Coordination at the national level

For multidisciplinary cooperation against THB for labour exploitation to be effective, some form of coordination is needed. To coordinate efforts at the national level, organisations could:

Use or strengthen a multidisciplinary task force or working group

To coordinate the way cases of THB for labour exploitation are handled, member states could consider setting up or strengthening a multidisciplinary task force or working group (every member state will have its own name for this). Such a task force or working group meets on a regular basis and consists of representatives of all relevant organisations. Multidisciplinary groups can be used either for policy purposes or to deal with actual cases of THB for labour exploitation, or both.

Meetings with multidisciplinary participants could lead to cross-pollination and the development of new and innovative ideas. Depending on the size of the country and the way it is organised, multidisciplinary groups could meet at the national, regional or even local level. They could be chaired by a (national, regional or local) coordinator or the relevant coordinating body.

An example of a multidisciplinary task force are the meetings that are organised by the Belgian key prosecutor for THB cases. Read more about these periodic coordination meetings in Belgium.

Create subgroups or joint teams for specific problems

When a specific issue is identified or a new trend is discovered, the multidisciplinary group may decide to form:

  • a (temporary or permanent) subgroup with the most relevant organisations to develop a policy to tackle the issue, or
  • a joint team to handle the new type of cases, if necessary for a set period. This team can then develop a standardised joint approach to these cases. After the set time, a decision can be taken on whether the team needs to continue its activities.

Choose the most effective approach in each case

Since the organisations participating in a multidisciplinary group all have different competences and capabilities, the group could have a range of options to choose from when dealing with cases of THB for labour exploitation. This includes powers under criminal, labour, fiscal and administrative law. The group could discuss which organisations are in the best position to tackle the cases that have been identified; agree on ways to cooperate on these cases; discuss the progress made, and share information on new trends and new cases.

Participation by NGOs or organisations that provide care and assistance will allow the group to take decisions that take into account both the perspective of law enforcement and that of the victim. For example, the line between bad employment practices and THB for labour exploitation is not always clear. The group could therefore decide on a case-by-case basis, and where possible in consultation with the victim, whether to tackle the situation through labour law or criminal law.

Become familiar with each other’s responsibilities, competences and approach

Organisations need to know what their partners’ goals are, what they are able to do, and how they carry out their work.

Invest in structure, personal contacts and transparency

For multidisciplinary cooperation against THB for labour exploitation to be successful, three things are important:

  1. Good personal contacts are essential. Differences in culture and working methods between organisations can make cooperation difficult. By meeting in person and getting to know each other, officials from different organisations can build trust and find a common purpose.
  2. Cooperation cannot depend on the efforts of just one person. If that person leaves or is given other responsibilities, all the experience and knowledge that is built up will be lost, and the cooperation could be in danger. The cooperation therefore needs to be embedded in some kind of structure, or be formalised in some way, for example through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). That way, the roles of the organisations involved are clearly defined and the legal basis for any information exchange is established.
  3. Be prepared to discuss what works well and what does not. Organisations need to be able to discuss not only the goals they share, but also where their goals go in different directions. This helps them to evaluate their cooperation and to discuss steps to further improve it.

Look beyond organisation mandate

Organisations, both those directly involved in counteracting THB for labour exploitation and others, could consider looking beyond their own mandate. They could look at certain situations through not just their own eyes, but also the eyes of their partners. That way, they can provide their partners with useful intelligence from their perspective about suspicious situations that might be worth a second look.

For example, it is not the responsibility of the fire brigade to fight THB for labour exploitation. However, the fire brigade is often tasked with inspecting the fire prevention measures in business premises. It could be worthwhile to ask them to also look at the situation through the eyes of a labour inspector or detective. This could result in reporting possible signs of THB, for example mattresses on the floor of a restaurant kitchen, that might otherwise have been missed.

Although some organisations (for example inspectorates) are not empowered to consider exploitation in all industries, their experience may nonetheless be of great value to organisations in industries outside their mandate. For example, when it comes to raising the awareness of the specific industry to the indicators of forced labour.

