Nearly 100 representatives from multinational garment corporations, social audit firms, garment manufacturers, trade unions, civil society, government agencies and the United Nations attended the International Consultation on Roadmap 2016 and the Garment-Manufacturing Sector organised by Global March Against Child Labour. The one-day consultation was held in New Delhi, India, on 11 May 2011 – the first anniversary of the acclamation of Roadmap 2016 at the Global Child Labour Conference in The Hague, Netherlands, 10-11 May 2010. Marking this special anniversary was important to Global March and its members in terms of reminding the international community of its renewed commitments last year to accelerating efforts and support to eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016.
Opening speakers launch call for action
The event benefited from rich contributions from experts on child labour, decent work standards, government policy and legislation and garment manufacturing processes. In his opening address, Global March Chairperson Mr Kailash Satyarthi called on participants to unite in their efforts to tackle child labour in the garment supply chain in India, regionally and globally and to strengthen coherence and collaboration between stakeholders and programmes in this endeavour.
Echoing the comments by Mr Satyarthi, Ms Tine Staermose, Director of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India, highlighted the importance of meaningful partnerships to target child labour between different agencies and stakeholders. She reminded participants of the high population of child labourers in India and in the wider Asia-Region and, with world business increasingly focused on sourcing goods and services from India and South Asia, she emphasised the importance for national partnerships on child labour to have a regional and global face.
Addressing participants on behalf of the Indian government, Mr Ashok Singh, Chairman of the Central Board for Workers’ Education, Ministry of Labour and Employment, underlined the importance that the government attaches to the issue and efforts to address it. He welcomed the consultation and its focus areas and expressed the hope that the outcomes would contribute to national responses to the child labour problem. Representing the Embassy of the Netherlands in New Delhi which supported the establishment of the national multi-stakeholder initiative on child labour in the garment sector, Mr Tom Maasen, Head of the Political Section, welcomed the progress made by the group over the past 18 months and hoped it would continue its important work. The Dutch Embassy appreciated the focus on Roadmap 2016 and its follow-up given the involvement of the Dutch government in this event in 2010 as the host country and co-organiser with the ILO.
‘Business as usual’ is not an option
In introducing the objectives of the consultation, rapporteur, Mr Peter McAllister, Executive Director of the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI) in the UK, and Global March Director Mr Nick Grisewood emphasised the importance of reviewing the needs and expectations of stakeholders and identifying effective ways to address these. Change is clearly vital as child labour remains a problem in the garment supply chain. The consultation programme had been designed to facilitate discussions on building, documenting and promoting successful models of intervention and to encourage broader and deeper collaboration among and between existing multi-stakeholder initiatives to avoid duplication of effort and resources. As the areas of corporate social responsibility and ethical trade are still relatively recent, it would be important for stakeholders to review progress to date and use this knowledge to help shape the evolution of these areas which are increasingly important in business and development decision-making. A further objective was to take into account the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and potentially to consider the broader regional context in child labour elimination in the garment supply chain.
Panel discussion brings together different stakeholder perspectives
An important element of the review process involved a panel discussion bringing together representatives from the main stakeholder groups. The aim was to focus on policy and legislative aspects of child labour elimination in the garment sector and ensure the presentation of different perspectives of the challenges that still exist and how these might be addressed. The panel was moderated by Mr Frans Roselaers, Global March Governing Board member and former Director of the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).
Included on the panel were:
- Mr Ben Smith, Senior Corporate Social Responsibility Officer, ILO-IPEC;
- Mr Piyush Sharma, Joint Labour Commissioner, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi;
- Mr Peter McAllister, Executive Director, ETI;
- Ms Chandrima Chatterjee, Director (Compliance), Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), India;
- Mr N.M. Muddappa, General Secretary, Garment Workers Union (GWU), Karnataka, India;
- Ms Lakshmi Menon Bhatia, Advisor, Social Responsibility, Gap Inc., and Director, Stakeholder Engagement, Fair Labor Association (FLA).
Mr Smith welcomed the initiative of the Global March and the focus on the follow-up to Roadmap 2016 in the context of the garment sector. He highlighted the challenge of child labour in informal manufacturing processes and the need for broader collective action when it overlaps with the formal supply chains, linking into national development efforts on poverty reduction, education and social protection. He emphasised the key importance of collective action, pointing out that although the government is the primary guardian of children’s rights, it cannot fulfil its role without the support of national social partners and civil society actors. The central focus of collective action and shared responsibility is underscored in Roadmap 2016 which references supply chain action, including collaboration with the business community, further reinforcing the timely organisation of the consultation and its call for dialogue on common action by stakeholders.
