On Sunday’s Q and A programme, a prickly Indian Minister cut short a question from Guyon Espiner about child labour in India, saying “it was insulting to India.”
When asked about it, John Key responded by saying that “an FTA was not the forum to address child labour issues. That must be done through the International Labour Organisation and New Zealand had raised the issues there”
No they haven’t. At least not since National has been in government. And Mr Key clearly hasn’t looked that closely at New Zealand’s own question of child labour. While we can’t compare our child labour issues with developing countries, we do have children at work, many exploited and who have few rights.
The classic are the leaflet deliverers. Some are paid around 25 cents an hour. They are employed as independent contractors, so they have no right to join a union, have to pay their own ACC and tax, don’t get sick leave and holiday pay.
Labour helpfully has a bill that Mr Key could adopt, if he really cares about child labour. It’s called the Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Amendment Bill. The Bill provides that all workers aged 15 and under must be employed on employment agreements under the Employment Relations Act 2000 (and its amendments) and have all rights, including the right to join a union, bargain collectively and the rights to personal grievance currently provided to employees under the Act. No such worker can be employed as an independent or dependent contractor.
It’s not such an unusual thing to do. Homeworkers, under New Zealand law are considered employees under the Employment Relations Act, regardless of whether they are engaged, employed or contracted. This is because they are considered (and have been proven to be) vulnerable to exploitation if they are employed as contractors.
So, John Key he could do something about New Zealand’s child workers if he really cared.
Or will he wait until that’s raised at the ILO as well?