- A new report on core labour standards in Sierra Leone reveals that child labour and forced labour remain major problems in the country. Almost three quarters of all Sierra Leonean children are engaged in some kind of work. Furthermore, many children are forced into mine works and girls are kept sexual in slavery, the report says.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today released its new report on core labour standards in Sierra Leone. The report, which shows serious violations, particularly concerning child labour and forced labour, covers the range of core labour standards including trade union rights, non-discrimination at work, the elimination of child labour and the prohibition of forced labour.
According to the global trade unionists, "child labour is widespread in Sierra Leone and law enforcement is weak." Several thousand children were found to be working in diamond mining, mainly boys, "in an environment which closely resembles slave labour." They work long hours and in harsh conditions, engaging in activities like digging, sifting and shifting.
Even more children work in family businesses or on family farms. Overall, statistics show that an overwhelming 71.6 percent of children between the ages of 5-14 years are working, either in paid or unpaid work, according to the ICFTU report.
Child labour was said to be widespread all over Sierra Leone, both in rural and in urban areas, and school attendance is low. It included "the worst forms of child labour such as child prostitution, mining, domestic work and begging." Sierra Leone has signed but not ratified the international Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour or the Convention on Minimum Age.
Moreover, the report notes that following the civil war, many former child soldiers had been "forced into mining activities, whilst disturbingly, many women and girls have been kept in slavery for sexual exploitation." Furthermore, conflicts in neighbouring countries had led to re-recruitment of former child soldiers in Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire.
Further violations of core labour standards included the right not to be discriminated. "Discrimination in employment and remuneration is a serious problem in Sierra Leone and participation of women in the formal economy is low," according to the report.
Regarding classic trade union activities, such as collective bargaining and the freedom of association, the situation in Sierra Leone was somewhat better. Only some legal restrictions and limitations existed with regard to freedom of association, collective bargaining and the right to strike.
The ICFTU report on core labour standards in Sierra Leone was released in Geneva today. Its release coincides with this week's trade policy review of the West African country being conducted by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO also obliges its member countries to oblige to core labour standards.
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