Any institution or organization is defined by the kind of labour and workplace relations it has. Workplace relations which describe how the management addresses its employees and their interests may cause an organization to succeed or fail as they determine whether the organization will be able to meet its goals and vision. This is because the human resource of an organization is one of its crucial investments. When the management is not careful with the way it relates to its workforce, the human resource becomes a liability.
Workplace relations between the management and the employees usually are through labour unions. Labour unions function to collectively bargain for better terms of work and other interests of workers. They have the responsibility of ensuring that labour relations between the management and the workers are favourable to the workers. Labour unions through the leaders negotiate with the employer on behalf of the workers for better working conditions such as good wages, a safe and healthy workplace, comfortable working hours, fair terms and conditions in procedures of hiring, promoting, demoting and firing.
They also ensure that the management complies with the regulations that have been stipulated by labour laws. Labour unions however exist and function within frameworks laid down by the governmental labour policies. These policies however vary from one country to another as each country has its own policies, laws, rules and regulations that govern labour relations. The limits within which labour unions and the management operate hence depend on the country’s labour policies (Foner 1999, p. 3).
While some countries have policies that empower labour unions hence workers, other has policies that favour employers while oppressing the workers. Such countries have labour policies that do not empower unions leaving the workers with no forum in which they can raise their grievances (Amjad 2001, p. 4). Most of the countries whose labour policies favour employers have attracted foreign investment they are characterised by low minimum wages, long working hours, forced labour, child labour and other conditions that are not oppressive to the workers but beneficial to the employers.
Most organizations that have chosen to do outsourcing prefer these countries that have labour policies that benefit employers at the expense of the workers (Click & Duening 2004, p. 24). Nike Inc is one of the organizations that has taken advantage of such countries with exploitative labour policies and has outsourced most of its operations to these countries. Countries mostly used for outsourcing are Mexico, China, India and Indonesia. These countries are said to have attractive conditions for investment which unfortunately are unacceptable in the Western world.
Nike is one of the international investors accused of getting involved in these vices. It is alleged that the company has contracting factories in these countries which violate labour rights such as minimum wages, forced labour, child labour and overtime laws. The conditions and practices of Nike Inc. Nike is one of the organizations that are actively involved in outsourcing to countries that offer cheap labour. Most of the organizations that involve in outsourcing do so as they want to reduce their cost of production without necessarily compromising on the quality.
Nike Inc unlike other respectable companies is accused of having bad international workplace relations. Nike maintains good employee relations in the United States where it is based. However unlike other organizations which value their international human resource, Nike is said to exploit them. Most international companies try to maintain international standards by adhering to international labour policies as provided by the International Labour Organization (ILO) even if the labour laws of the countries they operate in are oppressive to the worker.
International labour laws protect the workers against employee exploitation such as forced labour, over working and sweatshops. These policies seek to empower women, make employers comply with minimum wages and overtime policies. Nike is however said to violate all these policies in the cheap labour (outsourcing) countries it has invested in. In Vietnam for example, the company was accused of not complying with overtime policies and minimum wage laws. Nike did not deny this accusation as it claimed that the practice had stopped.
The company is also said to violate the women empowering labour policies as it discriminates against women in its East Asian branches. Nike Inc has also been found guilty of engaging in forced labour in Malaysia. It seems that all this accusations are true as the company always responded by stating that corrective measures would be taken to stop the abuses. Nike has however gone over the edge by practising child labour, a practice which can never be tolerated in the western world. According to reports, the company has been practising this vice for some time.
In the 1990’s the company was criticised for using child labour in its ball manufacturing factories in Pakistan and Cambodia (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan 1995, p. 2). Although the company is said to have taken steps towards reducing child labour in the factories that it has contracted after these incidents, the practice was not completely eliminated as most of the companies contracted operate in countries and places where the labour policies do not address the issue or do not have adequate mechanisms for regulating and monitoring companies to ensure that child labour is not practised.
BBC uncovered in 2001 that child labour still occurred in a factory contracted by Nike in Cambodia. The documentary revealed apart from the factory employing individuals under the age of 18, it also over worked and exposed them to poor working conditions. The documentary featured six girls who worked sixteen hours a day seven days in a week. Union, Government or Pressure Group (e. g. ILO) Policy and any interventions that have or could potentially occur. Child labour is perceived to be a violation of human rights. This is because it exploits children and denies them a lot of rights that they are supposed to be enjoying.
