16:24:37 local time NORTH KOREA
* Economic experiment shows limits of NKorean change:
Many of the ways in which this dusty, windswept area differs from most of North Korea are easiest to see at night.
Although there are traffic lights in other cities, the ones here in the Rason Special Economic Zone actually light up. The avenues are broad and paved, and along the main street, colorful, decorative lights outline the edges of buildings. Foreign-owned or funded industries and businesses including a casino — one of only two in the whole country — have helped create an oasis of light in an otherwise inky black and largely empty countryside.
The zone, some two decades old, is intended to be a petri dish of capitalism, and North Korea’s leaders plan to expand the experiment all over the country. It isn’t the only one of its kind in North Korea, but it’s the oldest, most vibrant and, experts say, the most promising.
In room after room at the textile factory, row upon row of workers, almost all of them women, toil silently at sewing machines below plastic sunflowers and big blue posters that say simply, “Without a Rest.” No words are spoken. Rarely is an eye raised from the task at hand.
This year, the factory will produce 1 million pieces of clothing, twice its output just five years ago, said Pak Mi Kum, a no-nonsense woman who worked for 10 years as a seamstress before becoming manager. Chinese contractors supply the raw materials, then take the finished goods home for sale or export, tagged “Made in China.”
“It’s hard work. So hard the Chinese don’t want to do it anymore,” Pak said. “But our workers do it for the country. They are efficient, cheap and they work hard.”
14:24:37 local time VIET NAM
* Hai Duong province IP welcomes new factories:
Key facilities at Lai Vu industrial park in Kim Thanh district, the northern province of Hai Duong, have been completed and the zone is ready for operation, a leader of the Lai Vu Limited Company has announced.
Hong Kong’s Pacific Vietnam Textile and Crystal Corporation is implementing two projects to build a textile and garment complex in the park at a total cost of 545 million USD. These are the largest foreign invested projects in Hai Duong.
The 425 million USD textile project will produce 360 million metres of knitwear per year and create jobs for 6,000 people when put into service in March next year.
Meanwhile, the expanded garment plant, worth 120 million USD, is set to produce 170 million products for export each year and provide jobs for 16,900 people.
The construction of Lai Vu industrial park was started in 2004. About 212.89 hectares of land has been reclaimed for the park so far.
14:24:37 local time CAMBODIA
* H&M may raise prices to pay workers:
Clothing giant H&M is considering raising retail prices and passing the buck onto the consumer to help pay higher wages to garment workers in poor countries.
There won’t be any price increases in the short-term, but it “might be a possibility” in the future, Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at the Swedish clothing maker, told Agence France-Presse on Monday in Stockholm, where the company was meeting with advocacy groups.
Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia secretary-general, welcomed the announcement as a “natural response” from one of Cambodia’s most prominent sourcing brands.
“Someone has to absorb this price hike, so either it has to come out of the pocket of the retailers or the brands or the consumers have to pay more. In most likelihood, it would be a combination of the two,” he said.
Loo cautioned, however, against turning a complex supply chain into a formula of higher consumer prices equaling higher salaries for workers.
“It is not a transparent thing where ‘X’ dollars goes in ‘X’ dollars goes out,” he added. Loo said factories could not simply charge more to cover wages because they would lose business to buyers chasing their own margins.
Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center/ACILS, was less optimistic about the proposal, given that huge corporate profits have rarely trickled down to workers.
“There is already enough in the pot, in my mind, to say that brands can certainly engage in a serious way given the current prices,” he said.
* BetterFactories Media Updates 3-10 December 2013, Jublication as SL strike ends:
* To read in the printed edition of the Phnom Penh Post:
2013-12-03 Factory inspection turns up unauthorized floor
2013-12-03 SL reps, unionists to sign deal to end strike
2013-12-04 Jublication as SL strike ends
* To read in the printed edition of the Cambodia Daily:
2013-12-04 SL Garment factory, workers agree on terms to end protest
* To read in the printed edition of the Koh Santepheap Daily (Khmer):
2013-12-04 Seventy one workers fainted in two days due to smell of building repainting
2013-12-7-8 GMAC responds to damand of workers to increase minimum wage
* To read in the printed edition of the Rasmei Kampuchea Daily (Khmer):
2013-12-03 Factory owner rejects workers’ request for wage increase
2013-12-04 Strike at SL is over, workers back to work
2013-12-08 Improving labor conditions supports economic development
BetterFactories Media Updates overview here.
