Code of conduct signed to combat illegal work

Download article in original language : IT9704107NIT.DOC

In March 1997, the social partners in Italy's leather and suede sector agreed a code of conduct providing for the application of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions on the rights of workers and the employment of minors.

The background to the inititiative in the leather and suede sector is the widespread exploitation of the workforce (including minors) in several "third world" and "developing" countries, despite the existence of international conventions against such practices. Moreover, in "developed world" countries there are areas in which "undeclared" work, outside contractual and social security guarantees, is widely practised, above all in small firms. As well as being ethically reprehensible, this behaviour also disrupts free competition.

In order to combat this phenomenon, Aimpes, the employers' association for the leather and suede sector, and the textiles trade unions - Filta-Cisl,Filtea-Cgil and Uilta-Uil- signed an agreement on 11 March in which they set out a common objective to fight undeclared work and the exploitation of workers. In particular - as the agreement states - the parties wish to prevent the production of counterfeit, illegal and under-priced goods in Italy outside the coverage of the law and collective agreements. According to the text, Aimpes and the three unions, "aware of the growing importance of commercial and productive internationalisation, especially in the leather and suede sector, consider that it is indispensable that these processes take place with respect of human rights, trade union rights and civil rights, ensuring decent working conditions, both from the point of view of health and safety as well as that of wages". Thus, "the social actors consider it necessary, and Aimpes has committed itself accordingly, that affiliated firms and especially those involved in production or commercialisation processes with the Third World, guarantee the respect of these rules, and in particular the following ILO Conventions: 29 and 105 (forced labour), 87 (freedom of association and trade union organisations), 98 (right to collective bargaining), 100 and 111 (discrimination at work), 138 (minimum employment age)."

Aimpes will adopt a "code of conduct" with its affiliated enterprises, accompanied by "provisions" related to its implementation and monitoring. An obligation to respect the relevant rules will be included in contracts with subcontracting supplier firms, and failure to respect them will lead to a suspension of these contracts.

Finally, Aimpes and Filtea-Filta-Uilta have agreed to: carry out a first assessment of the results one year after the drawing up of the agreement; issue a voluntary "environmental and rights label" (with the conditions clearly indicated) that guarantees the respect of personal and environmental rights, as set out in international conventions, in production and commercialisation processes; and undertake initiatives "for a greater involvement of labour market and state supervisory bodies, with the aim of fighting areas of illegal work that produce situations of unfair competition with regard to regular enterprises and the denial of the fundamental rights of workers".

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