Trade unions and the process of THB for labour exploitation

The process of THB for labour exploitation has six steps or aspects: recruitment, entry and identity, residence status, housing, work, and financial aspects. These are all things traffickers have to organise before they can start profiting from the exploitation of others. For trade unions, the most important points of intervention in this process are the aspects housing of victims and work.

On this page:

  • Housing of victims
  • Work
  • More information

Housing of victims

Traffickers often house victims in terrible circumstances: the housing may be dirty and overcrowded, and victims may have to share a room with several other people. To check for poor housing conditions of workers, trade unions could:

Visit truck drivers on parking lots

Exploited truck drivers are not always paid enough to afford proper accommodation while they are on the road. They sometimes live in their truck and cook their meals inside the cabin or on the parking lot. Trade unions could visit these drivers on parking lots for trucks, so they can build up a relationship of trust and maybe gather information on cases of THB for labour exploitation.

In the Netherlands, for example, the trade union FNV offered support to truck drivers. A staff member met with foreign truck drivers at the parking lots where they were staying. The union first contacted them through social media like Facebook and Twitter. It made sure there was information for them in languages they could understand.

The union convinced the truck drivers to cooperate: they ensured them that the union only wanted to improve their circumstances and conditions of labour, not take their jobs away. The union confronted the government agencies with the information they gathered. The union convinced them to pursue the cases. Where needed, the union arranged for cases to be brought to court. The union also travelled to Eastern Europe with a reporter from a national newspaper. There, they unmasked the employer and user companies as letterbox companies.

Be aware of bad housing conditions in inland shipping

Sailors who work in inland shipping may also live in poor conditions. Trade unions could try to visit these ships when they are moored in a harbour and look for bad living conditions.


The work that victims do is a central element of the process of trafficking. It may give authorities useful starting points for an investigation. Regarding the work aspects of THB for labour exploitation, trade unions could:

Report signs to the relevant inspectorate

When trade unions come across signs of THB for labour exploitation during their work, they could report these signs to the inspectorate responsible and/or the police.

More information


International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), How to Combat Forced Labour and Trafficking, Best practices manual for trade unions, Brussels 2009.