Woman Accused of Assualting 5-Year-old Maid in Botswana

[from the Botswana Gazette]

Woman poured hot water over `child maid’- allegation PDF Print E-mail
Five-year-old hired to look after toddler

Police say they have arrested a 39-year-old woman of Mmopane for allegedly pouring boiling water over a five-year-old girl who was employed to look after her three-year-old baby.

According to the police the victim is in a critical condition at a hospital with second and third degree burns on the head.

Sir Seretse Khama Airport Police Station, King Tshebo told The Gazette that the woman could be charged with employing child labour, among other charges.

“For now, she will be charged with assault occasioning bodily harm, but there is a possibility that she will be charged with employing a five-year-old. The wounds that the little girl sustained on the head as a result of being burnt with hot water are very disturbing,” said Tshebo.

“What we have learnt from the mother of the child is that the five-year -old girl was taken from a village called Moralane around Shoshong. The arrangement was that the she would look after the woman’s three-year- old toddler and the parents were to be paid her wages,” said Tshebo. The woman took advantage of the fact that the five year old `maid’ was from an impoverished family.

Allegations are that the woman became angry with the child for some reason and threw boiling water on her head. “When questioned, she said the victim had poured water in the tub to bath and did not realize that it was too hot; but the woman’s story contradicts the facts before us,” said Tshebo.

The woman is expected to appear before a magistrate’s court on the 10th of July.


When a Family Business Violates Child Labor Laws

[From the Hartford Advocate]:

By John Stoehr

Where do parental rights end and children’s rights begin?

Laws protecting children from the hazards of the workplace violate the constitutional rights of parents to teach their kids the family business. That’s the claim of two restaurateurs who filed suit against the state Department of Labor (DOL) in federal court on May 20.

Michael and Migdalia Nuzzo, owners of Clinton’s Grand Apizza, say statutes forbidding children under 16 from working in restaurants should not apply to family-owned businesses. Their children are not “working” but learning a trade that has been passed down through generations.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose job is to defend the law, is currently reviewing the case. Though the Nuzzos’ case has made for good headlines — they have been interviewed by Fox News, CNN, ABC News and NPR, along with a handful of local TV and radio stations — experts say chances of victory are slim. The law is clear and there are no exceptions for family-owned businesses.

What happened?
In early May, a DOL officer appeared at Grand Apizza to inform the Nuzzos it’s illegal for minors under the age of 16 to work in restaurants in Connecticut. The Nuzzo kids are 8, 11 and 13. The officer represented the DOL’s Wage and Workplace Division, which investigates potential violations of child labor law. According to director Gary Pechie, protocol requires the agency assess the severity of allegations. If, say, a child is alleged to be using a wood chipper, an investigation is launched. If, say, a minor is said to be working in a pizzeria, which is relatively less hazardous, then his agency moves to “educate and inform,” Pechie says. That was the case here. The agent’s goal was to inform the Nuzzos of the law. There was no investigation and no penalty. It was like a traffic cop pulling you over for speeding and then letting you off with a warning.

What was the response?
Shock and outrage. Disbelief, too. The Nuzzos were doing what a lot of parents do, they said. Besides, the kids aren’t working. They’re helping. The kids aren’t paid, they said. They don’t operate machinery. And they don’t miss school. For short periods of time, the kids “watch, learn and assist their parents in the creation of New Haven-style pizza and the fundamentals of running a local pizzeria,”

According to the suit. Attorney Raymond Rigat says his clients ask the court only to declare state law inapplicable to “family business circumstances.” The law, he says, violates a handful of civil liberties, including something he calls “family integrity.” Federal law, he says, makes exceptions. State law doesn’t. “It’s a constitutional norm to have a family business exception,” Rigat says. “[The Nuzzos] ask to lead their lives without government intrusion.”

Do they have a legitimate case?
It doesn’t look good. If state and federal laws differ, the most protective law is followed. In this case, Connecticut’s law is among the most protective in the country. No one under 14 can work. Period. Fourteen- and 15-year-olds can be employed as farmhands, newspaper deliverers and golf caddies, among other things. In the wake of 2007, revelations that more than 20 Walmarts in the state were violating child labor laws, state legislators beefed them up to include up to five years of jail time for each offense.

