This is the first newsletter of the DBBE. Through these newsletters we would like to inform you on a regular basis on fundamental (labour) rights. We will also share the results of our research on human rights and labour rights compliance.
In the DBBE you will find Codes of Conduct of hundreds of multinational businesses from Europe and the United States. The database is an ongoing project: we continue to work on collecting codes from all over the world and from all kinds of enterprises. You can use this database if you are looking for Codes of Conduct. We use this database to do research, focusing on fundamental labour rights compliance.
The largest European and American stock market indices have been searched for Codes of Conduct of European and American listed companies. For Europe these are ATX, BET 10, BUX, CROBEX, DAX, Euronext (Euronext 100 and Next 150), FTSE (FTSE 100 and FTSE 250), FTSE MIB, IBEX 35, ISEQ, OBX, OMX Copenhagen, OMX Helsinki, OMX Iceland, OMX Riga, OMX Stockholm, OMX Tallinn, OMX Vilnius, PX, Swiss Market Index and WIG 20. For the US these are Dow Jones 30 and Standard & Poor 500. A total of 1507 companies have been investigated as to whether they use a Code of Conduct, using the search terms ‘Code of Conduct’, ‘Charter of Corporate Responsibility’, ‘Corporate Governance Charter’, ‘Ethics Charter’ and ‘Code of Ethics’. On December 31s, 2018, a total of 1156 Codes of Conduct had been brought together.
After the collection, all Codes were searched on the subjects forced labor, child labor, freedom of association and collective bargaining. On the homepage of the website, these four categories can be found under separate buttons. Under each button those codes are included which contain provisions on the subject in question. Over time the number of categories will be expanded.
Nearly 21 million people - three out of every 1,000 people worldwide - are victims of forced labour across the world, trapped in jobs which they were coerced or deceived into and which they cannot leave.
The Asia-Pacific region accounts for the largest number of forced labourers in the world; 11.7 million (56%) of the global total, followed by
Africa at 3.7 million (18%) and
Latin America with 1.8 million victims (9%).
The Developed Economies and European Union have 1.5 million (7%) forced labourers.
Central and South-Eastern European countries, and the Commonwealth of Independent States account for 1.6 million (7%).
There are an estimated 600,000 (3%) victims in the Middle East.
515 Codes in this Database address forced labour, making it the most prevalent fundamental right to be addressed in Codes of Conduct (44.5%) of the four rights examined.
A preliminary investigation of the Codes of Conduct containing provisions on forced labour reveals mostly that there is not one single terminology used to indicate forced labour. While many do use the term ‘forced and compulsory labour,’ others refer to the subject as “forced or indentured labour” (Parker Hannifin), “human trafficking” (Raytheon), “slavery” (Macy’s), “modern slavery” (Travis Perkins), ”slave labor” (Beiersdorf), “anti-slavery” (ITV) or combine terms, such as “modern slavery and human trafficking” (FDM Group), “slavery and human trafficking” (PostNL), “forced labour and human trafficking” (PPG Industries).
Phrasing concerning the actions to be taken as regards forced labour also vary widely, both in the type of action to be taken as in the strength of the action. Some Codes proscribe that they can “help to support efforts to prevent” (Wells Fargo) or that they “consider it our duty to work so that those rights are respected” (Ubi Banca). Other documents commit to “take positive steps to ensure that modern slavery has no place in our businesses or supply chain.” Alternatively, the obligation to report suspicions is given, yet without specification what action will be taken after the suspicion has been reported (Rockwell Collins). Finally, many state to comply to local and national laws related to the eradication of forced labour, yet do not discuss the situation should no such legislation be present.
Worldwide 218 million children between 5 and 17 years are in employment.
Among them, 152 million are victims of child labour; almost half of them, 73 million, work in hazardous child labour.
In absolute terms, almost half of child labour (72.1 million) is to be found in Africa; 62.1 million in the Asia and the Pacific; 10.7 million in the Americas; 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.
In terms of prevalence, 1 in 5 children in Africa (19.6%) are in child labour, whilst prevalence in other regions is between 3% and 7%: 2.9% in the Arab States (1 in 35 children); 4.1% in Europe and Central Asia (1 in 25); 5.3% in the Americas (1 in 19) and 7.4% in Asia and the Pacific region (1 in 14).
Almost half of all 152 million children victims of child labour are aged 5-11 years.
42 million (28%) are 12-14 years old; and 37 million (24%) are 15-17 years old.
Hazardous child labour is most prevalent among the 15-17 years old. Nevertheless, up to a fourth of all hazardous child labour (19 million) is done by children less than 12 years old.
Among 152 million children in child labour, 88 million are boys and 64 million are girls.
58% of all children in child labour and 62% of all children in hazardous work are boys. Boys appear to face a greater risk of child labour than girls, but this may also be a reflection of an under-reporting of girls’ work, particularly in domestic child labour.
