With a new resolution, the EU Parliament urged the EU Commission on 9 June 2022 to ban products from the EU market, which are made by forced labour and under inhumane conditions. AK welcomes this motion by the EU Parliament.
Whether working on the sugar plantations in Pakistan, in the cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in the disposable gloves factories in Malaysia: inhumane working conditions are unfortunately still on the agenda. Recently, because of suspicion of forced labour, the American customs authorities imposed an import ban on disposable gloves produced by the Malaysian manufacturer WRP Asia Pacific. According to estimates by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 25 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour. EU Parliament, NGOs, trade unions and AK have been urging the EU Commission to take action against inhumane working conditions for a long time.
In February 2022, the EU Commission presented its proposal on an EU supply chain law. However, the EU supply chain law does not include an import ban on products made by forced labour. On 22 March 2022, Bernd Lange (S&D), Chairman of the European Parliament's Committee on International Trade submitted a Resolution, which urges the EU Commission to speedily formulate an effective regulation on forced labour. Following a debate on 9 June 2022, the EU Parliament almost unanimously voted in favour of this resolution. "In order to effectively fight forced labour, we need a genuine import ban for the European internal market, which would allow authorities to stop goods at our borders when we have reasonable suspicion that they are made with forced labour”, said Anna Cavazzini, MEP (Greens).
People, who work under forced conditions are exposed to different forms of coercion, for example (threat of) violence, withholding of the wage, excessive overtime or threats against their family. According to the EU Parliament, the 11 indicators defined by the ILO, should be used to identify forced labour. The future instrument shall conform to WTO standards and should be designed following the example of the United States and Canada; according to the United Sates-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA"), these countries have been obliged since 2020 to ban products made by forced labour. The legal act shall aim at stopping goods at EU borders if there is reasonable suspicion that they were made by forced labour. The EU Parliament also requests that a public register is established, comprising facilities, areas and products, on which sanctions have been imposed in order to enable customs authorities to swiftly withdraw these products from circulation. Another important demand of the EU Parliament refers to the requirement that companies, whose products were made by forced labour, have to pay compensation to the workers affected. Apart from that, civil society actors or trade unions must be able to point out potential violations and to initiate investigations. A public database shall be set up as a coordination and information system, which comprises information on individual suppliers and the risk associated with these (supply chain mapping).
Demands by AK
AK is in favour of the EU using its market power to effectively fight forced labour. “Exploitative work also means that trade unions and collective bargaining are prevented. Only when workers are able to unite they have the chance to take up the joint fight for living wages”, commented AK President Renate Anderl. According to AK´s demand, the trade-based measure shall ensure that geographic origin will not be discriminated against but that import and export bans will be imposed based on evidence. In addition, attention must be paid to the coherence with the action plan on sustainability chapters and their integration in Free Trade Agreements. The EU Commission has already responded to public pressure and announced its intention to present a legal proposal in September 2022.
Chamber of Labour: Support for an EU import ban of products made by forced labour and child labour (German only)
AK EUROPA: Supply chain law proposal requires improving
AK EUROPA Position Paper: Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence
European Parliament: Resolution on a new trade instrument to ban products made by forced labour