In the global marketplace, many workers are required to work for long hours at low pay in deplorable conditions and often unsafe settings. There are various types of forced labor. Child labor is more common than we would like to admit. Human dignity is denied to the workers through such injustices as discrimination, sexual harassment, physical and emotional abuse, and levels of compensation that do not allow an adequate living for the workers.
We live in a global market place with a planetary supply chain. Many around the world are forced to labor to produce our products and services under deplorable working conditions. Governments often fail to protect their own workers’ rights and human dignity. Many countries are so focused on economic development through export that the rights of the workers producing those goods for export are ignored.
Have you ever wondered if your clothing was produced in sweat-shop settings, or whether the gold in your jewelry was mined at extreme risk to human life? Have you ever wondered if those who made your cell phone were treated with respect in their place of employment, or if they were abused and beaten and forced to work endless hours at a pay rate that could barely keep them alive.
Too often, government enforcement of labor laws has been either lax or non-existent. Underpaid government inspectors can be easily bribed to overlook the most egregious working conditions.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) was formed to deal with this situation. The FLA is a consortium of companies, universities and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) that have coalesced to improve working conditions on a global basis.
From the FLA Website: www.fairlabor.org
The mission of the Fair Labor Association is to combine the efforts of business, civil society organizations, and colleges and universities to promote and protect workers’ rights and to improve working conditions globally through adherence to international standards.
The FLA Charter outlines the association’s mission, structure and programs. It includes:
- Participation criteria for Companies;
- Affiliation criteria for Colleges and Universities;
- Accreditation criteria for Independent External Monitors;
- Workplace Code of Conduct; and
- Principles of Monitoring.
The strategy of the FLA is both simple and effective. The contracts written with suppliers include the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct.
2011 FLA Workplace Code of Conduct
- EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIP: Employers shall adopt and adhere to rules and conditions of employment that respect workers and, at a minimum, safeguard their rights under national and international labor and social security laws and regulations.
- NON-DISCRIMINATION: No person shall be subject to any discrimination in employment, including hiring, compensation, advancement, discipline, termination or retirement, on the basis of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, political opinion, social group. or ethnic origin.
- HARASSMENT OR ABUSE: Every employee shall be treated with respect and dignity. No employee shall be subject to any physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.
- FORCED LABOR: There shall be no use of forced labor, including prison labor, bonded labor or other forms of forced labor.
- CHILD LABOR: No person shall be employed under the age of 15, or under the age for completion of compulsory education, whichever is higher.
- FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Employers shall recognize and respect the right of employes to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
- HEALTH, SAFETY, AND ENVIRONMENT: Employers shall provide a safe and healthy workplace setting to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with, or occurring in the course of work or as a result of the operation of employers’ facilities. Employers shall adopt responsible measures to mitigate negative impacts that the workplace has on the environment.
- HOURS OF WORK: Employers shall not require workers to work more than the regular and overtime hours allowed by the law of the country where the workers are employed. The regular work week shall not exceed 48 hours. Employers shall allow workers at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in every seven-day period. All overtime work shall be consensual. Employers shall not request overtime on a regular basis and shall compensate all overtime work at a premium rate. Other than in exceptional circumstances, the sum of regular and overtime hours in each week shall not exceed 60 hours.
- COMPENSATION: Every worker has the right to compensation for a regular work week that is sufficient to meet the worker’s basic needs and provide some discretionary income. Employers shall pay at least the minimum wage or the appropriate prevailing wage, whichever is higher, comply with all legal requirements on wages, and provide any fringe benefits required by law or contract. Where compensation does not meet workers’ basic needs and provide some discretionary income, each employer shall work with the FLA to take appropriate actions that seek to progressively realize a level of compensation that does.
Through the good work of the FLA the global workplace is being transformed. Suffering and abuse are being replaced with human dignity. Starvation and forced labor are being replaced by living wages, worker protection and human dignity.