23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Garment unions from across the world meet in Myanmar to share strategies

Trade unionists from garment producing countries met in Yangon, Myanmar, to discuss organizing in the supply chain and campaigning for a living wage.

Concluding three years of work on organizing in global supply chains and campaigning for living wages under two projects funded by German organization the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Turkey, compared strategies and evaluated progress in an industry that is seen as synonymous with low wages, long working hours and sub-standard working conditions.

Welcoming the unionists to Myanmar, many of them for the first time, Maung Maung, President of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar, provided an update on discussions for setting the second minimum wage in the country. Myanmar’s first ever minimum wage was introduced in 2015 at 3,600 kyats/day (US$3.6). It is far from a living wage and unions are currently conducting wage research around the country, before putting forward new demands at the end of September.

Sharing successful strategies for organizing in the supply chain, participants from the Philippines spoke of the increased strength gained by using alliances.

Myanmar unionists stressed the importance of education: “We meet workers in the streets and in tea shops, and teach them about their rights and the law even before the union in the workplace has been officially registered.” Turkey counts 1,1 million workers in the textile and garment industry, and there is a need to educate workers on unions and collective bargaining agreements:

“Organizing is made additionally difficult as it is often linked to a big risk of dismissal. Implementing global framework agreements

IndustriALL has signed global framework agreements (GFAs) with Inditex, H&M, Mizuno and Tchibo.

Talking about the implementation of the GFA with H&M in Cambodia, Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL garment and textile director, presented the work of the national monitoring committees (NMC), set up in a number of countries as conflict solving mechanisms.

“The NMCs consist of three union representative and three H&M representatives, and they gives us a possibility to exchange concerns. The GFA has been instrumental in resolving conflicts in Myanmar and Pakistan.

“There is a shift in the supply chain, a move away from voluntary initiatives to functioning industrial relations.”

Creating a level playing field for wages

Campaigning for a living wage is a key goal of IndustriALL. Many speakers talked about the inadequacy of garment worker wages and how difficult it is to negotiate higher wages when factories are being squeezed by their multinational brand customers.

IndustriALL assistant general secretary Jenny Holdcroft says that unions must look beyond the minimum wage and push for a new wage fixing mechanism that takes account of the way that brands contract with suppliers and the prices they pay.

The meeting was joined by Frank Hoffer, newly appointed Executive Director of the ACT initiative between IndustriALL and global brands who spoke of how ACT aims to introduce industry collective bargaining linked to brand purchasing practies to garment supply chains.

“The minimum wage does not take into account other wage-related factors like working hours, skills training and productivity. We need a system that lifts standards across the market and enables workers to enforce their own agrements.

“To achieve a living wage there is a need for higher wages to be set across the entire industry in order to prevent individual factories and brands from negotiating lower prices based on lower wages.”

While many of the countries represented at the workshop have a minimum wage, this is set at a level that does not enable workers to meet their basic needs, leaving them reliant on excessive overtime hours to supplement their wages. Having heard positive examples from South Africa, Sweden and Indonesia, the meeting concluded on the importance of making the case to employers and governments of the mutual benefits of introducing industry bargaining more widely in the garment sector.

23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Ocheni to take charge of budgeting at Labour Ministry

Abuja: The newly appointed Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Professor Stephen Ocheni, has assume office with a clear mandate from the Minister, Senator Chris Ngige, to improve the 2018 budgetary allocation to the ministry.

According to Ngige, the of State will take charge of the 2018 budgeting, because as a professional accountant, he would make it the best.

While receiving Ocheni, the minister charged him to utilise his credibility as a renowned professional accountant to improve on the 2018 budgetary system of the ministry.

Ngige said “I am particularly pleased by the fact that you are an account professional with various degrees in accounting and that will remove the load from me in budgeting. You will take charge of the 2018 budgeting which we are about to start so that our budgeting system will improve.

“I made it better when I came, you can push it to become best. I am optimistic that by God’s grace you will put in your best to uplift this ministry and the Nigeria nation at large.”

He added “it is our pleasure to welcome the new Minister of State into our fold. Ministry of Labour and Employment is one of the oldest ministries in Nigeria, dating back to 1927 as colonial department. It is a challenging ministry that has been manned by prominent Nigerians in the past, your deployment as a Minister of State for Labour and Employment gives credence to your credibility as a renowned academic and astute bureaucrat.”

