Education International
Education International

ILO address: EI denounces child labour, supports Employee Free Choice Act

published 15 June 2009 updated 15 June 2009

“There are still too many places where child labour is a more or less socially accepted phenomenon. In Central Asia, where children are forced out of school and into the cotton fields. In South Asia and Africa, where children labour in factories and on the streets. And in households around the world, where girls toil in domestic servitude.”

In his address to the ILO plenary session on 11 June in Geneva, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said that all education unions belonging to Education International are deeply committed to keeping children in school and out of work.

He made his remarks on the eve of the World Day Against Child Labour, which coincided this year with the tenth anniversary of ILO Convention 182, which outlaws the worst forms of child labour.

Van Leeuwen also stressed that global economic recovery requires that we invest in people. “As companies downsize, they must up-skill,” he said, underlining that education is a fundamental part of the solution.

He expressed concern over education budgets being slashed in many countries, hitting higher education and research as well as primary and secondary education.

“We are also very worried about the drop in financial flows and aid to developing countries threatening the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially Education for All,” he said.

Education International has brought forward several cases of violations of international labour standards before the ILO Freedom of Association Committee.

In his remarks to the conference, van Leeuwen said that the free choice to join a union without intimidation is a basic right, in all countries, in both the public and private sectors.

“This is why Education International strongly supports the Employee Free Choice Act in the USA, which would protect American workers and send a strong message to employers everywhere that violations of workers’ rights are not acceptable in the 21st Century,” van Leeuwen asserted.

This years’ ILO’s conference also gave special attention to the repressive actions taken by the Ethiopian government against the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association. Other countries that were the subject of ILO scrutiny included Guatemala and Turkey.

For the full text of van Leeuwen's speech in English, please click on the link below.