Bangladesh Building Collapse: Fire Breaks Out In Factory

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By Ruma Paul and Serajul Quadir

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladeshi lawyers and protesters chanted “hang him, hang him” on Monday as the owner of a factory building that collapsed last week killing nearly 400 people was led into court dressed in a helmet and bullet-proof jacket, witnesses said.

The drama came as rescue officials said they were unlikely to find more survivors in the rubble of the building that collapsed on Wednesday, burying hundreds of garment workers in the country’s worst industrial accident.

Heavy cranes were being used to lift huge concrete blocks from the wreckage of Rana Plaza, where 385 people are now confirmed to have been killed. The building housed factories making clothes for Western brands.

Eight people have been arrested – four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, David Mayor, who they said was a Spanish citizen.

Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League’s youth front, was shown on television being brought to Dhaka in handcuffs after he was seized in the border town of Benapole by the elite Rapid Action Battalion following a four-day manhunt.

Rana was arrested by police commandos on Sunday, apparently trying to flee to India.
“Put the killer on the gallows, he is not worth of any mercy or lenient penalty,” one onlooker outside the court shouted.

The court ordered that Rana be held for 15 days “on remand” for interrogation.
Khalek, who officials said was named in documents as a legal owner of the building, was arrested in Dhaka on Monday. Those being held face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.
Bangladesh does carry out the death penalty for murder and for most serious categories of manslaughter.
Hundreds of the mostly female workers who are thought to have been inside the building when it caved in remain unaccounted for. A fire overnight further hampered the last desperate efforts to find survivors.
“We are giving the highest priority to saving people, but there is little hope of finding anyone alive,” army spokesman Shahinul Islam told reporters at the site.

About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

Late on Sunday, sparks from rescuers’ cutting equipment started a fire in the debris as they raced to save a woman who may have been the last survivor in the rubble. Her body was recovered on Monday afternoon.
“We could not save her, even though we heard her voice this morning,” a tearful rescue worker told reporters at the scene.

Officials said the eight-storey complex had been built on swampy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers – most of them young women – entered the building on Wednesday morning despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.
A bank and shops in the same building closed after a jolt was felt and cracks were noticed on some pillars on Tuesday.

The collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world behind China. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in a suburb of Dhaka killed 112 people.

Such incidents have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages in the poor South Asian country, which relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports. The industry employs about 3.6 million people, most of them women, some of whom earn as little as $38 a month.

In a development that may raise questions about the authorities’ handling of the rescue operation, a spokesman at the British High Commission on Monday confirmed that an offer of technical assistance from Britain had been declined.

Anger over the disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes, and paramilitary troops were deployed in the industrial hub of Gazipur as garment workers took to the streets again on Monday, smashing cars and setting fire to an ambulance.

The unrest forced authorities to shut down many factories, which had reopened on Monday after two days of closures. Police fired teargas to disperse protesters.

The main opposition has called for a national strike on May 2 in protest over the incident.
Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of the state-run Capital Development Authority, said last week that Rana had not received the proper construction consent for the building, and had illegally added three stories to the original five.

(Writing by Alex Richardson and Nick Macfie)

Child labour uncovered in Apple’s supply chain

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Apple’s investigation revealed some children had been recruited using forged identity papers. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

Juliette Garside, telecoms correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 25 January 2013 19.22 GMT

Apple has discovered multiple cases of child labour in its supply chain, including one Chinese company that employed 74 children under the age of 16, in the latest controversy over the technology giant’s manufacturing methods

An internal audit found a flipside to the western consumer’s insatiable thirst for innovative and competitively priced gadgets. It uncovered 106 cases of underage labour being used at Apple suppliers last year and 70 cases historically. The report follows a series of worker suicides over working conditions at Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that assembles must-have products such as the iPad and iPhone, and lethal explosions at other plants.

Apple’s annual supplier report – which monitors nearly 400 suppliers – found that children were employed at 11 factories involved in making its products. A number of them had been recruited using forged identity papers.

The report uncovered a catalogue of other offences, ranging from mandatory pregnancy tests, to bonded workers whose wages are confiscated to pay off debts imposed by recruitment agencies. They also found cases of juveniles being used to lift heavy goods, workers having their wages docked as a punishment and one factory dumping waste oil in the toilets.

One Chinese supplier, a circuit board component maker called Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics, was axed by Apple after 74 children under the age of 16 were recruited to work on its production lines. According to Apple, the children had been knowingly supplied by one of the region’s largest labour agencies, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources. Its investigators found that the agency conspired with families to forge identification documents. Apple did not disclose the ages of the children involved, but its code of conduct states it will not employ workers under the age of 15, or under the legal working age in any jurisdiction – which is 16 in China.

