Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting Back to Business in Bangladesh

I'm just as guilty as the corporate media because I haven't touched this since I bought my last shirt

What brings you this post now is the fact the Al Jazeera ran a half-hour segment on the fire and factory conditions over there.

"The number of factories in Bangladesh has soared in recent years to more than 240,000, while their safety is checked by only 50 government inspectors, said Obaidul Islam, a senior official at the office of the chief inspector of factories. Islam said the factories include 3,500 garment facilities, which employ more than 3 million workers, mostly women from impoverished villages." 

The doomed factories were never inspected?

"Safety efforts are hobbled in Bangladesh" by Mehul Srivastava |  Bloomberg News, June 02, 2013

NEW DELHI — Amid an international outcry and promises by retailers to improve worker safety, Bangladesh is struggling to conduct even a crude assessment of the country’s garment factories.

To appreciate the difficulty, spend a day with Mohammed Helal Ahmed, 42, a civil engineer in Dhaka city government, as he struggles through cursory factory inspections.

His day starts with a decrepit government car that breaks down and a list of misspelled factory names with partial addresses.

Factory owners deny him entry and stall for time.

That's funny. Here in AmeriKa they welcome inspectors with open arms. You can always learn something from them!

He encounters blocked fire exits, roofs sagging under heavy water tanks, and former apartment buildings that have been joined haphazardly. Workers whisper about cracks in walls, only to be shushed by security guards.

At least it isn't filled with molasses.

‘‘It is completely unbelievable,’’ Ahmed said at sundown, sweat pouring off his forehead after surveying four of the seven factories that had been on the day’s agenda. ‘‘So much work is needed immediately. Real action is needed.’’

Didn't really get it. It's not like we are bailing out banks here.

Until such action is taken, Ahmed and his 50 colleagues at the Dhaka Development Authority are mostly compiling data in a superficial survey of the city’s factories. Even this basic step is hobbled by shortages of cars, engineers, money, and information, emphasizing that efforts to oversee improvements cannot depend on the Bangladeshi government’s limited resources.

Instead, any attempt to improve safety conditions for Bangladesh’s 3 million garment workers will live and die on a coalition including retailers and unions that was cobbled together in the weeks after the horror of Rana Plaza.

Ahmed’s surveys are a first round in a process to improve safety in an effort to avoid disasters like Rana Plaza, the factory building that collapsed and killed 1,127 people in April.

That was after a fire killed hundreds last November.

In two weeks, Ahmed and his colleagues at the Dhaka Development Authority have surveyed about 300 of more than 3,500 factories in the sprawling capital of 18 million people.

About 90 percent of those visited evoked serious concerns, warranting immediate repairs or demolitions, said Emdadul Islam, chief engineer at the authority. About 1,500 more factories outside the city lie in a no-man’s land of jurisdictional confusion, he added.

The surveys are supposed to be followed by full inspections, including tests of steel beams and concrete, and then finally plans for remediation, if resources can be found. For now, all that the local officials want to do is build a database that includes every factory, to collect photocopies of building plans and approvals, and to eye the situation.

‘‘For evaluation we need experts,’’ said Tarek Uddin Mohammed, a civil engineering professor at the University of Asia Pacific in Dhaka. ‘‘The government doesn’t have the necessary work force.’’

Discussions continue far from Dhaka, in places such as Geneva and Frankfurt, among union leaders and retailers about the best ways of distributing money, and for working with local officials.

A group of more than 39 retailers, mostly European, have pledged as much as $500,000 each for five consecutivet years in one major fire and safety monitoring agreement. They have also agreed to pay for upgrades with suppliers.

At a May 23 meeting in Geneva, the International Labor Organization together with retailers discussed hiring a safety inspector and team, and pinpointed factories with urgent needs under that agreement, which will cover 2,000 factories, according to Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary of UNI Global Union.

Though unlikely to start in June, inspections will begin in the coming months, she said.

Five years of renovations and retrofits could cost Western retailers and Bangladesh owners as much as $600,000 a factory, or $3 billion during the next five years, according to an estimate by the Workers Right Consortium of Washington.

Don't worry; they will just add it on to the price of the shirt.


