Governments urged to prioritise access to remedy for slavery victims

The ITF and its unions have been advocating this week for governments to put access to remedy at the centre of their efforts to give justice to victims of human trafficking.

At the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva from 27-29 November, ITF legal officer Ruwan Subasinghe and Edwin Atema from ITF union the FNV in the Netherlands took part in key panel discussions.

Mr Subasinghe spoke on operational-level grievance mechanisms and access to remedy to victims of modern slavery in global supply chains. He said: “The very nature of global supply chains presents barriers to justice for victims of corporate human rights abuses in global supply chains.

“Trade unions would like to see more legislation like the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which broadly authorises victims of human trafficking to pursue a remedy against whoever knowingly benefits from participation in an act of trafficking or forced labour.

“New legislation should also ensure that perpetrators of forced labour offences should be held to account in the courts of the company’s home jurisdiction, regardless of where the crimes were committed.

Mr Atema, who has led work to expose exploitation of Eastern European lorry drivers in retailers’ supply chains, commented that these human rights abuses were happening right under our noses in Europe’s road transport. Addressing the role of trade unions in helping workers access remedies, he said that transport workers need to be heard to get this exploitation banned and urged them to get involved with the work around the UN guiding principles for business and human rights. These seek to provide an authoritative global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to business activity.

The ITF is also calling for states to ratify and implement the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol; and for governments to support an ILO Convention on Decent Work and Supply Chains dealing with labour-specific issues and a binding UN Treaty on Transnational Corporations and their overall human rights impacts.

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