European Parliament signs off broad law to prevent the trade of goods made with forced labour

23rd April | Lawmakers in the EU today voted in favour of a far-reaching law to eradicate forced labour from supply chains in the EU – a move welcomed by workers around the world. The Forced Labour Regulation covers both the import of goods and the trade of goods within the EU bloc and will have implications for businesses headquartered both within and outside of the EU.

Everyone deserves to live and work in freedom, but we know that there are over 21 million people in forced labour all around the world, producing the products and providing the services we use every day. While recent global progress in tackling modern slavery has not been anywhere near ambitious enough to truly see an end to slavery, the progression of this law is an important milestone towards eradicating forced labour.

Today’s vote sees the EU one step closer to joining the United States in agreeing to a strict product control measure to prevent goods made with forced labour from being traded on its market. The vote marks the final stage before the law is translated and is anticipated to come into force in two years’ time. While the law is missing key provisions that would have heightened its effectiveness, it can still positively impact workers and prevent perpetrators from profiting from forced labour. It would also give consumers positive assurances about the products they buy. The EU’s law is designed to go hand in hand with the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), which is due to be voted on in Parliament this week. Together, these laws will send a strong message to workers around the world that the EU will not stand for forced labour.

“We all want to be able to choose our work, be paid fairly and be able to change employer when we need. But we know this is not the reality for millions of people around the world. We applaud the European Parliament’s finalisation and agreement on the Forced Labour Regulation, which could positively impact many workers. For the Forced Labour Regulation to have the greatest impact, it is crucial that victims of forced labour are able to access remedy for harm. We will continue to work closely with the EU and civil society as this law comes into effect, to make sure that workers’ rights are respected and that frameworks for accessing remedy are established. We now look ahead to the upcoming vote on CSDDD and urge EU lawmakers to uphold their commitment to ending forced labour once and for all.” Sian Lea, Business and Human Rights Manager at Anti-Slavery International

“No companies should be benefitting from modern slavery. The Regulation is a crucial step forward in the fight against forced labour in global supply chains and a welcome focus on workers’ rights. While there are significant shortcomings that need to be improved upon sooner rather than later, it is now important to translate the regulation into concrete practice. The EU and Member States need to work together with civil society organisations to ban unfair competition between companies based on forced labour.” Ben Vanpeperstraete, Senior Legal Adviser, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

“The parliament’s vote is a positive one and will require companies to address forced labour in their supply chains. Unfortunately, the EU has missed a crucial opportunity to agree on an instrument that could meaningfully address forced labour when the government is the perpetrator, like in the Uyghur Region in China. We welcome this milestone but stress that all related guidance, guidelines, and considerations of when to investigate cases be created in a way that ensures the regulation can effectively ban products made with state-imposed forced labour.” Zumretay Arkin, Director of Global Advocacy at World Uyghur Congress