Agreement to combat child labour in the leather and suede industry

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In February 1998, trade unions and employers in Italy's leather and suede sector signed an agreement to defend children from labour exploitation in the industry at home and abroad.

On 17 February 1998, representatives of the textile and shoe sectoral trade unions - Filtea-Cgil, Filta-Cisl and Uilta-Uil- and the employers' association for the leather and suede industry - Aimpes, a member of Confindustria- signed a deal implementing a procedural agreement on combating child labour concluded on 11 March 1997 after a long period of mediation (IT9704107N).

The agreement provides for the introduction of a "code of conduct" to be applied in Italy and abroad, which aims to put an end to the exploitation of child labour in all the companies that are covered by the agreement. The main Italian garment and textile companies - such as Gucci, Ferragamo, Mandarina Duck, Sansonite, Redwall and Brics- have already formally agreed to the initiative. The introduction of the code will allow the companies concerned to put a "social label" on garments and textiles that will certify that they were produced without exploiting child labour.

A national joint committee is established by the deal, charged with "monitoring, addressing and implementing the content of the agreement". The committee will also be responsible for promoting a series of initiatives to finance activities and to enforce the agreement, consulting to this end the governmental authority on the subject (appointed by the Prime Minister). An important novelty of the accord is that the requirement to respect the code will be extended to all the supplier companies of the firms which are covered by the agreement. To this end the committee will - within the restraints imposed by privacy requirements - draw up a list of subcontracting companies which are involved in production activities.

The most controversial subject that will have to be addressed - especially as far as the countries most "at risk" are concerned - is the monitoring of the enforcement of the agreement. Although the companies concerned declare themselves willing to be monitored by independent bodies, at present no international body authorised to check "suspect" companies exists.

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