by Mr. Lincoln Lewis,General Secretary, Guyana Trades Union Congress
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) stands firmly in its commitment to ensure that the children of this nation are not exploited economically through Child Labour. As global stakeholders advance the importance of a Decent Work Agenda to sustainable development, the presence of Child Labour continues to haunt us. The International Labour Organisation, (ILO) which includes Government, Employers and Workers organisations, has agreed that stamping out the scourge of Child Labour requires the creation, establishment and implementation of conventions and laws that would head on confront the plight of forced labour and in particular, protecting the Rights of the Child as crucial to national development.
ILO Convention No. 29 calls for the universal prohibition of forced and compulsory labour in all forms; Convention No. 105 mandates the abolition of forced labour and provides for the suppression of any form of forced or compulsory labour in specified cases, among them are political coercion, education or as punishment of holding or expressing political views or views ideologically opposed to the established political, social or economic system; Convention No. 182 appeals to member-states to pursue a National Policy designed to ensure the effective abolition of Child Labour; Convention No. 138 establish laws for minimum age for admission to employment and work "between the ages of 14 to 15: and prohibit the employment of young persons under the age of 18 in work or activities that are likely to jeopardise their safety, health or moral development."
As a member state Guyana subscribes to these ILO tenets. But subscription is not only about ratification. Subscription more importantly is about ensuring policies and practices are put in place to guarantee these tenets and secure a safe environment for children. It is about policing the employers and the environment where children are found to ensure they are protected from being exploited economically and all their rights respected. It is about putting in place the requisite resources to combat Child Labour, which must also see appropriate education programme (s) and children placed at the heart of any National Policy that addresses the nation's developmental thrust.
The children are our future and it's the responsibility of adults to teach them well and let them lead the way, by showing them all the beauty they possess inside, and instilling in them that sense of pride to explore the world with their dignity intact. Our children must be allowed to enjoy the protection and benefits befitting their age and vulnerable status. They must be able to grow, develop and given opportunities to realise their full potential, enjoying the protection of childhood and all its innocence. Violators of our children's innocence, trust and rights must be met with loud condemnation by all, and feel the full force of the laws which must be strengthened to make deterrence meaningful.
GTUC sees the plight of children, their protection and development at the kernel of our thrust in creating a just and fair society. It is against this backdrop we continue to commit ourselves to working with all stakeholders in eradicating Child Labour. Families or whomever, regardless of status or where they are located, must not be allowed to hide behind claims of cultural patterns nor must any excuses be accepted where child labour is found to exist.