15:24:37 local time INDONESIA
* Employers To Asks Minimum Wage Suspension:
Employers in a number of labor-intensive sectors plan to submit minimum wage delay, following high 2014 minimum wage hike. So far, three labor intensive sectors, namely footwear, textile and garments as well as food and beverages which begin to review minimum wage suspension.
Chairman of Indonesian Footwear Association (Aprisindo) Eddy Widjanarko reveals there are number of footwear sector that will submit minimum wage suspension. The number is predicted when compared to last year.
“However, I still can make sure the exact number. To be sure, the number of companies that submit is more than last year,” he told Bisnis, Monday (12/9).
Currently, the companies still hold coordination meeting on bipartite to agree wage suspension.”Most of companies that will submit suspension are footwear companies from Korea,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Indonesian Textile Association (API) Ade Sudrajat said many textile employers in Indonesia plan to submit 2014 minimum wage suspension.
“In West Java, at least 10 textiles and garments companies plan to submit minimum wage suspension,” he said, Monday (12/9).
13:24:37 local time BANGLADESH
* Canadians urged to help BD labourers:
A year ago, Kalpona Akter stood inside a still-smouldering garment factory on the outskirts of Dhaka, looking for clues amid a scene of horror.
Around her were signs of the panic that workers on the production floor experienced hours earlier when the Tazreen factory caught fire, killing 117 workers.
Burned bodies were still scattered around. There were signs that people had tried to remove bars from the windows to escape. Some had succeeded and leaped from windows to their deaths. “It was unbelievable.”
Akter, a former child labourer, who has made it her life’s mission to improve deadly working conditions in the Bangladeshi garment industry, slipped into the factory and began searching piles of clothing looking for labels to verify which companies the clothes were being made for.
What she found and saw around her became part of the evidence linking the conditions in the brutal sweatshops of Bangladesh, the Western retailers who sell their products and the consumers who buy them, and part of the campaign to turn the industry around.
* Bangladesh union NGWF rally for World Human Rights Day:
* RMG workers welcome minimum wage:
The leaders of garments workers on Tuesday appreciated the government for announcing minimum wage for the workers and urged the authorities concerned to implement the wage structure properly.
Participating in a view exchange meeting with labour, employment and expatriate welfare minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossein at the ministry, they pointed out that the minimum wage of Tk 5,300 is almost similar to the lowest wages in neighbouring, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Now, the need of the time is to implement the minimum wage in all factories, they pointed out.
“The minimum wage of the workers stood at equivalent to $69 which is not bad, but this structure should be implemented though proper coordination,” said Nazma Akhter, a prominent garments workers leader.
She demanded action by the government to keep the house rent in the industrial area under control. Otherwise, the workers would not be benefited even after massive wage hike, she said.
* H&M may raise prices to pay workers more:
The Swedish fashion giant H&M said Monday that it could raise retail prices in the future in order to pay better wages to some of the world’s poorest textile workers.
The announcement came at a meeting with pressure groups in Stockholm where H&M unveiled plans to improve pay rates for textile workers in countries such as Bangladesh where the minimum wage is less than $70 (50 euros) a month.
Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at H&M, told the AFP that higher retail prices ‘might be a possibility’ in the long term but that customers should not expect any price hikes in the near future.
Some corporate watchdogs saw the acknowledgement as a significant breakthrough.
read more. & to read. & to read.
* Time extension demanded for Standard Group Factory fire investigation:
The committee sought time extension as it could not complete the investigation in the stipulated time due to continuous strikes
A labour ministry committee, constituted to investigate the recent arson attack on Standard Group’s factory complex in Gazipur, sought time extension as it could not complete the investigation in the stipulated time because of continuous strikes.
“Through a written statement on Monday we requested Labour Secretary Mikail Shiper to extend 15 days to complete the investigation,” Convener of the committee and Labour Ministry Deputy Secretary Aminul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
He said the area of investigation was wide and they could not move because of blockade programmes.
* Move to restore RMG buyers’ confidence:
The government will sit with representatives of the buyers’ forum tomorrow (Thursday) to brief them about the current situation obtaining in the readymade garment (RMG) sector.
The government will explain its steps to help flourish the garment sector to regain the buyers’ confidence, sources said.
The move came following concerns among the apparel manufacturers and the buyers’ representatives over the current political impasse that has affected the garment industry, they added.
The meeting was also called as the manufacturers have expressed their concern that the buyers have started shifting a substantial part of their orders from Bangladesh to other countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia following confrontational politics in the country, they added.
* Shocks RMG cannot take any longer :
The country’s readymade garment (RMG) sector is currently facing the toughest of challenges and no amount of assurances will suffice to ease the hard realities this sector is heading for, maybe, in the near future if things are left where they are now.
