Daily News

Asia / Pacific Women transport workers from Asia-Pacific call for end to violence [ITF] 2013-05-14

Bangladesh Factory death toll soars past 1,100 [CBC] ActNOW! 2013-05-13

Colombia Colombia: Many Women Workers Face Job Discrimination[Solidarity Center] For more info 2013-05-13

UK / England Trade Union chainmakers’ festival celebrating women’s equality returning to Cradley Heath [The News] 2013-05-12

Australia / Victoria Celebrating International Nurses Day and Mother’s Day, [ANF Victoria] 2013-05-12

Bangladesh Doubling wages of Bangladeshi textile workers ‘would add 2p to cost of a t-shirt’ [Ekklesia] ActNOW! 2013-05-11

Canada / Ontario Union files mass gender discrimination complaint against LCBO at human rights tribunal [Global] 2013-05-11

Latin America Some Advances in Legal Rights for Domestic Workers in Latin America [Reuters] 2013-05-11

Canada / Ontario Union to file wage discrimination suit against LCBO[Canoe] 2013-05-11

Doubling wages of Bangladeshi textile workers ‘would add 2p to cost of a t-shirt’

As the death toll in the Rana Plaza textile factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh two weeks ago tops 900, the TUC has today (10 May)) published figures which suggest that the reason costs are cut and wages are low in the Bangladesh textile industry has nothing to do with cash-strapped consumers demanding cheap clothes.

In the days after the disaster, some commentators have claimed that the blame for the poor conditions and poverty pay rates could be laid solely at the door of Western consumers on the hunt for ever cheaper bargains on the high street.

But using figures supplied by textile workers’ unions in Bangladesh, the TUC has calculated that doubling the wages of a Dhaka textile worker would add just 2p to the cost of a t-shirt bought in any store on the UK high street (where ‘budget’ fashion tops tend to range from £2 to £10).

In Bangladesh’s ready-made garment sector – which supplies high-street fashion stores across the UK and Europe – wages are as low as £27 a month, and working conditions so poor that factory fires are commonplace. In fact another fire took place just this week in which eight people died.

Unions in Bangladesh say that workers are usually paid just 12p for the six t-shirts they are expected to make every hour and as they work around 200 hours a month, this works out at roughly 2p for every t-shirt.

Commenting on the figures, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It isn’t UK consumers – trying to make their wages stretch further as their living standards take are hit – who are to blame for life and labour being cheap in Bangladesh.

“Wages paid out to the thousands of women who work in the clothing factories are just a tiny fraction of the end price we pay at the till.

“It’s the multinational companies – the brands, retailers and manufacturers who are all well-known names on our high streets – who bear the responsibility. They are the ones who must change their behaviour and encourage their overseas suppliers to pay higher wages and improve working conditions, not UK consumers.”

The TUC is asking consumers touched by the Dhaka tragedy to use social media to help share a graphic of this message with friends and colleagues, to build pressure on clothing brands and the Bangladeshi government over pay and safety.

The e-action at http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/page/content/bangladesh also allows consumers to show support for global textile workers’ union IndustriALL in its campaign to demand Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Labour Minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Rajuback carry out the recommendations of the UN’s International Labour Organisation on fire and factory safety.

The TUC is also working with other campaigning organisations and progressive employers in the Ethical Trading Initiative to ensure that workers’ rights are respected in Bangladesh.

[Ekk/4]

Assault left Crown employee ‘lost’

A Crown Casino employee looked “lost” in the moments after she was allegedly indecently assaulted by a wealthy Chinese businessman in a lift in the complex, a court has heard.

Xiangcai Yun is alleged to have touched the woman’s breasts and restrained her in the lift of the Crown Towers hotel about 8.30pm on February 7, 2011. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent assault and false imprisonment.

In Mr Yun’s trial in the County Court, Yeung Cheng said he was the woman’s then supervisor and that she reported the alleged incident to him when she did not know what to do.

“She looked a bit lost, like she didn’t know what to do,” Mr Cheng said when asked about the woman’s demeanour. Mr Cheng, who no longer works at the casino, told the court he then reported the matter to management.

Earlier, another Crown employee denied changing his evidence to make it appear more favourably towards Mr Yun.

The court heard Herbert Jia, a marketing executive with the casino, was in the lift with Mr Yun, the woman and another Crown employee. But he and the other employee got out when asked by the businessman to retrieve his mobile phone from the 39th floor of the hotel.

Under questioning from prosecutor Rebekah Sleeth, Mr Jia denied changing the statement he gave to police to evidence which reflected more favourably towards Mr Yun.

Speaking through a translator, Mr Jia said he was unsure if some matters were effectively translated when he first spoke with police, and that he did not know “which evidence is good for who”.

The trial before Judge Jane Campton continues

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.