Why is this case so important?

Why is this case so important?

We believe this was a potentially ground-breaking complaint that put on notice those companies who continue to knowingly profit from modern slavery. The case highlights significant gaps in labour protections within the European Union and the lack of remedies available to affected workers of forced labour.

New EU legislation & regulation

Coincidently, the disappointing judgement of 15 April, came around the same time, when the EU Parliament acknowledged that more is to be done to hold companies liable for severe forms of labour exploitation. On 23 April, the EU Parliament adopted not only the recast of the EU anti-trafficking Directive1 – which foresees the strengthening of mandatory sanctions for legal persons liable for misconduct – but also a Forced Labour Ban, a new regulation enabling the EU to prohibit the sale, import, and export of goods made using forced labour. Moreover on 24 of April a new Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence was adopted. The aim of this Directive is to foster sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour and to anchor human rights and environmental considerations in companies’ operations and corporate governance. The new rules will ensure that businesses should address adverse impacts of their actions, including severe labour exploitation in their value chains inside and outside Europe.

Currently, it remains very difficult to hold companies accountable for severe forms of exploitation like forced labour or human trafficking. Severe exploitation of especially migrant workers continues to happen in the Netherlands and Europe.

Will the Case still be investigated?

There is limited chance that the public prosecution will still investigate the case, which we try to enforce with our appeal. According to the Dutch Public Prosecution the complaint filed does not show that the companies profited from the exploitation. Moreover according to the Polish inspection there have been inspections with these companies during the time covered by the complaint (2003-2018), but they found no indications for forced labour or human trafficking. It should be noted though that the Polish labour inspectorate did not identify or refer any case of forced labour or human trafficking over the last five years, whereas there have been many credible reports indicating that forced labour is very much a problem in certain Polish industries. The only way for us to enforce a further investigation, is to show that the prosecutor’s decision was premature and legally flawed. This is the aim of the current complaint procedure. In this procedure, we build on extensive information collected and research done. Also see the documentary Why Slavery.