ITUC launches a new project to combat labour trafficking

Labour trafficking in Europe is becoming more and more visible according to trade unions, civil society organisations and UN bodies such as the International Labour Organisation.

In Ireland, Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) recently tackled a case of a Dublin restaurant chef Mohammed Younis who was subjected to modern day slavery. He was paid 0,55 EUR per hour. He worked extremely long hours with no day off. The employer failed to renew Muhammad’s work permit which rendered him undocumented. In 2011 Mohammed was awarded by the court 92,000 EUR for breaches of employment law but in August 2012 the Irish High Court supported the employer’s appeal and cancelled the ruling, arguing that due to Mohammed’s irregular status he cannot access his right to compensation. The ruling left Mohammed and workers in similar situation without protection.

In 2009, more than 1,500 migrant workers, mostly from Vietnam, but also from Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Lithuania, were trapped into work in the forest in the Czech Republic with false promises by middlemen and criminal employment agencies.They received no pay, hardly any food, poor accommodation and have been threatened and intimidated when complaining, leaving them with huge debts.

These two examples and many similar reports from across Europe illustrate the need to address trafficking for labour exploitaion in Europe. While actors in the field have only discovered a tip of an iceberg, any solution to the problem will require understanding of new trends, developing new responses and partnerships.

For that reason trade unions, NGOs and faith based organizations launched a partnership to contribute to anti-trafficking response in Europe. Through the new project ITUC, together with Anti-Slavery International and Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe as international partners, will improve responses to labour trafficking. The three organzations, as well as national partners in Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Romania and Spain will in particular focus on exploring new trends in trafficking – such as gender dimension of labour trafficking, more and more severe exploitation of increasingly large groups of exploited migrant workers in mainstream economic activities and new labour trafficking recruitment methods including the use of Internet and ICTs.

The FINE TUNE project is supported by the ISEC/EU DG Home grant and it forms a part of the ITUC global action for protection of rights of trafficked workers and strenghtening labour standards for decent work.