Reports published in the national dailies, however, tend to hold on to a sense of disbelief, encouraged by data reflecting an increase in RMG export receipts in recent months.
Viewing the overall scenario from receipts on account of export orders placed several months back, or of shipments held up earlier due to political turmoil is thoroughly misleading. In fact, to be able to assess the impact of what the country is through, especially its garments exports, one has but to wait a little longer.
What looked like premonitions in sight more than a year ago following the Tazreen fire succeeded by the Rana Plaza collapse are seemingly being tackled, at least for the moment, with the works on labour standard and workplace safety.
The consortiums of European and the US retailers brokered by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have also joined to repair the damages and upgrade the situation on the basis of a stipulated time frame.
But what has resulted in imperiling the situation more than the factory disasters is the political mayhem tearing through the very veins of the industry.
The photograph of a foreign buyer running for cover on a rowdy Dhaka street leaving his vehicle published in some national dailies some days back is stark enough to make one believe that let alone export orders, the humans supposed to carry those are at risk of landing here.
* Worker leaders demand exemplary punishment for perpetrators:
Apparel worker leaders on Tuesday urged the government to identify the perpetrators and ensure exemplary punishment for them for setting Standard Group apparel factory in Gazipur on fire.
At an opinion exchange meeting with labour, employment and expatriate welfare minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain at Probashi Kalyan Bhaban on, they also urged the government not to harass the innocent helpless people and workers for the factory fire.
A group of assailants set fire to the multi-storey industrial unit of Standard Group at Konabari in Gazipur on November 29, damaging the property that suspended the factory operation.
More than 22,000 apparel workers, who were employed at the factory, became jobless following the factory fire and they, along families, were now leading miserable lives, the leaders said.
The minister sought cooperation of apparel workers and their leaders to identify the perpetrators of the factory fire.
He assured the worker leaders of putting an end to the ongoing crisis in the apparel sector through tripartite discussions among the workers, owners and buyers at his ministry to save the emerging sector.
Mosharraf said that the government would never take any step against the interest of the workers.
* Mosharraf: We will rise from ashes:
Managing Director of fire-ravaged Standard Group expresses his optimism to Dhaka Tribune
The dream was reduced to ashes along with the Standard Group apparel factory on November 29.
“We two friends started our apparel business in 1984 and wanted to expand it,” said Mosharraf Hussain, managing director of Standard Group, in an interview with the Dhaka Tribune.
The 10-storey apparel factory building in Gazipur on the outskirts of Dhaka City was deliberately set ablaze by a group of garment workers.
The fire gutted machinery, fabrics and raw materials housed in more than 8.5 lakh square feet of floor space in the building, and also destroyed garments loaded into 27 trucks.
Losses from the fire were estimated at Tk12bn.
“The incident has left me perplexed,” said Mosharraf, an engineer. The Standard Group had 95% of its workforce from his ancestral home district of Sirajganj.
* Lend a helping hand to the RMG sector:
The Bangladesh Bank has rightly acted quickly to help the company. Other RMG factory owners also have pressing financing needs
The statement by Mosharraf Hussain, managing director of the Standard Group, that he plans to rebuild its gutted factory at Gazipur so that the company, which is a respected supplier to leading RMG retailers such as Gap and Zara, can rise from the ashes, is an inspiring one.
For the company’s thousands of workers, reports that the company has swiftly been able to secure $50m funding towards its rehabilitation via a five-year-loan rescheduling, comes as good news.
The Bangladesh Bank has rightly acted quickly to help the company.
We recognise that other RMG factory owners also have pressing financing needs. There is a strong case for similar policy measures to alleviate the pressure on factory owners and workers, caused by the ongoing political turmoil.
Presently around 40% of garment production is hampered due to shortage of raw materials. Blockades and hartals have also hugely diminished the ability to ship finished goods outside of the country. BGMEA has appealed to the Bangladesh Bank for interest waivers on existing loans until the end of the current political turmoil. Many individual factory owners have been also trying to reschedule their loan payments.
* RMG exporters demand special incentive:
Referring to recent decline in readymade garment (RMG) export due to recent political unrest, leaders of the sector and its backward linkages on Tuesday demanded special incentives like special PC or BAISALAM, term loans without interest and halting of loan classification for certain periods.
The demands were raised at a meeting between the RMG, textile exporters and the representatives of banking institutions at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA). Speaking on the occasion, BGMEA president Atiqul Islam besides the obstruction of the Dhaka-Chittagong transportation, the recent political unrest has also led to the cancellation of export orders by the buyers, according to a news agency.
to read. & read more.