Try out innovative ways of working together

To experiment with multidisciplinary cooperation, organisations could establish a pilot project to see if the intended approach works, needs to be adjusted or can be dismissed. If the pilot is successful, the new method may be included in the normal way of working.

Share expertise

Organisations can help each other with the expertise they have. Government agencies, for example, sometimes find it difficult to communicate with the victim. NGOs could provide these authorities with their expertise on the victim perspective, to make sure the trafficking case benefits the victim’s interests.

Another example: the police may not know what constitutes a breach of labour law; what sanctions exist for such breaches; how they may be used to support criminal investigations, or used as a tool to disrupt criminal enterprises. The labour inspectorate could provide the police with their expertise on labour law. They could demonstrate how deceptive recruitment practices and fees for things like recruitment and accommodation can be used to bond workers to a situation of THB for labour exploitation. This may help the police build a trafficking case.

Attend multidisciplinary events and trainings

Aside from exchanging expertise when dealing with specific cases of THB for labour exploitation, different organisations may also ensure their personnel attends the same trainings and events on THB for labour exploitation. This may ensure that they exchange expertise on a more regular basis. Read more about training.

Carry out joint or consecutive inspections or visits

A joint inspection or visit could ensure that the activities of the companies visited are looked at from several perspectives. The perspectives of labour law, health and safety, migration law could for example be used. In planning such cooperation, it is important to consider what competences each organisation has, and whether they make joint visits possible. Where joints visits are not possible, the planning of such cooperation should consider the sequence in which organisations may need to contact or visit suspect individuals. That way it can be ensured that evidence is lawfully obtained and can be lawfully provided to partner organisations. This ensures it is admissible in any legal proceedings.

In Latvia, for example, joint inspections are carried out by the police, Border Guard, the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, and the Labour Inspectorate. As described in the CBSS report ‘Actors against Trafficking for Labour Exploitation’ , the aim of these inspections is to examine the legal status of foreign employees, to detect irregular migrants, and to detect possible victims of trafficking.

Cooperate with trade unions and employers in a structured way

To deal with cases of THB for labour exploitation successfully, cooperation between organisations should be done in a structured way. For example, when the police and the labour inspectorate work together with employers’ organisations and trade unions.

Cooperate with NGOs in a structured way

The authorities and NGOs need each other to fight THB for labour exploitation. Authorities have competences to restore the rights of victims. NGOs have easier access to (possible) victims and may have their trust more readily.

Possible victims often turn to NGOs first, since they tend to be afraid of state authorities. Authorities - at the local, regional and national level - and NGOs can therefore help each other to help the victims.

In Poland, regional and local governmental organisations cooperate with NGOs in so called Voivodship Teams. Thanks to these teams, the local stakeholders can cooperate and be more successful in their actions. Read more about the Voivodship Teams in Poland.

Cooperate with migrant organisations

Local governments, but also other stakeholders, could work together with migrant organisations, organisations of ethnic minorities, or religious organisations. These organisations know more about what is happening on the ground and what kind of labour problems their countrymen encounter.

Cooperate with the Chamber of Commerce

When someone wants to start a business, in many countries they have to register their company at a Chamber of Commerce. During this registration process, signs of THB for labour exploitation could come to the surface. Cooperating with Chambers of Commerce will ensure that these signs are not lost.

When the Chamber of Commerce has suspicions about a business, other governmental organisations that issue permits to businesses, such as local governments, could focus on signs of THB for labour exploitation. They could pay more attention to this business during the application process as well as during supervision and inspection activities.

Prevent government contracts going to companies involved in THB for labour exploitation

Governmental organisations could develop and/or implement procedures to prevent companies that are involved in THB for labour exploitation or other criminal activities from obtaining government contracts. For example, for the supply of goods or the construction or maintenance of infrastructure or buildings. An example is the screening of (sub)contractors in the Nacka project in Sweden.