UPDATE 20150513 PHILIPPINES Shoe Factory fire:
20:15:21 local time PHILIPPINES
20150513 * Hundreds trapped in Valenzuela warehouse fire, 63 feared dead:
Workers trapped in second floor of burning factory
At least 63 workers are feared to have died as hundreds of employees were reported trapped after fire hit a slipper factory in Valenzuela .
An official of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Valenzuela said as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday that 5 were confirmed dead.
A factory security guard claimed that about 200 workers had been trapped at the second floor of the factory.
One of the survivors, identified only by her first name as Emma, said only those working in the first floor were able to escape as soon as the fire engulfed the factory.
20150513 * 31 workers killed in Valenzuela factory inferno; 34 others missing:
Fire fighters recovered 31 bodies in a slippers factory that was gutted by fire before noon in Valenzuela City on Wednesday, but 34 more are missing and feared to have been trapped and burned alive.
Mayor Rex Gatchalian said Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) officials had told him the factory, which contained various flammable chemicals, had been completely burned and it was unlikely that those on the second floor could have escaped.
Gatchalian said firefighters entered the burnt-out building to find an undetermined number of bodies.
They were unable to count the dead inside, but found no survivors, he said.
“None of those trapped inside survived,” Gatchalian announced to wailing relatives outside the factory.
He added that firemen could not immediately determine how many bodies had been inside, but relatives told officials up to 63 of their kin working in the factory at the time were unaccounted for.
Gatchalian urged the relatives to check again whether the missing kin were among those who had managed to escape the blaze.
“I’m not saying all (the missing) are dead. We’re still hoping they were able to jump out,” he added.
Workers who survived the fire, as they were posted on the ground floor and rushed out in time, said over 60 of their co-workers were on the second floor. The access to the second floor was one of the areas first consumed by flames that suddenly engulfed the factory after certain volatile chemicals caught fire from sparks believed to have come from a welder’s torch nearby.
20150513 * At least 3 dead as fire hits footwear factory in Valenzuela:
Three were confirmed dead in a fire at a factory of slippers on Tatalon Street in Barangay (village) Ugong, Valenzuela City on Wednesday.
In a report by Radyo Inquirer, Supt. Crispulo Diaz of the Bureau of Fire Protection-National Capital Region (BFP-NCR) said the casualties, two males and a female, died of suffocation.
Two of the three confirmed casualties were identified as Heidi Pang and Tristan King Kong.
The fire on Kentex Manufacturing Inc. started at around 11:28 a.m. and reached fifth alarm six minutes later and Task Force Charlie at 12:11 p.m.
Task Force Charlie is the third alarm in a seven-step fire alert system. A task force status means all fire trucks in Metro Manila must help in combating the fire.
BFP NCR officer in charge Senior Supt. Sergio Soriano said the fire was declared under control at around 4:30 p.m.
Factory owner Veato Ang said he did not know how the fire started, calling it an “accident.”
He said one of the factory workers, a welder, was fixing a door which was near a blowing agent used in making slippers when the fire occurred.
20150513 * Dozens feared dead in slipper factory fire in Valenzuela:
A fire gutted a rubber slipper factory in a suburb of the Philippine capital Wednesday, possibly killing dozens of workers who ran to the second floor in hopes of escaping only to become trapped by inferno, officials said.
At least three bodies have been recovered and fire officials said there were no survivors found after the fire was put under control, said Mayor Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela city, north of Manila.
Relatives reported 65 people missing, and Gatchalian said only seven people managed to escape the fire. There could be others who are listed as missing but were able to escape, he said.
District Fire Marshal Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu said he was among the first to reach the second floor of the gutted building after the fire and saw “numerous bodies,” many charred beyond recognition.
Radio reports quoted relatives as saying their kin were able to send text messages saying they were on the second floor, but contact was lost shortly after.
Gatchalian said the fire apparently was ignited by sparks from welding works at the factory’s main entrance door, triggering an explosion of the chemicals used to make the slippers.
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20150513 * Philippines factory fire: Live updates:
Many feared dead after a blaze ripped through a footwear factory in a suburb of Manila
Many people are feared to have been killed in a horrific blaze at a shoe factory in a suburb of Manila.
More are missing after the blaze broke out earlier today.
20:15:21 local time CHINA
* Stepping into the breach: labour groups start to take on the role of the trade union in China:
China’s sole legally-mandated trade union, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), has consistently failed to protect and promote the interests of China’s workers.
This failure has been particularly apparent over the last two years; a period of enhanced labour activism in which the need for a properly functioning trade union has become ever more urgent.
The failure of the ACFTU to act meant that a growing number of civil society labour groups in China, primarily based in Guangdong, had to step into the breach, helping to organize workers and resolve their disputes with management through collective bargaining.
In China Labour Bulletin’s new Chinese-language report on the Workers’ Movement in China, published today, we focus in particular on the growing importance of China’s labour groups during this period of rapid social, economic and political change.
20:15:21 local time PHILIPPINES
20150502 * On Labor Day, workers, employees call for union organizing:
“Amid conditions of low wages, lack of job security, exploitative setup victimizing women, health issues, we can assert our calls and demand that the government responds to our problems if we have a union.”
Thousands of workers from different industries mobilized this Labor day in Liwasang Bonifacio clamoring for decent wages, an end to contractualization, creation of jobs in the Philippines and not labor export, which, they said, only engenders cases like that of Mary Jane Veloso.
Other sectors also came out to amplify not just calls for security of tenure and decent wages but also the ouster of President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Low salary, no secure jobs
The protesters decried the massive contractualization happening in both the public and private sectors.
Francis Ugay, union president of Alorica call center employees, the first to form a union in the BPO sector, said at Liwasang Bonifacio that some may say call center agents are receiving higher salaries and so there is no more reason to go abroad for a higher paying jobs.
“But a call center agent only takes home P12,000 ($271) to P13,000 ($293) monthly salary, less than the P16,000 national minimum wage we are demanding. We do not have security of tenure — if we committed just one absence, we can be kicked out of work.”
20150502 * No wage hike for workers from PNoy:
Hopes for a salary increase for Filipino workers on Labor Day have been dashed after President Aquino mentioned nothing about such incentive in his Labor Day speech.
Instead, the President highlighted the administration’s efforts to promote the welfare of the labor sector, from generating job opportunities, extending skills training program, to promoting industrial peace between workers and management.
20150501 * Labor groups hold protest; calls govt to provide decent jobs, good pay:
Labor groups and the laborers wearing white masks called the government to provide decent jobs and good pay to avoid more cases of overseas Filipino workers who suffered negative experiences abroad.
They marched in Manila from España, Liwasang Bonifacio and other parts of the city of Manila before converging in Mendiola for a massive labor protest.
Labor group Bayan called for the implementation of P16,000 minimum wage and reiterated its call to end contractualization, as well as the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III.
20150501 * Solon backs P16-K national minimum wage demand:
19:15:21 local time VIET NAM
20150505 * Garment hub Thua Thien-Hue eyes industrial park:
The central province of Thua Thien-Hue is considering the possibility of building an industrial zone exclusively designed for garments, an industry that generates over 20,000 local jobs.
Lying in the key central economic zone, Thua Thien-Hue is regarded as a garment and textile hub of the region.
With nearly 40 apparel production and processing firms, the province earned 500 million USD from garment shipments last year comprising nearly 80 percent of the local exports, said Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Van Cao at a workshop in the locality on May 5.
20150506 * Firms actively seek power savings:
Businesses are looking to save power to lower expenses and avoid increasing prices after the cost of electricity rose 7.5 per cent in mid-March.
Many Vietnamese businesses expect to save money on power so they aren’t forced to increase prices for consumers.
Son Viet Garment Company in HCM City uses hundreds of electric sewing machines and steam machines, and consumes a large amount of power.
Ha Xuan Anh, chairman of the firm’s management board, said that when production expenses increased, the firm had to raise its prices, which wasn’t a wise choice in this economy.
20150506 * Gov’t to impose import tax on PSF:
Import tax on polyester staple fibre (PSF) might be increased from zero to 2 per cent, as the Ministry of Industry and Trade has proposed to encourage domestic production.
Aiming to rescue domestic fibre manufacturers facing harsh competition from imported fibre, the Ministry plans to raise tax on staple fibre, coded 55.01, 55.02, 55.03, 55.04, 55.06 and 55.07, which are currently enjoying a zero tax rate.
20150506 * Vietnam textile and garment industry focuses become the next hotspot:
Vietnam’s textile and garment industry is one of the largest economic sectors in the country, consisting 4,000 enterprises with a turnover of US$20 billion a year, accounting for 15% of.
According to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, textile and garment products are exported to 180 countries and territories in the world. In 2015, textile and garment industry is aiming at total exports of $28.5 billion.
The textile industry has been witnessing a steady growth over the recent years and pushing the country to become one of the top textile exporters in the world.
In value terms, Vietnamese textile and garment sector is likely to double the size of production in next ten years. The industry has set a long term export target in the range US$20 billion-US$22 billion for 2020, and $55 billion by 2030. It aims to achieve this leap forward by concentration on a strategy of specialization and modernization and an increase in added value.
So far U.S. is the largest market for Vietnam’s textile and garment exports, and Vietnam is the second largest textile and garment exporter for the US market behind China.
The EU is the second-largest importer of Vietnam’s textile and garment exports, and the Vietnam Textile and Garment Association (VITAS) is optimistic that a pending FTA with the European Union will be a boost for Vietnam’s industry. Other major importers include Japan, South Korea and Russia.
20150506 * Asia’s new factory: Is it good or bad for Vietnam?:
Vietnam has become a significant site for factories of Samsung, Intel, Microsoft (Nokia) and a number of manufacturers of clothing and footwear.
Many multinational companies are about to move their production bases from China to Vietnam.
Should Vietnam go in this direction and become the workshop of the region and the world?
Can this also bring about bad consequences, as it has happened elsewhere?
Let’s look at ourselves (rather than our wishes) to get satisfactory answers.
In terms of regional and international level, from past to present, Vietnam has not manufactured any famous brands. From this starting point, Vietnam should be modest and realistic.
It must be admitted that Vietnam’s economic picture is not too gray, especially when it is compared with some neighboring countries like the Philippines, Myanmar, and even Thailand.
And it is true that some foreign companies (of Japan, South Korea, …) are transferring their investment from China to Vietnam because the labor cost in China is increasing and China is raising more difficulties for foreign companies (which they think they do not need them as before).
What should Vietnam do? The first is mak more open and reasonable investment rules. The second is to resolve labor-associated issues that seem to occur more and more.
It is good if foreign companies bring their manufacturing facilities to Vietnam because it will, first of all, create a lot of jobs for Vietnamese people, even though these jobs can be simple with not much added value.
However, how can we ask workers who have just left the countryside to go to industrial parks to do work of high value?
When they have jobs, their families will be able to afford their children’s education and training to do these jobs at a higher value.
20150505 * Vietnam urged to prepare well to become “world’s factory”:
Will it be a good or bad thing if Vietnam, as a part of South East Asia, becomes a new factory for the world and displace China?
South East Asian countries, including Vietnam, are expected to take up China’s title of the “world’s factory” in 10-15 years, thanks to their cheap, young labor force and the strategic locations in the world’s map, according to ANZ economists.
The report released by the bank days ago showed that half of the 650 million population in South East Asia would be 30 and below by 2030, and part of an emerging middle-class with higher consumption demand.
ANZ believes that major foreign investors would move to the region to set up factories to take full advantage of the abundant labor force there.
In fact, the prospect was once mentioned by economists, who said they could see a movement of foreign investors leaving China for Vietnam as the production costs in China have become high.
Vietnamese have different attitudes toward the information. Some said this is good news if the central and local authorities can make the best out of the opportunity by applying reasonable policies on training, human resources and creating favorable investment environment.
Meanwhile, others think this would not be good for Vietnam, which cannot manufacture mechanical engineering products, including screws.
An analyst warned that Vietnam needs to think carefully before deciding to become the world’s factory.
20150506 * Vietnam rejects foreign investors’ demand to ease overtime restrictions:
South Korean businesses in Vietnam have asked authorities to increase the maximum number of overtime hours a worker is permitted, but the labor ministry has refused on health grounds.
