Government approval for ratification of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol a positive development

28 Jan 2019


Congress notes today’s Government approval for ratification of the ILO Forced Labour Protocol.  Congress has been calling for this move for some time and welcomes the fact that Ireland has now joined the "50 for Freedom campaign” and is among the first 50 countries to ratify the Protocol on Forced Labour by the end of 2019.

In seeking to implement the protocol and live up to the responsibilities therein, we are of the view that there is much learning to be had from the UK Modern Slavery Act. Large Irish companies with a global turnover of more than €40,000,000 who have a footprint somewhere in the UK are already covered by the Modern Slavery Act. We now urge the government to introduce similar legislation as a significant statement of intent. The French Duty of Vigilance law and the Dutch Child Labour Due Diligence law also provide important examples of how national legislation can be used to ensure businesses take the necessary steps to ensure respect for human rights – including the right to be free from forced labour.

Two recent reports[i] illustrate the need for continued concerted action to tackle the scourge of forced labour here. The need for action is also clear from the well documented problems with the Atypical Migrant Workers Scheme for Non-European Economic Area Crew in the Fishing Fleet. The Scheme was introduced following reports of trafficking in human beings and exploitation of migrant fishers in the Irish fishing fleet and is currently the subject of litigation by the ITF. We share the concerns of the ITF at the insufficient actions of the Government and resultant widespread exploitation of migrant labour in the fishing industry.

Today’s decision to ratify the ILO Forced Labour Protocol signals serious intent by Government to address these issues and is a significant milestone as we prepare to mark 100 years of the International Labour Organisation in 2019. Congress will seek to ensure that this intent converts to effective action.

[i] – the September 2017 publication of the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) report on Ireland’s progress in tackling human trafficking; and the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2018 (which downgraded Ireland to Tier 2 status - stating that despite significant efforts, Ireland does not meet the minimum efforts to eliminate trafficking for forced labour)