Timor-Leste takes aim at ratifying C190: A promising start

May 2024
United Nations
RatifyC190, Women, Gender Equality, Timor Leste, KSTL

ITUC-Asia Pacific embarked on a three-day mission to Timor-Leste from 6 to 8 May 2024, marking the inaugural meeting on the crucial topic of #RatifyC190. This collaborative effort aimed to empower the Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation (KSTL) in crafting a robust campaign strategy for ratifying Convention 190 (C190) on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

This workshop brought together approximately 15 leaders and members of KSTL and its affiliates, delving into a series of brainstorming sessions, campaign concept understanding, and drawing upon successful campaign experiences from unions across the region.

In particular, the key insights from other countries left a profound impression on the participants, sparking a sense of hope and optimism. They were particularly inspired by the agreements signed by Indonesian unions with employers to prevent gender-based violence (GBV), the tripartite commitment supporting C190 ratification, and the enterprise-based mechanisms against GBV outlined in collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in the Philippines.

The workshop identified several promising factors already in place within Timor-Leste, which can serve as a springboard for KSTL's campaign:

  • C190 awareness: The tripartite social partners and relevant government agencies are already familiar with C190 due to their involvement in the UN Women/ILO Spotlight Initiative, which emphasized C190 as a critical focus.
  • Commitment from social partners: A joint commitment to eradicate workplace violence and harassment, including GBV, was signed by KSTL and the Chamber of Commerce in December 2023.
  • Draft legislation in progress: Secretary of State for Vocational Training and Employment (SEFOPE) has already begun drafting the necessary legislation based on the "Comparative Analysis between Timor-Leste Regulatory Framework and the C190," which identified 24 priority recommendations and 17 subsidiary recommendations.
  • Evidence of need: KSTL's ongoing campaign has documented concerning numbers of domestic violence cases (19 in 2022 and 17 in 2023). KSTL's dedicated specialist provides comprehensive support to victims.
  • Existing referral system: Key municipalities involved in the Spotlight Initiative have established a referral system. KSTL plans to collaborate with the Ministry of State Administration to ensure its continued operation.

The workshop concluded with brainstorming sessions to define KSTL's key campaign areas and formulate key demands for C190 ratification, which will guide the team’s series of dialogues with stakeholders.

Labour inspectorate pledged enhanced violence and harassment measures

The team met with key officers of the General Labour Inspectorate, including the Inspector General, to discuss the importance of regulations addressing violence and harassment (V&H) in the workplace. The discussion highlighted the need for:

  • Strong regulatory framework: Robust regulations and policies to address V&H;
  • Increased awareness: Widespread awareness raising activities to raise workers' and employers’ awareness about the dangers of V&H;
  • Union-employer collaboration: Encouraging collaboration between unions and employers to tackle V&H.
Meeting between KSTL and the Labour Inspectorate

The Inspectorate acknowledged the significance of these points and pledged to: maintain open communication channels for ongoing discussions on V&H issues; regularly train inspectors to ensure their skills and knowledge regarding V&H remain up-to-date; and assist in activating the existing referral system upon receiving GBV reports from KSTL.

Based on the meeting, the team identified key follow-up actions:

  • Strengthening inspection procedures: Review and improve the inspection survey questionnaire by incorporating or refining questions related to V&H.
  • Enhancing inspector training: Integrate messages about V&H prevention and identification into inspector training programs.
  • National Labour Council advocacy: Include C190 ratification on the meeting agenda of the National Labour Council and urge the council to adopt a resolution calling for the swift ratification of C190 and develop an action plan detailing the steps for ratification and follow-up measures.
  • Interministerial collaboration: Advocate for creating an interministerial working group/task force to address C190 ratification. This group should involve representatives from unions and employers.
  • Continued dialogue: Maintain ongoing communication with the Inspectorate to collaborate on implementing their commitments.

Women in business say ‘Yes’ to C190

The KSTL team met with the key Chamber of Commerce Association of Women Entrepreneurship (AEMTL) officers, led by the President and two Vice Presidents.

The AEMTL readily acknowledged the positive impact of C190 in encouraging countries to implement protective legislation for workers. They particularly emphasised the value of collaboration between unions and employers to create a work environment free from V&H.

The AEMTL proposed expediting the ratification process by bypassing preliminary steps and going directly to the National Council of Ministers or even the National Parliament. While they haven't socialised their members about C190, they strongly support its ratification. Their message was clear: "Let's fast-track this! Go directly to Parliament. The key is to keep the conversation going – we stand behind ratification."

Meeting between KSTL and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Women Entrepreneurship

KSTL welcomed the association's support and outlined their proposed next steps:

  • Sharing knowledge: They will provide the association with their developed Pocket Guide on “Preventing and Addressing Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.”
  • Joint advocacy: They suggested organising a series of joint virtual discussions on C190 with the association's members.
  • Promoting awareness: They encouraged the association to integrate C190 as a discussion point in their regular meetings and offered to provide resource persons if needed.

Key Parliamentary Committee endorses C190

The team met with the eight members of Commission D, a specialized parliamentary committee focusing on economic and development issues, including labour.

ITUC-Asia Pacific presented an update on the global and regional status of C190 ratification and insights on how governments in ratifying countries have translated the convention into concrete laws and policies to combat V&H in the workplace.

Meeting between KSTL and Commission D

The commission members were receptive to the information and expressed their commitment to raising the urgency of C190 ratification in the plenary assembly. Notably, they indicated their full support for the ratification process, even though they haven’t received any official draft documents related to C190.  The commission also showed enthusiasm for expediting ratification and encouraged KSTL to maintain an open dialogue with the commission.

Media spotlights C190 ratification efforts

The team received positive media attention, with journalists keen to understand the importance of C190 ratification for the country. The interview focused on several key points:

  • The crucial need for ratification: The team highlighted the arguments for why C190 is essential for Timor Leste.
  • Commission D discussions: The interviews reported on the team's productive discussions with Commission D.
  • Key ratification demands: The interview also covered the key points discussed during the team's dialogue series, focusing on the specific requests and demands put forward to expedite C190 ratification
KSTL's press conference about the #RatifyC190 campaign efforts

Next steps: Building momentum for C190 ratification

Building on the momentum generated during their dialogues, the team identified several critical next steps:

  • Online petition: Launching an online petition calling for the swift ratification of C190. They will seek assistance from ITUC-AP to set up this campaign and mobilise support.
  • Internal strategy meeting: The team will hold an internal discussion to determine the specific activities they will implement to further advocate for C190 ratification. They will also assess if additional support from ITUC-AP is needed for these activities.
  • Continued advocacy: The team remains committed to ongoing advocacy efforts and dialogue with key stakeholders. They will leverage the positive commitments secured from the tripartite sector to build a united front supporting C190 ratification.
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