Law provides a framework to investigate the use of forced labour in companies’ supply chains
All goods made using forced labour to be halted at EU borders and withdrawn from the market
MEPs want a list of high-risk areas and sectors
On Monday, the 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.
Reversal of burden of proof in high-risk cases
MEPs amended the Commission proposal to 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.
Remediation and wider definitions
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”.
Co-rapporteur Samira Rafaela (Renew, NL) said: “Forced labour is a grave human rights violation. The ban that we have voted for today will be essential in blocking products made using modern slavery and taking away the economic incentive for companies to engage in forced labour. It will protect whistle-blowers, provide remedy to victims, and defend our businesses and SMEs from unethical competition. Our text includes strong provisions on a database and is gender-responsive, all key elements for sustained impact.”
After the vote, co-rapporteur Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (S&D, PT) said: “27.6 million workers worldwide suffer from forced labour, a kind of modern slavery – we should dedicate this victory to them. We have ensured that products made with forced labour are banned from the internal market until workers are compensated for the harm done to them. Banning forced labour also protects companies who follow the rules from unfair competition. Finally, we make it easier to prove state-imposed forced labour.”
The two committees adopted the draft report with 66 votes for, 0 against and 10 abstentions. Plenary will now have to confirm it as the EP’s negotiating mandate and then, once Council also adopts its position, talks can start over the final shape of the regulation.
Parliament is also working on other pieces of legislation promoting decent work and responsible business, such as the proposal on the directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence, currently being negotiated. The proposal on banning products made with forced labour specifically focuses on product surveillance.