Eradicate Child Labour with Social Dialogue


From the farm fields of Moldova to Ghana’
s Volta Lake fisheries; from a small repair shop in India to a tobacco
plantation in Argentina… employers and trade unions are fighting to eradicate a worldwide plague: child labour. Since the creation of the ILO in 1919, trade unions and employers’ organizations
have worked both separately, and together, to bring an end to child labour. They are collaborating through tripartite
social dialogue, the interactive conversation between employers,
workers organizations and government. After almost a century of engagement in the
ILO, employers’ organizations and trade unions
are finding ever more innovative approaches to successfully eradicate the worst forms
of child labour worldwide. Starting in the late 1990’s, the General Agricultural Workers Union, known as G-A-W-U, an affiliate of Ghana’s
Trade Unions Congress, began to take action to eliminate the worst
forms of child labour all across Ghana’s vast agricultural sector
and inland fishing community. For generations, children have worked the
fisheries of Volta Lake, casting nets and diving down to free them, risking injury and death with every dive. Thanks to G-A-W-U, more than 350 children in ten communities
around the lake have been taken out of child labour and placed in schools and vocational training
programs of their choice. Many of the former child labourers now act
as peer educators, explaining to other children the dangers of
child labour. [Edwina Etekef]
To all those who are not in school, I urge them to at least learn a trade so that they can take care of themselves financially
like I am doing now. [Andrews Addoquaye]
I come from areas where we have collective agreements in place. We have a clause in the collective agreement which says that it’s the responsibility of
both the employer and the union to ensure that child labour does not exist
within the workplace so we signed this and then we are adhering
to it and then we have door to door talk with the
employers, so that child labour does not exist where
trade unions exist. The Ghana Employers’ Association has been
working with its member companies, in developing codes of conduct to eradicate
child labour throughout its members’ supply chains. So far eleven member companies are actively
implementing the code, and according to the Association about three million informal workers in Ghana’s
vast palm oil sector are affected. One of the most enthusiastic adopters of the
code has been “Norpalm, Ltd.” which produces crude palm oil for industrial
use and the domestic soap market. Ghana Employers’ Association also made a
compelling case for its members, explaining why child labour is bad for business. [Alex Frimpong]
Employers have to come to a clear understanding that anything that happens in the supply chain
will be attributed to them. [Joseph Akwesi Bawuah]
Child labour has become an international issue. So if you are an employer and you want to
remain in business, you must be anti-child labour compliant. Norpalm organized sensitization and awareness-raising
programs not only on the farms but in the surrounding villages, in cooperation
with village leaders. [John Ocran]
What the ILO and the Ghana Employers association were saying, they understood it and they accepted the challenge. They accepted the fact, that their children
are their own, and therefore they should not misuse them. In Ghana’s cocoa growing regions, the GAWU trade union took a similar approach
using social dialogue, engaging communities and traditional authorities, and organizing farmers into unions and cooperatives. The GAWU approach is comprehensive: from helping organize local clubs which stage
dramas explaining the dangers of child labour. More than 4.000 people have benefitted from
GAWU’s initiative in all seven of the cocoa growing regions. Since the 1990s, GAWU’s campaign to eradicate child labour
has resulted in 550 children being taken out of child labour
on the palm oil plantations and placed in local schools and vocational
training. [Awuah Agyeiwaa Evelyn]
I was formally working as a child labourer in the oil palm industry, but GAWU came to educate us and our parents, and gave us all that we needed to go to school. I had never thought I would ever go to school
but GAWU helped me get all I needed for school. Now I have completed junior high school and
am waiting for my examination results. Employers in Salta, Argentina have finally
broken the long tradition of child labour in the tobacco plantations. [Jose Aranda]
We have eradicated child labour, for us it’s something obsolete. The Tobacco Producers’ Cooperative and the Tobacco Chamber of Salta did it with
the introduction of new technology, and a special program called “Harvest Gardens”
where children of farm families can be cared for. While their parents work the tobacco fields, the children spend the day supervised by trusted
teachers, playing games, getting exercise, and enjoying meals together. [Marina Briones]
Today, we have 350 children in Salta, and 300 in Jujuy -which means 650 children
altogether. And the engagement we took with the Ministry
for Social Development and ILO, which helped us a lot in implementing all
the Gardens, is that this experience should be extended
to other agricultural sectors, and not only tobacco. The Network of Companies Against Child Labour,
simply known as “The Network” has 90 employers committed to eradicating
child labour, and works in close partnership with the Ministry
of Labour and its National Commission on the Eradication of Child Labour, known as CONAETI. For parents like Silvia Bravo, who herself
worked the tobacco fields as a child, there’s a brighter future for her daughter. [Silvia Bravo]
The difference between my childhood and hers is that she’s enjoying everything I haven’t
