NEWS:US Sees Congress Passing New Child Labor Treaty

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Subject: NEWS:US Sees Congress Passing New Child Labor Treaty
From: Jyothi Kanics (
Date: Thu Jun 24 1999 - 08:16:22 EDT

Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 10:34:03 -0400
Tuesday June 15 2:38 PM ET

US Sees Congress Passing New Child Labor Treaty

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - Labor Secretary Alexis Herman said Tuesday she was
optimistic that Congress
would pass a new international treaty banning the worst evils of child
labor, including slavery,
trafficking and prostitution.

She also called for workers' basic rights to be ensured as international
trade and technology continue to

Herman was speaking in Geneva a day before President Clinton also
addresses the International Labor
Organization's annual conference in the Swiss city.

Clinton, in a commencement address at the University of Chicago Saturday,
condemned abusive child
labor practices in poor countries and endorsed the ILO pact.

The United Nations labor agency's 174 member states are expected to adopt
the new convention
Thursday after reaching agreement on a draft text in committee late
Monday, ILO officials said.

The treaty, intended to protect those under age 18, would target child
slavery, forced labor, trafficking,
debt bondage, serfdom, prostitution, pornography and exploitative work in
industries using dangerous
machinery and hazardous substances.

The ILO estimates 250 million children aged five to 14 years old work in
developing countries alone.

``We believe that this will be a global standard that we can pass back
home in the United States, that
our Congress will support,'' Herman told a news conference.

U.S. officials had worked hard in the negotiations in Geneva ``with an
eye toward ratification,''
according to the minister.

She also defended the U.S. position -- reflected in the compromise draft
-- that the pact prohibit
``forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed

The treaty would therefore not apply to military recruitment of
17-year-olds who volunteer with
parental consent, as in the United States. ``We wanted to make sure the
emphasis was on forced,
compulsory child labor,'' Herman said.

The London-based group Anti-Slavery criticized the compromise text,
saying: ``It is hard to see how a
convention which claims to address the worst forms of child labor can
fail to include forcing children
into the line of fire.''

The United States has only ratified 12 of ILO's 181 labor conventions.
However it pays about a quarter
of its $481 million biannual regular budget and also contributed $30
million last year for ILO's program
on the elimination of child labor.

It is not among the more than 70 countries which have ratified the 1973
minimum age convention,
aimed at abolishing child labor. Nor has the United States ratified key
ILO conventions on freedom of
association or on non-discrimination.

Clinton will be the first American president to address the Geneva-based
agency, although it will be his
third trip to the Swiss lakeside city. In a speech to the World Trade
Organization (WTO) a year ago,
he also called for securing workers' rights.

The ILO was founded in 1919 to promote social justice and minimum labor
standards, including
freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining.

In her speech to the ILO's annual talks Tuesday, Herman said: ``As we
expand trade, we must ensure
that our workers and employers are competing in a world economy premised
upon a fundamental and
universal set of rights and standards.''

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