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close this bookAction Against Child Labour (ILO; 2000; 356 pages)
View the documentPreface
Open this folder and view contents1. National policies and programmes
Open this folder and view contents2. Towards improved legislation
Open this folder and view contents3. Improving the knowledge base on child labour
Open this folder and view contents4. Alternatives to child labour
Open this folder and view contents5. Strategies to address child slavery
Open this folder and view contents6. Strategies for employers and their organizations
close this folder7. Trade unions against child labour
View the documentINTRODUCTION
Open this folder and view contents7.1 WHY CHILD LABOUR IS A TRADE UNION ISSUE
Open this folder and view contents7.2 HOW TRADE UNIONS ARE FIGHTING CHILD LABOUR
close this folder7.3 WHAT A TRADE UNION CAN DO
View the documentTen-point action guide
View the documentBibliography on trade union action
Open this folder and view contents8. Awareness-raising
Open this folder and view contents9. Action by community groups and NGOs
Open this folder and view contents10. Resources on child labour
View the documentOther ILO publications
View the documentBack Cover

Ten-point action guide

1 Investigation

Gathering data on child labour is an essential contribution to its eradication. Data can be gathered formally or informally, and, if necessary, under disguise. For example, in India, trade unionists posed as tourists to gather evidence, through photographs and stories, to expose the abuse of child labour in slate mines in Markapur.

Box 7.12. Sialkot football campaign

The IPEC programme in Sialkot, Pakistan, for the elimination of child labour in the manufacturing of footballs was started in December 1997. The programme is the result of a chain of events which was begun by an international campaign launched by the trade union movement more than a year earlier.

In early 1996, the ICFTU started an international campaign highlighting the use of child labour in the production of footballs bearing the emblems "FIFA-approved" and "Euro 96" (marking the European football championship being held that year). The campaign drew media attention to child labour in football production, particularly in Sialkot, and FIFA agreed to investigate.

Later that year, FIFA agreed to discuss with the ICFTU, ITGLWF, and FIET a code of labour practice. The code was agreed in September 1996 (see box 7.9).

In November 1996, the World Federation of Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) organized a special conference on child labour in London and the FIFA code of labour practice was discussed. The WFSGI, together with the Soccer Industry Council of America, which represent more than 50 sporting goods brands, launched an initiative to eliminate child labour from the production of footballs in Pakistan.

Following this initiative a Partners' Agreement was signed by the ILO, UNICEF and the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Atlanta, United States, in February 1997, for the purpose of implementing a joint project to eliminate child labour in football production in Sialkot. Project activities started in December 1997.

The trade union campaign against child labour in football production is an example in which an international campaign has encouraged and made it possible for concrete action to be taken at national and local levels.

Trade unions can:

• gather stones, pictures and other evidence from children engaged in labour, and their families;
• assess the working environment in which children are working;
• record where child labour is being used;
• take part in national or industry-wide surveys;
• work with others to help examine child labour in the informal sector; and
• disseminate the information gathered.

2 Institutional development

Trade unions need to establish an effective infrastructure to coordinate anti-child labour activities, and to raise awareness among members. This process can enhance trade union membership and provide a useful focus for solidarity. Most international trade union organizations have established child labour units, and are building child labour issues into their other technical assistance programmes.

Institutional development can include efforts to:

• form study circles on child labour as part of training and membership development;
• set up child labour committees and/or a child labour unit within unions;
• develop child labour liaison groups;
• include the issue of child labour in ongoing training programmes;
• design and develop materials for trade union courses;
• liaise with national trade union organizations; and
• attend and organize local, national or international seminars on the subject.

3 Policy development

Policies should be used in everyday practice, and should not be a "paper tiger" with no impact in the real world. Policies should be judged by the benefits that accrue when they are implemented in workplaces or communities. Policy statements should arise out of a process of information-sharing and consultation, so that the "ownership" of the commitment to the policy is felt by a large number of people. Only then will action follow.

Policy statements can be used to:

• put child labour on the agenda of meetings for discussion and action;
• communicate and disseminate via newsletters, displays, radio, etc.;
• organize and attend workshops, seminars and conferences; and
• liaise with other child labour activists and youth organizations.

4 Monitoring

Trade unions are well placed to observe and monitor the use of child labour, and to bring to the forefront of public attention breaches of collective agreements and codes of conduct. Monitoring requires continuous overview, not simply reporting violations. This allows trade unions to keep track of how bargaining agreements and codes are being implemented, and any gains and losses which result.

Through monitoring activities, trade unions can:

• bring child labour cases to light;
• report violations to authorities;
• lobby national authorities in relation to national and international standards; and
• track compliance under these agreements and standards.

