By Joyce Namutebi
THE International Labour Organization (ILO) has adopted a new legally binding Protocol designed to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour.
The Protocol, supported by a recommendation, was adopted by government, employer and worker delegates to the International Labour Conference in Geneva.
Uganda’s delegation to the conference was led by state minister for labour, Mwesigwa Rukutana included Workers MPs, Arinaitwe Rwakajara, Dr. Sam Lyomoki and representatives from employers and workers unions.
Rwakajara said in Uganda, people bring relatives to their homes, who at the end of the day become unpaid workers.
Many Ugandans have also been taken abroad by some labour exporting companies on pretext of finding them employment but end up doing forced labour and this has been a subject of investigation by Parliament.
The new Protocol brings the existing ILO Convention 29 on forced labour, adopted in 1930, into the modern era to address practices such as human trafficking.
The accompanying recommendation provides technical guidance on its implementation, said a statement issued by ILO.
“The protocol and recommendation mark a major step forward in the fight against forced labour and represent a firm commitment among governments, employer and worker organizations to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery,” Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General said.
“Forced labour violates the human rights and dignity of millions of women and men, girls and boys. It contributes to the perpetuation of poverty and stands in the way of the achievement of decent work for all,” he added.
There are currently an estimated 21 million forced labour victims worldwide.
A recent ILO report estimates that US$ 150 billion in illegal profits are made in the private economy each year through modern forms of slavery.
The Protocol strengthens the international legal framework by creating new obligations to prevent forced labour, to protect victims and to provide access to remedy, such as compensation for material and physical harm.
It requires governments to take measures to better protect workers, in particular migrant labourers, from fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices and emphasizes the role of employers and workers in the fight against forced labour.
“The new instruments will complement and strengthen existing international law, in particular the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children,” said David Garner, president of the ILC Committee on Forced Labour and Australian Government representatives.
“The protocol and recommendation represent a call to action. They go beyond pious words; they are more than text on a piece of paper,” Ed Potter, Committee Employer Vice Chair said.
At the same conference, Uganda was tasked to explain delay in implementation of a minimum wage, but Minister Rukutana assured delegates that it would be fixed by July 2015.