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Workers’ rights to receive major boost from EU supply chain Directive

news Press Release

Transport union federations ETF and ITF welcome Friday’s bittersweet breakthrough on due diligence Directive 

The vote by EU states in favour of the bloc’s supply chain accountability Directive will dramatically improve the lives of millions of workers in the supply chains of businesses operating in the EU – say the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which will mandate the conduct of ‘human rights due diligence’ (HRDD) for thousands of companies, is a landmark step forward in regulating corporate supply chains.

But, while representing a significant breakthrough and the unblocking of a worrying political stalemate, the CSDDD was severely weakened under EU Member State lobbying – with the resulting Directive left far weaker than originally intended, covering far fewer companies and workers.

“While we celebrate this landmark law that gives the possibility of holding large corporations accountable for their global operations, the fight is far from over,” said ETF General Secretary Livia Spera.

“We particularly regret that the Directive was diluted and weakened because of the initial backlash. Only a fraction of EU companies will be covered by the new rules; and there is a noticeable lack of a strong and clearly outlined role and mandate for trade unions in enforcing due diligence. 

“The transport sector is particularly affected by large supply chains that abuse subcontracting and evade existing labour laws. A recent example is the Grafenhausen strikes, where hundreds of third-country nationals went on strike in Germany after months of not receiving payments despite transporting goods for major multinational companies.”

She added: “While we underline the need for improvement in the mandatory and legally binding due diligence in the EU, we welcome this first step towards targeting corporate impunity, and call on authorities to effectively implement the Directive.”

ITF General Secretary, Stephen Cotton said: “This Directive should mark the beginning of the end of an era of corporate impunity for the labour rights violations workers suffer in corporate supply chains. 

“For far too long, laws have failed to keep pace with how business operates. Countries have instead relied on corporate voluntarism and corporate social responsibility - this has failed, and it is workers, often transport workers, who have paid the price.

“It is a great shame that only 0.05% of all EU companies will be covered by the Directive. This is a missed opportunity, and EU states should commit to go much further than this, and protect more workers, in their domestic laws.”

The Directive is a direct result of many years of trade union pressure. 

Similarly, the obligation for trade unions and workers' representatives to be involved in the development and implementation of effective due diligence policies, plans and strategies in companies, their subsidiaries and throughout the supply chain, was not included in the original proposal from the European Commission – its inclusion in the Directive is due to trade union pressure.

Due to its unique ability to offer a worker-centred analysis of human rights abuses at sea, in 2023 the ITF published Supply Chain Principles setting out how governments, investors, multinational enterprises and transport supply chain customers must cooperate with the ITF and its affiliates to ensure they are safe, fair and sustainable. It then published human rights due diligence guidance for companies setting out how brands and other cargo owners can fulfil their obligations to seafarers through effective human rights due diligence.

In March 2023, TFG Brands London - owner of brands including Hobbs and Whistles – signed a landmark agreement with the ITF with measures to protect transport workers’ rights. Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU), both parties will work together to examine labour rights risks across all directly operated and subcontracted transportation operations by TFG, and respond in line with relevant international standards.

Picture credit: Reuters, Yves Herman


ETF Media contact: Rodrigo Rivera +32 491 37 26 41 

ITF Media contact:  Mark Dearn +44 7738 832 413   


  • For more information on the Grafenhausen strikes, see hereETF: Gräfenhausen strikers demonstrate that supply chain accountability is possible through workers’ solidarity.
  • Trade union analysis of the European Commission’s original Directive is available here: A Missed Opportunity to Improve Workers' Rights in Global Supply Chains - Opinio Juris.
  • The ITF publication Respecting the human rights of seafarers in global supply chains is available here. Guidance for companies includes: an introductory meeting to set out worker-centred HRDD approaches in transport and logistics supply chains; a confidential ITF Rights Check to identify risks and human rights abuses of seafarers on ships carrying cargo; a dialogue with the ITF on risks and mitigation; an ITF cooperation agreement to work together to prevent and remedy human rights abuses.
  • The ITF’s Supply Chain Principles are available here.
  • More information on the ITF’s 2023 agreement with TFG Group is available here.