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U.S. Issues Toolkit to Fight Child, Forced Labor Abuses

Companies given ways and means to create global supply chain compliance.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs on Friday introduced “Reducing Child Labor and Forced Labor: A Toolkit for Responsible Businesses,” the first guide developed by the U.S. government to help businesses combat child labor and forced labor in their global supply chains.

“Encouraging businesses to reduce child and forced labor in their supply chains helps advance fundamental human rights that are at the core of worker dignity, whether here in the U.S. or abroad,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a video message unveiling the toolkit.

The free toolkit was revealed during an event at Labor Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., for representatives of government, industry, labor and civil society organizations that are at the forefront of efforts to prevent labor abuses in the production of goods.

The toolkit highlights the need for a social compliance program that integrates a company’s policies and practices to ensure that it addresses child labor and forced labor throughout its supply chain. It provides step-by-step guidance on eight critical elements that will be helpful for companies that do not have a social compliance system in place or those needing to strengthen existing systems. An integrated social compliance system includes engaging stakeholders and partners, assessing risks and impacts, developing a code of conduct, communicating and training across the supply chain, monitoring compliance, remediating violations, independent review and reporting performance.

A report last month from Not for Sale, an international antihuman trafficking organization, that was funded by a grant form the U.S. State Department, said despite the development of corporate social responsibility programs, factory monitoring systems and greater overall awareness, the apparel industry still suffers from widespread worker rights abuses and dangerous working conditions.

“Free2Work, the Story Behind the Barcode” charged that people can be found in modern-day slavery and unsafe working conditions even in some key global apparel production hubs, and six countries — China, India, Argentina, Jordan, Malaysia and Thailand — are known to use child and-or forced labor at the cut-make-trim level, based on the U.S. Labor Department’s “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, 2011” report.

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs created the toolkit as part of its responsibility under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005. The toolkit can be accessed at dol.gov/childlaborbusinesstoolkit.