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11 Okt 2022

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Over 70 civil society organisations, coalitions and trade unions

EU: Over 70 CSOs say proposed import ban on products made with forced labour must be strengthened & put workers at its heart

"Civil Society Statement on the Proposed Regulation on Prohibiting Products Made With Forced Labour on the Union Market", 11 Oct 2022

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, coalitions and trade unions, welcome the European Commission’s (Commission) legislative proposal for a Regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market.

With the significant rise in modern slavery according to the newly released 2021 Global Estimates, we need urgent, meaningful action and laws to tackle the exploitation of workers around the world. Yet, the Commission’s proposal is not enough...

We believe this proposal is an essential step toward building a smart mix of tools to help eliminate forced labour across the world, as per EU commitments. We welcome in particular the wide scope of the proposal, in that it covers all products from all regions and all company sizes, big and small.

However, the proposal falls significantly short of its potential and in particular fails to put workers at its heart. We therefore call upon the European Parliament and EU Member States to improve the proposal where it is missing its purpose, whilst building on its key positive elements. Below are our most important concerns and initial recommendations on how to effectively address them.

Of greatest concern is that the proposal completely fails to take into account the fate of workers forced into exploitation, both inside and outside the European Union. It is essential that the proposal is amended to focus on ensuring that workers receive remediation, and to make sure that both affected and potentially affected workers’ views and interests are taken into account at all stages of the investigation and decision processes.

Further, the role of economic operators who are buyers and therefore should remediate (or support remediation) should also receive attention during all stages of the investigation and decision-making processes.

Overall, the process of pre-investigation, investigation, final decision, remediation and further enforcement process needs to be reformulated to be worker and remedy centred. While we welcome the attention paid to due diligence measures undertaken by companies under investigation as a key element to avoid irresponsible disengagement, we underscore that due diligence should not be held as a shield against the opening of an investigation. Crucially, the pre-investigation must focus only on the determination of whether there is a substantiated concern of forced labour. However, the role of due diligence could be considered in the investigation stage in that it, as above, allows for companies to prove adequate remediation (or support for remediation) has been meaningfully provided and measures have been introduced to prevent recurrence of forced labour, prior to any decision to destroy products...

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