"450 garment factory workers fall ill in Bangladesh" AP,  June 07, 2013

WASHINGTON — A prominent Democratic senator Thursday pushed for suspending duty-free privileges to Bangladesh.

Okay, I wrote in an earlier post on this issue that is not the way to go. Why punish the poor Bangladeshis?

American retailers that source products from factories in Bangladesh also came under pressure at a Senate hearing to adopt common safety standards to prevent a repeat of the April 24 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka that killed 1,127 people.

‘‘No one will want to wear a piece of clothing made in Bangladesh if it’s on the blood of workers,’’ said New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

I don't want a U.S. Senator mucking around with underaged prostitutes, either, but there he is.

World commerce doesn't seem to bothered by it, either, especially stock exchanges.

President Obama will decide by the end of June whether to curtail Bangladesh’s trade privileges. Under the current rules, Bangladesh can export nearly 5,000 products duty-free to the United States, its leading market.

Okay, we'll keep a lookout for that.


What about the headline? What happened to the ill Bangladeshis?

"US suspends Bangladesh trade privileges" by Matthew Pennington |  Associated Press,  June 28, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced Thursday the suspension of US trade privileges for Bangladesh because of concerns about labor rights and worker safety that intensified after hundreds of people died in the global garment industry’s worst accident.

Obama said Bangladesh was not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to employees in the South Asian country.

US Trade Representative Mike Froman said the United States will, however, start new discussions with Bangladesh on improving working conditions so the duty-free benefits that cover some 5,000 products can be restored. He did not say when that might be, noting it would depend on the actions of Bangladesh.

Thursday’s announcement was the culmination of a yearslong review of labor conditions in the impoverished country. Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for the step since the April 24 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, which killed 1,129 people. In November, a fire at a garment factory killed more than 100 people.

‘‘The recent tragedies that needlessly took the lives of over 1,200 Bangladeshi garment factory workers have served to highlight some of the serious shortcomings in worker rights and workplace safety standards in Bangladesh,’’ Froman said.

Related: Pritzker Confirmation Proves Bipartisanship 

The president's Sherpa!

The Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP, which is designed to boost the economies of developing nations, covers less than 1 percent of Bangladesh’s nearly $5 billion in exports to the United States, its largest market. The benefits do not cover the lucrative garment sector, but Bangladesh’s government was anxious to keep them.

The action may not exact a major and immediate economic toll, but it carries a reputational cost and might deter American companies from investing in the country, one of the world’s poorest.

So, what, this doesn't really mean anything, going to be lifted soon, and its all about the imagery and illusion of company sales?

The US action, which takes effect in 60 days, also may sway a decision by the European Union, which is considering withdrawing GSP privileges. EU action could have a much bigger economic impact because its duty-free privileges cover garments, which account for 60 percent of Bangladesh’s exports in that sector.

The US trade representative’s review of labor conditions in Bangladesh follows a petition filed in 2007 by the AFL-CIO seeking withdrawal of the GSP benefits. The review was expedited late last year amid concern from US lawmakers about deadly industrial accidents, deteriorating labor rights, and the April 2012 killing of prominent labor activist Aminul Islam — a case that has not been solved.

I remember seeing something about that.

Froman said that despite close engagement with Bangladesh to encourage labor reforms, the United States had not seen sufficient progress. But he said the United States was ‘‘committed to working with the government of Bangladesh to take the actions necessary to rejoin the program.’’

Bangladesh maintains it is doing all it can by closing dangerous factories and moving to amend its labor law.

Calls from both House and Senate Democrats for US benefits to be curtailed had multiplied since the Rana Plaza deaths, and some of those lawmakers quickly welcomed Thurday’s decision.

Congressman Joe Crowley, a New York Democrat who is cochairman of the congressional caucus on Bangladesh, said that in light of recent tragedies in the country, the suspension was ‘‘inevitable.’’

‘‘I hope this action will propel Bangladeshi officials to develop a clear path forward that protects all workers in Bangladesh,’’ he said. 

Of course, the multinational U.S. retailers are going to step up, too, right?


"Companies adopt safety plan for Bangladesh factories; But US retailers go their own way" by Anne D’Innocenzio |  Associated Press, July 09, 2013

NEW YORK — A group of primarily European retailers and clothing makers plans to inspect factories in Bangladesh that make garments for the companies within the next nine months and will concentrate renovations on those that pose the biggest safety threat.

