Unions Call for Strong ILO Convention on Gender-Based Violence

Trade unions are using the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls as a rallying point for a strong ILO Convention to tackle gender-based violence at work.

Next year’s ILO Conference in June will discuss the development of international labour standards on violence against women and men at work, and the trade union movement is calling for a strong international convention to be adopted.

More than one third of women around the world experience violence at work, at home or in the community, and action in the workplace is crucial to tackling the issue across the board.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Unions are leading the way in eradicating violence against women at work, and the support of a strong international legal instrument is essential. Women in every occupational sector are exposed to violence and harassment, on an epic scale, and where they are deprived of the protection of a union, the likelihood that they will experience rape, physical assault, intimidation and harassment is far greater. The reality is that violence is rife in the supply chains that bring food onto the table and that provide clothing and other manufactured goods. Women working in transport, health, education, public services, entertainment and every other area of the economy experience violence, and it’s time that governments and employers accept their responsibility to work with unions to end it. It is scandalous that sexual assault, sexual harassment and other forms of violence are not only tolerated at work, but in some cases used as a means to subjugate women in the interests of the corporate bottom line.”

Unions around the world are engaged in education campaigns with their membership, in getting collective bargaining provisions which protect women from violence and provide paid leave for women who have suffered from violence and harassment, and in broader community campaigns to eradicate violence against women and girls. Union campaigns to ensure legal protection for women, to obtain legislation for paid leave for victims and to increase public awareness and ensure safe havens and treatment are underway in countries in every region.

“The appalling treatment of women in the entertainment industry and even in national parliaments is in the headlines, and we also need to see the pandemic of violence that many other workers face given the same attention. The problem is worsened by stress from the huge pressures on household finances that so many workers face today, and the fact that some governments are dropping their responsibility for rape crisis centres, counselling and other vital services to for-profit private companies is a complete abrogation of the responsibility that governments have to protect people,” said Burrow.

To learn more about what unions are doing and for campaigning and collective bargaining resources, see the ITUC portal on gender-based violence and the ETUC’s “Safe at Home, Safe at Work project”