The businesses, most of them in textile and garment, woodwork, and processing, asked the ministry at a meeting last April to increase the number of extra hours to between 360 and 400 a year from the current 200-300, saying the cap is too low while many workers are not highly skilled.
They need to work longer to make up for their low productivity, they said.
Japanese and European businesses had made a similar demand earlier.
Vietnamese work 48 hours a week plus a maximum permitted 200 hours, and 300 in the textile, garment, wood and processing, water and power sectors and those in which work is time-bound.
But officials said Vietnamese workers already work hard compared to the global average.
Ha Tat Thang, head of the ministry’s Labor Safety Department, told news website VnExpress that Vietnamese workers’ physical health cannot afford to work any more hours, that it would be exhausting and dangerous for them.
Many workers are already tired with long-running assembly lines and poor food, he said.
“The greater the work pressure, the higher the risk of workplace accidents.”
19:15:21 local time LAOS
20150504 * Laos gov’t supervises enterprises to ensure increases of minimum wage flowing to workers:
Factories and manufacturing assembly plants are in the sights of Laos’ officials as the government seek to ensure recent increases of the minimum wage flowing to workers, Lao News Agency KPL reported Monday.
The minimum monthly wage for unskilled labor increased to 900, 000 kip (111.25 U.S. dollars) from 626,000 kip (77.39 U.S. dollars) as a result of regulations that came into force on April 1.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare began inspections of businesses in the capital to ensure compliance with legislation and expects to complete its nationwide inspection by September.
20150503 * Labour inspects new minimum wage payment:
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare currently inspects business units in Vientiane Capital to find out whether the government policy on raising minimum wage from 626,000 kip to 900,000 kip is being observed.
The government’s announcement of the increase of the minimum wage took effect on 1 April 2015.
The ministry expects to complete its nationwide inspection by September of this year.
“Currently, district and provincial officials across the country are inspecting business units and sectors to find out whether they are paying the new minimum wage and it is expected that the inspection will be completed sometime between August and September 2015.
The results will then be publicized,” said on Wednesday Mr Phongsaysack Inthalath, Director of Labour Management, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
19:15:21 local time CAMBODIA
20150502 * Thousands take to the streets in May Day protests:
Low pay, poor working conditions and a lack of justice top of workers’ concerns during rallies
In a show of strength on May Day, thousands of workers yesterday descended on Phnom Penh to voice their frustrations with low pay, poor working conditions and discrimination against unions.
A coalition of several independent unions organised three separate rallies across the capital, including one at Freedom Park, one at the Ministry of Labour and a third at the National Assembly.
Some 500 workers delivered a petition to the National Assembly, calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $177 a month, the scrapping of short-term contracts, the dropping of charges against union leaders and activists and justice for families of workers fatally shot by security guards during last year’s Veng Sreng strike.
The groups also called for the establishment of a labour court, the easing of restrictions for registering unions, a maternity leave scheme and more consultation on the proposed trade union law, which unions say will undermine workers’ rights.
“We want better wages,” said 25-year-old garment factory worker Khun Meta, among demonstrators in Freedom Park.
20150502 * Unions March on Labor Day Despite Warning:
About 3,000 workers took part in three separate rallies to mark Labor Day in Phnom Penh on Friday, with the municipal government warning of possible legal action against the leaders of two of the demonstrations, who failed to heed official warnings not to bring workers onto the city’s streets.
More than 1,000 workers rallied outside the National Assembly, hundreds more outside the Labor Ministry and a similar number at Freedom Park—the only location approved by the government—calling for higher wages, better working standards and the scrapping of the controversial draft Trade Union Law.
Mr. Sreng noted that union leaders Pav Sina and Far Saly, who led the rally at Freedom Park, had received permission for their event, but said that Vorn Pao and Ath Thorn, union leaders who have previously been hit with legal action, had crossed authorities.
“Vorn Pao did wrong,” Mr. Sreng said. “Ath Thorn made a big mistake. We ordered him directly to Freedom Park and he not respect that.”
20150501 * Cambodian workers mark Int’l Labor Day:
Thousands of Cambodian workers on Friday marked the International Labor Day, calling for higher wages and better working conditions, a union leader said.
One event held in front of the National Assembly brought together more than 1,000 participants, mostly garment workers, while the other gathering at the Freedom Park saw about 1,000 revelers.
“Workers have still been facing many challenges such as low wages, excessive overtime work, and poor environmental workplaces, ” said Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, which organized the event in front of the National Assembly.
“We urge the government and parliament to re-negotiate with the employers in order to raise the minimum wage of 177 U.S. dollars per month for the workers in the garment and textile industry,” he said.
20150501 * Unions March on Int’l Workers’ Day:
Garment workers and unionists gathered on 129th International Labor Day to ask for an acceptable minimum wage.
The Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC) rallied in front of the National Assembly (NA) voicing their concerns to the lawmakers. Ath Thorn led the few hundred and spoke to them.
“We ask the National Assembly … to urge the employers to re-negotiate and raise the minimum wage for garment workers to $177. We want to have a study made that reflects the worker’s actual living costs [and can be] agreed upon by employers, workers, and the government.”
A 42 year-old garment worker, Choun Tan, was at the rally and said, “I came here to ask for $177 minimum wage. My salary is $123 a month. Sometimes I’m paid by the month, sometimes I’m paid by the piece-count.”
The country director of American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), David John Welsh, showed his solidarity by saying, “We pledge our support to what Ath Thorn was saying – that workers in the garment sector need a living wage; that workers in the civil service, teachers, the agricultural sectors need … a living wage.”
20150504 * Shifting out of neutral?:
The country’s official election body has said it will “take action” against one of its recently appointed members, former union leader Rong Chhun, if he continues to attend rallies with opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders.
National Election Committee President Sik Bun Hok said yesterday that the NEC was due to meet today to discuss Chhun’s attendance at Labour Day marches through Phnom Penh on Friday.
“When we work in the NEC we cannot carry on as we did when we worked in NGOs or government,” Bun Hok said. “We are in a different position. If we are not neutral, how can we maintain our independence?”
Thousands took to the streets of the capital on Friday to air their concerns over low pay, poor working conditions and union busting.
Workers petitioned the National Assembly for a minimum wage of $177, the scrapping of short-term contracts, the dropping of charges against labour activists and justice for the families of workers killed by security forces in January 2014.
20150501 * Modest dip in workers killed during commute:
More than 2,000 factory workers were injured and 20 were killed on their way to work during the first four months of 2015, according to new figures released by the Ministry of Labour.
The numbers represent a decrease in deaths compared to the 23 killed during the same period in 2014, though the number of accidents slightly increased.
The numbers cover people injured while travelling to work using group and individual transport.
According to the director at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport’s land transport department, Preap Chanvibol, significant efforts were being made to reduce road deaths. However, Chanvibol said, on average 6.3 people die on the roads every day.
20150506 * Ministry throws garment pageant:
At first, garment worker So Sreyleak did not believe she was pageant material, according to union representative and co-worker Pov Sith.
But after a little coaxing, he added, the shoe factory employee found herself standing on the podium of the Labour Ministry’s first-ever garment worker beauty contest.
Sith, a representative of Cambodian Labour Union Federation at Kandal province’s Ying Dong Shoes Co, said Sreyleak had shown poise at the competition, which was held on International Labour Day on Friday.
“She was nervous at the contest,” Sith said. “[But] when judges asked her questions, she answered the labour-related questions well, even though she had little knowledge.”
Sreyleak was third of about 60 contestants, winning $100.
However, Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, yesterday said the contest seemed like distracting “propaganda”.
Having women strutting about onstage, he said, wrongly perpetuates the notion that garment industry workers are generally happy and healthy.
20150507 * Union gathering funds for Nepalese workers:
As Nepal continues to recover from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake last month that killed more than 7,500 people, a Cambodian labour group is passing the hat for Nepalese union employees who are now out of work.
The Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) is collecting donations for the union members after they received solicitation letters from two Nepalese labour organisations, the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions and Nepal’s National Trade Union Congress, CLC president Ath Thorn said yesterday.
20:15:21 local time MALAYSIA
20150502 * Workers have right to protest, says MTUC:
Union busting has led to the lack of recognition of trade unions by employers, leading to a controlled and unjust working system, said the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC).
Secretary-general N Gopal Kishnam said there were instances where employers had denied workers’ their rights by having one-on-one negotiations with union members.
“Workers have a right to picket and protest. It is stated in the (Industrial Relations) act that unions should use it to seek justice and fight for their rights, but look at what happened in the end.”
He also said the authorities always got involved in union organised protests and victimised the workers with unnecessary litigation.
Gopal also highlighted that lower income workers were not taken into consideration with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“How are those with incomes below the poverty line suppose to live when studies have shown that the price of goods have increased by 20 per cent since GST was introduced?” he asked.
Gopal said MTUC demanded the minimum wage be adjusted to RM1,200 for economic balance.
20:15:21 local time INDONESIA
20150501 * Government Policy, Wages Are Workers’ Key Gripes On May 1:
Calls for a cabinet reshuffle as well as the enactment of key legislation were among workers’ demands on May Day this Friday, as tens of thousands of workers took to the streets of major cities across Indonesia.
The demonstrations in the capital were centered outside the State Palace in Central Jakarta, with dozens of labor unions represented among the thousands of people in attendance.
Jumhur Hidayat, the deputy chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPSI), urged President Joko Widodo to replace cabinet members deemed hostile to workers’ interests.
He cited a recent policy issued by Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri allowing only company-level union representatives to conduct negotiations between workers and their employers.
This, he argued, blocked workers from having access to more experienced lobbyists from national-level labor unions.
Tens of thousands of workers also marched on Jakarta’s main streets to reject government plans to revisit the minimum wage every two years.
20150505 * The Perspective: Toray Group on 40 Years in the Indonesian Textile Industry:
19:15:21 local time THAILAND
20150502 * Minimum wage ‘not enough for daily expenses’:
Workers from around the country marked Labour Day yesterday by reminding the government that the low minimum wage and poor working conditions were just two of many issues the workers face.
20150502 * Prayut vows better work conditions:
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha marked May Day yesterday by vowing to make Thailand one of the most powerful Asean nations and promising to respond to calls by labour groups for better work conditions.
A key strategy his government will use to achieve Thailand’s goal to become an influential country in Asean is the so-called “Thai plus one”, which refers to Thailand’s future collaboration with each of its neighbouring countries, said the premier in a speech delivered to labour groups gathered at Sanam Luang yesterday.
Labour problems are also important and the government will step in to resolve them, he promised.
He accepted and will consider ways to meet the 11 demands, submitted by 14 labour organisations, to ease workers’ woes. Some of the demands might be immediately implemented while others may take some time, he said.
The 14 labour organisations yesterday requested the government ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association and the Right to Organise and Bargain Collectively.
Among other demands, the organisations also want the government to pass draft amendments to the Labour Protection Act 1998 and promulgate a new law to insure workers against job loss without compensation when businesses close.
18:45:21 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
20150506 * Factory owners push back against proposed wage rate:
Minimum wage negotiations are inching toward a compromise far below the amount demanded by protesting labourers, though garment factory owners are still holding out for little or no pay boost, according to a representative from the country’s peak business body.
“We are arranging a meeting with garment factory owners soon and we are planning to negotiate based on the K3000 minimum salary that the government pays its personnel,” said U Aye Lwin, secretary of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
While most private industry employers have agreed to a minimum wage set between K3000 to K4000 (US$3-4), U Aye Lwin said garment industry bosses are the last holdout. The garment factory owners have been unwilling to lift pay rates beyond K1500 a day.
Striking factory workers have demanded wages fixed at a K5600-a-day baseline.
20150504 * Roundup: Myanmar seeks establishment of national minimum wage for workers:
Myanmar’s Labor Ministry is encouraging a prompt negotiation between employers and employees in garment factories in Yangon for establishing a national minimum wage for workers.
The ministry is trying to get a proposed figure for the national minimum wage out of the negotiation and submit to the parliament for debate and approval. The minimum wage is expected to be announced in the months ahead.
Parliament speaker U Shwe Mann suggested both employers and workers consider the daily wage level of 3,000 Kyats (about 3 U.S. dollars) for government employees set by the Ministry of Finance and Revenue as a standard for setting the minimum wage level for workers.
