New ILO Convention on violence at the workplace needs more government support and trade union action!

20 November 2013
Workplace violence image
A new standard on violence at work was one of the items discussed at the ILO Governing Body meeting in October 2013. In the light of the ILO’s strategic objectives, violence against women and men at work is a global concern. It is a human rights issue, as well as a health, education, legal and socio-economic problem.

Violence against women and men at the workplace was already considered as an issue for discussion at the 316th session of the ILO Governing Body in November 2012. It had the strong support of the Workers’ group and the governments of India and Italy. These groups reiterated their support at the 317th session in March 2013, this time with support of the governments of Australia and Mexico for the inclusion of the proposal at the 103rd session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in 2014. The group of industrialized market economy countries (IMEC) and the government of the United Kingdom supported a general discussion, while the employers’ group was not in favour of the proposal indicating that issues of violence at the workplace should be approached from a broader perspective.

There is growing international attention to gender-based violence, including in the agreed conclusions of the 57th session of the UN Commission of the Status of Women (2013) on the elimination and prevention of violence against women and girls. The 2013 report of the WHO has also indicated that 35% of women worldwide have experienced violence whether physical and or sexual.  Leaders of eleven UN funds, programmes and specialised agencies including the ILO, committed to work together to end violence against women and girls. Eliminating gender inequalities in formal wage employment is seen as one way of addressing the problem. The goal of UN Women is to achieve gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment in the post 2015 development framework. This includes freedom from violence.

The ILO can enrich these efforts through the effective supervision of existing standards on gender equality and discrimination in employment and occupation (Convention, 1958 No. 111). New instruments covering all forms of violence in the workplace would reinforce the existing framework of international and regional human rights standards. It is expected that a convention and recommendation on violence in the world of work would provide a solid foundation for action by governments, workers, employers and their organizations.

However, the standard on violence was ultimately not selected for discussion at the next ILC. It will remain on a list to be considered once more in the near future and should be a priority for PSI unions around the world to lobby their governments in support of such a standard.

 

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