Drawing on the experience of ETI, an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations working together to improve labour standards in different sectors, Mr McAllister listed key points to be addressed in tackling child labour in the garment supply chain, including: capacity-building of different actors in the supply chain; establishing relationships between supply chain actors and other stakeholders; and ensuring transparency of the supply chain and the large-scale contracting that make the supply chain more vulnerable to situations of child labour and poor working conditions. He suggested that multi-stakeholder initiatives should provide a freer space and shared responsibilities for all stakeholders leading to concrete action.
‘Convergence’ will strengthen child labour elimination
Indian legislation targets child labour and children’s development generally and Mr Sharma highlighted the key references in his presentation, including the right to free and compulsory education to the age of 14. He also pointed out to participants that the Indian government is giving serious consideration to the ratification of ILO Convention No. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour. He echoed calls for greater convergence to carry out more effective and sustainable action against child labour, including convergence between government departments, between laws and between the government, civil society and parents. Turning attention to child labour in the garment sector and the role of corporate social responsibility, Mr Sharma emphasised the need for employers to ensure decent working conditions for workers, including paying at least the minimum wage and, where possible, to pay a living wage as in many instances the minimum wage rates are insufficient. He also stated that companies should track their contractors and sub-contractors down to the very last link in the supply chain, pointing out that ultimate responsibility in the chain lies with the principle employer.
Turning to the industry, Ms Chatterjee explained some of the main challenges facing industry actors in the garment sector, in particular: the seasonal nature of the industry; a legislative framework which is largely unenforceable; the small-and-medium scale profile of the enterprises; non-transparency in the unorganised and lower tiers of the supply chain; and the lack of partnership. She called for greater trust and engagement in the industry and between stakeholders, reinforcing partnerships and encouraging a sense of shared responsibility and long-term commitment in ridding the supply chain of child labour.
Reflecting on the difficult situation of many workers in the industry, Mr Muddappa spoke of his experiences as a union leader in the garment industry in South India and the challenges faced by workers, especially the many young and vulnerable women in this sector. Workers often came to the union to complain of abusive behaviour by managers and employers, verbal and physical. Working conditions were exploitative, including long overtime hours which were not properly reimbursed. Work environments in many instances, particularly further down the supply chain, were unhealthy and did not take into account the needs and expectations of a workforce made up of mainly women and migrant workers. In addition, Mr Muddappa pointed out that many employers did not allow their workers to join trade unions and refused entry to their work sites by the GWU. Trade unions are central to efforts to improve the application of core labour standards along the garment supply chain and it is vital that the issue of organising is addressed. In closing the panel presentations, Ms Bhatia highlighted three primary areas for action against child labour in the garment supply chain: convergence of relevant policies and practices; collaboration among and between stakeholders; and improved communications at all levels.
Working group outcomes
In organising the consultation, Global March felt that it was important for the two main stakeholder groups – industry and non-industry actors – to benefit from a facilitated discussion based on relevant perspectives, concerns, needs and expectations for the future. Therefore, two working groups were held involving in-depth exchanges and discussions not only on the range of issues raised during the panel discussion, but on other areas of interest as well, and to begin to identify solutions that could address key challenges. Initial discussions also took place on the next steps to move the child labour elimination agenda forward.
The non-industry working group included representatives of governments, non-governmental organisations and trade unions, while the industry group included retailers, buying agents, manufacturers, social audit firms and consultancies. Following the rich and often animated exchanges within the working groups, report back sessions took place involving all participants and the main outcomes of these were summarised by the consultation rapporteur Mr McAllister.
- The garment sector as a whole echoed the expectation that business would comply with national law and international conventions.
- All stakeholders recognise that child labour is a complex problem, but all agree it has no place in the garment supply chain.
- The industry group recognised the limitations of stakeholders working alone and highlighted the need for effective partnerships. In a similar vein, the non-industry group proposed strengthening and expanding existing multi-stakeholder initiatives as an effective and efficient way forward. Both groups issued a cautionary note about the need to build trust and confidence for effective collaboration which further reinforced the call for building on existing initiatives
- While the non-industry group called for greater focus further down the supply chain, below tier 1, and greater transparency, the industry group wished to explore how responsibility would be shared down the supply chain, particularly at lower tier levels where problems become a mix of workplace and societal issues. Nevertheless, it was agreed that there should be greater collaboration between industry and non-industry below tier 1 to support effective and sustainable change, for example in particular areas of risk, such as home-workers.
