There has been lots in the news about the use of cheap labour in emerging economies. Much work is sub-contracted, so the key to making change is to get Western companies to make sure their sub-contractors and suppliers adhere to the company policies on use of proper working conditions and use of child labour Here is a draft of a letter to be sent to companies selling low cost clothes. If enough letters are sent to the CEO of the companies, then they will make sure their buying teams and legal teams take proper action to ensure there are obligations in the contracts and that audits are conducted to ensure compliance.
I believe that you use subcontracted labour to manufacture garments and/or have suppliers in [Bangladesh] [other countries] which are sold in the UK and Europe.
Can you please confirm that you have agreements in place with your company’s subcontractors and suppliers to ensure that:
1 they comply with all relevant laws, regulations and standards in all of the countries in which they operate
2 Forced, bonded or compulsory labour is not used and employees are free to leave their employment after reasonable notice. Employees are not required to lodge deposits of money or identity papers with their employer.
3 Employees are treated with respect and dignity. Physical or verbal abuse or other harassment and any threats or other forms of intimidation are prohibited
4 Negative discrimination including racial, religious or sexual discrimination is prohibited
5 Employees understand their employment conditions and fair and reasonable pay and terms are provided.
6 Working hours of employees comply with national laws and are not excessive.
7 As far as any relevant laws allow, all employees are free to join or not to join trade unions or similar external representative organisations.
8 A healthy and safe working environment is provided for employees, in accordance with international standards and national laws. This includes safe buildings and facilities, access to clean toilet facilities, drinkable water and, if applicable, sanitary facilities for food storage.
9 Where an employer provides accommodation, it shall be clean, safe and meet the basic needs of employees.
10 Proper health and safety information and training is provided to employees.
11 No person is employed who is below the minimum legal age for employment.
12 Children (persons under 18 years) are not employed for any hazardous work, or work that is inconsistent with the child’s personal development.
13 Where a child is employed, the best interests of the child shall be the primary consideration
14 Policies and programmes that assist any child found to be performing child labour are contributed to, supported, or developed.
15 No form of bribery, including improper offers for payments to or from employees, or organisations, is tolerated
16 Environment: Finite resources are used responsibly and carefully
17 Operational practices that reduce any environmental burden associated with their activities are promoted
18 Innovative developments in products and services that offer environmental and social benefits are supported
19 They accept a responsibility to engage with communities and to invest in society in a way that makes effective use of their resources, including support for charitable organisations
20 Their Code of Ethical Purchasing is based on the following international standards:
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Conventions of the International Labour Organisation.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Please also confirm that you undertake regular audits of your suppliers and sub-contactors to ensure compliance with the terms of these obligations.
I look forward to hearing from you.