RECOMMENDATION on the draft Council decision authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the European Union, the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, of the International Labour Organisation with regard to matters related to social policy

23.7.2015 - (06732/2015 – C8‑0079/2015 – 2014/0259(NLE)) - ***

Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
Rapporteur: Patrick Le Hyaric

Procedure : 2014/0259(NLE)
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on the draft Council decision authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the European Union, the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, of the International Labour Organisation with regard to matters related to social policy

(06732/2015 – C8‑0079/2015 – 2014/0259(NLE))


The European Parliament,

–       having regard to the draft Council decision (06732/2015),

–       having regard to the request for consent submitted by the Council in accordance with Article 153(2), in conjunction with Article 153(1)(a) and (b), Article 218(6), second subparagraph, point (a) (v) and Article 218(8) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (C8‑0079/2015),

–       having regard to Rule 99(1), first and third subparagraphs, Rule 99(2), and Rule 108(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–       having regard to the recommendation of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (A8-0243/2015),

1.      Gives its consent to the draft Council decision;

2.      Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council, the Commission and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.



Forced labour breaches human rights and is an affront to the dignity of millions of women, men, girls and boys.

Efforts to combat this most violent form of exploitation underlie major political and philosophical emancipation movements. The emancipation struggle, in seeking to free human beings from a chain of political and cultural domination and material dependence, has always involved opposing bonded labour, which prevents people from exercising other rights.

Yet in the 21st century, 21 million people are performing forced labour: they are victims of an exploitation which generates USD 150 billion per annum for those who organise and manage it.

While traditional forms of exploitation have been based on physical or material constraint, as they still are, they have been joined by new forms, particularly in affluent countries, in some cases despite the prevalence of the rule of law. These are more subtle and insidious, but just as violent, and are based on hope. They affect men, women and children who seek to escape the conditions in which they are living and who have changed their lives with that aim.

Although, officially, slavery to pay off debts no longer exists in Europe, the fact that is that 880 000 people in the European Union and 1.6 million in the continent as a whole are victims of these new forms of forced labour. Men and women who have been offered jobs abroad find themselves trapped by their so-called employers, migrants by their traffickers, and children are rendered vulnerable by deracination.

The most vulnerable population groups – women, children and migrants – are those on whom the worst jobs and conditions are imposed: prostitution, begging and the hardest and most degrading work. As well as the violence of exploitation, they suffer physical violence, constant psychological aggression, fear and isolation.

These new forms of the slave trade and of exploitation, like the old ones, must be destroyed by the law and by determined action to enforce it. That is the aim of the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, of the International Labour Organisation, with which this recommendation from the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs is concerned.

The protocol

The ILO’s Protocol of 2014 on the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, updates the convention, equipping it with new tools for combating forced labour and making it legally binding.

Noting that ‘the context and forms of forced or compulsory labour have changed’, the protocol states that measures of prevention, protection, and remedies, such as compensation for material and physical harm, and rehabilitation, are ‘necessary’. It also calls for more resources to be allocated, and cooperation between States stepped up, with the aim of combating modern forms of slavery, thus acknowledging their increasingly international character.

The Protocol’s provisions strengthen the international legal framework by establishing obligations to prevent forced labour and to provide victims with protection and access to remedies, such as compensation.

Articles 1 and 6 require ILO Member States to develop a national policy and plan of action for the effective and sustained suppression of forced labour and to take measures to apply the Protocol’s provisions, in consultation with employers’ and workers’ organisations.

Article 2 sets out the measures that ILO Member States must take to prevent forced labour, namely:

•   educating and informing people, especially those who are particularly vulnerable, and employers;

•   making efforts to ensure that the coverage and enforcement of legislation relevant to the prevention of forced labour apply to all workers and all sectors of the economy and that labour inspection services are strengthened;

•   protecting people, especially migrant workers, from potentially abusive and fraudulent recruitment and placement practices;

•   supporting due diligence by both the public and private sectors; and

•   addressing the root causes heightening the risks of forced labour.

As regards the victims of forced labour, Article 3 provides that effective measures are to be taken for their identification, release, protection, recovery and rehabilitation and other forms of assistance and support.

Article 4 requires ILO Member States to ensure that all victims have access to remedies, such as compensation, and that competent authorities are entitled not to prosecute victims for unlawful activities that they have been compelled to commit.

Article 5 requires international cooperation to prevent and eliminate forced labour and Article 7 deletes the transitional provisions from the Convention.

Consistency with EU policies and objectives

The EU has incorporated the ban on forced labour into its primary legislation by including both the Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers and the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union[1].

Although the EU has not yet acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the EU Court of Justice has already invoked it, and Article 4 prohibits slavery and forced labour.

Consequently, EU policies must be designed to defend and promote human rights and decent work and to eradicate trafficking in human beings, both within its borders and outside.

Rapporteur’s view

Labour rights are among the main pillars of decent work, and the main instrument for combating exploitation through work. Consequently, any breach of these rights, circumvention by means of other policies such as freedom of movement, or political pressure to reform labour rights in such a way as to downgrade the initial standards, is contrary to wider application of decent-work standards.

