Dec 02 2011
International Day for the Abolition of Slavery – what are Labour MEPs doing?
First off we are tackling modern slavery. The European Parliamentary Labour Party and the Socialist and Democrat Group stand strongly against forced labour and child labour. In May I, along with many colleagues in the European Parliament, wrote to Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht calling on the European Union to open an investigation into forced child labour in Uzbekistan. In July I raised the issue with the European External Action Service and this week I and my colleagues in the International Trade committee refused to give consent to a trade agreement with Uzbekistan until a full investigation by the International Labour Organisation confirms that Uzbekistan is concretely tackling child labour.
This is just one example of the tough line Labour MEPs take in our trade relations with third countries.
I also want to ensure the EU includes strong labour rights and human rights clauses in trade agreements. Special trade agreements between the European Union and developing countries give special assistance to countries which implement ILO (International Labour Organisation) Conventions on labour rights. Labour MEPs strongly support the promotion of human rights in our trade agreements and the suspension of trade preferences where human and labour rights are being abused. On behalf of the Socialist and Democrat Group in the European Parliament I am responsible for the current reform of this trade system and will be putting human and labour rights at the heart of it.
Labour MEPs also take a tough line on trade agreements with individual countries. While Colombia continues to be the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists I do not support the ratification of a Free Trade Agreement. More information on my work on human rights in Colombia can be found on my website www.martinmep.com
We also support international efforts by the European Union to recognise and support efforts to tackle forced labour around the world. In India, for example, the Parliament passed a resolution earlier this year recognising the work the Indian government is doing to end child labour in its country and encouraging it to continue.
Sadly modern day slavery is also a huge problem in the European Union and is not one which countries can tackle by themselves. The European Union has implemented the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive to crack down on the trafficking of humans into the EU as forced labour. Shockingly the coalition government opted out of the Directive, which I was appalled at. Thanks to enormous pressure from Labour MEPs, NGOs and people in the UK, the Conservative-led government made one U-turn we could support, and opted-in.
If you want to help us in our battle against modern day slavery, here’s one quick thing you can do today to support efforts to tackle slavery – sign the Stop The Traffik! Petition against forced child labour in the cocoa industry: http://www.stopthetraffik.org/takeaction/chocolate/ The trafficking of children – particularly in west African countries – to be forced labour in the cocoa plantations is utterly unacceptable and it is time the chocolate industry took action. This month in the European Parliament the International Trade committee will be voting on a proposal for the EU to sign up to the International Cocoa Agreement, which was drawn up at the UN Conference on Trade and Development in 2010 to tackle this. I will be voting in favour of the EU becoming party to this Agreement, and will also be supporting a separate Resolution from the European Parliament calling on the EU and its Member States to do more in eradicating forced child labour.