How are employees recruited for work in brick kilns?
The first weeks of October when the monsoon season ends brick kiln owners send their middle men, brokers, to recruit workers from small, impoverished villages throughout Nepal. There are over 500 brick kilns in Kathmandu Valley and 90% of brick kiln employees are migrant workers. Brokers travel throughout the country, specifically to very poor villages that have limited economic opportunities. The broker and employee agree on the amount of bricks the employee will make during the season. The broker then gives the employee an advancement in their salary. The employee now owes the brick kiln hard labor and a specific amount of bricks before the season begins creating debt bondage.
How do children become involved?
Brick kiln employees travel very far from their villages to work in the brick kilns and their children must come along for the journey, uprooting them from school for at least 6 months. Brick kiln employees work from sun up until sun down, left with no where else to go during the long working days children accompany their parents to the brick kiln. Young children are left unsupervised in the very dangerous work environment and children physically capable are recruited to start hauling bricks as young as the age of 4. Children spend long hours in the dust-filled, hazardous environment and accidents involving children happen frequently and often result in serious injuries or even death. Children lose out on their education, are often exploited and their development and future compromised.
What are living conditions like at brick kiln sites?
A majority of the migrant brick kiln employees live in cramped, one bedroom make-shift huts near the brick kiln site. They are meant to be temporary, have dirt floors and four walls made of unbaked bricks. The small huts house as many as 11 people and cooking, bathing and toilet facilities are located outside, shared amongst hundreds of brick kiln employees and their families.
How are employees paid?
At the end of the brick kiln season, the end of May when the monsoon season begins, the employee must have produced the agreed amount of bricks that the broker and employee set when the advancement in salary was distributed. If they have not produced the amount of bricks in the contract the employee now owes the employer. Having no other way to repay the employer the employee is in debt promising they will return the following season – starting the following work season with even more debt.
Recommendations and long-term sustainable solutions:
CONCERN emphasizes the importance of workers rights for parents working in brick kilns as a direct link to protecting children and eradicating child labor. With a strong relationship with brick kiln owners and advocacy for employees CONCERN encourages employers to comply by labor laws. CONCERN is currently collaborating with other NGOs to put pressure on brick kiln owners to comply by a code of conduct and to make the following changes in the recruitment and employment process. CONCERN is in the process of creating a long-term program that aims to have brick kilns in the districts of Bhaktapur and Lalitpur completely child labor free in the next three years. Here are a few of the recommendations from the program CONCERN is currently developing:
1. Educate employers and employees on their rights, in a recent survey conducted by CONCERN 92% of employees were unaware of labor laws and child rights
2. Put pressure on employers to hire employees with transparent contracts that would be monitored closely, make the advance amount smaller, instead agree on a bonus for the employee at the end of the season
3. Pay the employee hourly rather than by brick amount to avoid debt bondage, and comply by legal hourly work week
4. Enforce a code of conduct for employers to sign which would include an agreement to refer all children at brick kiln sites to CONCERN
5. Provide interim education for migrant children during the brick kiln season to ensure they do not fall behind in their studies and can successfully return to their school when the brick kiln season is over
6. Facilitate non-formal education classes, day care center services and child clubs at brick kiln sites where families live to create a safe, child friendly environment and prevent children from accompanying their parents to the brick kiln
Posted By Gisele Bolton
Posted Oct 12th, 2014