ILAB projects combat some of the most abusive labor practices, including the use of child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking; and promote trade partners’ compliance with the labor requirements of U.S. trade agreements and preference programs. These projects protect children and build the capacity of governments, employers, and workers to improve labor protections in the areas of freedom of association, collective bargaining, non-discrimination, and occupational health and safety, as well as promote apprenticeships and acceptable conditions of work. Currently, ILAB supports 60 active projects in 46 countries.
ILAB partners with 23 organizations that implement our international technical assistance projects. These implementing organizations (or grantees) are coping on a daily basis with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on vulnerable workers, children, and families. As they assess the pandemic impact, a number of grantees are already proposing and implementing targeted efforts to raise awareness of the danger posed by the virus and how it may be increasing vulnerability to exploitative labor.
Here are just a few examples of how ILAB project implementing partners in Latin America are having an impact in their communities:
- In Mexico, the World Vision-implemented Campos de Esperanza project is using leaflets, posters, and radio broadcasts to get the word out about the risks of COVID-19 to children and families working on sugar and coffee farms in remote communities, who in many cases lack access to basic news and information. They are also partnering with local authorities in Oaxaca and Veracruz to disseminate information about the impact of COVID-19 on children, families and communities, and how to access medical services beyond the areas where the project works. The project is working alongside communities to implement appropriate sanitation practices following recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Government of Mexico.
- In Colombia and Paraguay, Partners of the America is preparing to launch communications campaigns related to COVID-19. Through the Avanza and Palma Futuro projects in Colombia and the Okakuaa project in the Paraguayan Chaco region, Partners will use SMS texts and radio-based public service announcements to disseminate information on self-care, identifying COVID-19 symptoms, and what to do if these symptoms are identified among workers. Additionally, the Okakuaa project will educate employers and workers in Paraguay about government assistance programs available to those impacted by the crisis.
- Also in Colombia, the Escuela Nacional Sindical, through Labor Law Enforcement Centers (LEC), will launch a communications campaign aimed at workers in the mining, palm oil, ports, cut flowers, and sugar sectors. The campaign will provide tips and responses to workers’ frequently asked questions and complaints that stem from COVID-19 issues, such as contracts being suspended or collective bargaining rights being violated. Additionally, the LECs are tracking and publicizing the main labor violations reported in these sectors that are the result of employer actions during the COVID-19 crisis. The LECs are offering virtual legal advice and assistance to workers with labor complaints, and promoting legal protocol models for use en masse by worker organizations or labor NGOs to help systematize the use of effective legal actions for workers.
ILAB is also gathering information from our grantees about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable workers and their families. For example, researchers at the University of California - Berkeley, which is conducting an impact evaluation of awareness-raising campaigns targeting human trafficking, have modified their approach to use safe and socially responsible methods to collect additional information on the impact COVID-19 is having, in particular on the potential exploitation of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong.
Finally, ILAB is working directly with governments, employers, and worker organizations to address the urgent needs of workers, employers, national governments, and buying partners in the ready-made garment sector. Through the Better Work program, the International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation are engaged in mass circulation and display in workplaces of World Health Organization and ILO health and safety guidance in local languages in a simple and actionable form. They are also:
- providing technical advice to factories and brands facing unexpected compliance issues resulting from closures;
- coordinating information campaigns and training with WHO and national partners; and
- engaging international buyers, national and international constituents, and other institutions to explore opportunities to support and protect suppliers and their workers during the period of economic shutdown.