This being so, the way in which the directive on the posting of workers is being applied is worrying, because it de facto creates a legal vacuum and allows businesses to turn a blind eye to – or even, through the subcontracting chain, to encourage – breaches of the rules, the application of minimum requirements and the practices in force. As national labour inspectors cannot adequately tackle transnational cases falling under the directive, all manner of infringements, including those which take the form of forced labour, are possible. Article 2 of the protocol calls for labour inspection services to be strengthened in order to enforce labour law.

The protocol calls on governments to take measures to better protect workers – particularly migrant workers – from abusive and fraudulent practices during the recruitment process. This cannot be done properly without a genuine reinforcement of the resources needed for the purpose of enforcing labour law or without a clear and unequivocal statement that this law, together with the right to collective action, takes precedence over freedom of movement or competition law. The ratification of this convention should therefore be accompanied by thinking about the impact of European social policies on labour law.

The other angle stressed by the protocol as a way of protecting human beings against forced work is prevention and remedies.

Prevention cannot be effective unless the demonisation of illegal immigrants ceases and they start to be treated humanely. Migrants, particularly women, are often the prime victims of forced labour, and criminalising their legal status if their papers are not in order, or criminalising the work that they are forced to do (of the USD 150 billion in profits derived from forced labour, two thirds is the fruit of sexual exploitation), makes it impossible for them to access legal resources which could otherwise enforce their rights.

It is therefore important to bring such people out of the isolation inflicted on them by their exploiters and by legal systems which are too repressive towards illegal migration.

Some genuine thinking needs to be done at European level concerning the risk factors identified by the ILO in its most recent report on forced labour[2] which compel individuals to perform forced labour: decline in income and poverty, vulnerability due to lack of education, illiteracy, the vulnerability of particular sections of the population (women, migrant children). The European anti-poverty strategy should go well beyond mere coordination of national measures: it should establish binding targets for reducing poverty and should incorporate the words in the preamble to the protocol to the effect that forced labour ‘contributes to the perpetuation of poverty and stands in the way of the achievement of decent work for all’.

Remedies for harm suffered raise the issue of employers’ responsibility, but they should also be seen as raising the issuing of the responsibility of those who commission work, in order to avoid any dilution of responsibility in the subcontracting chain.

Lastly, the EU cannot be a force for progress if it seeks to achieve it only within its own borders and subjects it to the imperatives of international competition. European diplomacy, as well as the common commercial policy, must be far more determined in their approaches to third countries which breach the ILO Convention of 1930 on forced labour and its 2014 protocol.

From the Filipino maid isolated and exploited in Europe to the workers who are building the stadiums for the World Cup in Qatar, and not forgetting the appalling instances of child labour and the violence of sexual exploitation, the same criminal systems and networks are in place and cannot be tolerated.

Consequently, the rapporteur proposes that Parliament give its consent to the Council’s proposal for a decision.

  • [1]  TFEU, [Part III,] Title X – Social Policy.
  • [2]  ‘Profits and Poverty: the Economics of Forced Labour’.


Date adopted





Result of final vote







Members present for the final vote

Laura Agea, Guillaume Balas, Tiziana Beghin, Brando Benifei, Mara Bizzotto, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Enrique Calvet Chambon, David Casa, Ole Christensen, Martina Dlabajová, Lampros Fountoulis, Elena Gentile, Arne Gericke, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Agnes Jongerius, Rina Ronja Kari, Jan Keller, Ádám Kósa, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Patrick Le Hyaric, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Thomas Mann, Dominique Martin, Anthea McIntyre, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Emilian Pavel, Georgi Pirinski, Marek Plura, Terry Reintke, Sofia Ribeiro, Maria João Rodrigues, Claude Rolin, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Siôn Simon, Jutta Steinruck, Romana Tomc, Yana Toom, Ulrike Trebesius, Ulla Tørnæs, Marita Ulvskog, Renate Weber, Tatjana Ždanoka, Jana Žitňanská, Inês Cristina Zuber

Substitutes present for the final vote

Tim Aker, Lynn Boylan, Tania González Peñas, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Ivo Vajgl, Monika Vana





Enrique Calvet Chambon, Martina Dlabajová, Yana Toom, Ulla Tørnæs, Ivo Vajgl, Renate Weber


Arne Gericke, Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Anthea McIntyre, Ulrike Trebesius, Jana Žitňanská


Laura Agea, Tiziana Beghin


Mara Bizzotto, Dominique Martin


David Casa, Danuta Jazłowiecka, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Ádám Kósa, Jérôme Lavrilleux, Jeroen Lenaers, Verónica Lope Fontagné, Thomas Mann, Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Marek Plura, Sofia Ribeiro, Claude Rolin, Anne Sander, Sven Schulze, Romana Tomc


Lynn Boylan, Tania González Peñas, Rina Ronja Kari, Patrick Le Hyaric, Inês Cristina Zuber


Guillaume Balas, Brando Benifei, Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, Ole Christensen, Elena Gentile, Sergio Gutiérrez Prieto, Agnes Jongerius, Jan Keller, Emilian Pavel, Georgi Pirinski, Maria João Rodrigues, Siôn Simon, Jutta Steinruck, Marita Ulvskog


Terry Reintke, Monika Vana, Tatjana Ždanoka




Lampros Fountoulis




Tim Aker

Key to symbols:

+ : in favour

-  : against

0  : abstention