The current minimum daily wage levels range from 900 Kyats to 1, 300 Kyats in industrial zones.
20150504 * Minimum wage a ballot sticking point for labour protesters:
Workers petitioning the government for a fixed minimum wage are trying out a new angle: holding votes hostage. If the ruling party wants labourers’ backing in the upcoming 2015 general election, they’ll have to earn it through effectively shifting the country’s wage policy, rights groups warned on May Day.
The labour groups are also threatening country-wide strikes if stultifying wage negotiations don’t change course and offer results by the end of the month, they said.
“The government needs to address the vital requirements of its labourers with fixed minimum wages,” said U Htey, a member of the Labour Affairs Action Network and one of the May Day demonstrators.
20150502 * Workers demand Ks5,600 a day:
More than 150 workers from industrial zones in Yangon Region staged a march on the 125th International Labour Day on May 1, calling for rights and a daily wage of Ks5,600.
The workers marched from the Bo Sein Mahn ground in Bahan Township to Kyaikkasan, holding placards saying “Daily pay of Ks5,600”, “rights for workers”, “release detained workers” and “release arrested farmers”.
Wai Wai Khaing, a union member, said: “We demand a minimum wage of Ks5,600 per day.
The Ks1,500 proposed by factory owners is very difficult to survive on. Monthly rent is at least Ks35,000.
A bundle of water grass is about Ks200. It will be difficult for us if we don’t get Ks4,500 a day.”
20150502 * Thein Sein addresses minimum wage concerns:
The Burmese economy will be negatively impacted if ongoing disputes between employers and employees are not resolved, President Thein Sein warned.
In a May Day address to the nation, the president said, “As disputes between employers and employees emerge, more and more workers are protesting via demonstrations and strikes.
In this type of situation, if we do not resolve the issues quickly or mitigate the problems according to the law, the industrial action will hurt the national output and the lives of workers’ families.
It will also deter foreign investment and delay plans to extend domestic enterprises into ethnic areas.
This will have an unwanted impact on our country’s developing economy.”
He noted that if the minimum wage were too high, it would increase production costs and consequently block foreign investment; however if the minimum wage is too low then workers who are struggling to survive will inevitably take to the streets to protest.
Burmese labor unions held May Day parades in Rangoon and Mandalay on Friday, with calls for the government to increase the minimum wage and provide full labor rights.
Some 500 factory workers from Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone in Rangoon’s western suburbs issued a list of 11 demands during their rally on 1 May, including an increase in the minimum daily wage at the industrial park to 5,600 kyat (US$5.60). The workers are currently paid between 1,500 – 3,000 kyat per day.
20150501 * MAY DAY: Labor Activists Still In Jail For Demanding A $1 Pay Rise:
The Burma government continued its crackdown on political activists with the February arrest of two union leaders who demanded a $1 pay rise for garment workers.
The Burma Campaign UK, on the eve of May Day, called for the “immediate and unconditional release of two union leaders, Naing Htay Lwin and Myo Min Min.” The Rangoon based union leaders were arrested in February 2015 for protesting without the Burmese government’s permission.
The Burma Campaign UK said that factory workers in Rangoon have started to protest over pay and working conditions. The Burma Campaign UK pointed out that, “an average garment worker gets paid only 43 US cents an hour. To make ends meet, they have to do two days overtime, meaning they often work 7 days a week.”
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18:15:21 local time BANGLADESH
* ‘UDITA’ (Arise) Documentary about female garment workers, Bangladesh:
Life, death, oppression and resistance – 5 Years with the women of Bangladesh’s sweatshops and their fight for a better life.
‘UDITA’ follows a turbulent 5 years in the lives of the women at the grass roots of the garment workers struggle.
From 2010, when organising in the workplace would lead to beatings, sacking and arrests; through the tragedies of Tazreen and Rana Plaza, and to the present day, when the long fight begins to pay dividends.
We see this vital period through the eyes of the unions’ female members, workers and leaders.
read and see more.
20150501 * Gazipur factory fire death toll rises to 3:
Another worker, who sustained burns in a factory fire in Chandara area of the district on April 24, succumbed to his injuries at a city hospital on Friday, raising death toll to three.
Dulal Miah, 23, breathed his last at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) on 2:40pm.
20150504-05 * Five RMG workers injured as police charge batons:
At least five garment workers were injured as police charged batons on the agitating workers in front of the headquarters of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association in the city on Monday.
Several hundred workers of Swan Garments Ltd located at Mollartek in the city’s Uttara area started to gather in front of the BGMEA building at around 10am demanding their wages for five months as factory authorities shut the unit on April 10 without clearing the workers’ dues.
The workers besieged the BGMEA building while a delegation from the workers held talks with the Association officials to resolve the crisis.
At around 1:45pm, police launched attack to disperse the agitating workers that left at least five workers injured, workers said. Workers said that the owners shut the factory on April 10 without any announcement, pushing them into dire state and later one of the owners has died.
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20150505 * Budgetary allocation for apparel workers demanded:
National Garment Workers Federation on Monday demanded specific allocation for apparel workers in the next national budget.
Federation president Amirul Haque Amin made the demand at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity putting forward six-point demands including subsidised commodities, better housing, day care centres in all industrial units and transportation for apparel workers.
The federation also demanded specialised hospital and safe maternity centres in industrial areas for apparel workers.
20150506 * Insurance scheme for workplace injury:
The ILO’s move to launch a pilot project on employment injury insurance scheme in Bangladesh should be considered a positive step towards promoting workers’ welfare at their workplace.
Such a scheme will be executed at this stage as a pilot project for readymade garment (RMG) workers.
This will later be replicated in other industrial units in phases.
The scheme, as the terms of reference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) mention, is aimed at providing temporary and permanent disability and survival benefits to workers, health care for the injured and disabled ones as well as their physical and vocational rehabilitation.
It is still not known whether the ILO submitted its plan to the government after consulting the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
This consultation is necessary to smoothen out matters in this critical area. Reportedly, there are a number of such schemes but under different names. Garment workers are reported to be already covered under life insurance.
They get compensation in case of accidents.
Factory owners bear the treatment costs.
20150503 * ULF for ensuring workers’ basic rights:
The leaders of United Labour Federation (ULF) demanded ensuring workers’ basic rights and social security ahead of the International Labour Day.
Their other demands include ensuring a rational wage structure, trade union rights, workplace safety and decent work for the country’s all sections of workers, said a press release.
Abul Hossain, president of the ULF, said currently women were working in different informal sectors. But there is a lack of necessary organisations or movement to raise voice to protect their rights and dignity.
He demanded recognising the household work as economic activities and also necessary legal frameworks for protecting workers’ dignity and overall interest.
20150503 * Different labour organisations brought out processions:
Different labour organisations brought out processions in the city on Friday in observance of the May Day.
— FE Photo.
20150503 * Workers celebrate May Day:
Organisations of apparel workers, transport employees, domestic helps and rights groups take to the streets in colourful processions in Dhaka and elsewhere voicing the workers’ demand for the establishment of trade union rights at all factories on Friday, marking International Labour Day, widely known as May Day.
— New Age photo
Workers across the country celebrated May Day, also called International Workers’ Day, on Friday demanding better wages and working conditions.
From large rallies held in the capital and elsewhere in the country the workers demanded increased minimum wages and congenial working atmosphere.
May 1 is traditionally a public holiday in Bangladesh to facilitate the May Day celebrations.
Workers, politicians and rights activists said at rallies that the workers, factory owners and trade unions needed to work together to ensure the rights of the workers.
20150501 * Labour regulations by June 30:
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haq Chunnu Friday said labour regulations will be formulated by June 30 aimed at establishing the workers’ rights.
He was addressing a rally on the occasion of May Day in front of the National Press Club organized by the labor union on Friday.
At the rally, the Labour minister said, the government is working to establish the rights of workers. Of this continuation, the labour regulations are being formulated. Hopefully, we will be able to finish the work by June 30.
20150501 * Govt to consider new wage commission for workers, says PM:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her government would consider declaring a new wage commission for workers so they get sufficient wages and benefits in consistent with the living cost.
Addressing a discussion organised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment at Bangabandhu international Conference Centre in the capital marking the historic May Day, Sheikh Hasina said her government was always dedicated to the welfare of the working class people.
20150501 * Owner-worker tie must for industrial dev:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged all concerned to ensure good relations between the owners and workers for the development of the country’s industrial sector.
She also urged the workers to refrain from any act of the destructive movement. The Prime Minister also insisted on the role of owners for the establishment of workers’ rights.
Citing role of trade unions is very important in realizing the rights of workers, the Prime Minister said, there is no alternative but honest and competent leadership to direct the workers on right way.
The country has glorious history of the labor movement. But it will not be allowed any destructive act in the name of labor movement, she warned the workers.
Admitting the necessity of trade unions, the primer said, “I hope, the trade union leaders will always be sensible to assess the national and international situation. They will take practical program to protect labor rights and industrialization in the country.”
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20150501 * Mosharraf terms present govt. labor friendly at May Day rally:
Overseas Employment and Expatriate Welfare Minister Engineer Khondoker Mosharraf Hossain today said the present government has taken many welfare programme for the workers of the country.
He was addressing a May Day rally here this afternoon at Janata Bank square organized by Faridpur unit of Jatiyo Sramik League said that the present government wants to bring an end to the traditional exploitation of the owners of the mills and factories in absence of legal and organized trade bodies.
Mosharraf said that the labors and the working class people during the tenure of Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina got their wages increased manifold particularly in garments sector along with other facilities that did not happen under any other governments.
He said that the labor friendly government is very much aware about the welfare of the working people and believes that the labors are main driving force for economic development.
20150506 * Workers besiege jute mill in Khulna:
Workers besieged on Tuesday the administrative building of the recently laid-off Shagar Jute Spinning Mills at Senhati of Digholia in Khulna, demanding reopening of the mill.
The workers also demanded payment of their dues and benefits.
Meanwhile, authorities of the private-owned mill have extended the layoff by another 15 days for the second time from April 28 till May 12, citing severe financial crisis.
On April 12, the management laid off the mill for the first time for 15 days till April 27 without putting up any notice showing grounds of severe financial crisis and sharp fall in prices of jute goods in domestic and international markets.
The workers continued their siege from 9:00am till noon.
20150504 * 2nd Labour Legal Aid Cell to be set up in Ctg soon:
The government is going to set up another legal aid cell, dedicated for workers only, within a couple of months aiming to take free legal services to their doorsteps, officials have said.
“The second Labour Legal Aid Cell (LLAC) will be established in the port city Chittagong where many workers, especially in the shipping industry, remain unrepresented for long,” a government official said.
In May, 2013, the government, for the first time, set up such a cell named LLAC in Dhaka under the National Legal Aid Services Organisation (NLASO) to help the workers get legal remedy for any violation of their rights.
20150507 * Rules finalised to implement new labour law:
The government yesterday finalised the rules for application of the amended labour law of 2013 and fulfil a condition to win back the GSP (generalised system of preferences) status in the US market.
The rules were finalised at a meeting between the government and entrepreneurs of different industrial sectors, at the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry in Dhaka, with its minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain in the chair.
The rules will now be used to implement the labour law in factories, as the clauses in the laws have been explained.
“The rules will be published within the next two weeks, as all the three parties — the labour leaders, owners and the government — agreed to finalise the rules,” Hossain told journalists after the meeting.
“We do not need to pass the rules in the cabinet. We need the vetting from the law ministry to publish the rules,” he said.
20150507 * 0.03pc export receipts for workers’ fund:
Rules on labour law shortly
Exporters agreed on Wednesday to contribute 0.03 per cent of their export receipts to the proposed workers’ welfare fund.
The consensus came in a meeting held at the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment with its Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain in the chair.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, State Minister for Labour Mujibul Haque, Senior Commerce Secretary Hedayet Ullah Al Mamun, Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar, President of Bangladesh Employers Federation and Bangladesh Textile Mills Association Tapan Chowdhury, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Atiqul Islam and President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association AKM Salim Osman, among other representatives from the owners’ side, were also present in the meeting.
