Friday, November 21, 2008

ILO releases new handbook on Combating Forced Labor

From the ILO:

The International Labour Office (ILO) is to reinforce its efforts to help employers and the private sector contribute to the global fight against forced labour, which the ILO estimates afflicts more than 12 million persons worldwide.

The Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) of the ILO said it had prepared a new handbook that would fortify the capacity of employers and business leaders to assess the risk of forced labour and human trafficking in their operations and global supply chains.

“The role of employers and the private sector in the fight against forced labour is of paramount importance”, said Roger Plant, head of the ILO programme. “Business is increasingly asking for guidance in combating forced labour, and we intend to continue supporting them.”

The new publication entitled “Combating forced labour: A handbook for Employers and Business”, provides information on issues such forced labour, human trafficking, prison labour, debt bondage, abuses in labour contract systems, overtime and different forms of coercion in employment. It was developed in extensive consultation with experts from companies, as well as international and national employers’ organisations and civil society groups, all from different regions and economic sectors.

The handbook provides practical guidance for businesses of all kinds, including advice on what action they can take to prevent or rid forced labour in their supply chains.

The new handbook has been endorsed by the International Organization of Employers. IOE Secretary-General Antonio PeƱalosa said it would provide with “much needed new tools to help employer organisations and their members understand the issue of forced labour, in taking the necessary measures to avoid being involved in those situations and in contributing to the total elimination of forced and compulsory labour”.

David Arkless, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Affairs of Manpower added that his organization “welcomed this recent initiative as an important and timely intervention, and one that will significantly help companies in all sectors address this challenging issue”.

“Employers’ organisations, in particular, are strategically well-placed to lead this work with the private sector, and business involvement is key to the success of the ILO’s campaign to rid the world of forced labour”, Mr. Plant said.

The webpage of the manual outlines reasons the private sector should play a role in combating labor trafficking and the set up of the document:

There are many reasons why business and employers’ organisations should play a central role in the global fight against forced labour and human trafficking:

-Legal compliance: Forced labour and trafficking in persons are punishable as crimes in most countries around the world, and companies found involved in such activities could face prosecution.
-Managing risk and reputation: To be successful, companies must manage risk in an environment where risk is not static and can emerge through the actions of the company itself, its suppliers and other actors. Allegations of forced labour and trafficking present legal risks as well as serious threats to brand and company reputation.
-Forced labour in global supply chains: Globalisation and the growing links across countries and firms have raised forced labour and trafficking in persons as significant issues within global supply chains.
-Codes of conduct and corporate social responsibility (CSR): The elimination of forced labour is a key element of codes of conduct and other CSR initiatives. Companies – particularly those that supply consumer markets and have significant brand value – face new and growing expectations that production will comply with social and human rights criteria.
-Forced labour and human trafficking are morally unacceptable.

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