Reaction from the campaign

Reaction from the campaign ‘Stop Child Labour – School, the best workplace’ and FNV Bondgenoten to answers to their letter concerning child labour in harvesting hazelnuts in Turkey, sent to companies and the Federation of the Dutch Food and Grocery Industry (FNLI).

 

The following eight members of the FNLI reacted:

  • United Biscuits, better known in theNetherlandsas Verkade
  • Koninklijke Wessanen including the brand Zonnatura
  • Unilever
  • Mars
  • Kraft foods
  • NestléNetherlands
  • Ferrero

We also received a reaction from the NZV, the Dutch Association for Trade in Dried Semi-tropical Fruits, Spices and Associated Products, which is not a member of the FNLI.

 

The FNLI itself reacted with a statement during the premiere of the film Kinderen van het Seizoen on 19 November 2010 in De Balie. The VBZ, the Dutch Association of the Bakery and Sweet Industry, is a member of the FNLI as a sector organisation and as such, it endorses the statement of the FNLI.

 

From Ahold, member as a retailer of the Dutch Central Bureau for Food Trade (CBL), there was no written reaction, but there was a conversation with the CBL. Tony Chocolonely, which they did not approach, also sent a reaction.

 

We note the following concerning the reaction of the FNLI:

 

Positive

  • we appreciate it that the FNLI has a zero-tolerance policy for child labour and that this also covers ‘direct suppliers of raw materials and ingredients of final products’;
  • the FNLI, in reaction to the question concerning child labour in the hazelnut sector in Turkey, wants to achieve insight into possibly preventing child labour in other production chains that deliver to the food industry;
  • its reaction shows that the FNLI also wants to tackle child labour further up in the chain and that it is prepared to work together with all stakeholders, for instance governments, companies and NGOs, to ensure that no child labour occurs ‘in the entire supply chain’. The expression of this intention shows in the readiness of the FNLI to cooperate with the campaign ‘Stop Child Labour’;
  • finally, we applaud the fact that the FNLI has brought this question to the attention of its members as ‘urgent and active’ and has encouraged them to add a clause to contracts with suppliers that ensures that the hazelnuts ‘are obtained’ in accordance with all existing national and international legislation. The FNLI is asking its members to carry out thorough research and indulge in appropriate action;
  • the FNLI has put this question on the agenda within its European cooperation for the food industry. Additionally, the FNLI has sought contact actively and broached the subject with its Turkish sister organisation.

 

Remarks and questions

  • the reaction shows that, in most cases, agreements exist with direct suppliers and that is the point at which monitoring takes place, but that solely the expectation exists that these suppliers, in their turn, insist that their own suppliers also subscribe to this policy. The reactions from the individual companies, see the following, show that, in general, this does not happen or insufficiently;
  • in its reaction, the FNLI does not address the low wages and the poor work and living circumstances of the seasonal labourers. Dealing with these factors is hugely important as well, in part because improving these circumstances can effectively combat child labour. The recent FNV report ‘Let parents earn and children learn’ underlines this point;
  • the reaction doesn’t not mention the role of trade unions. There are Turkish trade unions in the sector and the teachers’ unions inTurkeywanting to deal with this problem. FNV Bondgenoten and the Dutch teachers’union AOb support this.

 

Reactions from companies

 

The reactions of the companies that received letters show that they were all shocked and are still searching for an adequate approach with which to combat and eliminate child labour in harvesting Turkish hazelnuts.

 

All the companies indicate that they are against child labour and that they also make this demand of the suppliers – that they employ no child labour. In most cases, however, those concerned are the most direct suppliers, and therefore not the farmers who produce the hazelnuts. Most companies also indicate that they stipulate the prohibition on child labour and in a number of instances also the compliance with other labour standards, in contracts with the direct suppliers. However, in most cases, it did not become clear whether this also means that the direct suppliers also have obligations reaching more deeply into the chain in this area, reaching as far as the farmers, and whether they are expected to monitor at this level.

 

The NVZ says it is opposed to child labour and insists with regard to its suppliers that they guarantee no child labour takes place and labour rights are complied with. Nevertheless, the NVZ also emphasises the historical and cultural perspective, plays down the problem and believes it cannot do much more than give advice to its members.

 

Almost all companies emphasise their keenness to cooperate with other parties, including local government, NGOs and other stakeholders – to deal with the problem. Some also claim they are doing this already.

 

Half of the companies indicate clearly of not so clearly a desire to achieve better insight into what child labour and, sometimes, other labour rights issues involve at the level of harvesting hazelnuts at the farms. Meanwhile, some companies have taken steps already, sometimes via their direct suppliers. Other companies do not go further than to state that they have arranged the question with their direct suppliers; they are not clear about whether they are trying to find more information about the situation on the farms/plantations where the hazelnut harvesting takes place.