been able to. When I was young, I had to work, one deals
with the responsibilities. I realize now that I’ve missed many stages
of my life. I didn’t experience the joy of coming here
sharing and playing with other kids, acting in a play. I didn’t do any of that and she’s enjoying
possibilities I never had. In Moldova, the National Federation of Employers
in Agriculture and the Food Industry, known as F-N-P-A-I-A, worked with its members to develop a Code
of Conduct for employers. The Code gives employers practical methods
to eradicate the worst forms of child labour, and helps them comply with national laws preventing
minors from working in their enterprises. [Alexandru Slusari]
The spirit of the Code emphasizes that agri-employers have a firm commitment to eliminate the worst forms of child labour
in agriculture. 1500 Moldovan employers, all members of FNPAIA, adopted the Code of Conduct in their own agri-businesses. FNPAIA also did extensive awareness-raising to make ordinary people aware of the need
for children to be in school and not in hazardous work. The campaign’s slogan: “A child’s place
is at school, and a child’s work is to study” became known all across Moldova. [Zinaida Gutsu]
I read the Code of Conduct. I know that children should be at school, and that they should not be forced to work. The code provides an education framework better
suited for our children to learn and the pride of their families. India’s carpet industry has long been engaged
in the fight against child labour, especially among the many small suppliers
and subcontractors that depend on the carpet industry. Many companies are fighting back, refusing
to work with any supplier or craftsman who uses illegal child labour. [V.J. Sharma]
We made them understand very clearly, that if those of them who were using child
labour continued to do so, and we came to know about it, we would blacklist
them. To enforce their policy, employers like OBEETEE
Carpets constantly monitor their tens of thousands of looms and weaving operations across India. The inspectors’ detailed audits are based
on international labour standards and ILO conventions
against child labour. Each supplier knows a company inspector will
be showing up, without warning, at least once every two weeks. The employers are also funding education for
the children of carpet workers. At the Project Mala school in Guria, all the children’s books, materials and
mid-day meals are free, paid for by employers committed to fighting
child labour. Kallu Prasad Patel worked as a carpet weaver
as a child, but was eventually admitted to the Project
Mala school. Now he is a teacher there. [Kallu Prasad Patel]
All our efforts at Project Mala are to ensure the children grow up to be successful
individuals, to be doctors and engineers, to make us proud. That is what we expect from our children. In India’s Tamil Nadu State, small repair shops have long used children
to perform hazardous work such as welding. Now, trade unions are using social dialogue
to team up with local government and small business owners
to fight the worst forms of child labour. One local trade union rescued 95 child labourers
in the Erode District, and gave them the chance to go to school like
other children. [K.R.Thangaraju]
To eliminate child labour completely, the government has to monitor it and be completely
involved by giving their 100%. The government of India should ratify the
convention no. 138 and 182. All over the world, workers and employers
are engaged in this fight to end child labour. Social dialogue has been a key tool to galvanise
global attention on the scourge of child labour. This was proven by the unanimous adoption
of ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child
labour by governments, workers and employers. Through social dialogue, the ILO’s tripartite constituents are not
only able to tackle the causes of child labour, but they are also able to eliminate it in
a sustainable manner. [Maria del Pilar Rey Mendez]
I think we’ve both learned from each other, and managed to create an atmosphere of commitment
and trust. [Daniel Funes de Rioja]
We have to distance ourselves from the paradigm of confrontation, each side being pulled by their own interests; we need to work together with workers’ representatives, as well as with governments and international
organisms to help in the process. [Luc Cortebeeck]
The unions are committed to end child labour and through social dialogue we are able to
achieve two things: I think firstly to ensure the immediate removal
of the children in child labour situation but secondly of course, the possibility in
negotiation in social dialogue to work on education, to work on wages, on minimum wages, to work
on social protection, to work on the informal economy, so I think there are two issues where the
social dialogue is very important and we need of course the employers and the employers need us and we need the
governments to work together. That’s why social dialogue is one of the
very important success factors, or could be one of the important success factor
to the eradication of child labour. Social dialogue is a force for change… changing attitudes, assumptions, and toward building a more productive, prosperous
future, for everyone, without child labour. [Asamoah Baah]
Ye, it is important that a child goes to school because children are the future leaders of
the country. Any child who refuses to go to school now
can never contribute meaningfully to the development of the country in the future. As the ILO approaches its next century, governments, employers and trade unions are
continuing their work together… and continuing their efforts to eradicate
the worst forms of child labour through social dialogue and concrete actions
on the ground.

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