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close this bookAction Against Child Labour (ILO, 2000, 356 p.)
close this folder7. Trade unions against child labour
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentTrade unions strengthen their capacity to address child labour issues
View the documentTrade unions support children, their families and communities
View the documentTrade unions raise awareness on child labour issues
View the documentTrade unions gather and disseminate data on child labour
View the documentTrade unions include child labour concerns in collective bargaining agreements
View the documentTrade unions advocate for codes of conduct
View the documentTrade unions work in partnership with NGOs, employers' organizations and governments
View the documentThe international trade union movement plays a major role

The international trade union movement plays a major role

The international trade union movement plays a key role in consumer and public awareness, and is committed to continue to advance the issue of child labour. Major initiatives have helped shape the way in which child labour campaigns are carried out, and support and resources have increased for projects in many countries.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) has played a major role in the campaign, as have the International Federation of Commercial, Clerical, Professional and Technical Employees (FIET), the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers (IFBWW), the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF) and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF).

International trade union organizations have been able to compare experiences within countries and industrial sectors. They have up-to-date information from various sectors and have access to national networks to disseminate information. They are also well placed to advise on standards and to monitor patterns of industrial activity. International workers' organizations also play a critical role in developing codes of conduct and model collective bargaining agreements.

Box 7.10. Cooperation between trade unions, NGOs and employers' organizations

In India, the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), a national confederation, has a long history of working with NGOs to set up non-formal education centres to help combat child labour. In Rajasthan, an NGO has been able to continue its support for a school for former child workers from the gem and marble industries with help from the state branch of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC). The South India Chamber of Commerce and Industry in India has worked with trade unions to reduce child labour in the stainless steel industry. This is also helping to develop trade unions and improve the conditions for all workers.

In the Philippines, a strategy for trade unions and NGOs to jointly mobilize within communities in several pilot projects has resulted in the formation of 100 volunteers known as the Trade Union Anti-Child Labour Advocates (TUCLAS), who monitor and report incidences of child worker abuse in their respective workplaces and communities. The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) formed a child labour action network in three farming and fishing communities. The members of the network include local government officials, NGOs, community organizations and local trade unions.

In Kenya, the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) have each set up child labour sections to research and raise awareness with employers and to introduce child labour issues into educational programmes and collective bargaining discussions.

Box 7.11. Gemstone production in India

In the gemstone industry in India, the employers are powerful and trade union representation is very limited. Nevertheless, the ICFTU, the Universal Alliance of Diamond Workers (UADW) and FIET have campaigned to raise awareness of child labour abuses in gemstone workshops.

"Workplaces are normally congested, poorly lit, and poorly ventilated.... These conditions, combined with long and irregular hours, cramped working positions, continuous stress and strain, are all sources of workplace sickness and injuries.

The learning process takes jive to seven years. During the first two years the child does not receive any wage except for occasional remuneration, and works for ten hours a day. After two years, the children are paid Rs. 50 a month, when they actually do work worth Rs. 250-300 a month, at the very least. By the time the children are 14 or 1 5 years old and have acquired the skill of gem polishing, they would be earning Rs. 150-200 a month whereas adults would get Rs. 5 00-600 for the same job." (Chandra Korgaokar, Indian Coordinator, UADW)

Owners avoid the law by managing a range of small, adjacent premises, but the international campaign has raised awareness within India, and in export markets. The campaign stresses that child labour is often a consequence of low wages paid to adult workers in a family, and that exploitation of all workers is a serious problem.