 

Three companies indicate that they actually will take action if it becomes known that child labour is used at the farm level for the hazelnuts they buy. For the time being, one company has stopped importing Turkish hazelnuts until it becomes clear that these are being harvested without child labour. The second company speaks of appropriate action. Finally, one company indicates it wants to support suppliers having a problem with child labour further on in the chain and wanting to really deal with this.

 

In conclusion

 

Readiness to take action against child labour in hazelnut harvest is, generally speaking, present, but usually does not become very concrete. The majority of companies remains vague when answering whether they have plans to take action at the level at which the problem arises – the plantations where the hazelnut harvest takes place.

 

Work by adults remains underexposed. None of the companies indicates what it is going to do to get the children harvesting hazelnuts into school, whether or not in cooperation with the government, trade unions and NGOs. Generally though, the companies expressed their readiness to work together around these questions with other directly involved parties like governments and NGOs. Wrongfully, there is very little mention of trade unions in this context.

 

A very positive point is that a number of companies indicate that they wish to cooperate in eliminating child labour right down to the level of the hazelnut plantations. It seems that they acknowledge the existence of opportunities to do this, even though it has not become very concrete how they intend to do that. This means that other companies as well, certainly large ones, have opportunities to choose a similar approach.

 

Stop Child Labour would be pleased to continue talks with the FNLI and the  individual companies, but it will also continue to inform the consumer about the progress of the fight against child labour and underpayment of the parents. We will try to cooperate with local partners, such as trade unions and NGOs, to deal with the situation where it occurs and to bring about improvements.

 

 

Recommendations for steps/measures that companies and the FNLI can take

 

  1. Use the ‘Handbook for companies combating child labour’ in determining how to deal with child labour in the production chain. Log on to:http://www.indianet.nl/actieplankinderarbeind.html
  2. Map the situation reflecting child labour and labour conditions surrounding the harvesting of hazelnuts. Work with local organisations on this as far as possible. Report to the public about this and about measures taken.
  3. Cooperate with the Turkish government and local trade unions and NGOs to ensure that children now staying away from school due to migrating seasonal labour in agriculture can continue to go to school in the area of the harvest or – at boarding schools – in their original residential area.
  4. Take measures together with the suppliers to ensure that the wages, working and living conditions of the workers doing seasonal work comply with all local and other relevant legislation and regulations and with the international treaties of the ILO and the UN. Bargain about this, where possible, with local trade unions.
  5. As FNLI, map what members are doing to combat child labour in their various production chains, including those having to do with hazelnuts, and report to the public about this.
  6. As trade associations, enter into discussions with the European Commission about measures the business community itself will take and fine-tune these to initiatives the Commission takes within the framework of negotiations with the Turkish authorities, within the framework of the European Union-Turkey Association Agreement.
  7. As European trade associations, enter into discussions with the ILO and UNICEF about their possible contribution to solutions for child labour and other labour questions related to seasonal work in Turkish agriculture.
  8. As trade association, right up to the European level, enter into discussions with the Turkish government about the execution of the recent circular concerning improving working and living conditions for migrant workers and the role individual companies and companies working together can play (See Annex II below).

 

The Annex below is an attachment to the letter the European Commissioner Stefan Füle sent to European Parliament member, Emine Bozkurt, on 18 November 2010.

 

Annex II

 

Overview of the measures announced in the Circular on Seasonal Migrant Agricultural Workers and their Families, March 2010

 

The following measures will be pursued to improve living conditions of migrants, agricultural workers and their families:

 

  1. Housing: employers or provincial administrations should establish shelters for migrant families, with adequate health conditions, basic infrastructure, utilities and social services.

 

  1. Education: Regional Boarding Primary Education Schools should admit migrant workers’ children, whose education is interrupted. In addition, mobile education facilities should be established, and migrant parents will receive a financial compensation if they send their children to school.

 

  1. Health: the workers and their families will be subject to regular health check-ups against contagious and epidemic diseases; in addition, pregnancy and child development will be monitored periodically. If necessary, mobile health teams will be established for the services. The families and children of these workers will be briefed under the scope of social services; psychological support will be provided and they will benefit from the services and means provided by the State to disabled and elderly.

 

  1. Labour conditions: compulsory certification of labour brokers in the agricultural sector will be introduced. Disputes relating to wages will be settled by the Monitoring Board for Seasonal Migrant Farm Workers.

 

  1. Transportation between places receiving and sending migrants will be coordinated by relevant authorities to ensure safe travel for migrants.

 

  1. Upon the return of migrant workers, literacy courses, socio-cultural activities and vocational courses for adults will be organised, primarily for women and young girls.

 

  1. Monitoring: the Turkish Employment Agency will monitor the prevalence of seasonal, agricultural work and set up a database for this purpose.