According to the definition, collective bargaining implies to an elaborate process by which employers and employees or their accredited representatives engage into discussions aimed at regulating the conditions of work. The terms of negotiations may include wage scales, training, health issues, working hours, overtime, safety and the mechanisms for airing grievances. There are many instances where the employees are children, thus, for their protection trade unions and other human rights’ groups engage into collective bargaining to combat the child’s labor.
Trade unions or workers’ unions take a leading role in agitating for these rights and interests. They can handle negotiations at any level starting from an individual enterprise to some multinational corporations. In many countries, these groups have the committees and structures from grassroots to national levels; hence, there is an ease of engagement with employers at any level of trade. Australia has the ACTU (the Australian Council of Trade Unions). Meanwhile, Kenya has the COTU (the Central Organization of Trade Unions) if one wants to cite few examples (Haspels & Jankanish, 2000).
Every country has its own standards or regulations to determine a minimum employable age below which there may be this appreciated as the child labor. The international labor organization has classified the age of 15 as a desired minimum for employment. However, through the participation of various stakeholders, it has gone further to establish the codes of conduct to regulate the ability to employ as per the sectors involved.
For example, many companies have adopted the ideas approved by the International Labor Organization to put in place such codes. However, for a long time, domestic workers have not been taken into consideration by various voluntary company codes as established. It is the fact that a domestic sector employs mostly women and children; hence, they are prone to abuses. Nonetheless, the involvement of unions and human rights’ lobby groups have advanced in conducting the code models trying to cater for such vulnerable people.
The employment of children continues despite many efforts are put for eradicating the practice. There are many factors that contribute to this trend. While the world acknowledges some basic rights of children to education and childhood in terms of security, the protection against abuses and the rights to good parenting, there are some inherent challenges that engulf the efforts (Hilowitz & Matz, 2003). The characteristics may vary. However, there are common parameters escalating the exploitation of youngsters.
With the rising levels of poverty and unemployment, many poor families or destitute children have to rely on providing labor for their own survival. The statistics provided by the United Nations Union has indicated that about a quarter of the world population lives in the extreme poverty. Most affected areas include Asia, Africa and Latin America, thus, compelling children to become laborers (Wal, 2006).
Another reason why many children resort to work is a lack of an adequate and affordable access to education. Parents simply cannot afford to carter for school expenses. Meanwhile, at the same time, there is no or some inadequate facilities to offer the free and compulsory education. The report done in by the United Nations has estimated the following. In order to achieve the compulsory and free universal education for children globally, the costs will be about ($ 30 billion) thirty billion dollars that should be paid annually.
Having a grim picture of the situation, the previous report by the United Nations puts the figures of children not at school as being about 75 million. Already, these youngsters have been disadvantaged in life. They and may never have a chance to improve their lives or be of the significant help to the community. They would rely on the manual labor perhaps for all their lives. If only the world governments were more serious on this issue and take it as a priority then the situation would be different.
The amount in 30 billion dollars is needed for the childhood free education though this is a very small fraction as compared to the estimated global military spending. Actually, it is just about 2.0% of the annual global military budget. Having international conferences on combating child labor only and presenting the marvelous proposals will not do much if the world power lacks the political will to finance the implementation of recommendations.
On the other hand, the existence of laws or the codes of conduct to regulate employment in itself is inadequate. These guidelines are in many times violated ignorantly or cunningly. Some production processes involve the multiple stages of work or outsourcing. This, in turn, makes very difficult monitor the performance of labor at different stages. Thus, engaged young laborers can be submerged in such processes.
The unpleasant fact is that labor laws enforcement is still inadequate and challenging in many countries. Where laws are strong, we find the enforcement offices being under-funded or under-staffed. Meanwhile, in some countries, the law provides some exemptions, hence, cultivating more ground for the exploitation of youngsters. Kenya, for instance, prohibits children less than 16 years to be engaged into industrial labor but exempts an agricultural sector. Bangladesh has no set laws for children against the domestic or agricultural work. Nepal has set out 14 years to be the desired minimum age and exempted for plantations and brick kilns (Wal, 2006).
Sometimes governments are influenced by the multinational corporations and eventually repress the rights of workers. This can happen in the form of attacks on the ability of workers to organize unions. When this happens, then it becomes more difficult to agitate for the international protection of core labor standards within their domestic circles. This greatly affects the ability to combat child labor too. The information from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has indicated the following fact. In the year 2010, for example, approximately five thousand workers were fired; and another two thousand and five hundred were arrested as a result of their participation in union activities.
Last, but not the least, one should say that we can safely argue that the global economic patterns and parameters have intensified this problem to a certain extent. When multinational corporations expand across the borders, there comes along the competition for jobs and the investment into the particular industry. This in effect slows down labor reforms including the aspects of child laborers. The governments or corporations would lean towards the low cost workforce, thus, exploiting children in the process. On the other hand, developing countries are faced with a burden of repaying development loans with huge interests. This forces structural adjustments to influence on cutting down spending on education, health and other public utility programs. This slumps a heavier burden to the local population as amenities become not affordable, hence, propelling more children to seek the employment in order to supplement family incomes.
