EU Parliament makes progress on Forced Labour Ban

EU Council

On 16 October, the EU Parliament Internal Market and International Trade committees adopted their position on keeping products made using forced labour out of the EU market.

The draft regulation would put in place a framework to investigate the use of forced labour in companies’ supply chains. If it is proven that a company has used forced labour, all import and export of the related goods would be halted at the EU’s borders and companies would also have to withdraw goods that have already reached the EU market. These would then be donated, recycled or destroyed.

MEPs task the Commission with creating a list of geographical areas and economic sectors at high risk of using forced labour. For goods produced in these high-risk areas, the authorities would no longer need to prove that people have been forced to work, as the burden of proof would fall on companies.

The committees also want goods that have been removed from the market to be allowed back on only after the company demonstrates it has stopped using forced labour in its operations or supply chain and remedied any relevant cases.

MEPs have also updated and widened the definitions used in the text. Particularly, the definition of forced labour would be aligned to ILO standards and include “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 or herself voluntarily”. (Source includes: European Parliament)

La Strada International has been following the developments, since on 14 September 2022, the European Commission published its proposal for a new EU legislative instrument to effectively ban products made by forced labour from entering the EU market. Together with a NGO consortium lead by Anti-Slavery International and others, we have lobbied for remedies for workers.

Positive is that the Parliament committee’s proposal now includes the need for the provision of full remedy to victims, as an additional condition to lift any ban. There are also issues in the parliament proposal that we would have liked to see differently. See here ASI’s reaction of 17 October 2023:

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