different organs including eyes, hands and legs, and a trauma that haunts them until date.
Over 200 workers, mostly women, sustained injuries in the fire at Tazreen Fashions under Tuba Group at Nishchintapur of Ashulia on November 24, 2012 when at least 111 were killed – the deadliest factory fire incident in the country.
They only received primary treatment, and left in the sea since then, even though they were supposed to get necessary treatment at free of cost.
In the meantime, because of not getting any compensation from the government or the garment owners’ association BGMEA, their sufferings have doubled.
* Note from the editor:
Due to various maintenance work there will be no regularly (almost) daily bulletin published, for a period, a while.