* RMG units face threat of fire incidents:
President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Atiqul Islam has said that the apparel industries in the country are on the threat of fire incidents because of the continued political turmoil.
“It is a crushing blow to the national economy. Many people dying of burn injuries. If the situation does not improve, the economy will be destroyed,” said the BGMEA president during a meeting with the leaders of Bangladesh Association of Banks (BAB) in the city on Tuesday.
* RMG exporters demand special loan package to offset unrest losses:
Apparel exporters on Tuesday asked the bankers to arrange a special loan package including low-interest ‘packing credit’ for giving workers wages and blocking of term loans without any interest for next two years as ongoing political unrest is hindering their business severely.
In a view exchange meeting with the chairmen and managing directors of banks and insurance companies on ‘prevailing unstable situation and its adverse impacts on readymade garment sector’, the RMG factory owners also demanded for relaxing the guideline of loan classification for two years to give a cushion to the country’s readymade garment sector.
The bankers, however, said that they were keenly interested to do all for the betterment of the garment sector but the demands which have been raised by the sector leaders are not under the jurisdiction of bank chairmen and managing directors, but the finance ministry and central bank.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association jointly organised the meeting at the BGMEA conference room in the city.
read more. & read more. & read more.
* Coordinated efforts to prevent conspiracy against garment sector underscored:
Speakers at a view exchange meeting underscored Tuesday the need for coordinated efforts to prevent further conspiracy against the garment sector.
Minister for Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Engineer Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, state minister for Labour and Employment, Begum Munnuzan Sufian and a good number of garment workers’ leaders were present in the meeting.
Workers’ leaders urged the minister and high- ups of the government to take an action plan against conspiracy to destroy the garment industry.
“We strongly urge the government and its law enforcement agencies to take strict action against the opportunists who are working for foreign countries,” president of Textiles Workers Federation, Mahbubur Rahman Ismail said.
12:54:37 local time INDIA
* Apparel makers hope glut will lead to cheaper cotton yarn, clothes:
With a glut on the horizon, apparel makers are hoping a reduction in cotton prices would reverse a year-long trend of price increases.
The Cotton Association of India has pegged production at 380 lakh bales this year; manufacturers are looking forward to sourcing at lower rates and passing on the benefit to buyers.
The key determinant in apparel pricing — cotton rates — has been on an uptrend. The 30-count cotton yarn sold by mills touched a high of Rs 240 a kg in September from Rs 200 in January this year. Although prices slipped to Rs 221 a kg in November, most manufacturers were not able to cash in on that because orders are usually booked six months in advance. On a year-on-year basis, the benchmark 40s-count yarn prices have gone up by 20 per cent.
12:24:37 local time PAKISTAN
* Readymade garments industry Issuance of separate SROs soon:
Federal Secretary Textile Industry Division, Rukhsana Shah has assured the Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) of having separate Statutory Regulatory Orders (SROs) for readymade garments industry soon.
Addressing the PRMGEA Managing Committee the other day, she said, she will take up the issue with FBR chairman on her return to Islamabad as time has come to acknowledge the high potential of this sector primarily catering the SME sector, the backbone of Pakistan economy.
* Masood Textile Mills: let us count the ways:
We have been writing odes to the country’s re-energised textile sector for a while now. And it seems that the positive vibes sent out by the soon-to-be gold sector have not escaped the notice of savvy international investors either.
Amid rampant speculation that Chinese buyers were looking to invest in the thriving Pakistani textile landscape came the news that Shandong Ruyi Technology-–headquartered in mainland China—intended to buy a majority stake in Masood Textile Mills Limited—one of the most technologically advanced albeit little known composite textile mills in the country.
* IAF welcomes Bali agreement:
The International Apparel Federation welcomes the new WTO multilateral trade agreement that has been reached in Bali.
The ‘trade facilitation’ package, the prime component of the agreement, is certainly beneficial to the global apparel industry.
This industry has probably the most internationalized supply and demand structure in the world, and with a growing market share of large retail chains and brands with a global presence, internationalization is increasing still.
The OECD Trade Facilitation Indicators estimate that comprehensive implementation of all trade facilitation measures agreed to in Bali would reduce total trade costs by 10% in advanced economies and by 13-15.5% in developing countries. Currently, complicated border processes and excess red tape raise costs, which ultimately fall on our businesses and on our consumers. Reducing these costs is a large benefit to the apparel industry.