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, who in a previous role was responsible for building Apple’s supply chain, has been under pressure to push through changes after the suicides at Foxconn, whose manufacturing operations are largely based in China. Last September a brawl involving up to 2,000 workers forced Foxconn to close a plant in northern China.

Last year he described the use of underage labour as “abhorrent”, saying it was “extremely rare in our supply chain”, and stepped up measures to weed out bad practice including hiring an independent auditor, the Fair Labor Association.

“Underage labour is a subject no company wants to be associated with, so as a result I don’t believe it gets the attention it deserves, and as a result it doesn’t get fixed like it should,” said Jeff Williams, senior vice president of operations at Apple. He vowed to eradicate the practice, but said it could take some time.

At Pingzhou, the children were returned to their families and the employer was “required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return”. Although 95% of the facilities scrutinised by Apple complied with child labour laws, transgressors were told to return minors to a school chosen by their family, pay for their education, and give them an income equal to their factory wages.

Bonded labour was discovered at eight factories. In order to find work, some foreign labourers pay fees to a string of recruitment agencies and sub-agencies, amassing huge debts. Their wages are then automatically handed over to pay the debts, tying them to jobs until the balance has been paid off.

Apple ordered its suppliers to reimburse excessive recruitment fees – anything higher than one month’s wages – and said $6.4m (£4m) was handed back to contract workers in 2012.

Investigators found 90 facilities that deducted wages to punish workers, prompting Apple to order the reimbursement of employees. Mandatory pregnancy testing was found at 34 places of work, while 25 tested for medical conditions such as hepatitis B. At four facilities, payroll records were falsified to hide information from auditors, and at one, a supplier was found intentionally dumping waste oil “into the restroom receptacle”.

Apple said it took measures to protect whistleblowers, and that it made 8,000 calls last year to workers interviewed by auditors in order to find out if they had suffered intimidation.

Maids to rally for rights

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An activist speaks at a regional meeting of domestic worker organisations and labour unions in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Scott Howes/Phnom Penh Post

Half a year after the first Cambodian domestic workers network formed, Cambodian activists for maids’ rights are turning to workers in other sectors and international organisations for solidarity and support.

Long lacking organised representation, Cambodian domestic workers this Wednesday will join workers in other industries in rallying in front of the National Assembly on International Labour Day, said Chum Chamm, program officer for the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network.

“We are all working for workers’ rights, so we have to mobilise together,” Chamm said yesterday, the first day of a meeting on maids’ rights in Phnom Penh attended by representatives from a dozen Asian and European countries.

Eight countries have now ratified International Labour Organization Convention 189, which requires days off, a minimum wage and several other rights for maids.

This progress should offer hope and models for successful activism for maids in Cambodia, said Cambodia Labour Confederation representative Neang Sovatha.

In September, pressure from activists prompted the convention’s first ratification by an Asian country, the Philippines – “a great example for Cambodia”, said Marieke Koning of the International Trade Union Confederation.

Koning said she hoped hosting meetings like this week’s in Phnom Penh would put additional pressure on Cambodia to ratify the convention.

According to Chamm, the National Assembly said in December it was happy to ratify ILO 189 but was waiting for a proposal for ratification from the Ministry of Labour, which told Chamm they had requested technical assistance from the ILO in the ratification process.

But Tuon Sophoan of the ILO in Cambodia said the ILO had not yet received a request for assistance from the government.

Senior officials from the Ministry of Labour met in March with activists who had begun lobbying Cambodia to sign ILO 189, he said, but the government would need time to consider the convention’s implementation before ratifying it.

Mission

To build enduring bonds of solidarity through the net within Indian Labour Movement and International labour Movement with a view to achieving unity and solidarity within the indian labour movement and endeavour to build global unity and solidarity within the world of work and trade unions so that both national and international labour movement actualises the ideals embodied in the Philadelphia Declaration of International Labour Organisation (ILO) which is as follows:At the end of the Second World War, the International Labour Conference(I.L.O) adopted in May 1944, in Philadelphia, a Declaration (Philadelphia Declaration), which defined again the aims and purposes of the Organization. This Declaration reaffirmed in particular, that labour is not a commodity, that freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress, that poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere and that the war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within each nation, and by continuous and concerted international effort in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoying equal status with those of governments, join them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare. The Declaration affirmed that all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity. It also referred to the social aspect of economic and financial measures.Indian Labour.org will work for promotion of the above ideals and believes that Labour is the source of all wealth and there is honour and dignity in all work and working people should have equal protection under the law and freedom to bargain collectively to advance and protect their interests and it is the duty of the government to protect, ensure and encourage Collective Bargaining , Right of Association and uphold the values and principles enshrined in the ILO Conventions particularly those in the Conventions 87 and 98 are respected by all employers and the Government of India should Ratify these two basic ILO Conventions so that working people are able to organise themselves without fear and play their legitimate role in national economic, social and political development

To bring all working people together in a common movement to advance their interests in the spheres of politics, economics and culture and influence all sections of society in the country through their organised power to accept labour movement as legitimate social partner in society so that aspirations of the working people to play their role in economic social and political development are achieved. To work with all organisations of workers in the country irrwespective of their affiliations and allegiances through their national , regional trade union and local trade union centres and endeavour to create one brand image, one identity for unions across the country in order to enhance the strength of unions and further their cause by promoting collaboration, coordination and cooperation among all organised and unorganised groups of workers within the country to preserve , protect and advance their interests and working class as a whole and enhance the solidarity of unions to ensure a more equitable and just society.