Child labour is concentrated primarily in agriculture (71%), which includes fishing, forestry, livestock herding and aquaculture, and comprises both subsistence and commercial farming; 17% in Services; and 12% in the Industrial sector, including mining.
486 Codes in this Database address child labour (42.0%).
A brief inventory of the provisions on child labour in the available codes teaches us that the age of 15 and the age of 18 are regularly referred to. Some codes use concealing language: “We embrace clear standards on human rights, such as prevention of forced and child labour and non-discrimination” (Ahold Delhaize) or “BASF is particularly committed to the abolition of all forms of child labour and forced labour” (BASF). Other Codes go further by stating that “Employment of children shall be strictly prohibited” (Amber Grid), but leave unclear what is meant by ‘a child’. Several codes contain statements like this: “Suppliers must not use child labour. They must not engage any workers who are younger than the legal minimum age for employment in the relevant jurisdiction” (Ashmore Group). This seems clear language, but is it? What if the legal minimum age in the relevant jurisdiction is 10 years? Or 8? And what if there is no minimum age at all? Some codes use formulations that can put them in a split: “We preserve Human Rights and obey the law” (Daimler). What if the applicable law contradicts with human rights conventions?
Another important issue is the care for human rights compliance in the supplychains. Some codes refer to the companies’ responsibilities in supply chains, some don’t. If they do, the method of enforcement differs strongly.
Although freedom of association is recognized as a fundamental right at work, unions and their members are still exposed to severe violations of their rights. In its recent flagship publication on violations of trade unionists rights (2017), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) estimated that union members faced violence in 59 out of 139 countries (for which information is available). In 2017, trade unionists were murdered in the following 11 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Mauritania, Mexico, Peru, Philippines and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Also in 2017, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly were severely restricted in 50 countries. In addition, in 84 countries, certain categories of workers are excluded from the labour legislation. In 2014, the ITUC launched a “Global Rights Index” ranking 139 countries against 97 internationally recognized indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected in law and practice. According to this ranking, in 46 countries, compared with 32 in 2014, trade union rights are not guaranteed, for example due to the absence of the rule of law, and workers are exposed to unfair labour practices. Freedom of association is by no means just an issue for workers. Employers have also lodged complaints over the years with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association regarding, for example, unlawful interference with the activities of their organizations.
355 Codes in this Database address freedom of association (30.7 %).
Freedom of association is often found listed under grounds on which discrimination is prohibited, termed as (trade) union membership (see for example Thales), rather than separately mentioned in a provision to respect freedom of association. Another interesting notion is that some companies only provide protection on freedom of association in cases of “legitimate trade union activities” (Smith, D.S.) yet without defining what the company perceives to be ‘legitimate’.
Similar to the provisions on forced labour and child labour, many Codes refer to the applicable laws and regulations governing freedom of association, without providing any information to what standard the Company would comply in the absence of such legislation or regulation or what the Company would do in cases where local legislation and regulation falls short on the standards international human rights law has set for the freedom of association.
Like forced labour and child labour, many Codes refer to the UN Global Compact or to the relevant ILO Conventions in reaffirming their commitment to uphold the freedom of association. Striking however is an increase in references to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, potentially highlighting a perceived value of the freedom of association as a human right.
Right to collective bargaining
The right to collective bargaining is a fundamental labour right that ensures a fair process of negotiation to further and protect the interests of workers and employers. In 1949 the ILO adopted Convention No. 98 concerning the Right to Organise and to Bargain Collectively. Since then, the convention has been ratified by 166 countries. Together with the freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining is regarded as a main condition for a working system of social dialogue within a state.
248 Codes in this Database address the right to collective bargaining (21.4 %). The right to collective bargaining as such is the least prevalent fundamental labor right addressed in Codes of Conduct.
In the sample of Codes of Conduct including provisions on right to collective bargaining, an interesting phenomenon is observed for the majority of Codes. Codes either state to comply to applicable (local) labour and employment laws, or state to comply to the standards of the ILO or to the UN Global Compact for protection of the right to collective bargaining.
Furthermore it may be mentioned that while most Codes clearly refer to the right to collective bargaining, some Codes chose a more descriptive approach, such as: “works in cooperation with any duly named representatives of labour unions” (Nokian Renkaat). It remains ambiguous whether these descriptions do fully guarantee the right to collective bargaining.
Source: Labour Relations and collective bargaining, International labour Office, Issue Brief nr. 1, Figure 1.
This newsletter contains a short summary of a preliminary investigation of the provisions in the Codes of Conduct. This investigation shows that although many codes contain provisions on human rights, the content of these provisions varies considerably. Furthermore, the effectiveness of the provisions is related to the enforcement and compliance mechanisms of the code. Our research focuses on mapping the various provisions and their value for compliance with fundamental labour rights. In the next episodes of the Newsletters we will keep you informed of the results of that research.
 Source: https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/policy-areas/statistics/lang--en/index.htm  Source: https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/child-labour/lang--en/index.htm  Rules of the game, Centenary edition 2019, p. 33.