A Powerful New Tool in the Fight Against Forced Labor
Editor’s note: The Department of Labor received numerous communications urging the United States to support development of an International Labor Organization Protocol and Recommendation supplementing Convention 29 on Forced Labor, and many more urging prompt U.S. ratification of the Protocol.
The following statement from the Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for International Affairs Carol Pier is a response to those correspondences.
On June 11, government, employer and worker delegates to the annual International Labor Conference in Geneva voted overwhelmingly to adopt a Protocol and Recommendation on Forced Labor. The legally binding Protocol supplements existing International Labor Organization Convention 29 on Forced Labor and is open to ratification by member governments that have ratified C29. It reaffirms the need for measures of prevention, protection and remedies, such as compensation, for victims of forced labor. A nonbinding Recommendation providing detailed guidance on implementing such measures was also adopted. It supplements both C29 and the new Protocol.
The United States government actively supported the adoption of a Protocol and a Recommendation. The U.S. government delegation to the ILC Committee on Forced Labor − which included officials from the department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs and its Office of the Solicitor − proposed and advocated vigorously for strong provisions to increase prevention and protection, as well as remedies for victims of forced labor.
These provisions address providing compensation and remuneration to victims; facilitating action to address forced labor by the private sector, including throughout supply chains; addressing root causes; protecting migrant workers; preventing retaliation against workers attempting to assert their rights; and improving international cooperation in cases of forced labor by diplomatic personnel.
We are pleased that many of our proposals received wide support and are included in the final instruments. Our work with other governments and our employer and worker colleagues at the ILC resulted in the adoption of a strong final Protocol and Recommendation that can help strengthen efforts to eliminate forced labor and assist the estimated 21 million forced labor victims around the globe.
Although the U.S. has not ratified C29 and, therefore, is not in a position to ratify the newly adopted Protocol, we are deeply committed to working toward achieving the eradication of forced labor in all its forms − not only through effective standard setting at the ILO but also through strategic research, programming and policy making. We have worked very closely with the ILO and many countries around the world to fund research and technical cooperation initiatives, and have used our trade policies to help protect workers from forced labor and other forms of exploitation in the workplace. We will continue our efforts and collaborate with U.S. and international stakeholders to this end.