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International TU's Welcome ILO Child Labour Debate


International Trade Unions Welcome ILO Child Labour Debate

Brussels, 9 June, 2006 - The international trade union movement today
welcomed the holding of a key debate at the International Labour
Organisation's Annual Conference, as a key moment for the international
community to examine progress in eliminating child labour and ensuring
that every child goes to school.

Governments, employers and trade unions are discussing the ILO report
"The end of child labour: Within Reach" at the Conference. The report
sets out results in implementing ILO Child Labour Conventions, and
identifies a number of key challenges for the coming years.

"This debate will we hope be a real turning point, bringing the entire
international community to a comprehensive commitment to get the tens of
millions of child labourers out of work and into school" said Willy
Thys, General Secretary of the World Confederation of Labour.

The report sets a target for the elimination of the "Worst Forms" of
child labour, under ILO Convention 182, by the year 2016, and includes
figures indicating a major reduction of children suffering the worst
forms of exploitation. It also sets out some future reference points
for international action, including strengthening the "Worldwide
Movement" against child labour and building further cooperation with
trade unions and employers.

Trade unions are concerned nevertheless that some may seek to use the
ILO report as a justification for focusing on the most egregious forms
of child labour, while not tackling the broader problems of insufficient
provision of quality education, and poor regulation of labour markets.
Such an approach risks merely moving children from very hazardous to
less hazardous work, while avoiding tackling the fundamental reasons
that children end up in work instead of school. Therefore, the ILO
Convention 138 on Minimum Age for Employment must always remain the
benchmark for policy and for action.

"We are calling for clear commitment to free, universal, relevant
compulsory education, publicly provided and of high quality. Fulltime
education provided by qualified/properly trained teachers will break the
cycle of poverty by leading to gainful decent jobs. But to really make a
difference, education must be inclusive and reach out to disadvantaged
groups such as the poor, girls, ethnic minorities, migrants, rural
communities, handicapped and AIDS-affected children", said Fred van
Leeuwen, General Secretary of Education International, stressing that
"the universal right to education is not negotiable".

"Along with education, the other major issue is decent jobs for adults"
said ICFTU General Secretary Guy Ryder. "Where adults in the household
have decent jobs, the pressure to allow children to fall out of school
and into work is removed. So action on child labour must always be
linked to other labour rights, especially those concerning
discrimination, forced labour and freedom of association and the right
to collective bargaining for better incomes and decent working
conditions", he added.

Unions will also be using the Geneva meeting to highlight the work being
done by trade unions around the world aimed at eliminating child labour,
including community mobilisation for education, action to change the
policies of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other
institutions, agreements with employers, rehabilitation of child
labourers, cooperation programmes with the ILO and other groups, and
organising adult workers to improve household incomes and combat
poverty. Action on the most common forms of child exploitation, in
particular in agriculture and domestic service, also features high on
the union agenda.

Global Unions comprises of:
* the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU),
representing 155 million workers
* the ten Global Union Federations (GUFs),the international
representatives of unions organising in specific industry sectors or
occupational groups (EI, ICEM, IFJ, ITGLWF, PSI, ITF, BWI, IMF, IUF, &
* the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD

The WCL represents 30 million workers worldwide.


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