The law, moreover, is explicit about businesses that may pose workplace hazards: “No minor under 16 … shall be employed or permitted to work in any manufacturing, mercantile or theatrical industry, restaurant or public dining room …” Even then, there are severe time restrictions. Industries exempt from the law, and ones that may also pose workplace hazards, like agriculture and hospitals, have strict guidelines. If you’re a 15-year-old farmhand, for instance, you can’t drive tractors.

The law is set up that way, says Daniel Schwartz, a legal expert at the Hartford law firm Pullman & Compley, because parents aren’t alone in having a stake in children. Society does, too. “The government has a compelling argument — safety,” Schwartz says. “The courts have usually erred on the side of legislative action to protect the safety of minors.” That’s why challenges to child labor laws are difficult to pull off, Schwartz says. “Unless [their attorney] can challenge the very legality of the law under the Constitution, they are going to have a tough road.”

C’mon — pizzerias aren’t that dangerous.
The Nuzzos don’t think so either. According to their suit, the children are “under the direct supervision of their parents and sometimes their grandparents.” As a reporter for New England Cable News put it: How much safer can they be? Yet about 44,800 teens were hospitalized for cooking-related injuries, according to a 2009 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Of those, 63 percent took place in hamburger and pizza establishments. Besides, there’s no evidence to suggest being with your parents makes you safer, says Reid Maki, spokesperson for Washington, D.C.’s Child Labor Coalition. “It’s a commonly held belief that parents are the best form of protection, but I see the workplace accident reports all the time of children who are injured in the presence of their parents,” he says. “Kids are getting hurt in these work settings. Parental rights don’t trump a child’s right to safety.”

But the kids aren’t really working, right?
Sorta. If a business benefits from your labor, then you’re working, even if you’re not paid, says Gary Pechie of the Department of Labor. In media reports, the Nuzzos admitted they benefited: Their children greet customers, bus tables and help out generally. The Nuzzos also claim their business is an extension of their home, thus laying the groundwork for allegations that state law violates their right to privacy. But such logic works in reverse, too: The Nuzzos are not only their children’s parents but their employers. As such, the Nuzzos are beholden to state labor laws, which are applied to businesses equally, Pechie says. “There are no loopholes.” Besides, no one is saying the Nuzzos can’t bring their kids to work, says Schwartz, who also authors the Connecticut Employment Law Blog. “Kids clearing the table at home is one thing,” Schwartz says. “At a restaurant, it’s another. There’s nothing wrong with parents bringing their kids to work and overseeing them there. It’s just the nature of the tasks they do at work that makes the difference.”

What’s next?
Given there was no investigation and no fine was levied, some are saying this lawsuit is an expression of the current anti-government furor. You can see this in media stories that repeat uncritically a key phrase — that the state is “prohibiting the Nuzzo children from learning the family trade.” Strictly speaking, the state makes no such assertion. Others say the lawsuit is political. Reid Maki, of the Child Labor Coalition, says a primary belief among conservatives is that children are subject to their will. “The odds are against [the Nuzzos], but theoretically, the courts could go with the rights of the parents.”


The World Wide Recession?

The number of youth, 15- to 17-years-old, who work increased 20 percent in the period 2004-2008, while child labor rates are believed to have fallen among young children, particularly girls.


Child Migrants Flock to World Cup Host (South Africa)

The World Cup has football fans in its grip, but away from the main spectacle in South Africa, children, some alone, are fleeing Zimbabwe and flooding in to the country. UK charities are among those working with them.
Leeroy Sibanda is 16. The eldest child in his family, he has left his brother, sisters and mother in Zimbabwe to cross illegally in to South Africa to seek work.
According to Save the Children, he came from Harare but lacked the proper immigration documents and was refused entry at the official border point between the two countries.
Instead, he swam the Limpopo river crossing.
He survived the crocodiles, but was greeted on the other side by the goma-goma – robbers who occupy the areas of bush land along the border and prey on refugees who try to cross.
They stole all the money he had – R150 (£13) – and beat him up.

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New York Times Highlights Plight of Farmworker Children

Efforts to protect farmworker children received a boost in June, 2010 when the NY Times front page featured an article on child labor in U.S. agriculture:

An accompanying slide show can be found here:


World Cup Profits Bypass Asian Soccer-Ball Stitchers

By James Rupert

June 9 (Bloomberg) — Asian workers who stitch nearly all the world’s soccer balls have seen little improvement in lives dominated by poverty, a report said days before the start of the World Cup, which promises sports gear companies a sales bonanza.