In order to effectively combat the practice of exploitation on minors for work gains, there are certain aspects that employers regardless of the industry must be aware of. Having a child employee carries for the victim a lot of significant health related issues that will affect the poor child for their entire lives. An adult is by no means similar to a child as what passes on to be a safe working environment for adults is not necessarily safe for youngsters (Wal, 2006). By virtue of some physical and mental differences between these two categories of employees, child laborers expose themselves to some health complications that will catch up as their ages advance.
According to the International Labor Organization survey done in 26 countries, 25% of children engaged into active economic activities suffer from the injuries and work related illnesses. Children involved into agricultural work reduce their life expectancy by a considerable margin. When such youngsters are exposed to hard labor conditions and similar strenuous activities, they risk having the loss of hearing ability, under-development of vital body organs or tissues as well as they escalate the rate for rapid skeletal growth.
On the other hand, industrial child laborers may suffer from increased risks of exposure to higher chemical and toxin absorption rates. The toxins will gradually react in the body to impair the normal growth, thus, such children will eventually appear smaller in size. They can also experience lower heat tolerance rates. Again, since most such laborers come from extremely poor families already, they have inherent problems of malnutrition. Consequently, they are being more at risk in the work places as they can cause harm to themselves by the virtue of fatigue or anemic conditions (Haspels & Jankanish, 2000).
Young workers get injured more frequently because they are quite unskilled and can only handle some labor intensive jobs being more risky. If and when some kinds of training are provided in line of duty, it might not be adequate to equip younger workers with the sufficiently technical know-how for jobs. Sometimes, the work they are contracted to do is actually illegal by nature and inappropriate. Hence, no formal training whatsoever can be arranged. When one is less experienced at work, it goes without saying that the risks for accidents generally become higher.
Due to the lack of education, younger workers are more likely to work in labor centered jobs like mining, agriculture and construction. They have a higher proximity for injury to occur. The other alternative is to be hired for domestic chores. At home, several cases of child abuses and violations have been reported including sexual assaults, the deprivation of food, undefined working hours and physical assault among others. These conditions have a direct effect on the psychological and social development of a child (“International Labour Office”, 2004).
Every part of the world has its own set factors. In the USA, it has been observed that younger workers going for over 20 hours’ job per week experience the disturbances in terms of aggression, substance abuse, misconducts as well as sleeping disorders. Such individuals are more likely to drop out of school or complete fewer months of higher education.
The worst of all forms of child labor and exploitation takes the face of the forced captivity similarly to slavery. The unfortunate children falling under this category mostly end up being used as prostitutes, drug peddlers and child soldiers. The evidences of such gross violations have been recorded in some parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Hence, it is imperative and calling for joint efforts by various interest groups and stakeholders to keep vigil and enforce protection laws that will help to fight the exploitation of children in the world.
In order to tackle effectively the issue of child labor, there is the need for more activities and forging for stronger lobbies to engage into collective bargaining. Currently, trade unions and other human rights lobby groups have continued to come forward with the realization of recognizing the direct connection between workers’ rights and fighting against the child labor. The essence here is the recognition that the child labor is a clear violation of the children rights as well as the rights of workers. Trade unions have taken keen interests to ensure children have been moved out of work and returned back to school.
Trade unions now collaborate with the families and community based groups to advocate against the child labor and to support some core labor standards. The stronger unions and lobbies become, the more likelihood of impacting more significantly on fighting against the child exploitation is. At the same time, that will provide an effective avenue for parents as workers agitate for better terms of services respectively at their places of work. This will, in turn, ease off the pressure driving children to seek the employment.
In USA, as well as in many other countries, workers and their unions are supporting the call to end child labor. This is being done by creating the new alliances with the likely minded unions around the world. The target here is to achieve some degrees of the enforceable world labor standards and hold companies accountable for their labor practices. They have taken reference from the International Labor Organization convention 182. This intense lobbying by unions combating the practice has propelled with the direct proportionality the strength and influential positions of workers unions to advocate for their rights as well.
This problem has a longer history. However, over the years, experts have suggested some useful strategic approaches that could eventually eradicate the child exploitation. The first approach was based on strengthening lobbies and workers’ unions as well as stakeholders at community levels. This is what is currently taking its shape and leads to fighting against the child exploitation. The second strategy is a capital intensive and will require the political will to succeed. We are talking about free education for all children of the world (International Labor Office, 2004).