Responding, Ocheni assured the minister of his commitment to bring his knowledge and experience to bear in the discharge of his responsibilities towards the attainment of the objective of the ministry and the change agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari.

23 Aug 2017 Ferado

Three labourers from Rahim Yar Khan found dead in Balochistan

Quetta: ( PAKISTAN) Three labourers from Rahim Yar Khan were found dead in Balochistan’s Kech district on Sunday, Levies sources told Labour News.

The labourers who were working on a development project in the area had been kidnapped by unidentified miscreants four days ago, the sources said.

The bodies were found with multiple bullet injuries in Kech’s Hoshab area by locals.

The Levies, who were alerted by the locals, reached the spot and shifted the bodies to a hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing.

22 Aug 2017 Ferado

Turkey proposes free movement of workers with Kazakhstan

TURKEY: Central Asian countries are exploring forms of integration resembling those of the European Union, the latest one being the establishment of free movement of people and workers between Turkey and Kazakhstan.

The Astana Times reported on Thursday (17 August) that Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci had proposed during a recent Kazakh-Turkish business forum “a visa-free regime for migrant workers” between the two countries.

Turkey and Kazakhstan already have a visa-free regime, but the proposed step is to remove obstacles for nationals of the two countries seeking employment on each other’s territory.

Zeybekci said both countries have been cooperating for a long time. Turkey has invested about $2 billion in the Kazakhstan economy and this could be increased to $10 billion, he said.

Trade between the two countries is mainly based on natural energy resources but Turkish companies are ready to supply textile products and some food products to Kazakhstan, the minister stressed. However, Kazakhstan and Turkey first need to review their trade agreement and remove some barriers, such as for the free movement of workers, he said.

High level visit

Zeybekci announced 9-10 September as the date of the official visit to Kazakhstan of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It has also been reported that the Turkish president intends to take part in the upcoming Organisation for Islamic Cooperation Summit on Science and Technology as part of his visit to Astana.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkey has been trying to implement comprehensive policies on the newly independent so-called ‘Turkic’ states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Regional cooperation

According to researcher Özge Nur Öğütcü from the Center for Eurasian Studies, Turkey has invested a lot in regional cooperation involving the Turkic states. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the emergence of new regional organisations such the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which was first proposed by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

Turkey’s initiative to include Turkic states in the ECO as one of the founding members and its participation in the CICA and SCO enabled Turkey to observe agendas of regional actors and engage with Turkic states under the umbrella of regional formations, Öğütcü wrote.

Other important institutions are the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) established in 1993, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries (TURKPA), set up in 2008, the International Turkic Academy established in 2010, the Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation formed in 2012, and the Turkic Business Council, whose founding document was signed in 2011.

Today, Turkic states host Turkish universities such as Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University in Kyrgyzstan and Akhmet Yassawi University in Kazakhstan. The Yunus Emre Institutes for Turkish language education in Astana and Baku have been providing learning opportunities to young people.

Askar Turganbayev, a representative of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Sport at the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY), said the Kazakh president is one of the most ardent supporters of the TURKSOY.

“Many initiatives of President Nazarbayev are related to the development of this organization,” Turganbayev said.

22 Aug 2017 Ferado

Rights Activist Flees Kazakhstan Over Safety Fears

KAZAKHSTAN: A prominent Kazakh rights activist who heads a group that advocates for the rights and safety of journalists says he has fled the country because he fears for his life.

Ramazan Esergepov, president of the Almaty-based NGO Journalists In Trouble, told RFE/RL by phone on August 4 that he is in Paris. He said he arrived there on August 3.

Esergepov told RFE/RL that he decided to leave Kazakhstan after he was stabbed by unknown attackers in May and other developments led him to conclude that he might be jailed.

On August 1, police in Almaty detained and questioned Esergepov, accusing him of organizing of an unsanctioned rally in Almaty on July 29 to support political prisoners.

Esergepov became president of Journalists In Trouble in 2012.

He previously spent three years in prison after being convicted of revealing classified information in articles about alleged links between a Kazakh businessman and the National Security Committee.

At least five activists and journalists have fled Kazakhstan for Ukraine in recent years.

Zhanar Akhmet, a blogger who criticized President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s government, fled in March amid mounting pressure and politically charged criminal investigations.

Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, tolerates little dissent.