PRESS RELEASE – European Labour Authority: New agency should address labour rights of undocumented workers

As the European Parliament is to adopt the European Labour Authority on 16 April 2019, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) is calling on the new labour agency to address the labour exploitation of undocumented migrant workers. It is not possible to meaningfully address exploitation, social dumping and undeclared work without enforcing standards for all workers, regardless of their migration status.

In many EU countries, undocumented workers cannot safely address labour authorities without being reported to immigration enforcement and risking arrests, detention and ultimately deportation. This places them at risk.


PICUM’s Director Michele LeVoy said, “If the European Labour Authority is to promote fair working conditions for cross-border workers across the EU, it will need to address the barriers undocumented workers face to report abusive employers.”

PICUM calls on the European Labour Authority to encourage discussions about the development of safe complaints mechanisms for undocumented migrant workers. In particular, the Authority should address policies aiming at establishing a “firewall” between labour justice and immigration enforcement, which allows undocumented workers to safely file a complaint against abusive employers without fear of being detained and deported.



  • The European Labour Authority is meant to support national authorities to correctly apply EU rules on free movement of workers, posting of workers and social security coordination, including by facilitating cooperation and exchange of information between national labour authorities.
  • The ILO Labour Inspection Convention states that labour inspectors should not be required to take on any task that would undermine their main role to enforce conditions of work and protection of workers. Checking on immigration status is one such task. They should also treat the source of any complaint as confidential.
  • More information on the firewall and how it works in labour justice can be found in PICUM’s new visual explainer.
  • The Employers’ Sanctions Directive requires governments to put in place effective mechanisms for undocumented workers to file complaints against their employers. More information on how complaints mechanisms can be effective for undocumented workers can be found in PICUM’s Guidelines for developing an effective complaints mechanism in cases of labour exploitation or abuse.
  • PICUM acknowledges the importance of engaging and joining forces with the trade union movements in improving rights for undocumented workers. PICUM has partnered with the European Trade Unions Confederation (ETUC) to foster discussions among national trade unions on how to integrate undocumented workers in their advocacy for labour rights. These recommendations have been published in a leaflet which was disseminated to European national trade unions.


The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants, PICUM, is a network of organisations working to ensure social justice and human rights for undocumented migrants. With nearly two decades of evidence, experience and expertise on undocumented migrants, PICUM promotes recognition of their human rights and provides an essential link between local realities and the debates taking place at policy level.

Based in Brussels, Belgium, PICUM provides regular recommendations and expertise to policymakers and institutions within the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union as well as on national and local level.


Gianluca Cesaro, Communications Officer,