Some 12.3 million people are working in conditions of forced labour as defined in Convention 29 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Victims are subjected to psychological and/or physical coercion and more than 2.4 million of them have been trafficked. Bonded labourers are being forced to work in humiliating conditions in order to pay off prohibitively inflated debts to their employers, domestic workers are being abused and exploited and some people are still being held as slaves by their traditional masters. Others are being forced by governments to work on public projects, in appalling conditions and without regard to their human dignity. Those who are poor and suffer discrimination are most vulnerable to these forms of abuse.
The conference will aim to draw public attention to forced labour and human trafficking and will focus on the need for even greater trade-union action in this field. Priorities will be developed for a regional trade-union approach and strategy to help put an end to forced labour, focusing at this stage on Europe, where the use of forced labour is often underestimated. At the same time, the conference will focus on the involvement of trade unions in the eradication of this extreme form of exploitation as it affects migrant workers. A strong focus will also be put on women and children subject to forced labour.
“The right to freely choose employment is a fundamental human right, and governments, trade unions, employer groups and other organisations need to act together, and in their own spheres, to eradicate forced labour. It is unacceptable that these forms of exploitation are still prevalent in many countries around the world, and the international union movement will be stepping up its action to root out these evil practices,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.