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Unions Blow Whistle On Child Labour Footballs

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11 August, 2005ICEM News release No. 18/1998

French oil workers are seeking an urgent clarification from energy multinational Total over the use of the company's logo on footballs produced by child labour. Total is headquartered in France.

Trade union investigators have just released new video footage of young Pakistani children stitching soccer balls, apparently bearing the official World Cup logo. Some also appear to carry the logos of Total and Mastercard and the signature of Brazilian football legend Pelé.

The children, some working side by side with adults, are believed to receive around 30 US cents each for footballs which sell overseas for up to US$75.

Earlier this month, a journalist investigating child labour for the unions visited houses and workshops in villages near Sialkot, Pakistan, where most of the world's soccer balls are stitched. In Jarawalli village, he filmed young boys stitching footballs, and interviewed a family of six young girls, aged between 5 and 12. The five-year-old was punching holes in the leather pieces, which are then sewn by her sisters.

The video footage is being publicised by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), and is likely to be screened on French TV shortly. The International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) and other union internationals are cooperating with the ICFTU in a campaign against the exploitation of child labour worldwide.

It is not yet clear whether Total actually authorised the use of its logo on the child-made footballs, but the ICEM-affiliated French chemical and energy workers' union FCE-CFDT says it is "now taking all necessary steps vis-a-vis the General Management of the Total group in order to obtain full clarification of this affair."

And the union declares: "Without wishing to anticipate the answers that it will receive, the FCE-CFDT reaffirms its unswerving commitment, within the international trade union movement, to the struggle for the respect of working people's rights and basic freedoms. It is up to Total to provide rapidly all the explanations that have been asked for. The FCE-CFDT will be watching to make sure it does."

In fact, football's world governing body FIFA already has an agreement with the international trade union movement to help phase out the use of child labour in football production. The accord is with the ICFTU, the textile and allied workers' international ITGLWF and the FIET union international, whose coverage includes shop workers. To implement the agreement, FIFA and the UN's International Labour Organisation last year introduced inspection procedures for football production. Union internationals will now be holding new talks with FIFA, to raise concerns that local companies are evading the inspections.