The social partners for the EU’s marine fisheries, ETF and Europeche, have strongly welcomed a regulation presented by the European Commission to prohibit products manufactured in violation of human and workers’ rights on the EU market – including seafood.
Globally, an estimated 27.6 million people are in forced labour, in many industries and in every continent – and the social partners consider that this initiative by the Commission is long overdue, since the problem has long ago been brought to the attention of EU authorities by the sector.
The social partners adopted in their meeting of 30th January a joint resolution addressing the specific aspects relating to the fishing sector. They intend to closely follow the legislative process and will provide feedback and contributions to put in place a system that is clear, fit-for-purpose and effective in banning the trade of fish products deriving from forced labour.
‘The Commission proposal for a regulation prohibiting products made with forced labour on the Union market is a big step forward to tackle undignified working conditions globally. National competent authorities will have a key role in the investigation and the enforcement of the ban. In this context, the social partners believe it necessary to set up a collaborative effort from all the interested parties who must be able to report proven cases of situations of forced labor to the authorities,’ a representative of the social partners commented.
‘The Social partners are in a privileged position to assist European, national and ILO officials through their network of internationally recognized inspectors and are keen to collaborate.’
ETF and Europêche stress that the Regulation should also take into account fish products produced in the EU and traded within or outside the European Union.
In addition, an especially difficult aspect of the implementation, which will therefore need particular attention, is that forced labor is part of the manufacturing process and, according to the Commission, does not leave any trace on the product. In addition, to be concretely effective, it will need to work hand-in-hand with the IUU Regulation, which is the instrument to tackle imports in the EU of fish caught illegally.
‘European consumers must be able to buy only products obtained in an ethical and sustainable way,’ the social partners state.
‘Any form of undignified work is contrary to the values of the EU Treaties and forced labour is expressly prohibited by EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.’