Forced child labor: Vietnam’s garments shunned by US federal departments

 

 Jjuly 24, 2013 The US Department of Labor has listed Vietnam’s garment industry as using forced child labor. This means suppliers to US federal government bodies must not supply made-in-Vietnam garment unless they prove that such garment do not use forced child labor.

“More than isolated cases of forced child labor in garment production”

child labourIn its Final Determination dated 15th July, in a process lasting nearly a year since the initial public notice in September 2012, the US DoL report wrote:

     “[T]here are more than isolated cases of forced child labor in garment production. These cases predominately occur in small, unregistered workplaces..ILAB [Bureau of International Labor Affairs] research in 2008 and 2009 revealed a trend of forced child labor in the sector. Further ILAB research in 2011 and 2012 revealed additional recent and ongoing cases of forced child labor in the garment industry, confirming earlier research.”

Vietnam’s labor ministry and the state-run industry association VTAS made 3 submissions, variously denouncing that the report was based on “unofficial” sources, giving implied threats that the ban would “negatively affect ties”, and claiming that cases cited by the US are scattered among small enterprises.

“Vietnam’s laws forbid child labor”?

Vietnamese officials blatantly claim in their submissions that “Vietnam’s laws forbid child labor”. However, the Labor Code allows children as young as 13 to be employed. Clause 164 states: “Employers may employ 13-15 y.o. in occupations prescribed by the Labour Ministry”.

A 2011 report by Human Rights Watch, “The Rehab Archipelago”, found that so-called drug rehabilitation centres, run by the state, use tens of thousands of inmates, including at least hundreds of children, as forced labor. State-owned companies use them to produce garments and export cashews, among other things. Guards use batons to hit inmates who don’t want to work, sometimes breaking their bones.

CPVW (Committee to Proect Viet Workers) is a member of Viet Labor, an alliance of labor-rights groups in and outside of Vietnam. Their protectVietworkers.com is in English, the baovelaodong.com and laodongViet.org are mostly in Vietnamese.

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