And until then?

The 70 companies include Swedish retailer H&M, Italian clothing maker Benetton, and French retailer Carrefour.

Under the companies’ agreement, they are required to pay administrative costs for the inspections, training, and other programs. They are also responsible for ensuring that ‘‘sufficient funds are available to pay for renovations and other safety improvements.’’

The details of the five-year pact came after negotiations with worker rights’ groups and other organizations on how the plan should be carried out.....

Stores and clothing makers face increasing pressure to step up oversight of Bangladeshi factories following a building collapse in April that killed 1,129 workers. The deadliest acccident in the history of the garment industry, it came months after a fire in another garment factory in Bangladesh in November killed 112 workers.

Do they? I'm not getting any $en$e of that out here from the American people or anyone for that matter.

Only a handful of US companies have committed to the global pact; they include PVH Corp., the parent of Tommy Hilfiger, and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Many US merchants say they were averse to signing the pact because it would expose them to unlimited liability.

Is that the excu$e they are u$ing? Lame.

Instead, Walmart, Gap, and others are part of a coalition of US merchants and garment makers developing an alternative plan. Details are expected Wednesday....

Oh, I can't wait!!


"North American firms detail Bangladesh safety pact" by Anne D’Innocenzio |  Associated Press, July 11, 2013

NEW YORK — A group of nearly 20 North American retailers and clothing makers has agreed to a five-year pact aimed at improving safety conditions at Bangladesh factories that seeks to spread accountability across a wide spectrum from the local government to factory owners.

Translation: They want to blame somebody else.

As part of the pact, the group — which includes Walmart Stores Inc., Gap Inc., and Target Corp. — agreed to inspect all the factories they do business with within a year and set up basic safety standards within three months. They’re also requiring that the inspection results of the factories be made public. They will then develop action plans for the factories that need improvement.

Just wanted you to see what sellers are getting their stuff from sweatshops as they rake down record profits quarter after quarter. And it's back-to-school $ea$on! Off to a $low $tart, are we?

The alliance has provided $42 million in funding so far and said that figure is growing. The mandatory costs of the program for each company will depend on how much business each of the retailers does in Bangladesh, but will be capped at $1 million per year. Some companies will offer an additional $100 million in loans to help factories improve safety.

Why does this "deal" look like it is benefitting Walmart, Gap, and Target?

The pressure has been building for companies to step up their monitoring of factories in Bangladesh following a building collapse in April that killed 1,129 workers there. The tragedy, the deadliest accident in the history of the garment industry, came just months after a fire in another garment factory in Bangladesh in November killed 112 workers.

The accord, announced Wednesday at a press conference in Washington, comes as US retailers faced criticism for not joining a group of mostly European retailers in signing a separate safety pact that now has 72 companies involved.

In other words, this is all public relations propaganda for image purposes. 

That global pact was announced in mid-May and had initially 30 companies on board. More details of the global accord were announced Monday after weeks of negotiations with worker rights groups and union groups.

US retailers say they are averse to that agreement because they believe it exposes them to unlimited liability. They also say the pact sought major funding by private businesses without providing accountability for how the money is spent. They also believed that it gave union groups too much power. 

Oh, well, THERE YA' GO!!!!!

During the press conference, executives from Gap, Target, Walmart, and VF Corp. spent most of their time talking about the similarities of both plans. They said both emphasize collaboration, public reporting of factory inspections, and worker rights.


But they also said they want to work together with participants in the global accord to create uniform safety standards instead of competing ones.


The North American alliance covers about 500 factories and a majority of the clothing exports from Bangladesh to North American companies. The global pact covers 800 to 1,000 factories. About 25 percent of the garment exports from Bangladesh go to North America; the rest goes to Europe and other countries. There are about 5,000 garment factories in the country.

Translation: it is a vital economic lifeline in an already impoverished country.


Where did they come up with that plan anyway?

"US retailers disclose new factory safety plan" by Steven Greenhouse |  New York Times,  May 31, 2013

Feeling pressure from consumer and labor groups for not doing more to ensure factory safety in Bangladesh, Walmart, Gap, and numerous other retailers along with the nation’s main retail federations are seeking to forge a new plan to promote safety in that country’s apparel industry.

