Which signals to acknowledge if you are forced labour?

Have you ever been or being forced labour? Which signals to acknowledge if you are forced labour?

The Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (Convention 105) was adopted by the ILO in Geneva, Switzerland on June 25, 1957. It is one of the two ILO conventions against forced labor, along with Convention 29 which Vietnam joined in 2007.

Vietnam’s National Assembly voted overwhelmingly for ratifying Convention 105 on 8 June 2020 in Hanoi. This fundamental labour standard which will come into force after one year.

Convention 105 compliments Convention 29 on Forced Labour, another core convention which Vietnam already ratified in 2007.

Forced labour can be understood as work that is performed involuntarily and under the menace of any penalty. It refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities.

Forced labour degrades human dignity and denies the worker the ability to pursue material well-being and spiritual development based on free will.

In most of the countries around the world today, the import of products made by forced labour are prohibited by laws. One type of forced labour – forced prison labour – is the only condition on the basis of which all the World Trade Organzation member States are expressly authorized to ban the import of goods produced using it. People of developed countries have adopted a habit of boycotting products related to forced labour. Therefore the prevention and combating the use of forced labour in enterprises helps enterprises avoid the risks of their products being rejected or boycotted by importing countries. The non-use of forced labour in the goods production or services is also considered as the “laissez-passer” for the goods and services to get access to global markets.

According to ILO global estimates, there are 24.9 million victims of forced labour throughout the world. Among them, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. In the private sector, forced labour generates USD 150 billion in illegal profits every year.

“Through this ratification, Vietnam is demonstrating its firm commitment to combating forced labour in all its forms. This ratification is all the more important since the ILO’s global estimates show the urgency of adopting immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour,” ILO Director of International Labour Standards Department, Corrine Vargha, praised.

“Moreover, by ratifying the Convention, Vietnam is moving ahead towards the achievement of decent work and the delivering at the country-level of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG target 8.7.”

The move will bring the total ILO fundamental conventions ratified by Vietnam to seven out of eight.

The ILO has eight core conventions, covering four key areas namely freedom of association and collective bargaining, forced labour, discrimination, and child labour.

The Labor Code in 2019 of Vietnam has many provisions on force labor control which are similar to the ILO guidelines.

For example, Article 17 stipulates that employers were prohibited from keeping original copies of personal documents and educational and occupation certificates of employees, require employees to take security measures by depositing money or other properties during performance of labor contracts, and force employees to perform labor contracts to pay debts for employers.

Meanwhile, the Penal Code in 2015 regulates crimes of forced labor and human trafficking of people under 16 for forced labor activities.

In terms of administrative sanctions for forced labor activities, Decree 28/2020/ND-CP dated March 1, 2020 by the Government sets fines on violations of labor, social insurance and sending Vietnamese people to work overseas.

Phuong Minh