“Owners of export-oriented sectors have agreed that they will share 0.03 per cent of their FoB (Free on Board) price to the fund to be set up for the welfare of the workers,” Tofail Ahmed told the reporters after the meeting.
“We will now fine-tune all the recommendations that came from both the workers and owners and finalise the rules in the next national tripartite committee meeting expected to be held shortly,” he said adding the final rules would then be sent to the ministry of law for vetting.
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20150506 * Rules finalized to pave way for Labor Law to take force:
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Wednesday announced that the government has finalised the labour rules-2015 for enforcement of Bangladesh Labor Law (Amendment) Bill 2013.
The minister came up with the announcement after a meeting with the apparel owners, in the presence of some senior ministers at Probashi Kalyan Bhaban.
Tofail Ahmed said all the apparel owners agreed to submit 0.03 percent of their total export earnings annually, which will be around Tk 72 crore to the Bangladesh Labour Welfare foundation so that the money could be used for workers’ welfare.
Expressing that the workers will be benefitted from the initiative, he said if the workers get injured or killed by accidents, Tk 2 lakh would be provided from the welfare fund.
Speaking at the programme, Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain said the government took time to finalize the labour rules as it was important to hold discussion with all the stakeholders including workers and owners of the factories and industries.
20150506 * Labour rules finalized incorporating labour welfare fund:
The government today finalized the labour rules-2015 for enforcement of Bangladesh Labor Law (Amendment) 2013 with the provision of forming a fund for welfare of the labours.
Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed made the announcement after a meeting with the apparel owners and senior ministers of the government at Probashi Kalyan Bhaban here.
Tofail said that all of the apparel owners agreed to annually contribute their 0.03 per cent of total annual export earning which stands at Tk 72 crore for this year to the Bangladesh Labour Welfare foundation to use the money in the welfare of the workers.
‘The workers will get benefit from the decision,’ he said, adding that if workers were killed by accidents during their duty hours, Taka two lakh each would be provided from the welfare fund.
20150503 * So much for incumbents’ claims about worker welfare:
That the Bangladesh Workers’ Welfare Foundation, which came into being in 2006 with an aim to help destitute workers and dependants of dead or injured workers in formal and informal sectors, still limps mainly for the lack of the required government initiative, indeed, provides yet another pointer to the general apathy ruling quarters towards workers.
While the government is yet to contribute any funds to the foundation, according to a report that New Age published on Saturday, it has so far failed to work out any organogram for the entity, something needed to hire manpower for the collection of funds from public and private companies.
Moreover, inspectors of the department of inspection for factories and establishments, who, according to a labour ministry joint secretary who is also the ex officio director general of the foundation, had been assigned to collect the contributions remained busy with ‘day-to-day work’.
20150506 * Govt sounds tough with DEA deadline for RMG units:
The government is considering tough action against the garment factories that failed to conduct the detailed engineering assessment (DEA) within the timeframe recommended by the teams of engineers concerned, officials have said.
The move came following the failure of a good number of factories that were asked to conduct DEA after initial assessment by experts from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), they have added.
BUET under the government-International Labour Organization (ILO) joint initiative assessed about 500 garment factories and recommended DEA for about 250 factories finding structural flaws there.
20150506 * European buyers for evacuation of 2 quake-hit RMG factories:
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, the platform of European retailers, on Tuesday recommended that two earthquake-hit garment factories should be evacuated immediately as the Accord engineers found the buildings unsafe during the latest safety assessment.
The factories are Ethical Garments Limited in the capital and Man Trust Sweater Limited in Gazipur.
The Accord sent the list of the factories to the government-formed review committee on garment factory inspections.
‘We have found the name of two factories from Accord.
The ongoing post-earthquake safety assessment of the retailers group identified that cracks have developed in the factory buildings due to foreshocks of earthquake,’ Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, told New Age on Tuesday.
He said that the Accord recommended for immediate evacuation of the factory buildings.
Syed said that the next course regarding the two factories would be finalised following the inspection of review committee, comprised of representatives from the government, Accord, Alliance, BUET, BGMEA and BKMEA.
To identify the immediate impact of the April 25 earthquake, that jolted Nepal, Bangladesh and some parts of India and China, the Accord started inspection of roughly 200 factories which were deemed structurally the most vulnerable from its initial inspections.
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20150505 * Accord detects cracks in 3 factory buildings:
POST-EARTHQUAKE SAFETY ASSESSMENT
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a consortium of European retailers, has found simple cracks in three factory buildings during a post-earthquake safety assessment in 61 factories in the last nine days.
The platform will conduct inspections to identify the immediate impact of the April 25 earthquake at roughly 200 factories which were deemed structurally the most vulnerable from its initial inspections.
Bangladesh felt multiple foreshocks and aftershocks of the powerful earthquake of 7.9 magnitude that jolted Nepal and some parts of India and China.
‘As of this afternoon, we have inspected 61 factories. We have issues in three of those factories and are following up with the factories, the brands, our labour partners, and the Inspector General [of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments] to ensure that they are made safe,’ said an official of Accord on Monday.
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20150505 * Speakers for action plan to ensure workplace safety:
Speakers at a seminar in the capital on Monday underscored the need for finalising an action plan and strengthening the National Industries, Health and Safety Council to ensure workplace safety, security and rights of workers, reports UNB.
Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) and Safety and Rights Society in association with Bangladesh Labour and Employment Ministry organised the seminar at the Jatiya Press Club in the city.
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20150504 * Compliance with safety standards in the RMG sector:
The second anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster on April 24 evoked, once again, grief from those who suffered from the tragedy.
This also occasioned re-evaluation by safety experts and analysts as to whether those involved with the RMG (ready-made garment) sector in Bangladesh have been able to move forward in ensuring better security for the workforce in the thousands of factories in this sector – both woven and knitwear.
We were reminded, most unfortunately, of the greed, corruption, abuse of socio-metric connections, deliberate flouting of regulatory requirement, improper planning and poor structural engineering.
The media and seminars deplored the culture of denial and lack of accountability among RMG factory owners.
There were references to the criminal failure of governance.
There was disappointment that many guilty of manslaughter and murder did not received exemplary punishment.
Three sectors of Bangladesh economy have prospered over the years.
These are readymade garments, manpower export, and pisciculture and shrimp farming.
The success in these sectors has come from the drive and enterprise of private sector entrepreneurs.
They have kept the country afloat and have also been the force behind the creation of employment opportunities for millions of people in diverse sectors of the economy.
RMG SECTOR: The RMG sector in particular, has been the source of employment for nearly three million women.
That, in turn, has indirectly helped in gender empowerment, female literacy, better nutrition and family planning. This has happened despite challenges that exist within the Bangladeshi RMG paradigm.
Another area that continues to affect profitability in the RMG sector is the exploitation by international buyers of the relative inexperience of our manufacturers in the area of international marketing.
Despite evolving success, our RMG business, even today, is mostly done through middlemen.
Our marketing network still leaves a lot to be desired.
The absence of ‘living wages’ in the RMG sector is creating frustration, unhappiness and making the workers susceptible to external provocation.
One wonders why the owners in the RMG sector cannot pay the equivalent (in Taka) of at least US$ 4.0 per day to their workers.
How can they expect workers to perform without this minimum salary — given the steep rise in the prices of basic necessities, not to speak of milk, fish or other sources of protein?
It is important that employers in the garments industry understand that workers are expected to work efficiently, but they also have human rights and a right to personal security.
20150506 * BGMEA blacklists US clothes retailer Seduka:
Bangladesh, the world’s second largest apparel exporter, has blacklisted one of its buyers from the United States.
Seduka Jeans Inc USA stands boycotted by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (BGMEA), bdnews24.com reports.
The decision was taken after a request from the foreign exchange policy department of the Bangladesh Bank.
“This is a fraudulent company. They have not paid their dues to the producers and that’s why it has been blacklisted,” BGMEA Vice President Shahidullah Azim told bdnews24.com.
The decision to blacklist the company was taken to avoid further harassment of Bangladeshi companies by Seduka.
Central bank officials said that Seduka had sourced apparels from a Bangladeshi company, but did not pay for it. Bangladesh Bank had looked in to the matter after the exporter complained.
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20150504 * Private co to set up quality control centre for apparels:
BGMEA, BKMEA oppose NBR decision
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) recently allowed a private company Ispahani Summit Alliance Terminals Ltd (ISATL) to set up a quality control centre in a bid to ensure export of quality apparel products.
The customs wing of the NBR last month allowed the company to set up a special bonded warehouse and permitted it to establish a quality control centre for examining exportable apparel products.
The company will offer ‘pick and pack’ service and work as an agent of foreign buyers.
Officials said foreign buyers will pay the charges and fees against the services provided by the quality control company.
20150504 * Bangladesh: still the first choice for apparel sourcing after China:
Other countries are fast catching up, McKinsey says
Bangladesh is still the first choice for apparel sourcing after China, but other countries are fast catching up, McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, said in its latest report.
The report styled ‘Sourcing in a volatile world — the East Africa opportunity’ singled out Ethiopia, billing it as the one to watch out for — for the first time.
The positive outlook on Sub-Saharan Africa is being spurred by anticipated long-term growth in the region’s employable population, which will reach levels similar to those of China by 2035.
“It is true that African countries are coming up in the global apparel trade, but it will take at least ten years for them to become our competitors as they are still in the very initial stages,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
At the moment, Sub-Saharan Africa has only a 0.56 percent share, or $2.6 billion, of the entire global volume of clothing exports.
“We have an added advantage now as the Accord and Alliance [the two foreign building inspection agencies] have certified more than 98 percent of our factories to be safe after the inspection,” he added.
They are looking at East African nations of Ethiopia and Kenya as possible alternatives.
Some 40 percent of the buyers indicated that sub-Saharan Africa will become more important to the apparel industry in the next five years, in contrast to 24 percent in the last edition of the survey, which came out in 2013.
Citing Africa as the new Asia for the apparel industry, the survey report said the CPOs on average plan to increase their currently very low levels of sourcing from Sub-Saharan Africa nearly tenfold by 2020 — from 0.3 percent to 2.8 percent.
20150507 * RMG buyers concerned over brand image:
Global buyers of Bangladeshi apparel products have recently expressed concern over the outflow of brand items to the local market and sought cooperation from the garment exporters to protect the image of the brands.
Buyers raised the issue repeatedly at the Buyers’ Forum meeting in the capital as the products made for international buyers are being sold in the local market with the labels of the noted brands.
At a meeting of the Buyers’ Forum on Monday buyers alleged that the image of their brands were being hampered as leakage is taking place from some factories and left-over products are being made available in the local market in Bangladesh, meeting sources said.
They also alleged that some of the manufacturers which are not involved with the export business were using fabricated tags in low quality products and selling those in the local market.
According to the sources, the leakage of brand items from the factory and fabricated tags were the prime concern for the buyers and they thought the issues should be resolved to protect the image of the global brands.
20150506 * BD largest woven garment exporter to India:
Bangladesh became the largest exporter of woven garment items to India in 2014 superseding China, sector insiders said.
The country’s export share of woven garments to Indian market reached 29 per cent in 2014 compared to that of 26.96 per cent by China, they added. China, however, remained as the largest knit product exporter to the Indian market.
According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Bangladesh exported woven products worth $ 85.73 million and knit items worth $27.88 million to India in 2014.
20150504 * Bangladesh’s $50bn RMG export target by 2021:
The garment manufacturing sector in Bangladesh has a new slogan: “$50 billion by 2021.” It’s an ambitious vision to reach $50bn in exports by 2021, the 50th anniversary of the Republic of Bangladesh.
In December, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Brand Forum Bangladesh held a summit to develop a “collaborative and coordinated approach” to achieving this goal. Bangladeshi government and industry leaders are determined, and international partners, including the US government, have pledged to support their ambition.
Today the Bangladeshi garment industry is worth $25bn. The NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights looked at recent export data and industry trends to assess whether the industry could double in the next six years.
#Counting on global demand: To meet their projections, Bangladesh will have to outperform the global apparel industry.
The Asia-Pacific apparel export market is expected to grow by 9% annually through 2017, while the global apparel industry is expected to grow by just 5.1% through 2018.