It is described as work that denies children their childhood, dignity and deprives children of their potential. As such it is considered to harm their mental and physical growth and development. Child labour is argued to deny children their right to education as most of the children who engage in it usually have to leave school or combine both school and work which is straining to a child. This vice Sometimes this vice separates children from their parents and leaves them to fend for themselves resulting to most living in streets of towns.
Child labour has different definitions in different countries and organizations. However, in all countries, it depends on the age of the individuals, the kind of work they are doing and the hours involved in doing the work. Child labour is differentiated from the usual work that individuals under the age of 18 participate in their families and society which is not harmful to their health and development and does not affect their education hence helps prepare them to be productive and responsible members of the society.
Child labour usually is characterized by overworking and low wages hence is categorised as a violation of human rights. In Pakistan, Nike’s child labour practice caused Sports industry to partner with children’s rights and human rights activists in the country to intervene in bringing an end to child labour in the soccer balls factories (PR Newswire 1997, para. 2). usually human and children’s rights bodies have the responsibility of ensuring that the rights of individuals as children and as humans are not violated hence will intervene any time an incident that seems to violate these rights is brought to light.
Labour unions can also intervene. But this only possible if they are free and independent from employer influence. Labour unions have the responsibility of ensuring that employers comply with labour laws and policies such as child labour laws (Leopold & Sapelli 1998, p. 72). In the event that labour unions in Pakistan and Cambodia were free, democratic and independent, they would have intervened hence forced the factories’ management to end the child labour practice (Crawford 2001, p. 29).
Labour policies however work within limits set by the government. The government therefore has potential of intervening and stopping the practice. It does this by implementing labour policies that prohibit companies from engaging in child labour. In order to ensure that this is adhered to, the government employs mechanisms that monitor and regulate companies ensuring that they comply with the policies. The government could also do these by empowering labour unions so that they are free from employer or the government’s influence.
The governments in the affected countries actually have the most potential in intervening and stopping child labour. In the event that the government and other pressure groups are not successful in intervening and stopping child labour in the production companies, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has the potential of intervening. ILO is a branch of the United Nations that deals with issues that are labour related. This organization responds to child labour through the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) (International Labour Organization 2001, p. 1).
This body aims at eliminating and combating child labour world wide and does so by strengthening the capacity of countries world wide to deal with the issue. It has movements in various countries which advocate for elimination of the vice. It has partnered religious groups, international government agencies, workers, universities, private businesses, children and their families amongst several other bodies to eliminate child labour which not only deprive children of their childhood and education but also increase a country’s poverty and reduces its competitiveness (International Labour Office 1998, p. 3).
ILO being an internationally recognized body would have the potential of intervening in Nike’s child labour practices in the soccer balls factories in Pakistan and Cambodia. This organ has the power to prosecute such factories in the event they refuse to comply with international laws on child labour (Bekele & Boyden 2001, p. 14). If the Theories on Culture go anyway toward explaining the Phenomena and the occurrence of this Practice. Theories of culture do explain the occurrence of child labour practice.
The conflict theory which originated with Karl Max can be stated as, a society functions so that each individual and group participants fight and struggles to maximize their benefits which eventually contributes to social change such as in politics and revolutions ( Marx 1972, p. 20). This theory could argue that child labour is practised to benefit the factory owners who are rich. It explains that the economy status of the children’s families which is disadvantaged as compared to that of the factory owners influence the occurrence of the practice.
Conflict theory would also argue that the practice is unfair to children as it results to them being denied their childhood rights hence the existence of the laws, bodies and organizations that are formed to resist and prohibit companies from engaging in the practice. The conflict thus exist between the companies that engage in the practice to satisfy their own interests and the children’s and human rights organization which fight to protect the interests of children. Hurbert Blumer (1962, p. ) summarizes the symbolic interactionism theory as ”people tend to act toward things based on the significance the things have for them; this significance is derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation ”. According to this theory, it can be argued that production companies that engage in child labour do so as they want to benefit from the cheap labour that is offered by children. Children on the other hand engage in the practice as they perceive it to be a way of earning a living. Child labour hence is beneficial to both parties that engage in it.
Functionalism is a mind theory based on the idea that, the mental states ‘can be beliefs and desires’ are identified by what they do or how they function. In a society the theory concentrates on functional interactions like why, when and how certain rituals are done. It generates law in societies that are used to explain certain phenomenas (Richardson 1999, p. 535). This theory would therefore explain why child labour laws, children’s and human rights organisations exist. It would argue that these bodies and laws were formed to protect the rights of children from exploitation and violation.
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