- There was common agreement on the need to share knowledge and ensure key concepts and issues are understood to promote collaboration, communications, coherence and knowledge management. An example was given of joint programmes between industry and non-industry partners that promote awareness, understanding and learning. These partnerships benefit from relationships built on confidence, trust and mutual respect between stakeholders. It was felt that it would be beneficial to advance efforts in the short-term to strengthen and deepen the scope of these joint programmes, particularly that focusing specifically on child labour, at the national level in India and with a medium-term view to future scaling up to the regional level across Asia.
- It was suggested that there should be an increased role of advocacy for remediation of child labourers found working in the supply chain in line with the expressed need to engage with the government recognising their unique role in implementing the legal and policy framework and providing relevant public services, including education, social protection and health.
In his closing remarks, Mr Satyarthi welcomed the commitment, trust and engagement shown by participants representing all stakeholder groups on the elimination of child labour in the garment supply chain. The consultation had provided a unique opportunity for stakeholders to consider progress made to date and, in a context of engagement, responsibility and accountability, to discuss what still needs to be done and how to achieve the goals of Roadmap 2016. He acknowledged the shared understanding that progress would benefit significantly from efforts to broaden and deepen the scope of the existing national multi-stakeholder initiative on child labour in the garment sector, ensuring participation of other supply chain actors.
He highlighted the importance of the key themes that emerged during the consultation, including transparency, partnerships and collective action by all key stakeholders, and agreed that a greater focus on these in future would build a more robust platform at national, regional and global level. He expressed his appreciation to all participants for their engagement in the discussions and their shared commitment to end child labour, but underlined the hopes of Global March in organising the event that the consultation would not be an end in itself. Pointing out that it was vital that dialogue and consultation continued, Mr Satyarthi called for concrete time-bound action from all stakeholders that would ensure follow-up to the consultation and that sustainable measures would be taken to eliminate child labour in garment-manufacturing.
A full report of the International Consultation will be published shortly.
Garments are one of the fastest moving consumer products in the world. In addition, the garment manufacturing supply chain in many countries, particularly in the Asian region where it is concentrated, is characterised by its diverse, geographically widespread and often complex and complicated nature. A significant amount of its processes are situated in the informal sector which exposes supply chains to widespread abuse in terms of violations of core labour standards, including child labour.
Because clothes are an integral part of the daily lives of all people around the world, it is also an industrial sector that has inevitably been placed under the spotlight over the last few decades with the growth of ethical trade and consumer movements and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies and practices of business involved in all aspects of the sector, from the agricultural production of raw materials, particularly cotton, to processing, finishing and retail.
This close attention to the application of core labour standards in the garment sector has also seen the emergence of a range of important international social and business compliance initiatives, such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, the Ethical Trade Initiative, Social Accountability International, the Business Social Compliance Initiative, and many others. In addition, inter-governmental and multi-stakeholder initiatives, often involving the International Labour Organization (ILO) and sometimes other UN agencies such as UNICEF, have been launched to identify ways to support the application and enforcement of core labour standards in the garment sector, looking at opening supply chains to greater scrutiny, introducing codes of conduct, building the capacities of labour and factory inspectorates and child protection agencies, and so on.
Over the last number of years, multinational companies, particularly retailers, and national manufacturing enterprises, have introduced a wide range of CSR initiatives aimed at improving social compliance and monitoring work places and processes. These processes are in addition to state labour and factory inspection systems and are usually anchored in company-based codes of conduct. Entire CSR and social compliance departments have emerged over time, indicating the importance that many businesses attach to respect for core labour standards.
Global Framework Agreements have been negotiated and signed between multinational companies and Global Union Federations (GUFs), particularly the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF) and Union Network International (UNI) which represent workers in the manufacturing and retail sectors. These agreements include clear commitments by companies to upholding the application and enforcement of core labour standards in supply chains and highlighting the important role of trade unions in promoting decent working conditions for adult workers. National trade unions have a key role to play in promoting and defending working conditions and supporting efforts to eliminate child and forced labour within the garment-manufacturing sector.
A significant number of civil society campaigns have also been conducted over the years, often focusing on major events, such as the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup, when there would be increased activity in garment manufacturing and therefore increased vulnerability of many workers and children involved in this sector. Efforts have been made to apply social compliance or fair trade labelling schemes to the production of garments so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions.