To achieve 10.9% growth, Bangladesh will have to gain market share from competitors like China and India all while they seek to grow their own garment exports.
To stay on track toward this goal, Bangladesh can’t afford the unsustainability that political unrest, poor working conditions and inadequate infrastructure bring to the garment sector.
To make the “$50 billion by 2021” slogan a reality, the garment industry in Bangladesh will have to adopt another refrain since Rana Plaza: “Business as usual is not an option.”
20150502 * Minister for making apparel sector more competitive:
Minister for Textiles and Jute Muhammad Imaj Uddin Pramanik has called for making apparel sector more competitive to attain the goal of upgrading Bangladesh to a middle-income country by 2021.
He made the call speaking as the chief guest at ‘Textile Engineers Convention 2015’ organized by Association of Textile Engineers and Technologists at the conference room of Engineers Institution in the city on Friday, said an official release today.
The minister said the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is working relentlessly to develop Bangladesh as a middle-income country by 2021.
He urged the textiles engineers and technologists to work with more efficiency, merit and experience to strengthen the apparel sector to attain this goal.
20150503 * Knit exports set to rise, as Japan eases rules:
Bangladesh’s knit clothing exports to Japan are set to rise as Asia’s economic powerhouse has relaxed origination rules, industry people said.
“… the government of Japan has relaxed the preferential rules of origin under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for apparels and clothing accessories, knitted or crocheted (Chapter 61 of HS Code) effective from 1 April 2015,” the Embassy of Japan in Bangladesh said in a letter to the ministry of foreign affairs.
“Under the new rule, the products classified in Chapter 61 of HS Code shall be qualified as originating goods if they were manufactured from yarns of textile fibres,” said the letter.
20150504 * Bangladesh Union Leaders Meet with Top U.S. Officials:
Bangladesh garment union leader Arman says this past May Day was extra special for him. “I will remember this day the rest of my life. I never imagined that I could share our struggles with a high U.S. official,” says Arman, 26, president of a garment factory union.
Arman and seven other union leaders met with U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman at Solidarity Center’s Bangladesh office in Dhaka. Sherman is the fourth-ranking official at the U.S. State Department.
The high-level gathering also included U.S. Ambassador Marcia Bernicat; U.S. Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Scott Nathan; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Steven Feldstein; and senior officials from the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Agency for International Development.
Tania, 23, a union leader, told the group that garment workers who formed unions saw benefits in many areas.
Another union leader, Mim, 24, said some union leaders have been threatened by factory managers for forming unions.
Ahsan, 26, described how garment workers are increasingly facing government obstacles when seeking to register their unions.
Unions are required to register with the Department of Labor to legally operate.
20150506 * Pay more for Bangladeshi garments:
New German envoy urges his compatriots
The German consumers should change their attitude of paying low prices for garment items from Bangladesh, said Thomas Prinz, the newly appointed German ambassador to the country.
“It is also necessary to influence discussions at home in Germany,” he said at a reception hosted by the Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI) yesterday to welcome him.
“We are asking Bangladeshi companies to invest in safety and security standards, in fire doors and sprinklers. We are pressing the government to increase minimum wages and to allow trade unions. But what have our consumers and purchasers done?”
He said the prices for garment products in Europe are decreasing. “Why can we still buy a T-shirt for 3 euros in Berlin or a pair of trousers for 9 euros?
The retailers have founded “powerful” organisations like Accord and Alliance to dictate the standards in global garment trade. “Where are the Accords and Alliances to stop that?”
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17:45:21 local time INDIA
20150503 * 22 child labourers rescued in Gautam Nagar:
3 bangle and garment factories sealed
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) has rescued 22 child labourers in the age group of 11 to 14, working in three bangle and garment factories, in a day-long raid on April 30. The three factories were located in the Gautam Nagar area of Usman Pur in North-East district of New Delhi. All three factories have been sealed.
“A gas welding machine, tins of chemical colours and sharp-edged sheets of iron lined the scorching room in the first bangle factory where the raid was conducted,’’ noted a release issued by the group.
The raid was led by Sub-Divisional Magistrate (Seelampur) accompanied by police, personnel from Labour Department, BBA activists and the Reserve Police Force. “Working with large machinery and poisonous chemical dyes with no protective gears such as gloves or goggles, these children were a picture of pity. The children worked from morning till late evening in cramped conditions,’’ noted the release.
20150506 * AFT Workers Stage Protest:
The members of all trade unions of the now defunct Anglo-French Textile mills took out a procession on Tuesday pressing a charter of demands.
The workers demanded that the mill should be reopened without any further delay and modernisation should be undertaken only after obtaining Rs 500 crore from the Centre.
They said the functioning of the mill had fallen off its track due to mismanagement.
The mill had came to a grinding halt following the Thane Cyclone two years back, which left the buildings and machines devastated.The leaders pointed out that mill should be revamped and and made fully operational.
20150507 * Gruel centres opened:
As part of intensifying their indefinite strike, powerloom workers opened gruel centres at nine places in Pallipalayam here on Wednesday.
Since the centres were opened despite warnings from the police, 641 workers, including 213 women, were arrested.
With powerloom workers demanding higher wages, the district administration conducted a meeting in which a wage pact was reached between textile manufacturers, powerloom owners and workers.
However, it is said that manufacturers refused to provide additional charge of 20 per cent to the owners who would in turn pay it to workers.
With talks yielding no results, members of CITU announced that gruel centres would be opened on Wednesday.
20150506 * Honour wage agreement: Collector:
Collector V. Dakshinamoorthy has asked stakeholders in Pallipalayam to honour the wage agreement reached recently and warned of action against the violators.
Power loom owners and workers had recently announced indefinite strike demanding hike in labour charges and wages respectively.
Hence, a tripartite meeting was held at the Collectorate on April 15, 20 and on April 25 in which textile manufacturers, owners of power loom units that produce lungis, RG varieties and members of various trade unions participated.
At the end of the meeting, an agreement was reached by which manufacturers of lungis should provide an additional charge of 20 per cent to the owners who would in turn pay it to workers.
Also, manufacturers of RG varieties should provide an additional charge of 24 per cent to the owners, who would in turn pay additional 20 per cent to workers.
The agreement came into force from April 25, 2015 and would be for two years.
However, they continued their indefinite strike.
Hence, the Collector warned of action for violating the pact and asked the trade unions to cooperate in implementing the agreement.
20150503 * Power loom workers’ strike continues:
With the third round of talks over wage hike failed to yield any results, power loom workers in Pallipalayam continued their indefinite strike for the sixth consecutive day here.
Workers were demanding 25 per cent additional wage hike while tripartite talks at the Collectorate held recently reached an agreement for 20 per cent additional wage hike. However, trade unions refused to accept it and continued their strike. Workers are planning to intensify their strike from Monday.
20150502 * Powerloom units on indefinite strike for wage hike:
Hundreds of powerloom units affiliated to Master Weavers’ Association in Chatrapatti near Rajapalayam began an indefinite strike on Friday demanding a wage hike.
According to association president K. Mathooran there were 800 members with around 7,000 powerlooms, which make grey cloth (before bleaching) for surgical bandage manufacturers who cater to domestic and international market.
“All the materials are supplied by the manufacturers and we make bandages at piece rate, which was fixed at 96 paise per metre for 2013-14 with effect from May 1,” he said. The agreement was made with both the exporters and domestic players. As per the agreement the wage will be increased by 4.5 paise every year for 2014-15 and 2015-16.
20150502 * ‘Textile units violate norms’:
Trade unions have slammed the officials of Labour Department and Inspectorate of Factories for not taking stringent action against the units which functioned on May Day without following the guidelines in letter and spirit.
Labour Department officials told The Hindu that the units could function on the day provided they submit Form 5 A with the labourers’ signature and submit the same to the concerned officials besides paying the workers double wages for the day.
M. Chandran, state secretary of CITU, said that textile sector entrepreneurs were mostly interested in getting their works completed without looking at the rights of the labourers even on the May Day.
20150507 * Trade unions angry at govt’s labour reform proposals:
Trade unions have vehemently opposed the government’s key labour reform proposals including those that make firing of employees easier and which make forming of unions tougher.
This even as the labour ministry announced setting up a small tripartite committee to deliberate the issue further.
The workers representatives accused the government of imposing the draft industrial code whose basic premise is that labour laws are an impediment to economic growth.
According to trade unions the government should have involved the trade unions while drafting the Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2015 prepared by the labour ministry.
“The interested parties should have been consulted at time of drafting a legislation.
We demand that the new code should be drafted by a neutral body such as a tripartite panel, involving government, employer and employees, headed by a retired judge,” said All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) secretary D L Sachdev to TOI.
Centre of Indian Trade Unions president A K Padmanabhan said, “We reject this tripartite consultation.
This is a farce as the entire exercise is directed against workers.
We may boycott next tripartite meeting.
All the central trade unions will meet on May 26 where we would decide about further action which includes strike also,” he said.
20150507 * Panel to assess Centre’s poposals on labour reforms:
The panel has been asked to give its report within 15 days, after which the Centre will take a call on the measures
The Centre on Wednesday set up a panel, comprising labour, industry, government representatives, to give it suggestions on proposed labour reforms, which include allowing companies with 300 workers to lay them off without seeking government’s sanction.
Currently, industries with up to 100 workers were allowed to do this.
A source said the panel has been asked to give its report within 15 days, after which the Centre will take a call on the measures.
Representatives of both the Union and state governments would be part of the panel. As usual, industry representatives favoured the flexibility in hiring and firing, while unions opposed it.
20150506 * CITU to observe ‘anti-Modi month’:
Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), as part of its 129th International Workers International Workers’ Day celebrations, would observe May, 2015 as ‘anti-Modi month’ to register its protest against the anti-labour and pro-corporate policies of the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Addressing a press conference at Reporters’ Guild here on Tuesday, CITU district secretary Sheksha Khadri said that a month-long event would focus on and expose the Union government’s anti-labour polices, particularly its efforts either to weaken the hard-earned labour laws that safeguarded workers’ interests.
The effigies of the Prime Minister would be burnt at district and taluk headquarters on May 26, the day BJP led government assumed power at the Centre in 2014, he added.
“After Mr. Modi assumed power as Prime Minister of India, the Union government has decided to either scrap or weaken as many as 700 labour laws, which were the results of prolonged and persistent workers’ struggles.
The government has already repealed four major labour laws.
20150505 * Govt’s push for labour reforms faces trade unions’ resistance:
The government’s push for labour reforms is set to face resistance from labour unions which are vehemently opposed to contentious proposals like allowing firms with up to 300 workers to retrench employees without government’s prior permission, making it tougher to form trade unions and keeping factories employing less than 40 workers out of the ambit of major labour laws.
The central trade unions, including BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), are planning to protest strongly against the proposals at the meeting called by the labour ministry on Wednesday.
According to existing laws, companies employing up to 100 workers are required to seek government’s permission for retrenchment under the Industrial Disputes Act.
20150505 * Industrial relations bill: Trade unions to press Labour Ministry to drop hire-fire clause:
In a meeting with the government tomorrow, trade unions have decided to strongly oppose the new proposals in the Industrial relations bill, which makes firing of employees easier and forming of unions difficult.
Labour Ministry will hold a meeting with trade unions’ representatives and employers tomorrow in the capital on the the draft Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015.
The bill proposes to combine Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, Trade Unions Act, 1926, and Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
Central trade unions, including the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said they will strongly oppose the proposals, saying they deprive workers of their basic rights.
“There are certain clauses which are against workers, like hire and fire clause and tougher rules for forming unions. We will strongly protest against these provisions,” said Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh President B N Rai who will attend the meeting told PTI.
20150502 * Move to jail those who refuse wage:
Now, denying a labourer his or her notified minimum wages can land you in jail.
Arming the city’s labourer with the confidence to take on exploitative contractors and employers on May Day, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that, in all these years not a single employer who denied minimum wages to workers has faced a jail term, but this is set to change.
The existing law which provides for a fine of just Rs 500 and imprisonment of up to six months will soon be amended to make punishment more stringent. Amendments to the law will be tabled for approval of Delhi assembly in the budget session in June.
At a gathering of labourers in Shalimar Bagh, Kejriwal said that his government is also working on a plan to ensure equal pay for equal work for contractual employees till a scheme for regularizing them is put in place.
