Social partners in the textiles industry sign first European Code of Conduct

On 22 September 1997, the social partner organisations representing workers and employers in the textile industry signed a European Code of Conduct designed to show their commitment to promoting basic human rights in the workplace.

The European Trade Union Committee: Textiles, Clothing and Leather (ETUC:TCL) and EURATEX, the European employers' organisation for textiles and clothing, signed the first "European Code of Conduct" on 22 September 1997 in the presence of Allan Larsson, director general of the the European Commission's Directorate General V for employment, industrial relations and social affairs. The signing of the Code of Conduct marks the successful outcome of over a year of sometimes strenuous negotiations as part of the sectoral social dialogue at European level.

In a preamble, the Code underlines the social partners' determination and commitment to comply with and promote basic human rights in the workplace - as established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as their desire to work towards a highly productive and internationally competitive industry which respects equally the rights of employers and employees.

In Article 1, the social partners call on their members actively to encourage enterprises and workers in the sector to respect the following ILO Conventions:

  • prohibition of forced labour (Conventions 29 and 105) - this includes slavery and forced labour carried out by prisoners;
  • freedom of association and negotiation (Conventions 87 and 98) - this includes the right of workers to organise in trade unions and the right of employers to organise, as well as free and independent negotiation;
  • prohibition of child labour (Convention 138) - this applies to children of 15 years or younger, or younger than the school leaving age in force in the countries covered; and
  • the principle of non-discrimination in employment (Convention 111) - this lays down the principle that workers should be employed on the basis of their ability rather than their race, religious convictions, individual characteristics, political opinion or social background.

In Article 2, EURATEX and ETUC:TCL commit themselves to distribute the Code of Practice in the appropriate languages and at the appropriate levels by 31 December 1997. They also call upon their members to include the Code of Conduct in all sectoral or company-level agreements.

Article 3 lays down an annual follow-up process to monitor adherence to the Code, within the framework of the sectoral social dialogue. The first of these annual reports is to be presented no later than 10 July 1998.

Speaking at a press conference organised to launch the code of conduct, representatives from ETUC:TCL and EURATEX stressed the importance of reaching agreement on the Code of Conduct, because of the difficulties in getting these issues on the agenda. They underlined the importance of the Code of Conduct for third countries, where problems such as child labour are more marked.

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