Very often, unscrupulous companies use the cheapest form of labour available to cut production costs, even at the risk of endangering the lives of children who work the longest hours and are the worst paid of all workers.
Of the more than 200 million children working in the world, the overwhelming majority - more than a quarter - is concentrated in India. India holds the highest concentration of child labour in the world. Nearly half work on a full-time basis and the other half combine it with schooling.
In addition to the number of children in hazardous work, it is estimated that there are about 8.4 million children involved in other worst forms of child labour as defined in ILO Convention 182. This includes among others some 5.7 million in forced and bonded labour.
Child labour is based on the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) which represents the most comprehensive and authoritative international definition of minimum age for admission to employment.
Majority of the children work in the informal economy where the reach of the law and awareness is minimal necessitating trade union intervention. The brick kiln industry, one of the most important building materials industries in India, employs millions of workers including children. The BWI Child Labour Project specifically targets this sector in India, which it aims to expand to other countries.
Recognizing the double social stigma of exploitative working conditions and the high incidence of child labour in the brick kiln, building, construction and stone quarrying industries, motivated BWI affiliates to work towards the restoration of workers' rights, the improvement of working conditions and solutions to put an end to the rampant use of child labour.
Today, BWI child labour campaign strategy and Child labour school non-profit company is one of its kinds in the world. Encompassing schooling for children, organizing unions and campaigning for children rights, our campaign clearly indicates that organizing strategies pull out children from work and improve workers' rights. The campaign has not only pulled out more than 10.000 children out from work and brought them within the educational fold but has also been instrumental in creating mass awareness and safeguarding workers' rights.
While the Union takes the lead role in running the Child Labour schools, organizing and campaigning for the workers and children, BWI facilitates the financial, logistical and technical support. Eventually, BWI support has been institutionalized through the CHILD LEARN project. Child Learn is a non-profit organization that manages the property and assets of the child labour schools. Since the local unions and BWI are represented in its board, CHILD LEARN continues to address the trade union agenda.
At present there are a total of 17 BWI/Union run Child Labour Schools and Preparatory centres for erstwhile child labourers all over India. Implementing states currently include Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The project does not view child labour in isolation rather it views the problem of child labour from a socio-economic perspective. Besides schooling, unions also bargain for better wages and conditions of work thereby preventing children to contribute their labour for a minimum level of earning. Social Dialogue/ Industry level dialogues are key components of the union(s) campaigning strategy. In this direction, a national level agreement was signed between the BWI affiliated unions and the All India Bricks & Tiles Manufacturers Federation (that represents 35,000 brick kilns and about 7 million workers) in 2008 and similarly in the Punjab State – the union has negotiated a Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2009 on wages at 16.5% with the employers over and above the government rates and covers all the union organising districts. The CBA covers about 100,000 workers in four union organising districts.
To make the schooling interventions sustainable, the project aims at co-management of schools with the government, community & the unions.
We continue to invite affiliates to campaign for the ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182. We also support the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC).