The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

The CBA responds to ILO’s call for input on child labour

June 14 2017 14 June 2017

Child labour has largely been eradicated in First-World countries yet people who congratulate themselves for not forcing their country’s children to work for pennies also benefit from that kind of labour elsewhere, by paying lower prices for consumer goods.

It’s part of the reason why child labour is such a seemingly intractable problem – world governments failed in their goal to end the worst forms of child labour by 2016. Now the 2015 sustainable development have reiterated the call for an end to child labour. Goal 8.7 sets a goal of 2025 for ending child labour in all its forms– just eight years from now.

At last year’s midwinter meeting, CBA Council voted to adopt Model Business Principles to Combat Forced Labour, Labour Trafficking and Illegal or Harmful Child Labour drafted by a CCCA working group. The resolution urged Canadian lawyers and businesses to adopt and implement their own business and supply chain principles consistent with those principles.

The International Labour Organization has taken a leadership role on the issue, and has sent out a survey looking for civil society input ahead of this fall’s IV Global Conference on the Sustainable Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires.

The CCCA has responded to the survey, “reflecting the CBA’s commitment to the issue of eliminating child labour – and the legal profession’s pivotal role in advising businesses on corporate social responsibility, governance and legal and reporting obligations.”

Among other questions, the survey asks which thematic areas the conference should address, what kinds of actions should take priority, and how to maximize the efficiency of those actions. The CBA agrees that an integrated approach is the best way to tackle the issue.

“Governments, global regulators, academia, organized labour and businesses (especially those with international supply chains and global operations) should ensure that third parties in their supply chains adopt practices that comply with applicable employment and labour laws and regulations, as well as with internationally proclaimed human rights,” the CCCA says, including requirements for minimum wages, working hours, overtime, days of rest, compensation and freedom of association.

“The adoption of employment practices that prohibit harmful child labour, forced labour … should also be required by both governments and businesses in their respective supply chains.”

Civil society organizations can work with industry groups to develop common industry standards and help broaden efforts to combat these labour practices.

The CCCA also calls for better information-gathering on the issue. A 2013 ILO report said an estimated 168 million children – almost 11 per cent of the global child population – were part of the child labour force. It’s not possible to know the exact number.

“The private sector has an indispensable role to play in the fight against child labour,” the CCCA says. “One way for individual companies to contribute is to adhere strictly to national laws and regulations that restrict conditions under which children can be employed. … Companies can play an effective role by setting high standards on workers’ rights and the use of child labour in their own operations, as well as by seeking to extend those standards generally among the business community.”

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