2019 Centenary International Labour Conference adopts new Convention and Recommendation on violence and harassment in the world of work

published 21 June 2019 updated 27 June 2019

Education International warmly welcomes the historic move by the 108th Centenary International Labour Conference, which has just adopted a first of its kind global instrument: a Convention and Recommendation on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

The document was adopted with 394 votes in favour, 12 against and 44 abstentions.

Brand new Convention 190 is ground-breaking in its inclusiveness: all workers and actors in the world of work are covered, irrespective of whether they work on a contractual basis, are  individuals exercising the authority of an employer, or are jobseekers, trainees, interns, apprentices or volunteers. And it extends to all sectors – public and private – as well as the informal economy which comprises more than 60% of workers.

The Convention describes violence and harassment in the world of work as “a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices”, and focuses on the harm that these behaviours and practices cause, be they physical, psychological, sexual or economic.

One Hundred Years in the Making

Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress was elected Vice-President (Workers) of the 108th International Labour Conference (ILC), and was the Workers’ advocate in the, sometimes very difficult, tripartite negotiations over the last two weeks (June 10-21).

In her statement to the ILC on 21 June in the morning, Clarke Walker said: “We are celebrating the centenary of the International Labour Organisation, and I can think of no better gift than a Convention and Recommendation that addresses one of the most pernicious and complex challenges facing workers and employers around the globe: violence and harassment – a Convention that truly leaves no one behind”.

She also highlighted the work of the Standard Setting Committee, in making this new instrument a reality, since the Committee’s deliberations “gave voice to those whose stories demonstrate how pervasive violence and harassment is in the world of work. The stories of the garment workers, the domestic workers, the street vendors, the domestic violence survivors and the millions of women workers for whom violence and harassment is still a daily reality.”

The Convention clearly indicates the places and situations, in the course of, linked with, or arising out of work, where violence and harassment occur: in the physical workplace as well during social gatherings, online, where workers rest, eat or attend to their health and sanitation needs, and during the commute.

And it covers all sectors – public and private, including the informal economy where more than 60 percent of workers – amongst the most vulnerable of workers – are found.

Leaving No-One Behind

In her remarks, Clarke Walker highlighted that the goal of the Workers’ Group throughout the negotiations, was “to craft a Convention and Recommendation that would leave no one behind.  We were very clear: people whose experience of violence and harassment is exacerbated by discrimination and inequality must have the strongest and most robust protection”.

She explained that a priority was to ensure protection for workers with multiple and intersecting identities: “Whether it’s age, disability, race, ethnicity, indigenous status, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other ground, every person in the world of work should feel that this Convention and Recommendation covers them”.

Although challenging at times, the tripartite process allowed the social partners to agree on language that “would not only address all of the grounds of discrimination mentioned in [an] initial list, but would go further, to accommodate evolving international discussions about discrimination and human rights by referring to existing international labour standards and human rights instruments”.

Education International joins workers all over the world to celebrate this historic victory: solidarity forever!