The chief minister also launched Shramik Vikas Mission which includes a slew of programmes for welfare of workers.
read more. & read more.
20150501 * Job insecurity reason for fewer people joining unions:
May Day, the day to uphold labour rights, is gradually losing its significance in Coimbatore, the city which was once the hotbed of trade union activities.
As contract-based employment has instilled job insecurity among labourers, which has left trade unions with a sharp decrease in new members registering with them.
Around two decades ago, becoming a permanent employee of an organization would give immense happiness to a labourer. “Becoming a member made them feel secure at the workplace and boosted their confidence to run their family,” said Balasundaram V R, district president of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).
“Today the trend has changed. Every employer offers job only on contract and, when you are on contract there is always a possibility of you being terminated from service,” said Balasundaram.
Citing an example, Balasundaram says that a leading textile machinery manufacturing company in the city that once had more than half of its employees on roll as permanent employees, today is left with less than 25% permanent employees. “This company has 7,000 employees now, and less than one-fourth are permanent employees.”
Coimbatore Textile Labour Union general secretary C Padmanabhan says the number of new members registering with the union are decreasing year after another.
“We are a little over 900 members in the union today and, we find it difficult to add at least 10% of the strength as new members every year,” said Padmanabhan.
20150502 * Unions to protest strongly against proposed labour laws:
Trade unions are up in arms over the Labour Ministry’s proposals to allow firms with up to 300 workers to retrench employees without prior permission of the government and make it tougher to form a trade union.
The proposals are part of the draft Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015, prepared by the Labour Ministry to combine Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
Central trade unions, including the BJP-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), are planning to protest strongly against the proposals.
“We will protest against this provision under which firms will not have to take prior permission for retrenchment under draft Labour Code on Industrial Relation Bill 2015,” Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh Zonal Organising Secretary Pawan Kumar told.
read more. & read more.
20150504 * Factories with up to 40 workers may be kept out of major labour laws:
Union Cabinet to take a call this week
After proposing an overhaul in labour laws, the Narendra Modi-led central government is considering more reforms, this time for small factories.
The Cabinet is set to discuss this week a Bill to exempt the factories that employ up to 40 workers from 14 labour laws.
The government has drafted the Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Bill, which is meant to keep small factories out of the ambit of certain major labour laws, such as the Industrial Disputes Act, the Factories Act, and the Payment of Wages Act.
Besides, there will also be some relaxation in provisions of the Employees Provident Funds Act for these firms.
According to sources, the Union government plans to introduce this Bill in the current session of Parliament.
This will come as a huge boost for around 70 per cent of all factories in the country – of the 175,710 operational factories in India, 125,301 employ less than 50 workers, show Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) data for 2011-12.
20150504 * Textile mills to train workers under Union Government scheme:
In a move that will standardise training in the textile units, several textile mills in Coimbatore region have agreed to train workers through the Textile Sector Skill Council, which is supported by the Centre.
J.V. Rao, chief executive officer of the council, told The Hindu here on Friday that though there are several State and Union Government schemes that support skill development in the manufacturing sector and the units have in-house training programmes, the skill council has standardised the training syllabus for 56 jobs in spinning, weaving, knitting and processing.
It has prepared a syllabus for each job and the worker will be trained to get maximum efficiency in that job. The syllabus has been prepared with inputs from the industry and it will be reviewed every year.
20150507 * Civic body orders survey of cottage textile dyeing units:
The local civic body has ordered a survey of cottage textile dyeing units also known as ‘tapela’ units in the city’s industrial areas of Pandesara, Udhna and Limbayat.
The survey follows complaints of untreated water being illegally released in the drainage lines.
Sources said that Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has sealed 34 such units in Limbayat after the residents in Subhash Nagar locality complained of receiving blue water in their taps on Tuesday.
The untreated water got mixed with the underground water pipelines due to leakage and resulted in coloured tap water.
20150503 * Textile dyeing factories demolished:
TNPCB personnel have demolished two textile dyeing factories which were running without license and for discharging untreated effluent into the drains
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) personnel have demolished two textile dyeing factories which were running without license and for discharging untreated effluent into the drains.
TNPCB, based on the information that two textile dyeing factories are functioning in the suburban Poosari Thottam without license and discharging untreated effluent into the drains, demolished it last evening.
Cases were also registered against the factory owners.
20150506 * A Victory!! :
Public pressure and the love and emotional connect Indians at every level showed for handlooms have made the Government finally issue a statement that the Handloom Reservation Bill will not be repealed! Now on to stage 2 – enforcing proper implementation of the Act and asking for a policy review of the whole sector.
The Government statement is bland, but of course the 2 meetings they mention are the ones where the powerloom lobby had actually almost won the day.
That those decisions were overturned was because of all your voices, and the many committed organizations who came together to combat them.
Thank you all for your support!!
20150505 * New handloom act will kill industry: Ritu Kumar:
Talk of a change in the Handloom Reservation Act, which has since 1985 protected handloom weaves from being copied by machine-made and powerloom competitors, has got veteran designer Ritu Kumar worried about the plight of millions of India’s weavers who are already fighting for their livelihood.
A notable name in the Indian fashion industry, who has focussed her efforts towards resurrecting the handloom industry and craft of local weavers from different regions, Kumar says that any change in the Act may not only impact the lives of over four million weavers but could lead to the death of handloom itself in the country.
“The Act has protected handloom for decades. It has protected yarn and allows our weaver community to thrive. There’s a movement to scrap that in favour of powerloom. I am strongly protesting against it,” Kumar told IANS in an interview here.
“If they take away the reservation of handloom, it will affect 4.4 million weavers and there won’t be handloom left in this country,” she added.
20150505 * More power to skilled hands:
Handlooms are the one area where India leads the world in skill, creativity and expertise.
The Handloom Reservation Act must be strengthened, not repealed
Last month, Gajendra Singh, a farmer, hanged himself in New Delhi.
His death attracted massive attention as it happened so publicly, in front of the hundreds of people gathered there for Aam Aadmi Party’s rally against the Land Acquisition Bill.
Such attention is rare, given that rural India mostly goes unnoticed, despite comprising 60 per cent of the country’s workforce.
Also going unnoticed is another pending disaster that could affect millions of rural Indians — there is a plan to repeal the Handloom (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985, which has been protecting traditional handloom weaves, especially sarees, from being copied by machine-made and powerloom competitors.
It is a small, but important, protection for handloom weavers, who otherwise struggle to survive in a market where their yarn, designs and markets are all under attack.
The powerloom lobby has been agitating rather successfully for the Handloom Act to be withdrawn.
Meetings and consultations have been held, largely without the inclusion of handloom sector representatives.
Even their queries and concerns have gone unanswered.
A spirited intervention in Parliament by BJP MP Kirron Kher brought a hurried assurance from the Textile Minister that the Act would remain, but there has been no subsequent government confirmation of this.
Meanwhile, an online petition, ‘Save Handlooms — Don’t repeal the Handloom Reservation Act!’ has received 15,000 signatories in less than a week, demonstrating that even the urban young on social media care for handlooms, belying reports to the contrary.
One powerloom lobbyist at a meeting allegedly said, “We have progressed from the firewood chula to gas and electric stoves.
If we hang on to technologies from our grandparents’ times, it is a mark of regression. Our children will laugh at us”. Another claimed that “customers prefer cheaper powerloom sarees”.
20150503 * Amendment in loom act may to wipe out handlooms and weavers in India:
Handlooms and weavers in India are facing the threat of being completely wiped out if the Handloom Reservation Act of 1985 is amended to allow machines to copy the designs.
Handloom Reservation Act, which since 1985 has been protecting traditional handloom weaves.
Textiles have been one of the most elegant exhibitions of artistry in India.
From the Chanderi, silk brocades of Varanasi to the tie and dye of Rajasthan and Odisha, the Chintas of Machhlipatnam and the Maheshwari saris of Madhya Pradesh, each tradition has a long story to tell.
To keep the tradition alive thousands of people from across India and some even from other countries are fighting the battle.
Actress Lisa Ray tweeted in support of the Change.org petition that hopes to let the Prime Minister know of the discontentment.
One supporter from abroad has even written that he has taken group after group of foreign tourists to Indian since 1997.
It is an irreplaceable part of Indian culture.
20150502 * Off-season rain destroys cotton crop in Tamil Nadu:
Cotton farmers in Tamil Nadu find themselves in dire straits after unseasonal rain over the past few weeks submerged the crop in vast areas.
Hundreds of farmers who had raised the crop on more than 5,700 hectares of land in Tiruvarur district this season are keeping their fingers crossed as the off-season rain has put paid to their hopes of a bumper harvest.
The destruction of the crop drove a debt-ridden farmer to suicide in the district last week, according to media reports.
Thirty seven-year-old Rajaraman’s suicide has prompted farmers’ association to demand compensation and cover them under National Crop Insurance Programme.
17:45:21 local time SRI LANKA
20150505 * Sri Lankan government urged to increase salaries of private and estate sectors:
The trade union representatives urge the government of Sri Lanka to increase the salaries of the private and estate sector workers.
The Inter Company Employees’ Union (ICEU) has claimed that the government has betrayed the private sector workers by reducing the promised wage increase to Rs. 1,500.
The ICEU has noted that while the private sector workers have demanded a Rs.5,000 wage hike, the government has promised a Rs. 2,500 salary increase. However, the union claims that the amount has now been reduced to Rs. 1,500.
20150502 * Sri Lanka’s Labour Minister proposes to increase wages of private sector employees:
Minister of Labour S.B. Nawinna announced that he has proposed to increase the wages of private sector employees from May 01.
The Labour Minister said the proposal to increase wages of private sector employees was submitted to the cabinet of ministers on Friday, May 01.
According to the proposal, the minimum wage of private sector employees will be Rs.10, 000, while the minimum daily wage would be Rs.400. Every private sector employee should receive a minimum base salary of Rs. 10,000 from May 01.
20150502 * Unions demand solution before polls:
Estate sector trade unions last week said a solution on their wages had to be reached before the general elections adding that they cannot allow the issue to be dragged for months after the expiration of the Collective Agreement.
The Collective Agreement between the trade unions and the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) expired in March this year and fresh talks which commenced have made very little progress, unionists alleged.
The trade unions denied reports that they were mulling trade union action against the delay in signing of the Collective Agreement.
Discussions between the EFC and the trade unions hit a snag owing to the current political situation with the impending general election possibly to be held during mid this year.
* “Clash of the Titans” continues as employers battle unions over wage hike:
Disagreement between Sri Lankan employers and trade unions over a wage hike as prescribed in the last budget for the public and private sectors continues with an exchange of letters between the two sides.
The latest ‘missile’ was sent on Wednesday by Employers Federation of Ceylon (EFC) Director General Ravi Peiris who wrote to a group of unions disputing many of the issues they have raised over the wage hike to the private sector.
Excerpts of the letter:
20150507 * Ceylon Leather Products loses over Rs. 24 million to fraud at its tannery:
A leading leather products manufacturer in Sri Lanka, Ceylon Leather Products said Wednesday that the company has lost over Rs. 24 million to a fraud by some employees at its tannery.
According to a disclosure made to the Colombo Stock Exchange on Wednesday the Board of the company has been informed of a fraud that has been revealed at the tannery in Mattakkuliya relating to off-spec leather and scrap material sales during the financial periods 2012 to 2014.
The company, subsequent to the suspicion raised, has initiated an inquiry and taken appropriate actions against the employees, who were responsible.
17:15:21 local time PAKISTAN
20150502 * Labourers demand Rs30,000 minimum wage:
On May Day, different labour organisations demanded of the government to fix Rs30,000 as minimum wage for the workers so that they could meet basic requirements of life.
They also demanded implementation of the decision regarding minimum wage and ensuring job security for workers in different private sector organisations.
In Peshawar, the day was marked by a rally on the Ring Road jointly organised by employees of different trade unions. The participants held banners and placards inscribed with demands for solution to their problems. The rally was led by leaders of All Pakistan Workers Confederation.
read more. & read more. & read more.
20150502 * Trade unions observe Labour Day:
The working class of the country observed “International Labour Day” under the aegis of All Pakistan Workers Confederation (Regd.) by carrying out processions and rallies in various cities including Quetta, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Rahim Yar Khan, Multan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Mardan, Peshawar, etc.
