EU must show modern-day slavery the red card

Participants in the PES COMPET, meeting by videoconference

Participants in the PES COMPET, meeting by videoconference

Products made with forced labour must be prohibited from the Union market, European socialist ministers agreed today.

Ministers from the Party of European Socialists (PES) made the call as they met to coordinate before the EU Competitiveness Council (COMPET) on Thursday.

The EU has an important role it must fulfil in enforcing international labour standards, especially for migrant workers and other vulnerable groups. An estimated 27.6 million people are in forced labour, in many industries and in every continent. The majority of forced labour takes place in the private economy.

A ban on products made using forced labour is a policy included in the resolution adopted at the PES Congress in October.

Meeting Chair Finnish State Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Ville Kopra, said:

“Our fight for strong workers’ rights does not stop at the EU border. The EU is a major market and we must use this power to eliminate human rights abuses in global trade. That is why we support all efforts to eliminate all products made with forced labour from the EU market, regardless of where they are manufactured.

“To achieve this, it will be important to build strong cooperation between EU, effective enforcement at the EU borders and diligent reporting by businesses, inside and outside the single market.”

The resolution adopted by the PES Congress in October urged the EU to lead by example by adopting mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence rules and corporate accountability, including a ban on products made with forced labour, which should apply to the entire value chain of companies, for operations inside and outside the Union, based on international standards adopted by the UN, ILO and the OECD.

Ministers also exchanged on the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive and reiterated the need to anchor human rights and environmental considerations into corporate governance in an effective way. The meeting also held a discussion on the importance of an industrial strategy to defend European jobs and businesses on the global stage and underlined the importance of an EU-level approach to strengthen the single market and support competitiveness, jobs and the Just Transition in Europe.

The meeting was attended by:

  • Ville Kopra, Meeting chair, State Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Finland
  • Rolf Schmachtenberg, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Germany
  • Silvio Schembri, Minister for the Economy, EU Funds and Lands, Malta
  • António Costa Silva, Minister of the Economy and Maritime Affairs, Portugal
  • Florin Spătaru, Minister of Economy, Romania
  • Gaby Bischoff, S&D Vice President for a Europe based on the rule of law, values, fundamental rights and fair mobility for all, S&D Group, European Parliament
  • Esther Lynch, Acting General Secretary, ETUC
  • Yonnec Polet, PES Deputy Secretary General, PES