Today, industriAll European Trade Union and the ETUC, sent a letter to the Spanish Presidency of the EU insisting that the EU’s proposal on Forced Labour is prioritised by the European Council noting that around 27.6 million people are in forced labour around the world. The letter, also co-signed by civil society organisations representing human rights defenders, calls on the Spanish Presidency to speed up the discussion at Council level and to ensure that all Member States work together and advocate for a robust worker-centric forced labour regulation as a priority.
The EU proposal on forced labour aims to ban products on the EU market which are produced, extracted, or harvested with forced labour. Forced labour can manifest itself in many ways from forced overtime, deductions from salaries (including for extremely poor and unsanitary accommodation), harassment, grave occupational health and safety concerns, and passport seizure which prevents workers from finding another job, and in the case of migrant workers, from returning to their home country.
With examples of forced labour prevalent in the garment, mining, ICT, and mechanical engineering sectors , industriAll Europe insists that the time is now for a strong stance from the EU to prevent products made by forced labour from entering the EU market.
Judith Kirton-Darling, Deputy General Secretary at industriAll Europe said:
‘’There is no place for forced labour and we stand in solidarity with workers across the world in calling for an end to these terrible practices. EU Member States need to lead by example and this file should be a priority for all EU nations.’’
The joint letter also outlines serious gaps in the original proposal from the European Commission, including the lack of provision of remediation for impacted workers, a high evidentiary threshold, insufficient protection for whistle-blowers and the need to better address state-imposed forced labour such as is found in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region or in Turkmenistan.
Judith Kirton-Darling added:
“While we hope that EU legislation on forced labour will be a useful tool, core workers’ rights such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining must also be respected to ensure that forced labour is a terrible crime of the past. Trade union rights are human rights and that includes protection from forced labour. The EU needs to agree on robust legislation as soon as possible. Millions of workers are waiting.’’
European Commission’s Proposal.
IndustriAll Europe’s submission to the European Commission’s Call for Evidence