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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

Trade unions gather and disseminate data on child labour

Within trade unions and other organizations there has been an increasing recognition that basic data is scarce, and that local circumstances need to be considered in project planning. Therefore, trade unions work alongside other partners in the collection of data and the monitoring of child labour. This is an area that is becoming increasingly important, and it is likely that trade unions will expand their involvement in this field in the future. Situational analyses and needs assessments, evaluations, and information exchanges among partner organizations are essential for sound programme development. Sometimes trade union organizations have conducted surveys in particular sectors. In other instances, the research is undertaken by other agents such as universities (see also Chapter 3).

Box 7.4. Direct action by trade unions

The programme of the Bangladesh Building and Woodworkers' Federation (BBWWF) attends to children working in informal construction industries in two locations. It provides 300 working children with access to government-sponsored schools and a "food for education" programme. It also raises awareness among adult construction workers, trade union leaders and parents of working children about the hazards of child labour and the advantages of education.

The Metal Workers' Union of Bangladesh is involved in a programme to remove child labourers from hazardous conditions in automobile, welding and engineering workshops. It has provided non-formal education and technical training to 60 children, who were also given food and stipends after they were withdrawn from work. After completing this training activity, older children found work, and younger ones continued their training with an NGO.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines assisted three NGOs which help abused child workers. When the telephone help line identified a serious problem among child domestic helpers, trade union lawyers assisted in removing the children from their employers' homes. Despite considerable difficulties and obstruction from the employers, who had paid a cash sum for the children, the children were eventually removed to a safe place.

The Rural Workers' Union of Petrolina in Brazil organized a project for child agricultural labourers who were working long hours and handling hazardous agrochemicals. These children were removed from work and given complementary education, as well as help with formal education. They were introduced to horticultural skills, together with their parents and communities. This project will now expand to another area and will provide training in raising birds, handicrafts and marketing.

Box 7.5. Mobilizing trade unions against child labour

In Nepal, the trade unions were somewhat ambivalent about the issue of child labour until 1995, when the national-level trade unions asked IPEC to organize a workshop on child labour. During the workshop trade unions identified how they could help combat child labour in tea plantations, carpet manufacturing and Construction industries, and also among the street sweepers of Kathmandu. Since then unions have been a strong force in the nationwide campaign against child labour. Workers' and employers' organizations and NGOs are currently working together to implement a programme to eliminate child bonded labour.

In India, the All India Trades Union Council (AITUC) mobilized their members against child labour in slate mining in Markapur, Andhra Pradesh:

"The slate mines in Markapur were 30 feet deep and the children working in them were mostly under 12. Women and children in the slate mines were getting the same wages. Labour laws were flouted and safety measures were non-existent. We were horrified by the scenes in Markapur, especially the sight of little ones climbing down deep mines with trembling feet. A visit to Markapur sensitized our workers more than all our workshops."

(Armajeet Kaur, All India Secretary of the AlTUC)