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Uzbekistan: EU Parliamentarians Reject Textile Deal With Uzbekistan

October 5, 2011 – 3:06pm, by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick [Source: EurasiaNet.org]

European Union parliamentarians have rejected a trade deal that would have eased Uzbekistan’s export of textiles to Europe, citing the use of forced child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry, Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe reported.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted unanimously against the inclusion of textiles in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), the pact that has governed EU-Uzbek trade since 1999. The vote prevented a lowering of tariffs on EU imports of Uzbek cotton, which make up at least 25 percent of Uzbekistan’s exports.

The language of the legislation now stipulates that the inclusion of textiles “should only be put to the vote by Parliament after international observers, and in particular the International Labor Organization (ILO), have been granted by the Uzbek authorities close and unhindered monitoring.”

The Uzbek government has failed to invite the ILO to inspect cotton fields during the harvest season, despite calls from employers and unions at the ILO annual meeting as well as human rights groups.

In February, the European Council approved an amendment to the PCA, extending the customs and tariffs breaks to Tashkent. But the European Parliament had yet to approve it, and it still had to go through committees.

EU members of parliament became concerned about increasing reports of the exploitation of children in the cotton harvest. A coalition of international labor and human rights organizations, joined with Uzbek human rights groups working both inside the country and in exile, have been advocating for some years with MEPs to try to stop forced child labor, especially after Uzbekistan ratified the ILO convention against the worst forms of child labor in 2009.

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Advocates Protest Uzbekistan’s Use of Forced Child Labor


It’s not every day that you get your message through to one of the world’s most notorious dictators, but some of us in the child labor advocacy community think we may have just done that last week during New York City’s Fashion Week.

For several years, the Child Labor Coalition, 28 organizations working to end the labor exploitation of children around the world, has been deeply concerned about the forced use of child labor in Uzbekistan, where Islam Karimov has ruled with an iron fist for 21 years. Each fall, Uzbek school children and their teachers are forced to leave their classrooms and perform arduous hand-harvesting of cotton for up to two months. The children—estimates of their numbers range from several hundred thousand to almost two million—receive little or no pay and often perform this back-breaking work from young childhood and through college. The workers are charged for shelter and food and by the time those expenses are deducted their compensation is so small it would be fair to say they worked for little or no pay or “slave wages.” The profits of this labor tend to flow to Uzbekistan’s ruling elite. Unlike child labor in most countries, Uzbekistan’s occurs as a result of national policy filtered down to local government authorities.

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Retailers such as Nike and Macy’s Boycott Cotton from Uzbekistan to Protest Child Labor

BY KATHRYN KATTALIA

DAILY NEWS WRITER

Daniel Acker

Retailers including Walmart and Macy’s have signed a pledge to not use cotton from Uzbekistan until the country stops using forced child labor.

Retailers are going crazy for cotton — but not in a good way.

Superstores Walmart and Macy’s have joined up with  such big names  as Liz Claiborne, Nike, Eileen Fisher and Nautica to sign a pledge boycotting the use of cotton from Uzbekistan, WWD reported.

They are among the first companies to team up with the nonprofit group Responsible Sourcing Network to demand that the country stop using forced child labor to harvest its cotton crop. Read more

More progress needed to reduce child labor; Urgent action required on Uzbekistan, Domestic Workers Convention, and U.S. farmworker children

Child Labor Coalition Press Release/For release: June 10, 2011

Washington, DC—As World Day Against Child Labor on June 12 approaches, the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) is alerting the public that more than 200 million children still toil around the world, often in dangerous jobs that threaten their health, safety, and education.

Here in the United States, the CLC is applauding the anticipated re-introduction of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE), which Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) plans to sponsor once again next week. The legislation would close loopholes that permit the children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers to work for wages when they are only 12 and 13 years old, often in harsh conditions—10- to 12-hour days of bending over and performing repetitive tasks in 90- to 100-degree heat.

“It’s time to level the playing field by closing these loopholes, which go all the way back to 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was introduced,” said CLC Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, the Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a consumer advocacy organization that has worked to eliminate abusive child labor since its founding in 1899. “We must offer these children the same protections that all other American kids enjoy.”

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