We, the Coalition against BAYER-dangers, Germanwatch and the Global March against Child Labour, are writing to express our deepest concern at the intense employment of children in the planting of cottonseeds in India. Your Bayer affiliate, ProAgro, is one of the beneficiaries of this process. To prevent ongoing harm to children we urge you to take immediate steps against this practise.
The research of the "Glocal Research and Consultancy Services" (GRCS) institute in Hyderabad/India, published under the title "Child Labour and Transnational Seed Companies in Hybrid Cottonseed Production" (translated into German in July 2003), proves the employment of the children at the suppliers of ProAgro, Monsanto, Unilever and other companies. This is a violation of the ILO-basic working conditions conduct, as well as of other international standards such as the OECD-Guidelines on Multinationals. One of the companies benefiting is ProAgro, which has been a Bayer affiliate since 1999.
Bayer has committed itself to the abolition of child labour, for example by joining the UN Global Compact. Your company has meanwhile admitted the problems with the Indian seed suppliers. But only in September 2003 a meeting took place between the seed suppliers involved and the Indian initiative on children rights, the Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MV Foundation) in Hyderabad/ India. At this meeting companies, including ProAgro, took over responsibility on children's working conditions at their suppliers. Since then there has been much delay without putting the commitments into place. On December 13th 2003 another meeting of the MV Foundation and the companies involved took place where a specific plan of action with detailed activities has been created and agreed upon.
We expect from Bayer and its affiliate ProAgro to take up all required actions to end the employment of children and to immediately implement the plan of action. In addition we urge you to finance an education programme for the children who have suffered from child labour at your suppliers. This education programme should be developed together with the local authorities.
Your commitment to the abolition of child labour at Bayer companies, as well as your contract clauses on preventing your suppliers of using child labour, are not enough in order to fulfil the target. Agreements made with local contractors need to be monitored. In order to prevent your suppliers from using child labour, the prices paid for their products need to be high enough so that employment of adults is profitable to the suppliers.
Educational re-integration for children who have been forced to drop school in order to work is seldom successful. After each employment period with an average duration of seven months the children concerned - basically girls - do not get any further formal education. These children are at the age of six to fourteen. Through the work for the suppliers of Bayer/ProAgro, who depend on the contracts, the children have lost their options for the future. Their health is also endangered as the labour protection laws, such as when using herbicides, are not applied.
We are in close co-operation with our partners in India, the MV Foundation. From Germany we will observe carefully the steps taken of Bayer/ProAgro and the implementation of the plan of action. As Bayer/ProAgro working methods violate the OECD Guidelines for Multinationals, we are presently evaluating the possibility of a complaint to the relevant authorities.
What are the steps that you, as well as those responsible at ProAgro, will take in order to immediately stop all use of child labour at your suppliers?
We look forward to your answer.