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IndustriALL calls for a strong ILO convention addressing gender-based violence

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7 March, 2019Violence and harassment affect the lives of millions women workers on a daily basis. Yet there is still no law at the international level that sets a baseline for taking action to eradicate violence and harassment, including gender-based violence (GBV) and harassment, at work.

The second ILO discussion on violence and harassment in the world of work will take place in June 2019 at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. It will be a historic opportunity to adopt a binding instrument that addresses this serious gap in international labour standards for the protection of millions of workers, especially women. So what kind of Convention do we want?

  1. We need a binding text

Employers at the ILO have questioned, along with some governments, the relevance of the adoption of a binding instrument on violence and harassment at work. This cannot be.

Having access to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment, is everyone’s right. However, GBV is prevalent at work. It has devastating effects on psychological, physical and sexual health, as well as repercussions on family and work environment.

It is why an international standard on violence and harassment at work is urgently needed to ensure minimum standards for ALL.

  1. We need a convention with a strong focus on GBV

GBV remains one of the most tolerated violations of workers’ human rights. According to the United Nations, 35 per cent of women – 818 million women globally – over the age of 15 have experienced sexual or physical violence at home, in their communities or in the workplace.

GBV at work affects labour market participation and can prevent women from entering male-dominated sectors and jobs.

A new convention must highlight the need to tackle the underlying causes and risk factors of GBV, including unequal gender-based power relations, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and gender stereotypes.

  1. We need a convention that covers all forms of violence AND Harassment

We want a convention that deals with all types of “violence and harassment” , including bullying and psychological harassment.

An ILO standard is an opportunity to agree on an international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including sexual harassment, for the first time.

  1. All workers, including precarious workers should be protected by the convention

A new convention must cover all workers so that no one is left behind. According to the ILO, three-quarters of the world’s workers are in informal, temporary, self-employed or unpaid jobs. The world of work is evolving towards less formal employment status.

While all workers can be the victims of violence and harassment some are more vulnerable than others. Several studies have revealed that temporary and part-time workers, and workers in insecure jobs, are at greater risk of violence and harassment compared with full-time permanent workers. There is a clear link between violence and women’s economic vulnerability, poverty and low pay.

It is essential that the new convention adopt a broad definition of workers, independently of their employment status, that includes the informal economy.

  1. A convention should not be limited to physical workplaces

A convention should not only include the workplace but also all work-related situations, such as training, business trips, travelling to work, work-provided transportation and social events. A TUC study in 2016, showed that a significant minority of women (14 per cent) reported that harassment had taken place at a work-related social event such as a Christmas party.

An ACTRAV report highlighted that in employment involving global supply chains, notably in  the garment and electronics sectors, the pressure to complete orders, as well as long working hours and the need to travel late at night, compound risks for women workers. Young women working in economic processing zones are particularly vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse in factories, company accommodation or when travelling to work.

Research done in south African mines showed that women working on night or early morning shifts were at great risk of being assaulted while walking to the mines or waiting alone for buses at night.

  1. A convention should acknowledge the impact of domestic violence

Two-thirds of women around the world who experience intimate partner violence are in employment. Domestic violence, and efforts to escape it, affect workers’ lives. Lack of economic independence can also keep women trapped in violent relationships.

A new convention must acknowledge that the workplace can mitigate the impacts of domestic violence. If a woman can be helped to keep her job, it can prevent her from becoming trapped in a violent relationship for financial reasons.

  1. A convention should provide a solid framework for responsiblity

The convention should provide a framework for governments, employers, companies and unions to tackle violence and harassment at work.

While the convention would be addressed to governments, the primary responsibility to create a work environment free from violence and harassment lies with employers. Duties should be assigned to employers to introduce workplace policies, in consultation with unions, setting out: prevention measures; transparent and confidential procedures to deal with complaints; sanctions for perpetrators; information to ensure that workers understand policies and procedures; and support for victims of violence and harassment at work.

IndustriALL encourages our affiliates to use this International Women’s Day to take action along with their national centres in support of an ILO convention on GBV in the world of work.