Investing in a future of work without gender-based violence

Jun 2018
United Nations
gender based violence, gender, ILO

At the 107th Session of the International Labour Conference (28 May - 8 June 2018) , governments, employers and trade unions decided to continue discussions on violence and harassment in the world of work with a view to adopting a Convention and a Recommendation at the ILO’s centenary conference in June 2019.

“ITUC-AP welcomes the positive outcomes of the first discussion, but we cannot celebrate just yet”, noted Brother Shoya Yoshida, ITUC-AP General Secretary. “We have an even daunting task ahead of us not letting this anti gender-based violence (GBV) opening slip”, he added.

The journey and the process to getting there have been long and difficult. Addressing the conference at the closing session, Guy Ryder, ILO Director Director said, “unsurprisingly, it was challenging, because what really matters is rarely easy”.

After the ten-day intensive negotiations which attracted a full-house of delegates eager to contribute to discussions, the Standards Setting Committee agreed that a legally binding Convention supplemented by a Recommendation  is critical to achieving gender equality and decent work without violence and harassment for all.

Asia Pacific unions on a mission

The gains from the campaign were achieved with serious work. Building the evidence base, lobbying and advocacy with governments and employers, anti-GBV education and training programs, engaging partners and allies in promoting women’s rights, including through the powerful and surging social media, building a core group of focal points - were part of what helped get this campaign running.

“We have a great team of national campaign focal points working together to help end GBV for good. It’s something we’ve built from years of preparations and partnerships established ,” Brother Shoya said recalling how the campaign in the region started, how it evolved and what it has achieved and contributed to the global campaign to date.

In 2015, ITUC-AP carried out the first Asian Pilot Survey on Domestic Violence and Its Impact on Workers and in Workplaces in the Philippines, building from similar experiences of affiliates in Australia and New Zealand. Two other surveys followed in Taiwan and Mongolia in 2017.  The findings were ground-breaking, redefining unions’ role in addressing the impact of domestic violence at work. Initial responses from social partners and outcomes of how affiliates are using the findings to improve rights and protection of women from domestic violence have been positive.

From 14 February - 8 March 2018 and beyond, affiliates, working with others, mobilised collective actions at different levels to lobby with governments  and to bring the standard setting discussion visible ahead of the ILC, as part of the ITUC #23Days of Action to #StopGBVatWork culminating in the International Women’s Day celebration.

Women’s voices in the ILC discussions were louder and stronger, their stories getting told and retold. The ITUC-AP, with support from advocacy partners, mobilised five delegates from Indonesia, Myanmar and Mongolia to attend this year’s International Labour Conference.  Their efforts and other related actions helped sway their governments to support the unions’ position for a Convention supplemented by a Recommendation. For example, a joint ITUC-AP and Philippine affiliates’ campaign helped shift the stand of the Philippine government to an ILO Convention, accompanied by a Recommendation, from its original position of supporting only a Recommendation.

The ripples from our actions, working with others, continue. Affiliates, using various platforms and methods, have become more forceful in showing and demonstrating that #WeTooCare about accelerating the change in the deplorable status quo and the deeply-ingrained patriarchal attitudes, social norms and expectations that excuse, legitimise, and normalise gender intimidation, harassment, and violence at work.

Staying three steps ahead

These and other initiatives are vital, but there are a million ways that unions can do even better, faster, stronger. Only the first half of the battle has been won. The deliberations and results of the 2018 ILC require unions to intensify its level of advocacy, lobbying and dialogues with governments and employers even more.

The ILO circulated the third report (Brown Report) in August 2018 containing the texts of the Proposed Convention and Recommendation (based on the first discussion in June 2019) for comments. In March 2019, ILO will publish the 4th report (Blue Report) containing summaries of comments received from Member States, as well as employers and trade unions and revised draft instruments for discussion at next year’s ILC in June 2019. This will be the second and last discussion on the standard setting process for an ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work supplemented by a Recommendation. Member States will make a final decision on the adoption of these instruments in 2019. Read the timelines here.

There is still a significant gap between where we are now and where we need to be. This year’s gains have to be strengthened and broadened. Unions need to continue lobbying to strengthen the resolve of governments for and to induce the major employers’ organisations to support an ILO Convention and Recommendation.

The challenges of the FUTURE OF WORK, THE FUTURE OF DECENT WORK, THE FUTURE OF HUMANE WORK WITHOUT VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT, demand governments, employers and unions to work together to ensure that this happens.

This is what we have to deal with urgently now.  


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