Convention 190 can change lives | Joint statement of the Global Union Federations and the International Trade Union Confederation

published 25 June 2021 updated 22 July 2021

The adoption of International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 on Violence and Harassment in the world of work is a victory for the trade union and labour movement. The adoption of these instruments is the culmination of years of campaigning and lobbying by trade unions, and in particular women trade unionists, built on the narratives and experiences of discrimination and violence from women workers globally.

By adopting these international labour standards, member States of the ILO and workers’ and employers’ organisations have sent a clear message: violence and harassment in the world of work can no longer be tolerated and special attention must be paid to gender-based violence and harassment.

The implementation of both Convention 190 (C190) and Recommendation 206 (R206) really can make a difference in workers’ daily lives. For instance, imagine how it would be for a worker to no longer feel afraid to go to work because she knows that a collectively negotiated preventive policy on sexual harassment, with adequate redress, is effectively implemented in her place of work. She knows she can speak up about any sexual harassment she endures from a colleague or superior, because she will be supported and she knows that violence and harassment in the working environment is NOT ‘part of the job’. Imagine how it would be for a worker who has experienced domestic violence to know that she will have support from her employer, trade union and colleagues, so that she is able to find a way out. Imagine the relief for a worker who knows that his superior, customers, patients or other third parties have no right to threaten or bully him, and he is able to feel safe at work. Imagine if a street worker who sets up his vegetable stall on a daily basis can run his business in peace, and gets some financial stability, knowing that public authorities have no right to harass and threaten him on unjustified grounds just because he is an informal worker.

Effective implementation of these standards can have a significant effect on workers’ perception of their working environment. Workers will also recognise the key role of trade unions in ending violence and harassment in the world of work. This could have a significant impact on their quality of life. Truly, “Convention 190 can change lives” by shaping a world of work free from violence and harassment in every country, every sector, and in every organisation.

The Convention and the Recommendation require States, in consultation with representative employers’ and workers’ organisations, to adopt an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. C190 and R206 leave no-one behind.

Women workers or groups and individuals in situations of vulnerability will benefit from specific protections. Gender equality cannot be achieved, as long as gender- based violence and harassment remain prevalent in the world of work. Implementation of these new instruments is key to making gender equality a reality in the world of work.

As trade unions, we have an important role to play in ensuring this Convention and Recommendation do not just remain on paper but are transformed into action. Trade unions are leading local and global campaigns, calling for the ratification and effective implementation of C190 and R206, so that these standards are integrated into national legislation. The instruments promote collective bargaining as a key tool for workers in the struggle to eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work and present an opportunity for internal/union reforms with an inclusive and gender-responsive approach.

The Global Unions have been working together since the adoption of these instruments to provide strong support for trade unions and increase understanding and appropriate use of C190 and R206. We are proud to now present a C190/R206 “Training of Trainers” toolkit, which we hope will be extensively used by trade unions and workers’ representative organisations.

Trade unions all around the world are joining forces to put an end to violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment. United, we can contribute effectively to dismantling patriarchal systems, to building equal, inclusive, safer and more secure workplaces, and socio-economically equitable and just societies.