Child Labor Report 2005
Transparency of Codes of Conduct in the Apparel
Most survey respondents who have child labor policies indicated that
they have distributed copies of their policies to all suppliers,
including contractors and subcontractors. A few said they also
communicate the policy to a wider audience. On the other hand, many
respondents said they were not certain whether workers know about
their codes of conduct.
- Field visits conducted in six countries revealed that:
- Managers at two-thirds of the export-oriented plants visited
indicated they were aware of codes of conduct prohibiting child
labor, particularly codes issued by U.S. customers.
- Formal training about codes of conduct was not common.
Approximately 30 percent of the facilities visited where managers
knew about codes reported that they received formal training from
the U.S. corporation issuing the code. However, more than half of
these facilities produced for just two corporations.
- Meetings with workers and their representatives suggested that
relatively few workers making garments for U.S. companies are
aware of the existence of codes of conduct and even fewer
understand their implications.
- This confirms information received from U.S. companies
through responses to the survey and follow-up telephone
interviews that they were not aware how - or if - their policy
is communicated to workers making their products.
- The lack of awareness among workers about codes of conduct may
be in part attributable to the relatively low level of effort by
producers to inform their workers about the codes. Only 22 of the
plants visited informed their workers about codes of conduct; 13
of the companies indicated that they informed their workers about
codes of conduct orally, while only nine stated that they did so
both orally and in writing.
- In many cases where plant managers told Department of Labor
officials that they had informed workers orally about company
policies, workers denied having ever been so informed.
- Posting of the codes of conduct at the workplace for the
benefit of the workers -preferably in their own language - was not
the rule in the garment industries of most of the countries
visited. In all, 21 of the 70 plants visited by the Department of
Labor officials had posted a code of conduct of a U.S. customer; 7
of such plants (out of 8 visited in that country) were in El
Salvador. The number of plants visited in each of the other
countries where codes of conduct were posted was: Dominican
Republic, 2; Honduras, 1; Guatemala, 2; India, 2; and the
- Some managers stated that they do not post codes because all
they do is repeat domestic law. However, not all codes define
child labor by existing domestic law.
- Others have also used as an excuse the illiteracy of
workers, even though managers contradict this by stating that
they are seeking to employ better-educated workers. Many workers
had no trouble reading codes of conduct shown to them by
Department of Labor officials.
- While it is most critical that overseas contractors,
subcontractors and their workers be familiar with corporate codes
of conduct, knowledge about their existence and implications by
others - host governments, NGOs, business organizations - also can
be helpful in enhancing their effectiveness. The record was mixed
with respect to the extent to which these entities were familiar
with codes of conduct and their implications.
Child Labor Report 2005