At Lahore, thousands workers took out a large procession from Bukhtiar Labour Hall which was participated by trade union representatives and workers of various affiliated trade unions.
Khurshid Ahmad speaking on the occasion expressed a great concern over the aggravating economic and social sufferings of the working class and common citizens allowing rich to be richer and poor to be poorer.
Instead of introduction of progressive National Economic and Social Reforms in outdated feudal and crony capitalist system by the present Government.
20150502 * The state of labourers: ‘Govt stopped giving labour statistics 15 years ago’:
The government stopped providing official labour statistics 15 years ago; even the trade union directory is not published anymore, said Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) executive director Karamat Ali.
He was speaking at the launch of Piler’s report, titled ‘The Status of Labour Rights in Pakistan 2014′, on Friday.
“It is a criminal offence if you pay someone less than the minimum wage but 80 per cent of people in Pakistan are still paid less than it,” Ali pointed out, adding that the government figures for unemployment were incorrect. “Around 45 per cent of the country’s educated young people are unemployed.”
He stressed that in order to change the situation of Pakistan’s labourers, not just the labour policy but the economic policy needed to be improved.
20150501 * ‘Only one per cent of Pakistan’s labour is unionised’:
Many challenges and injustices faced by the service sector in Pakistan were highlighted at the media launch of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) report titled Status of Labour Rights in Pakistan: 2014 at the Karachi Press Club here on Thursday, the eve of May Day.
“Here we have 60 million labourers and 55 million jobs. When the available labour is more than the available jobs, the employer gets to keep the upper hand,” pointed out senior journalist Zubeida Mustafa while speaking about the issues of workforce at the launch.
“And while the employer has the upper hand, only one per cent of labour is unionised. So the labour gets exploited in such a situation,” she added.
“The labour laws are there, but how many of these laws are implemented and how many actually apply? The land reforms have been set aside after being called ‘un-Islamic’! The poor working class, who make up most of the rural population, are also vote banks of big MNAs and MPAs. But they, too, don’t care about them or their rights,” she said.
“May Day,” Mr Karamat Ali said, “was a movement where people fought and died, too, for eight hours a day of work.
But if you aren’t even paid the minimum wages for those eight hours what do you do with the remaining hours of the day?
The majority in Pakistan are working in the informal sector like Ali Enterprises in Baldia, which wasn’t even registered with the labour union department, and where people worked for 14 hours.
So the government figures of labour jobs are misleading,” he added.
20150501 * Call to enforce law against women’s harassment at workplace:
Speakers at a training workshop on Thursday asked the federal government to take practical steps for the implementation of a law against harassment at workplace, saying this will encourage women facing harassment to come forward and file complaints.
The workshop on ‘Awareness on Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010,’ was jointly organised by the provincial social welfare and women empowerment department and Peshawar Uplift Programme at Puta Hall of the University of Peshawar, said a news release issued by organisers.
20150501 * Policy urged for home-based workers:
A district action committee for home-based workers Hyderabad has demanded of the provincial government to announce the policy for home-based women workers.
According to the committee, a draft of the policy prepared by non-governmental organisations, labour and women development department and others has been lying with the Sindh chief minister for approval for a year.
Addressing a press conference held at the local press club here on Thursday, committee coordinator Abdul Ghaffar Sherwani, joint coordinator Kausar Rajput and others pleaded for the policy.
They said that in Hyderabad, there were over 35,000 home-based workers belonging to cottage industry of glass bangles, garments, hosiery, embroidery and others items.
20150501 * Home-based workers demand a fair deal:
Working conditions for home-based workers, particularly in Sindh, are very unsatisfactory and we demand that home-based workers be treated as regular labour and accorded all the benefits that labourers are entitled to.
This, in a nutshell, was the demand of the Home-Based Workers’(HBWs) Network at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday afternoon.
Farhat Fatima of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), said, “We feel that the HBWs, which are an integral part of the economy, are not officially treated as labour, which is unfair.
According to ILO conventions and labour laws, a minimum wage has to be fixed for us.”
20150507 * Industry protests: FBR’s decision to increase sales tax draws criticism:
In a move that has irked the textile industry; the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has proposed to increase the sales tax on five-export oriented sectors from 2% to 5%.
“The government has already held up about Rs240 billion of these sectors. Any increase in sales tax rate will aggravate cash flow problems for the factories,” representatives of the associations said at a press conference here at Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association (PHMA) office.
They said that the government is unable to refund the amount of sales tax collected from the export sectors, therefore, it should stop levying sales tax on exports.
20150507 * Five export sectors threaten to go on strike:
Leaders of the five export sectors, including textile, leather, sports, surgical and carpet, on Wednesday threatened to shut down their units and go on a countrywide strike if the government increases sales tax rate from two to five per cent on exports.
In a joint press conference held at the PHMA House, they were critical of the government for proposing 3pc increase in sales tax on exports though it promised to reverse the decision of the previous government that imposed two per cent tax.
20150507 * Garments exports witness 8.51pc increase during first three quarters:
The country’s garments exports posted 8.51 percent growth during first three quarters of current financial year as compared to the corresponding period of last year.
About 22,843 thousand dozen of ready made garments worth US$ 1.54 billion were exported during from July 2014-March 2015 against 21,434 thousand dozens valuing US$ 1.42 billion of same period of last financial year.
According to the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, knitwear exports witnessed 7.54 percent increase and reached at 81,650 thousand pairs against 80,310 thousand dozen of same period of last year.
The country earned US$ 1.791 billion by exporting the knitwear during the period this year and US$ 1.66 billion last year, the data revealed.
20150505 * Textile exports without phyosanitary permit threaten economy:
The textile exports bypassing phytosanitary certificate have become a serious threat to the economy as most of the European Union countries have returned untested wooden packaging consignments.
Untested wooden packaging consignments are considered a risk to the environment and phytosanitary certificate assures that the plants used for packaging are risk free.
According to the documents available with The News, more than 20 consignments of textile products have been returned from Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Poland, and Italy as their respective authorities intercepted these on account of non phytosanitary certificate from Plant Protection Department of Pakistan (PPD). The intercepted consignments were packed in untreated wooden packaging.
20150507 * Aptma fears 50pc closure of textile industry:
Chairman All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) S M Tanveer has feared 50% closure of the textile industry in case the government alters the Reduced Rate Regime, fails to release stuck up refunds and ensures liquidity supply from banks to the textile industry immediately.
He said the textile industry in Pakistan is facing a crisis like situation due to the highest cost of doing business oozing out of the energy constraints, high cost of finance and labour wages as against the regional competitors.
20150503 * Influential textile sector being pleased on cost of CNG sector: Akhtar:
Tahreek-e-Bahali-e-CNG chief organiser Raja Jahangir Akhtar has alleged that the government is pleasing influential textile sector at the cost of CNG industry.
Speaking at a protest rally in Hassan Abdal, Jehangir Akhtar said that influential lobby of the owners of Captive Power Plants (CPPs) which is wasting gas worth Rs 70 billion per annum is one of the biggest hurdle is the resolution of the energy crisis in Pakistan.
He said the powerful lobby which had been getting natural gas at dirt cheap prices since last five years without the permission of Ogra and Nepra was still enjoying unprecedented influence in the corridors of power.
20150502 * Complaint registered: Energy crisis crippling textile sector:
As trade figures for March rolled in, the textile industry, Pakistan’s largest export-oriented sector, depicted a decline of 16.23%. Countless reasons could explain the decline with the industry not shying away from voicing its concern.
For textile exporters in Faisalabad, the government is responsible for the industry’s negative growth, in addition to withholding Rs50 billion refunds.
Rana Textile Mills Chief Executive Officer Rana Arif Tauseef said that cash flow problems of the industry have worsened due to the withholding of Rs50 billion tax refunds by the Federal Board of Revenue.
20150507 * Workers for reforms instead of Wapda privatisation:
Thousands of Wapda workers, along with engineers, held a nationwide protest under the aegis of All Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Workers Union (CBA) on Wednesday against the proposed privatisation of electricity distribution and its generation at the behest of the World Bank.
Protesters at the Bakhtiar Labour Hall said high price of electricity and loadshedding were reprehensible and demanded the Government of Pakistan to review its economic and social policies and introduce reforms to raise the hydel, coal, and gas fired thermal power stations in the public sector on war-footing basis.
The workers were carrying banners condemning the feudalism and crony capitalism, and privatisation of the national public utilities.
20150506 * Aptma moves PHC against levy of cess on imported cotton:
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (Aptma), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapters has challenged the levy of cess on imported cotton in Peshawar High Court (PHC) through its lawyer Qazi Ghulam Dastgir.
The said cess is challenged by M/S Saif Textile Mills, M/S Mezan Textile Mills. M/S Rehman Cotton Mills, M/S Gadoon Textile Mills, M/S Kohat Textile Mills and M/S A.J Textile Mills and arrayed the respondents.
In the said petition, the Ministry of Textile Industry, Directorate of Cotton Cess Management (PCCC) and Pakistan Central Cotton Committee have been made respondents.
Through their petition, the petitioners said that they are engaged in manufacturing and value addition of textile, yarns and allied products, having their respective manufacturing units, mills and factories at various industrial areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
read more. & read more.
20150505 * Pakistan produces record cotton crop at 14.87mln bales:
Pakistan produced a record bumper crop of cotton at 14.87 million bales (of 155 kilograms each) in the last season (April-September 2014), which was 11.06 percent higher than 13.39 million bales cultivated in the prior year, reported Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) on Monday.
“The production was higher because sowing was undertaken on a larger scale,” said Dr Mohmmad Ali Talpur, director marketing and economic research at Pakistan Central Cotton Committee.
He said Pakistan has been targeting to sow cotton-seeds in 3.1 million hectors of land for a few years, but has never reached 100 percent targeted areas.
“Last year, farmers sowed seeds in 94 percent of the targeted land against 87 percent in the prior year,” Talpur said.
20150504 * Multi-billion-dollar project: Work on ‘changed’ corridor route has begun: ANP:
A senior leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) has expressed consternation about the much-trumpeted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, saying the government is already moving towards implementation of the modified route from western to eastern side of the country.
“We have learnt that the government has already started implementation on the project by diverting its route from the western to eastern side,” said ANP leader Haji Mohammad Adeel while talking to The Express Tribune.
He stated that they have strong reservations about the government’s intention to change the original route, adding that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is also toeing the government line.
20150506 * Growing crisis: 2015 will be a ‘bad year’ for human rights, fear activists:
The year 2015 will be a bad year for human rights, much worse than 2014. This is what human rights activists and professors predicted at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Tuesday, where the panel was discussing the organisation’s annual report of 2014.
Dr Mutahir Ahmed of the University of Karachi (KU) concluded that the human rights situation was not getting better. In the last two years, five professors have been gunned down in the city. “This is the seventh day since the killing of Dr Waheedur Rehman but the government hasn’t contacted us,” he said.
Highlighting the state of human rights last year, Ahmed said that female participation in protests had increased and the civil society had come out on the streets against terrorists but the protests were also brutally crushed.
20150507 * ‘US investors concerned over security, but still optimistic’:
Even though US businessmen have a positive attitude towards Pakistan on the whole, a significant number of them also believe that the international perception of the country is poor which makes it challenging for them to sell investment and expansion plans at a regional level.
This was stated by Arshad Shaheen Hussain, the president of American Business Council of Pakistan (ABC) while announcing the results of a perception survey conducted by the council.
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20150506 * Poor’s gives thumbs-up to Pakistan economy:
Standard and Poor’s, one of the world’s big three credit-rating agencies, on Tuesday revised Pakistan’s average real GDP growth projection for 2015-17 to 4.6 per cent from 3.8pc. It also revised the country’s long-term ‘B minus’ credit rating to positive from stable.
“Pakistan has made significant progress in stabilising its economic, fiscal, and external performance. Financing conditions have also eased considerably,” said a statement issued by the agency’s US headquarters.
“We are, therefore, revising the outlook on the long-term ratings on Pakistan to positive from stable. We are also affirming our ‘B minus’ long-term and ‘B’ short-term sovereign credit ratings on Pakistan,” the statement said.