The work will have to include everybody else. If the one is not a parent today, surely, in the near future he or she might be. Again, it could be a brother or a sister victim that we are talking of and have the interest to liberate them. In the nutshell issues the child labor affects everyone across the board. Thus, for collective bargaining to be thorough, we must engage into campaigns geared towards changing a public opinion on the subject. When the majority of citizens in the world are enlightened enough on this issue, it will then be much easier to demand a global minimum labor standard that must be implemented everywhere. This will clearly unhook the child laborer to form the bondage.
Already, there have been some vital steps being taken towards achieving the main objective. For instance, the United States’ Department of Labor has commissioned the Bureau of International Labor Affairs to study the reports on the international child labor. At the same time, the US is committed to offer its support for a direct action to improve the lives of working children around the world. Similarly, it gives about 37 million dollars annually to finance the activities aimed at addressing the child labor issues. It is supporting the efforts done by the International Labor Organization towards eliminating child labor (Shukla & Ali, 2006).
The other thing that should be done by members of the public is to come out in support of workers struggling to have peaceful unions that target to eliminate the child labor. It has been successful before and it can even get better in the present days. Let us remember that in 2001 at the Mexican factory there was a union monitoring the violations including the employment of children below 15 years. When the information was released to the public, thousands of students, workers and consumers mitigated this issue. The public protest internationally helped the workers to overcome intimidation, violence and mass job terminations as a result of trade union activities. Eventually, the workers carried the day due to the solidarity extended from other parts of the world.
nce the public opinion has been set at the required level, the masses can compel the political class to enforce the essential laws for the protection of children and the elimination of youngster workers. This will create a versatile global pool for solidarity against child laborers and the general workers’ welfare. The case of 2002 in Ecuadorian banana plantations can be a useful reference too. When the news of child abuses and critical attacks on workers at Los Alamos plantation was brought to the public domain, enraged workers, students, international consumers and others demanded the recognition of the workers’ union at plantations.
The International Labor Organization has developed the code of conduct in relation to this subject. With the participation of trade unions in the scope of provisions, the codes were expanded to accommodate even domestic employees. Hence, they are now being at the collective responsibility of citizens to campaign for institutions to adopt and enforce these codes (Shukla & Ali, 2006). A good example can be cited during the 2000-year Olympic Games held in Sydney, Australia. The Australian Labor Federation discussed and agreed in writing with the Olympic Organizing Committee placing some requirements on the following. All sponsors and licensees to adhere to the minimum labor standards included the tenets of the international convention on child labor.
Again, in 1998, the substantial lobbying from pressure groups including human rights activists, consumers and trade unions compelled the FIFA (the world governing body for soccer) to adopt a code. This was for stating that it would cease using soccer balls made with child labor. Similarly, the power of collective bargaining pushed the FIFA to improve working conditions and compensations for workers in the soccer factories by being more vigilant to monitor factory conditions. Activists launched a campaign mobilizing soccer fans, consumers, politicians and workers to push the FIFA to honor their promises and commitment to labor codes of conduct (Wal, 2006).
Combating the vice of exploiting children is becoming more interesting day after day. Some non-profit organizations have developed the programs targeting export goods in a drive to certify them as fair for trade. This involves ascertaining that producers adhere to some required basic working standards including adopting the International Labor Organization Conventions on child labor. They monitor the aspects of farmers being paid fair prices. They can be able to support their families without having to push their children to work (Aswathappa & Dash, 2008). There are some groups like the TransFair in the USA and many others that engage to publicize and enlighten the general public on the matters pertaining to fair trade practices and production.
The same principle is used in trying to eliminate the child labor in Asia. In the 1990s, the use of child labor in rug-making factories of India and Pakistan was brought to the international scene. This prompted consumers to work pressurizing manufacturers to phase out child workers. The move involved creating a rug-mark or a label of compliance (Bhargava, 2003). Production companies would be inspected randomly by independent monitors. This program has brought an additional benefit to the rescued children. It has introduced licensing fees which were then used to educate and rehabilitate such child victims.
As a fundamental strategy, increasing the access to public education for children is crucial to eliminating the child labor menace. The initiatives to promote this noble cause should not only be left to the government (Aswathappa & Dash, 2008). The private sector participation can give a bigger boost to many marginalized individuals. In Bangladesh, they have Bangladesh Building and Woodworkers Federation and The Metal workers Union engaged into removing children from work and enrolling them to schools, while giving them some assistance programs (Bhargava, 2003). In the international front, there is the Global Campaign for Education being a constituent for the teachers’ unions, the Global March against Child Labor, Oxfam and Action Aid.
The use of collective bargaining to combat child labor is the only confidence and effective ways to end this menace threatening the future of our children. Let us uphold the rights of our children in their best interests to avoid the discrimination of any sort. We must grant children their rights of a good parental care, good education, healthcare provisions as well as the adequate protection from child labor and armed conflicts. It is our collective responsibility to realize the eventual elimination of child labor, abuse and exploitation (Haspels & Jankanish, 2000).