Indianlabour .org believes education is the key to a free and democratic labour movement and democratic trade unions are essential to economic justice and to a free and democratic society and for working people to fully realize their potential and that of their children, they must have equal access to high quality education at all levels and Labour arts and culture are an essential part of education, as they provide the labour movement with its soul and spirit

Indianlabour.org through this web site will endeavour seeking cooperation of all national regional trade unions centres irrespective of their political affiliations ,preferences and persuations all other organised centres of working people to create conditions for workers to get opportunity to acquire high quality education and intellectual skills and make available higher education available to all sections of workers irrespective of gender, caste, creed , religion and other diversities and prepare workers to face changing global environment and the contemporary challenges confronting workers movement in the country and abroad which is increasingly becoming hostile to labour movement all around and endeavour through collaboration with all trade unions, NGOs working with labour to promote enduring bonds of solidarity and ;unity within the labour movement so that trade unions become real power centres

To campaign for building a Workers Parliament,Workers Sector in the economy which will represent the aspirations of the entire working class of the country as power centre which will seek fundamental changes in legislative structures relating to workers so that workers trade unions’ status in society is elevated as social partner and as centres of progressive thought . learning and action so that current decline in unionisation is arrested and working class emerges as countervailing power centre against hostile anti- union forces and recapture its past glory as reckonable force in society and the nation To conduct through systematic campaigns in the net and through other media to enlist support for all workers causes and their unions’ struggles for justice, fairplay and decent working conditions irrespective of their allegiances and affiliations so that every worker feels reassured that the entire workers movement is behind every struggle for living wage, dignity decency and for human and trade rights and endeavour to secure for workers the all the rights envisaged in ILO Conventions and Recommendations

Vision

To see an exploitation free world where labour is powerfully organised and integrated globally in the world of work in a united single organisation of working people of all nations into free democratic, disciplined workforce transcending race, religion creed , sex and other diversities , protecting and advancing the cause of all workers world over.To actualise the ideals envisaged and enshrined in the Constitution India, ILO Conventions and Recommendations and the labour movement becomes strong and effective enough to be able assert its role as a social partner in the country’s economic social and political development and the Parliament of the country reflects the aspirations of the working people and respects the role and contribution of workers to the economy and economic development and all those who are engaged in the world of work get living wage and decent working conditionsTo actualise the ideals of dignified, decent work and creative life for the working people and status and respect in society for them and their organisations and due recognition as a representative system within the industry , enterprise system and . society as a whole and legal right to call persons, documents papers , contest and question all authorities on all matters affecting the interest of labour and demand constitution of a Permanent Standing Commission for Labour with wide terms of reference to protect labour interests with provisions for total immunity from laws to those deposing before such commission as provided for in the Commission of Enquiry Act particularly relating to defamation,,libel, contempt of court and parliamentary privileges.(which constitute greatest impediments to effective labour movement ), for workers, and their organisations.To see a Comprehensive Grievance Redressal Machinery is established in all enterprises and establishments whether private public or others to enable individual employees/workers whether regular, permanent or temporary to file grievances relating to all wage- employment- to be processed within a time bound decision makingTo see the government enact a comprehensive law which defines all those who perform whether paid .and unpaid work as “worker” and provide where appropriate by creating special labour courts with the status of powers of High Court for processing individual and collective grievances of workers and redress them as an appellate authority., Presided over by a sitting supreme court judge.

To ensure individual workers, along with other citizens of the country get justice in their respective places of work and stay with free legal assistance at the cost of the state without having to travel long distances to seek justice from Courts whether district , high court or supreme court and so ensure that High Courts and Supreme Court have Circuit or permanent benches of these higher courts are established in all district head quarters in the country so that courts are easily accessible within short distances for workers To see abolition of jurisdiction of courts outside the State to call, summon workers and citizens and also abolish jurisdiction of courts outside the State of residence of the workers and citizens without the permission of the High Court of the State and giving an opportunity to workers contest such call and summonsTo see and ensure that workers and citizens and their organisations are not harassed, compelled and pressurised to appear in courts outside their State without express permission of the respective High cour of the State and where appearances become inevitable the concerned courts should compel summoning parties to underwrite all reasonable expenses of travel and stay connected with the such calls and summons