20150507 * The price of fire:
The good news is that nobody died — though it was a close call for some workers — but the bad news was that 500 men and women lost their jobs.
On May 4, a garment factory in SITE, Karachi was destroyed by fire — a not uncommon occurrence in slowly-industrialising Pakistan. The building had three floors and once the fire took hold, smoke engulfed it and caused panic among the workforce.
Eight were briefly trapped, but were fortunately rescued, treated in hospital and allowed to go home.
Rarely high on the list of priorities for funding, fire departments everywhere in Pakistan are something of a Cinderella service.
They are underfunded, poorly equipped and their failure to save both the building and the livelihoods of those who worked there is no surprise.
A spokesman for the fire department said that they lacked the snorkel equipment in working condition that would allow them to fight a fire above the ground floor, and this alone should ring alarm bells in a city where residential and office blocks, to say nothing of industrial developments, are springing up everywhere.
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20150505 * Two firemen, six women among 18 injured in garments factory fire:
As the International Firefighters Day was marked across the globe, two officials of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) fire department were among the 18 people injured when a blaze erupted at a garments factory in Metroville, SITE on Monday.
The fire erupted at Valika Textile Mills, situated within Site-A police station, around 11 in the morning and the leaping flames eventually spread to the chemical warehouse situated next to it.
With added fuel from the chemicals, the fire spread rapidly and its thick black flames made it hard to breathe in the area. Goods worth millions of rupees were reduced to ashes.
According to officials of KMC’s fire brigade department, initially six fire tenders arrived at the site, however, when the fire couldn’t be contained aid was called in from all over the city.
A total of 20 fire tenders of the KMC, and two more, one each of the Karachi Port Trust and Defence Housing Authority were utilised in dousing the fire.
Due to the burning of chemicals stored in the warehouse, the fire brigade officials termed it a third-level blaze.
Chief fire officer Ehtesham disclosed to The News that out of the 20 fire tenders, a few were empty and did not have any water. It was learnt that none of the snorkels could reach the site because they weren’t in working condition. There was one bowser as well, but it too was bereft of any fire extinguishing material.
20150505 * Pointing fingers: Hundreds of workers lose jobs as factory burns down:
Fire can be devastating — for the families of the victims who are scarred for life, for the owners of the ravaged property and for those whose very livelihoods are connected, directly or indirectly, to the destroyed workplace.
On Monday, nearly 500 labourers, both men and women, lost their livelihoods when a fire gutted a garment factory in Site.
At least eight people, including five female workers, narrowly escaped from being burnt alive.
The ground-plus-two-storey textile mill, located near Valika Chowrangi in Site, caught fire while hundreds of workers were busy inside.
Smoke spread inside the building, creating panic among the workers, most of whom managed to escape. However. eight people, including five women, were trapped inside, sustaining minor injuries before being rescued.
They were taken to a nearby hospital, from where they were released after receiving first aid.
“I have five children with my wife and also support my elderly parents,” said Qasim Khan, one of the workers, adding that he was the sole breadwinner in his family. “It was already difficult for me to live on my limited salary. What will I do now, without a job? There is a massive shortage of jobs in the market.”
20150505 * Fire safety at factories remains an unresolved issue:
Two prominent rights organisations, in their recently published reports, had expressed their concerns over the poor conditions of the occupational health and safety in the industrial sector in the country, particularly in Karachi.
A fire at a garment a factory in SITE on Monday corroborates their apprehensions on the issue of precautions and safety equipments at workplaces.
At least 16 factory workers, six of them women, and two firefighters, were injured in the blaze.
The factory in the SITE area is not far from Baldia Town, where a fire in a garment factory, Ali Enterprises, in September 2012, considered to be the country’s worst industrial mishaps, killed over 250 people and injured many others.
In a report, the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) had demanded that the government should ensure efficient labour inspection mechanisms in the provinces.
“Occupational safety and health, the core element of a decent work environment, remains the lowest priority of the stakeholders despite the rising incidences of work related injuries, diseases and fatalities in recent years,” it was stated in the report.
The Baldia Factory Fire also did not compel the state officials and the employers to devise a comprehensive plan for prevention of industrial accidents, it was observed.
20150505 * Raging fire hinders rescue efforts as factory workers help themselves:
ll you had to do to reach the factory in flames in the SITE area on Monday was let the jet black smoke clouds guide you. They could be seen from afar.
“The fire started early, around 9am. I was preparing breakfast for myself then. Suddenly something smelt very different and I thought I had burnt my breakfast, which really wasn’t the case. Then I saw smoke along with yarn flakes flying around like sparks coming out from behind there,” Akhtar Mohammad, a guard at one of the godowns, pointed to behind the buildings on his lane. “That was when I raised alarm,” he said.
But the fire tenders and water tankers, which arrived shortly afterwards, despite several trips, were finding it very difficult to control the flames that soon spread to adjoining godowns and factories.
“It took a while to bring in the heavy equipment that could break the godown gates and wall for the fire tenders to reach there and by that time the fire had spread,” he explained.
“There was utter panic and confusion here, as workers of all the godowns and factories ran for safety. Some of the women fainted but it looked more like they were having fits of hysteria rather than experiencing suffocation,” said another eyewitness Mohammad Younus.
“Around 800 people work here but it is good that all of them had not yet arrived as it was still early when it all happened. So there was no loss of life,” he added.
Meanwhile, the godown owners who had arrived at the scene tried without success to salvage their property. Most of the material stored in the godowns was polyester yarn, which couldn’t be saved.
District Commissioner Mohammad Ali Shah, who was present there with his team, said the fire started at Nama Textile Mill’s godown where polyester yarn was stored.
“At the moment, it doesn’t look like a short-circuit, as there was no power connection in the godowns. It could be the result of plain carelessness on the part of workers or owners. But we are looking into what could have caused the fire,” he told Dawn.
20150504 * 13 workers caught in Karachi garment factory fire:
Thirteen factory workers, including two women, were caught in a garment factory fire in Karachi’s SITE area, Express News reported Monday.
Initial reports revealed that the fire was caused by a short circuit and sources confirmed that the fire has now spread extensively, making it difficult for fire tenders to bring it under control.
Fire brigade services arrived at the garment factory thirty minutes after they were given notice of the incident, and a spokesperson for the fire brigade confirmed that 10 fire tenders were currently working to bring the fire to a halt.
Heavy smoke and fumes from the fire however, have made it difficult for fire tenders to enter the factory.
The injured were shifted to a local hospital for immediate medical assistance and rescue officials have declared it a third-degree fire.
20150504 * Nine injured in Karachi factory fire:
Fire broke out at a site factory near Waleeka Chowrangi in Karachi, burning nine people.
At the moment, nine fire brigades are battling with the flames. Among the nine people who are burned, five of them are women. Injured were shifted to a local hospital for treatment.
DC West informed that all workers inside the factory premises were rescued. Rescue officials and firefighters termed it as a third degree fire. As the fire surrounded the entire factory, an additional fire tender was called in from KPT.
Karachi Commissioner stated that Sui Gas’s manpower and machinery were also called for. In order to break the walls and penetrate the factory, machines have been brought in. Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui also stated that DC West was monitoring the situation at hand.
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20150504 * Garment factory catches fire in Karachi:
Several people including women have been injured in the third degree fire as fire tenders from across the city are rushing to Site to control the blaze.
20150502 * Asian workers rally against govt labour reforms:
Tens of thousands of South Korean workers held May Day rallies on Friday, vowing to wage an “all-out general strike” if the government pushes through with planned labour reforms.
Elsewhere in Asia, dozens of protesters in Taiwan threw smoke bombs near the presidential office during a workers’ rally, while in Hong Kong domestic helpers were out in force to seek greater rights.
Hundreds gathered in downtown Manila to press for higher wages and more job opportunities at home, to prevent so many Filipinos heading overseas, often into vulnerable situations or outright danger.
20150506 * SACTWU wins pre-cedent setting labour court case against company refusing us recognition:
The COSATU-affiliated Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) is pleased to announce that Judge La Grange of the Port Elizabeth Labour Court has yesterday ruled in our favour, setting aside and replacing a jurisdictional ruling made by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation & Arbitration (CCMA) in an employer’s favour.
The matter concerned a review application brought on behalf of the Union in which we sought to challenge the CCMA’s ruling that the Union was prohibited from obtaining organisational rights at Association for the Physically Disabled (APD – the employer), due to previous arbitration proceedings in which the Union was unsuccessful.
We argued that the arbitrator’s application of the so-called “res judicata” (‘”already decided’) principle was bad in law and unreasonable.
20150506 * SACTWU wins Competition Tribunal case:
The SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU) welcomes the decision taken today by the Competition Tribunal which has overruled a problematic merger decision made by the Competition Commission last year.
In 2014 a large merger occurred in the footwear manufacturing sector. It involved the merger of Beier Safety Footwear, Bagshaw Safety Footwear (which is a division of Bolton Footwear) and SKN Corporation and then the subsequent acquisition by them of the footwear division of KAP Manufacturing, comprising of Jordan & Co, United Fram, Wayne Plastics and Mossop Western Leathers.
The merger involved 2 130 footwear and leather workers. As a representative of workers in these firms, SACTWU had numerous engagements with the merger parties in order to ensure that our members would not lose their jobs after the merger.
This can often happen in mergers, particularly in the event that the merger parties have related or parallel operations.
The engagements between SACTWU and the merger parties were very constructive – the result of mature engagement with the objective of reaching a reasonable and mutually-agreeable solutions to workers’ concerns.
Amongst other things, the merger parties committed that there would be no retrenchments at United Fram for a period of 1 year, and for a period of 3 years in all the other companies in the new merged entity.
20150502 * Garment industry’s dirty business:
From time to time, activists concerned about abuses in the global garment industry stage protests in front of gleaming department stores in New York, Paris, and London.
They’ve even entered clothing outlets across Europe and pretended to faint from overwork in a show of solidarity with exhausted workers in Asia.
Those workers themselves protest loudly and often for better conditions, blocking roads with burning tires near sprawling, dingy factories on the outskirts of Dhaka or Phnom Penh, and sometimes falling to bullets fired by riot police dispatched to return them to work.
But between those two ends of the global garment supply chain, most attempts at accountability fall away.
Linking the dusty Asian factories to the big, bright shops of Europe and North America is a convoluted network of contractors, subcontractors, and sub-subcontractors with little-known names, based in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or South Korea — and in small, unmarked buildings in the poorer countries that produce the clothes.
These middlemen are often located far away from both desperate factory workers and outraged activists, and they’re low-profile enough to escape the international scrutiny given to a Walmart or a Gap.
Such scrutiny of brands escalated dramatically after the collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 garment workers two years ago Friday, in the worst disaster of its kind ever.
Several major retailers, including Primark, Walmart, and Benetton, were linked to the factory, and the tragedy has forced the whole industry to shape up on safety.
Since then, two major initiatives in Bangladesh — signed by more than 200 international garment companies — have inspected thousands of Bangladeshi factories and ordered hundreds to restructure and rebuild to meet basic safety standards.
In Bangladesh, as well as countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, schemes like the International Labour Organization’s Better Work program tout their successes at improving conditions more broadly.
But safety issues and worker abuses continue across Asia, with ongoing reports of workers exposed to toxic chemicals, forced to labor whole days without taking any breaks, or beaten when they try to form unions.
And a large part of the reason these abuses continue, experts say, is the complex role of middlemen and sub-contractors, which makes it hard to know which brands’ clothes come from which factories.
“This aspect of the industry is incredibly opaque,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor advocacy group that monitors factory conditions around the world. “These firms do not advertise themselves publicly.”
The contracting companies say they have a right to protect sourcing information that gives them an edge in linking global brands to local manufacturers.
Workers’ advocates, however, argue that brands use this murkiness in the supply chain as an excuse to pass the buck across Asia.
“They use middle agents basically to distance themselves from their sourcing agency,” said Samantha Maher, a policy director for Labour Behind the Label, a U.K.-based worker rights group.
Retailers usually prefer not to talk about these extra steps in the process, said Nova. It’s only when they’re embarrassed by a major factory violation that “all of a sudden we find out that there are supposedly multiple layers between the brands and the factory.”