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Forced labour protocol adopted by the State
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan with Minister of State Pat Breen

04 Feb 2019 / human rights Print

Forced labour protocol adopted by the State

The Government has ratified the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Forced Labour Protocol to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the organisation.

The protocol is a legally binding treaty that requires governments to take measures to prevent forced labour, and provide support for its victims.

Heather Humphreys (Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation)  said: “Ireland recognises that forced labour undermines the principles of human rights.

“The State has a comprehensive suite of employment rights legislation, and continues its efforts to eliminate human trafficking, utilising the provisions of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013.”

The ILO is one of the UN’s oldest agencies and works with 187 countries to promote decent work and social justice.

Legally binding

Minimum working age, maternity leave, maximum weekly working hours and annual leave, are among the rights that emerged from the ILO.

The Forced Labour Protocol is a legally binding instrument of the ILO to combat all forms of forced labour, including trafficking.

Its ratification aligns Ireland with advanced international standards, as it becomes the 29th country to introduce the measure.

This puts Ireland among the group known as ‘50 for Freedom’, which stems from an ILO initiative to encourage 50-member countries to ratify the protocol by the end of 2019.

Minister Humphreys commented: “Ireland recognises that forced labour undermines the principles of human rights.”

Social partners

The minister said the Government’s strong relationship with social partners is fundamental to an active role within the ILO.

She thanked both the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation for their help in the ratification process.

Justice minister Charlie Flanagan said that the ratification further demonstrated Ireland’s commitment to acting against labour exploitation in all its forms.

The country’s decision to ratify the protocol coincides with the launch of the ILO centenary year.

The ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work in Geneva, Switzerland, reports that work is experiencing a major process of change, with important transformations ranging from the “development of technologies and the impact of climate change, to the changing character of production and employment”.

The report makes recommendations for decent and sustainable work opportunities for all.

The commission is co-chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.


In September, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in collaboration with the National University of Ireland, will commemorate the ILO centenary, highlighting the significant role Ireland has played in the organisation.

Irishman Edward Phelan, a Waterford-born civil servant, played a key role in the formation of the ILO and was director general of the organisation from 1941 to 1948.

Pat Breen (Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection) said that the ratification “shows a strong commitment on the part of Ireland to the ILO’s principles and values, namely to the core concept of decent work.

“It is notable that Ireland has taken the decision to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol in the ILO’s centenary year, which coincides with Ireland’s first ever term as a full member of the ILO’s governing body,” he said.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland