ILO urged to cut links with tobacco industry

10 March 2017:

THE Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) has called upon the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to end its ties with the tobacco industry.

For many years the ILO has had a close working relationship with the global tobacco industry through its public-private partnership programme, the anti-tobacco group says. The ILO’s policy on collaboration with the tobacco industry has been on the agenda of the 328th session of the governing body this week.

The ILO is a member of the UN Interagency Task Force (UNIATF) on Prevention and Control of NCDs, which adopted a draft model policy last year for preventing tobacco industry interference among UN agencies. 

SEATCA said this policy states: “UNIATF should reject partnerships, joint programmes, non-binding or non-enforceable agreements and any other voluntary relationships with the tobacco industry.”

Mary Assunta, senior policy adviser of SEATCA, said: “The time has come for the ILO to end its ties with the tobacco industry. ILO’s reference document for its governing body is skewed with songs of praise for the work with the tobacco industry.”

“This is not surprising because transnational tobacco companies have been financially supporting some of the work of the ILO particularly in addressing child labour in tobacco growing.

“About 80 per cent of the 1.2 billion smokers live in poor and middle-income countries. The global tobacco industry is focused on increasing its profits from these parts of the world since smoking is declining in the high-income countries.”

The ILO estimates there are about 60 million people involved in tobacco growing and leaf processing worldwide. However, it offers no data on the number of children working in this industry. In fact the ILO says shifts in tobacco production to the developing world may have resulted in increased child labour.

The ILO has $15 million from Japan Tobacco International and another tobacco industry-funded NGO, the Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing Foundation. 

Assunta said it appears the ILO has completely missed the point on how the tobacco industry benefits from child labour.

“It should be clear to the ILO the many years of collaboration with the industry have not eliminated child labour,” Assunta said.

“The ILO should not allow their decision to be coloured by the paltry $15 million. The governing body must put itself above tainted funds and choose the policy to end ties with the tobacco industry as recommended in the model policy of the UNIATF.”