5 Awareness-raising

Trade unions can engage in awareness-raising activities on various trade union issues through education and training programmes at the workplace. Child labour issues can be incorporated into ongoing workers' education programmes. Alternatively, specific workshops can be used to focus attention on child labour.

Box 7.13. How to start raising awareness

Awareness-raising is personal and political. Trade unions need to consider the context in which they are working, and begin to work accordingly. If a trade union does not have experience of local or national campaigning, it can consult with those who have been active to develop an appropriate strategy.

For those at the very beginning of campaigning, this checklist might be useful:

seek the support of your trade union;

consult with others who have experience in other unions or national organizations, or others working in your community;

seek to build alliances with others who share your commitment locally and nationally;

work in a small group and keep in touch with a bigger network;

find out what is happening in your area (where and how children are employed, what support is available for them and their families), and gather other relevant information to discuss with your trade union;

avoid problems: work alongside others when necessary and appropriate. Long-term sustainable solutions are necessary and short-term "fixes" can cause more harm than good;

plan activities such as seminars and discussion groups;

publicize issues appropriately and sensitively;

have a strategy for response, e.g. if local media contact your union; and

use publicity materials where appropriate.

It is useful to remember that:

cultural and social issues can prevent change or make it difficult;

economic incentives are sometimes necessary, e.g. payment-in-kind, free schooling or food;

short-term benefits alone will not change behaviour without long-term planning; and

raising awareness is not always visible.

What about the media?

Trade unions have had considerable success in campaigning through the media at the local level, particularly through local language radio, and at the national and international levels through newspapers, television, radio and other electronic means. Involving the media needs to be part of a carefully coordinated campaign, and is not likely to be a first step for any trade union.

Some early campaigns have used publicity to expose the employment of children. However, this direct approach can cause problems for the children and their families, and it is now usual to carefully plan, manage and coordinate campaigns.

What if we do not have child labour in our industry?

Trade unions, even if they find little or no child labour in the sector that they organize, can still take action. For example, bank workers in Thailand were able to come to an agreement with employers that the banks would not make loans to businesses in which child labour was being used. If you want to contribute to a national or international campaign in your sector, contact your national organization for advice. Your trade union could support their work, and help with networking, gathering data or other strategies.

What if employers refuse to let unionists campaign?

Contact your national organization for advice and guidance.

Raising awareness needs to be done in a way which is appropriate to the target groups and takes into account existing levels of consciousness. Trade unions can organize seminars for their members, working children, employers, specific communities, youth organizations, NGOs and the general public.

Raising awareness and social mobilization can include efforts to:

• develop child labour modules in ongoing education programmes;
• organize seminars, conferences and workshops on child labour;
• use trade union media and the mass media;
• work alongside other organizations such as women's and youth organizations;
• work with employers' organizations and NGOs;
• work with families of child labourers; and
• work with teachers and social workers.

6 Campaigning

Trade union campaigns can:

• mobilize membership through awareness-raising, and work towards policy commitment;

• mobilize unorganized workers, marginal workforces or workers within a local community, including families of child labourers;

• lobby local authorities over enforcement of regulations and standards, and for appropriate educational provisions and/or reform;

• support the implementation of standards; and

• take part in industry- or sector-specific national and global campaigns, e.g. to promote codes of conduct and labour standards.

7 Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining agreements that have clauses excluding the employment of children directly benefit the eradication programme. These clauses also make it possible for the trade unions to work with employers' organizations to develop or implement relevant codes of conduct. Where codes of conduct have been agreed, trade unions can use these to back up collective bargaining agreements that prohibit child labour.

In relation to the eradication of child labour, collective bargaining can include measures to:

• build the prohibition of child labour into agreements;

• bargain for reform of task/piece-work systems pending their abolition;

• develop model agreements with employers on an industry-wide basis; and

• use and adapt model agreements and codes of conduct developed by international and national trade union organizations.

8 Direct support to children

Trade unions can:

• work to remove children from high risk and hazardous conditions;

• rehabilitate child labourers with non-formal education and training or relocation to appropriate work, or reduction of working hours;

• develop apprenticeship systems;

• support programmes to replace child workers with adult workers from the same family on an industry basis; and

• support development programmes in fields such as literacy, women's equality, and family income-generating activities.

9 Mobilization

Mobilization can include:

• networking with others in the labour movement;
• linking with NGOs and employers' organizations;
• establishing contacts with political organizations and the media; and
• participating in national anti-child labour coalitions.

10 Using international instruments

International labour standards can be used to support campaigns and to lobby local and national political organizations. These standards themselves are developed and strengthened when trade unions receive feedback and information on the situation on the ground.

Making use of international instruments can include:

• fact-gathering for national reporting and complaints;

• contributing to national reports; and

• supporting national affiliates to use the ILO and/or other United Nations supervisory structures and machinery.

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