Thirteen years after companies such as Germany’s Adidas AG and Nike Inc. joined labor and development organizations to end the use of an estimated 7,000 children to stitch soccer balls, “child labor continues to exist” in the three main ball-making countries of Pakistan, China and India, according a June 7 report by the Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum.

In those countries and Thailand, the fourth major ball- producer, adult workers often are paid too little to support their families. Some children still stitch balls at home, while others have migrated to new work, the report said.

“The international campaign of the 1990s removed bonded child labor from our soccer-ball industry, but these children moved to auto workshops, brick kilns and the like,” said Arshed Makhdoom Sabir, president of Ours Pakistan, a non-profit, development organization in Sialkot, Pakistan.

Sialkot is the hub of an industry that made about 75 percent of the world’s hand-sewn soccer balls in the 1990s, and still makes most high-quality balls, the ILRF report said. Adidas is marketing Sialkot-made replicas of its high-tech Jabulani, a machine-molded ball made in China for use in World Cup matches.

Sub-Minimum Wages

The labor forum’s researchers surveyed 218 workers for Sialkot companies that export balls and other products to sports retailers including Nike and Adidas, the two largest in the world. While suppliers for the two big companies provided better conditions for their workers, more than half of Sialkot’s soccer-ball stitchers reported 2009 pay that was below Pakistan’s monthly minimum wage of 6,000 rupees ($70), the report said.

For sewing together the 32 polyurethane outer panels of a soccer ball that sells for $50 in the United States, a Sialkot worker is paid as little as 50 rupees (59 cents) “so obviously international companies can make bigger profits in Pakistan,” Sabir said.

Adidas, Nike

Adidas, based in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, is sponsoring the FIFA World Cup and 12 of the 32 competing national teams, in an effort to beat its 2008 record soccer- related sales of 1.3 billion euros ($1.92 billion), which was fueled by that year’s European Championship tournament. Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike is sponsoring 10 teams in the tournament, which kicks off in South Africa on June 11, as it challenges Adidas’s dominance in soccer retailing.

“Adidas believes that factory wages should always meet basic needs and also provide for reasonable savings and expenditure” by workers, said company spokeswoman Katja Schreiber in an e-mail. Adidas suppliers pay permanent workers “an average of 7,500 rupees per month, plus social benefits,” she said.

Nike “has been working to change how factories in Pakistan pay for soccer balls to shift the industry from a piece-goods system to a wage-based system,” spokesman Derek Kent said by e- mail. The company “hopes to leverage this new model and our experience to establish best practices in the industry.”

Informal Economy

While Pakistan’s economy grew an average annual 7.2 percent from 2004 to 2007, the availability of formal jobs for Pakistanis declined, said Haris Gazdar, an economist at the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi, Pakistan. By 2008, nearly 83 percent of male workers, and 93 percent of employed women worked in the informal economy, some as soccer- ball stitchers, beyond the effective reach of minimum wage laws and most other workers’ protection rules, Gazdar said.

Seventy percent of Pakistanis stitching balls are casual workers, often in violation of a law requiring employment contracts and the status of “permanent” worker after nine months of employment, the ILRF report said.

Pakistan on June 5 increased the minimum wage to 7,000 rupees ($82) per month, although “it might need to be twice that level” to let most workers meet basic needs for the average family of seven people, said Gazdar. The World Bank estimates that a quarter of Pakistan’s 180 million people live on less than $1 a day.

China, India

Sialkot-based Awan Sport Industries Ltd., which makes balls for Adidas, and Silver Star Group, which manufactures for Nike, provided significantly better working conditions than most local ball-makers because they used more permanent employees “in formal factory settings,” the report said.

Most Chinese soccer balls are machine-made, although companies in Jiangsu province hire women and children to hand- stitch balls, according to the report. Children still sew balls by hand in the Indian cities of Meerut and Jalandhar, it said.

–With assistance from Matt Townsend in New York and Holger Elfes in Dusseldorf. Editors: Mark Williams, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: James Rupert in New Delhi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Austin at


Bill to protect domestic workers passes in N.Y. Senate

ALBANY – The State Senate passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (S2311D/Savino) making New York the first state in the nation to provide new standards of worker protections for more than 200,000 employees in an industry which has gone unregulated for decades.

The legislation passed 33-28 in the Senate. The Assembly has yet to act.

This legislation guarantees protection from discrimination, notice of termination, paid sick days and holidays, and other basic labor protections long denied to nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers employed in private homes.

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