This effort, to be spearheaded by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit group based in Washington, was announced on Thursday, 2½ weeks after dozens of retailers and apparel companies, almost all of them European, announced a far-reaching plan aimed at ensuring factory safety in Bangladesh. 


The plan was developed by rich corporate interests! That's who agenda-pu$hing nonprofits work for, and that is why they are so prominent in my paper.

As part of the new effort, the National Retail Federation and the American Apparel and Footwear Association, as well as Gap, JCPenney, Sears, Target, Walmart, and other retailers, will seek to “develop and implement a new program to improve fire and safety regulations in the garment factories of Bangladesh,” according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.

This effort will be led by two prominent members of that group, former Senators George J. Mitchell, a Democrat, and Olympia J. Snowe, a Republican, both from Maine.

But some labor advocates called the effort divisive and a sham after a factory building collapsed in Bangladesh on April 24, killing at least 1,127 workers....

What, all these good people doing something biparti$an? How can you be against that?

US retailers have faced protests and a flood of Facebook posts, urging them to join.

In assessing the new plan by US retailers, Richard M. Locke, a specialist on overseas manufacturing at the Sloan School of Management at MIT, said, “I think they must be feeling the heat because people are asking them, ‘Why don’t you join this other initiative?’ ”

Locke added: “The idea that you would bring all these people together in this new effort is a good first step. But I don’t think it’s good to have competing initiatives.”

Philip J. Jennings, general secretary of Uni Global Union, a worldwide federation of 20 million retail and service workers that helped develop the initial Bangladesh factory safety plan, criticized the new effort.

“It’s a sham,” he said. “There is no valid reason why they can’t join the initiative we have launched. It has been well received,” he said, adding, “Now they seem to want to paddle their own canoe on their own terms.”

But they don't want to divide! 

You know, when you look back on this and compare it to the crap you were fed above afterward, it really shows up the corporate AmeriKan pre$$ for the turd it is.

Officials from several US retailers have voiced concern that their companies would face large legal liability if they were to join the European-dominated plan. But several backers of that accord say the Americans are shying away because they dislike the binding obligations and potential costs of the plan.

Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a factory monitoring group, said the new effort would “contain no real obligation on the part of brands and retailers to pay for the building renovations necessary to convert deathtraps in Bangladesh into safe factories.”

That's why I fall behind on so many things. Despite the news of the day, nothing ever really changes from the status quo unless it is the endless advancement of the agenda, for good or ill --and that is exactly what it is making me and why this blog is shit.


It's literally back to business for my Jewish War Press:

"Islamist, 91, gets 90 years in Bangladesh" Associated Press, July 16, 2013

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A 91-year-old former chief of an Islamic party in Bangladesh was sentenced to 90 years in jail on Monday for crimes against humanity during the country’s 1971 independence war, angering supporters who said the trial was politically motivated and opponents who said he should be executed.

Related: No More Nazis 

Which means we have another 30+ years before Bush and Bliar are rounded up, huh?

A special tribunal of three judges announced the decision against Ghulam Azam in a packed courtroom in Dhaka. The panel said the former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party deserved capital punishment, but received a jail sentence instead because of his advanced age and poor health.

Azam was in the dock when the verdict was delivered while protesters outside rallied to demand his execution. Both the defense and the prosecution said they will appeal.

Azam led Jamaat-e-Islami in then-East Pakistan in 1971 when Bangladesh became independent through a bloody war. He is among several Jamaat-e-Islami leaders convicted by a tribunal formed in 2010 by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to try those accused of collaborating with the Pakistani Army in the war.

Meaning his side lost. If you win you are a victorious ally.

Bangladesh says the Pakistani Army killed 3 million people and raped 200,000 women during the nine-month war, and some 10 million people took shelter across the border in India.

Azam led the party until 2000 and is still considered to be its spiritual leader. Jamaat-e-Islami claims his trial and others were politically motivated.

News outlets said at least three Jamaat-e-Islami activists were killed in parts of Bangladesh on Monday.

Azam had openly campaigned against the creation of Bangladesh and routinely met with Pakistan authorities during the war.