Further trade-related issues have emerged in more recent years linked to consumer concerns and to global commitment to rights at work and children’s rights that have accelerated efforts to tackle core labour standards in this and other industrial sectors. Clearly, the main objective is to support the establishment of a clean garment supply chain in every country concerned, free of all forms of violations of fundamental rights and ensuring the application of decent work standards for all workers. This key objective is largely shared by the various stakeholder groups referred to above. However, the challenges in achieving this goal are considerable and are not only linked to problems relating to the garment industry itself, but are related to a wider range of development issues, including education, health, poverty alleviation and social justice. It is therefore vital that the policies, programmes and activities of the stakeholder groups inter-relate to ensure more coherent, meaningful, inclusive and sustainable outcomes.
The ILO’s Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour is the most widely-ratified international labour convention. It has contributed significantly to global efforts to tackle the overall problem of child labour, also encouraging increased ratifications of ILO Convention 138 on the Minimum Age of Employment. It galvanised the international community into taking strong action to protect children. In 2006, ILO member States stepped up their commitment through the adoption of a Global Action Plan which envisioned a world free of all worst forms of child labour by 2016.
However, while much has been achieved in the past decade or more in reducing the numbers of child labourers and identifying effective strategies to address the problem, progress has slowed considerably in recent years, partly due to the global economic crisis, and efforts need to be stepped up to deliver this commitment. To meet that challenge, the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, in close collaboration with the ILO, organised a Global Conference on Child Labour in The Hague, The Netherlands, from 10-11 May 2010. Its objectives included achieving universal ratification of ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182; taking immediate and effective measures to end the worst forms of child labour as a matter of urgency; and agreeing on a plan of action to accelerate intense action to reach the 2016 goal.
The outcome document from this major event, “Roadmap for Achieving the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016”1(Roadmap 2016), aimed to build on the knowledge and experience of all those involved in the fight against child labour and to provide strategic direction for the way forward. It points out that child labour is not a phenomenon that can be addressed in isolation, and that the elimination of child labour is also key to achieving many development goals. It proposes suggested priority actions for ways to step-up and accelerate action and to increase coherence and collaboration which are central to tackling child labour in all sectors, including garment-manufacturing.
The adoption of the Roadmap – a decision endorsed by the ILO’s Governing Body in November 2010 – is not an end in itself, but a means to the end goal: the elimination of the worst forms of child labour by 2016. In May 2010, the conference organisers emphasised that in the weeks and years ahead, commitment would be needed from all actors to carry forward the messages of the Roadmap and to live up to the commitment to take decisive action as a matter of urgency.
Many national governments are in the process of finalising, implementing and following up national action plans to tackle child labour. Indeed, some are processing subsequent revisions of their plans. The Roadmap is designed to accelerate these activities, ensure more effective and efficient coordination, build greater national ownership and inclusivity and improve coherence of development policies, programmes and resources by mainstreaming child labour across related development goals. Therefore, the next stage of implementation and follow-up are vitally important to give life to Roadmap 2016.
Of particular relevance to the garment-manufacturing sector, the Roadmap highlights the importance of focusing attention on sectors with highest incidences of child labour, especially in the informal economy, and the need for strong partnerships with all relevant actors to effectively and sustainably end child labour. It goes on to put emphasis on the following:
Creating an environment, together with social partners, that aims to combat child labour in supply chains.
Supporting multi-stakeholder initiatives in sectors of the economy that involve the worst forms of child labour.
1 The full document can be downloaded in English, French and Spanish at the following web address: www.ilo.org/ipecinfo/product/viewProduct.do?productId=13453
Roadmap 2016 and the Garment Sector
The international consultation “Roadmap 2016 and the Garment-Manufacturing Sector” will be held in the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India, on 11th May 2011, exactly 12 months after the universal acclamation of the Roadmap on 11th May 2010 in The Hague. The one-day event will be open to participation of all stakeholder groups, including national government representatives, domestic and international manufacturing and retail companies, national and international trade unions and civil society organisations, national and international certification and social compliance initiatives, UN agencies and international organisations and other interest groups.
The objective will be to bring together all the different interest groups to assess progress to date and to highlight the key challenges that remain in tackling child labour and promoting the application of core labour standards at all levels of the supply chain in garment manufacturing. Global March is assuming its responsibility in moving the Roadmap forward and giving it meaning. If the Roadmap does not lead to action that can bring about change to the lives of those children and vulnerable workers being exploited around the world, then it will have failed. Action needs to be taken in all sectors to implement the Roadmap, which highlights the importance of identifying and tackling child labour and exploitation of vulnerable workers in the informal sector.
