In 2005, the ILO published its second Global Report on Forced Labour under the Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Report called for a Global Alliance against Forced Labour, involving governments, workers’ and employers’ organisations. The ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) subsequently initiated a global initiative to raise awareness of employers’ organisations and business on modern manifestations of forced labour and human trafficking. To date, a wide range of training and awareness raising activities have been carried out, in close collaboration with the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and involving major multinational companies and employers’ organisations.
The Business Case Study project
An ILO Handbook for Employers and Business on Combating Forced Labour was published in 2008, providing guidance on principles and definitions, assessment of compliance and action. The handbook contains a booklet on good practice case studies, largely based on country experience. The present project aims to build further on these case studies by looking in greater depth at how select companies deal with the risk of forced labour in their own operations and across their supply chains.
Each case study will present:
- Specific challenges with regards to forced labour
- The response of management to those challenges (i.e. preventive or remedial action)
- The impact of the response
- Lessons learned to be shared with other business actors.
The overarching theme is that business can and must play a central role in fighting coercive labour practices. The broader aim of the project is to showcase the effective engagement of companies (both MNEs and their suppliers) as they address challenges that are faced by many companies in the global economy.
ILO supervisory bodies consider the following as forced and coercive labour practices:
- Restriction of the workers’ ability to terminate an employment contract
- Threats of violence and intimidation
- Debt bondage, illegal wage deductions and deception in wage payments
- Sanctions or disciplinary measures that result in an obligation to work or that are used as a punishment for participation in a strike
- Compulsory overtime above the limit permitted in national law and collective agreements
- Restriction of freedom of movement
- Retention of identity documents (against the will of workers and workers not having access to their documents)
- Threats of dismissal and denunciation in the case of irregular migrant workers
A main challenge for business is to distinguish between the risks of forced labour and trafficking, which constitute a penal offence in most countries, and other problems of non-compliance which would fall under labour or other sources of law. The case studies will aim to demonstrate that forced labour represents a real risk in certain industries and under certain circumstances (e.g. operations involving a large number of migrant or temporary contract workers). But it should also become clear that there are remedies at the disposal of companies who are willing to face up to the challenge.
A series of at least 6 case studies will be prepared, drawn from different regions and industries. It is planned to launch them as an ILO publication at the December 2010 Luxor Conference, “End trafficking now: Enforcing the UN Protocol”1, organised by the UN Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking and the Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement.
Following the launch of the publication, it is planned that the cases will be used in training and awareness raising activities organised by ILO and its International Training Centre in Turin. They will also be disseminated through IOE’s and other business related networks. It is also planned to contact major Business Schools in order to integrate the case studies into teaching curricula as well as to publish an electronic version on SAP-FL’s website (www.ilo.org/forcedlabour). The cases may also be used by the ILO Helpdesk and the UN Global Compact in their interaction with companies.
Companies who agree to collaborate with ILO on this project will be asked to share relevant information in order to make the case studies as authentic as possible. It is important to note that the objective of the project is not to pressure companies into compliance but to highlight effective management responses towards the eradication of coercive labour practices across supply chains. The ILO will select cases where a company demonstrates how the risk of forced labour was addressed in the overall context of fair labour practices.
Timeline and contact
A rough timeline for the project is as follows:
August – September 2010: Research and drafting of cases
October 2010: Review and final adjustment
November 2010: Design and publication
December 2010: Launch and dissemination of final publication
For further information, please consult our website at: www.ilo.org/forcedlabour
Philip Hunter - ILO consultant
Tel: +1 416 858 5224 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beate Andrees, Senior Specialist ILO Geneva
Tel: +41 22 799 6452 Email: email@example.com
1 Referring to the Palermo Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.