From March 13 to 17, 2022, a seminar on "Fight against child labour and human trafficking – follow-up project" took place in Belgrade/Serbia, organised by the CFTC (French Confederation of Christian Workers), in cooperation with EZA and with the support of the European Union.
31 representatives of workers' organisations participated in the seminar.
The following countries were represented: Albania, Germany, Bulgaria, France, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Portugal, Romania and Serbia.
The seminar was led by Joseph THOUVENEL, CFTC Confederal Secretary.
The following topics were discussed:
- “The state of relations between France and the European Union with Serbia” by Mr Fatih Akcal, First Counsellor of the French Embassy in Serbia.
- “Why human trafficking is unacceptable” by Mr. Thierry des Lauriers, General Manager Aux captifs la libération.
- “The problem seen by our Serbian partners” by respectively Mrs Cedanka Andric, President of TUC NEZAVISNOST, and Mr Goran Milic, Vice-President CATUS.
- “The issue of the exploitation of human beings in Portugal and Romania” by Mrs Maria Reina Martin, Secretary-General FIDESTRA (Portugal) and Mr Silviu Ispas, Director of IFES (Romania) respectively.
- “The 8.7 alliance to fight against the exploitation of human beings” by Joseph Thouvenel, CFTC Confederal Secretary.
- “The exploitation of children in the Congo”, by Mr Jean-Baptiste Pandzou, Vice-president of the CSFV.
- “The issue of the exploitation of human beings in North Macedonia and Albania” by respectively Mr Slobodan Antovski, President UNASM (North Macedonia), Mr Blagoja Rapolvski, President KSS (North Macedonia) and Mr Bibil Kasmi President SAUATT (Albania).
- “The issue of the exploitation of human beings in Bulgaria and Montenegro” by respectively Mr Veselin Mitov, International Secretary PODKREPA (Bulgaria) and Mr Dusko Zarubica, Secretary-General CETUM (Montenegro).
- “The role of business leaders and trade unions in the fight against the exploitation of human beings" by respectively Mr Michel Samsonoff, Vice-President ADIMECO and member of MEDEF - French Business Movement and Mr Vladimir Djordjevic, Confederal Councilor of the CFTC.
A global phenomenon, child labour and human trafficking is unfortunately still a cruel reality today.
The Palermo Protocol (2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime) defines trafficking as "the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by the threat of recourse to or the use of force or other forms of coercion, by kidnapping, fraud, deception, abuse of authority or position of vulnerability, or by offering or accepting payments or benefits to obtain the consent of a person having authority over another for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation includes, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or organ removal ". The saddest fact is that we are all, as consumers, indirect accomplices in human trafficking. The exploiters of poverty will stop at nothing to profit from it and if there is a supply it is because there is a demand.
However be careful, it is about our future at all because social relations exclusively made up of dominant/dominated contribute to the destruction of a society. This permanent confrontation is truly counter-natural. Trafficking in human beings by bringing fundamental harm to the person (objectification and commodification, disintegration of being, alienation of freedom, deprivation of encounters and social relations) leads to the dehumanisation of the individual.
Forced child labour is more than topical because indeed the ILO's 2020 Child Labour report warns that 9 million more children worldwide are at risk of being forced into child labour by the end of 2022.
As trade union organisations, we can appropriate these themes since, beyond concerning us primarily as humans, forced child labour and human trafficking constitute a violation of workers' rights. In Western Europe, trade unions should be more present in sectors such as construction, agriculture, fishing, the textile industry and domestic work where forced labour sometimes takes the place of the law. For Bulgaria (a country very affected by human trafficking) the only possibility of escaping it lies in raising public awareness and prevention. As unions, we must be forced to the proposal with the European institutions which, through directives and regulations, are likely to regulate the phenomenon.
We must also act on poverty and make education essential in order to curb or even eradicate child labour and human trafficking.
We have to learn or relearn to consider others as your alter ego and therefore take care of them as much as we take care of yourself.
In a more pragmatic approach, a real awareness of the decision-making actors (politicians) is needed. Indeed, even if major government projects are implemented to fight against child labour and human trafficking, we see for example in Albania that there are few resources allocated to eradicate poverty. Greater involvement of public institutions, intermediary bodies, NGOs and civil society is necessary.
For training and awareness-raising, and at the initiative of the DGB Trade Union in Germany, information centres for workers' rights have been opened since 2010. Serbia is internationally engaged and has been working for years with the support of the ILO against child labour. Among the substantial actions, it has, in particular, subjected its labour inspectors to solid training against the exploitation of children. Also in Serbia in 2017 the Children's Council issued a decree listing work prohibited for children.
The other participating countries also have legislation against these scourges.
However, we must no longer leave the responsibility for the problem of the exploitation of human beings to rest on the States alone. It is everyone's responsibility. With regard more specifically to companies, we are asking for their greatest vigilance with regard to the working conditions of their subcontractors and, for some, the cessation of scandalous practices such as the dissemination of prostitution via new technologies by certain large operators and the permission of financial transactions linked to the trafficking of human beings by large units, even state ones. The actions of some and the inaction of others create, fuel, or condone child labour and human trafficking. It's like a vicious circle between poverty and profit.
We must draw a definitive line on the dehumanisation of the human being, no longer consider an individual as a commodity from which we benefit. The mind and body should no longer be alienable goods in the 21st century.