Letter to Community Trust organisation.
2 May 1998
The Chief Executive Officer
The Community Trust of Otago
P.O. Box 5751
Dear Sir, Madam or Ms,
The Centre would like to draw to your attention if it may, its concern over your
apparent intention, as evidenced by the advertisement in today's Otago Daily Times,
to fund and take part in the Task Force Green scheme.
As you may be aware the individual's ownership of his own labour is a fundamental
human right which has been upheld in this country and internationally for the last
sixty years. This basic human right has been written into international law by means
of the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and any country which
ratifies those conventions is required to uphold those same provisions in its domestic
The three major conventions which affect this area are; C29 Forced Labour
Convention, 1930, C44 Unemployment Provision Convention, 1934 and C105
Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957. Conventions C29 and C44 were
ratified by New Zealand on 29 March 1938 and C105 on 14 June 1968. None of
these conventions have been denounced ie, withdrawn from, by New Zealand. They
are therefore required to constitute New Zealand domestic law as well as international
law and in the case of the latter may therefore be challenged in the International Court
of Justice. For verification of these points on applicability and law, please see the
enclosed printout of ILO conventions ratified by New Zealand and the descriptions
section of the ILO Conventions printout.
As you will see from the enclosed copies of the conventions, the New Zealand
government appears to be in breach of a great many of the provisions of these treaties
by requiring the unemployed to work against their will on compulsory work schemes
such as Task Force Green.
The most important provision of C29 is Article Two which defines forced or
compulsory labour as:
|" . . . all work or service which is exacted from any person under
the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has
not offered himself voluntarily."
In your own case you may care to consider the provisions of Article Four of C29
which specifically prohibit the use of forced or compulsory labour;
|" . . . for the benefit of private individuals, companies or associations."
As you are aware, your organisation is a private one and you therefore appear to be
participating in activities which are in breach of both international and domestic law.
The Centre would like to draw your attention to Article Nine of C44, which alone
makes provision for the unemployed to be forced to work against their will and even
then it must be:
|" . . . on relief works organised by a public authority."
(The italics are those of the Centre.)
As a further example of the conditions under which human beings can not be forced
to work for the community, your attention is drawn to C29 Article Nine (a) (b) and
(c), which set out further conditions for the use of forced or compulsory labour.
The Centre would also like to draw to your attention C105 Article 1 (a) and (b) which
outlaw the use of forced labour for education and economic development
respectively. To attempt to engender a work ethic for example, is education.
It is currently the case in this country that the Criminal Justice Act is written to
require the consent of a convicted criminal before such a person can be sentenced to
community service. According to a 1993 publication of the New Zealand Department
of Labour, "International Labour Conventions Ratified by New Zealand", this was
done to reflect the provisions of C29. Despite the fact that the exemptions to Article
Two provide for such a sentence, it is not considered appropriate to use forced labour
as a punishment in this country. It would appear that by taking part in such schemes
as Task Force Green, you may be party to treating the unemployed worse than
When the so called "work for the dole" legislation is written into law, the Centre
intends to seek leave from the ILO to lodge a formal complaint against the New
The Centre understands that at least one labour organisation in this country is also
considering requesting the ILO to investigate the New Zealand government.
The Centre also has plans to challenge the legality of such schemes as Task Force
Green and Community Task Force in the New Zealand courts.
Leaving aside the matter of the letter of the law, you may wish to consider the ethical
implications of an organisation such as yours breaching the spirit of such international
views on human rights.
It is a matter of record that the comparisons with the
Wisconsin and New York schemes in the United States are misleading because that
country is not a signatory to either C29 or C44. The United States ratified only C105
which requires that country to uphold in its domestic law only prohibitions against
forced labour for the purposes of education, political punishment and econonomic
For your information please find enclosed copies of relevant documentation including
a letter to the Minister of Justice on the subject.
J M STEVENSON (Mr)