In order to create lasting social change, there is a strong and urgent need for greater coherence and solidarity between stakeholder groups in their endeavours to combat child labour and ensure decent working conditions in the garment sector, particularly given the significant number of public and private initiatives that already exist. The consultation will provide an opportunity to share experiences and expertise and to begin to elaborate a clearer picture of the development environment relevant to garment-manufacturing and to explore potential partnerships and avenues to facilitate mainstreaming and streamlining where feasible.
Programme Content and Description
The consultation programme will include a moderated panel discussion in the morning, involving representatives from the main stakeholder groups. This will focus on policy and legislative frameworks in the garment sector. The aim will be to ensure a better understanding of the various perspectives, objectives, achievements and challenges and to begin to identify areas where collaboration can be strengthened to achieve and sustain shared goals. At the end of the panel discussion, the floor will be open to questions to ensure active participation and debate.
The afternoon’s programme will involve in-depth exchanges and discussions in stakeholder working groups. Participants will be asked to join one of the following three working groups:
- Industry, including multinational corporations and manufacturers;
- Non-industry, including trade union and civil society organisations and civil society initiatives;
- Government and international stakeholders, including export and import countries, UN agencies and international organisations.
Each working group will focus discussions on key challenges facing the different stakeholder groups, including for example, supply chain monitoring, auditing systems including third-party and state inspection systems, application of core labour standards, political and socio-economic issues, social dialogue, trade and trade relationship issues, pricing and others. Working groups will also begin to identify solutions that could address the various challenges and highlight the needs and expectations of the different stakeholder groups in implementing solutions. Initial discussions will also take place on the next steps that stakeholders would like to see put in place to move the agenda forward.
Mr Peter McAllister, Executive Director of the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI), United Kingdom, will be rapporteur of the consultation, facilitating certain aspects of the meeting and summarising the main discussion points and outcomes of the panel discussion. He will also provide an overall summary at the close of the consultation which will identify principal gains, opportunities and challenges emerging from the working group deliberations. These will be captured and further detailed in a follow-up report by the Global March which will be sent out to all participants and interest groups, including recommendations for next steps as part of the follow-up action called for in Roadmap 2016.
As with Roadmap 2016, the consultation will not be an end in itself, but will prove an opportunity to initiate important discussions between all stakeholders that must continue and flourish in a shared endeavour to bring about sustainable social change. While Global March will facilitate the beginning of this process and promote recommendations emerging from this event, it is hoped that others will take up the call for solidarity and ensure the continuation of this process through a shared time-bound plan of action for the garment-manufacturing industry as one possible tangible output.
This approach needs to commence through a process of open and frank dialogue in a positive and constructive environment of mutual respect and trust. As is clear from the experiences of the global economic crisis, the need for a strong social dimension to globalisation is greater today than it ever has been and the needs and expectations of people, particularly the most vulnerable, have to drive forward the agenda for social change.
Global March welcomes representatives from each stakeholder group to the International Consultation on Roadmap 2016 and the Garment-Manufacturing Sector being held on 11th May 2011 in the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, India.
The objective will be to jointly assess progress to date and highlight the key challenges that remain in tackling child labour and promoting the application of core labour standards at all levels of the supply chain in garment manufacturing worldwide.
Global March hopes that all stakeholders will participate and contribute fully and meaningfully to these crucial discussions and assist in elaborating a way forward. While Global March will facilitate the beginning of this process and promote recommendations emerging from this event, it is hoped that others will also take up the call for solidarity and ensure the continuation of this process through, for example, a shared time-bound plan of action for the garment-manufacturing industry as one possible tangible output.
In order to assist in planning and coordination, organisations and stakeholder representatives interested in participating in the event should contact the Global March International Secretariat as follows: Ms Priyanka Ribhu email@example.com. A more detailed programme will be sent out shortly before the consultation.
Given the likelihood that a number of organisations and companies active in garment sector initiatives will attend the consultation, those that wish to have the opportunity to set up displays and promotional stands in the conference venue. However, organisations/companies wishing to do so will be required to supply their own display and exhibition materials and would be requested to contact Global March beforehand to register their intent. These exhibitions will animate the coffee and lunch breaks and provide useful networking and partnership opportunities.Please note that Global March declines all responsibility for exhibition materials and equipment.