Violence and harassment at work: 16 days of activism

The ITUC, Global Union Federations and trade unions across the world are starting the Global 16 Days of Activism calling on governments to guarantee a world of work free from gender-based violence and harassment.

This right is enshrined in ILO Convention 190 (C190) and Recommendation 206 (R206). The ratification and implementation of C190, including R206, are crucial to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work.

A survey by trade unions this year found that gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in the world of work has increased in recent years and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a warning that GBVH could rise again as the global social, economic and climate crisis intensifies, and reinforces the urgency of this collective call on governments and employers to act.

By making C190 and R206 a reality, they will ensure a safer, healthy and more decent world of work. It will also act as an accelerator building social just, resilient economies and peaceful societies rooted in equality and equity.

Women trade union leaders from across the world, who gathered during ITUC’s 4th World Women’s Conference in Melbourne, Australia, have #RatifyC190 campaigns in place in over 80 countries. The ITUC report shows examples of how working people across the world are engaging in lobbying, social dialogue, organising and awareness raising to ensure that C190 and R206 become a reality and deliver change.

  • Trade unions celebrated when Panama and Nigeria became the 21st and 22nd countries to ratify C190, joining Barbados and Mexico, while Chile and other countries are next in line. When a government ratifies C190 they need to align their law and policies accordingly.
  • In the Philippines, trade unions aligned C190 with agreements in the transport, construction, metals, logistics and education sectors, and successfully signed a zero-tolerance policy on violence and harassment in Indonesia with 38 companies.
  • In Australia, trade unions celebrated the passing of a bill in parliament that extends rights to millions of workers to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave. A right that will save lives as it allows people to escape volatile and dangerous domestic situations.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese received a standing ovation at the 5th ITUC World Congress when he told the 1,000 trade unionists from over 120 countries: “The Labor government will table in the Parliament of Australia ILO Convention 190 … affirming the right of every person to a work culture based on mutual respect and dignity. It will be the first formal step towards ratification. No women should have to choose between her job and her safety.”

ITUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said: “It is urgent that governments waste no more time, they must take inspiration from Australia and take the necessary action to ratify C190. I welcome the governments that have already done this, but we need more.

“Women workers cannot wait any longer, there can be no more excuses. Gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work is a pandemic that we all have a responsibility to fight against."

16 Days of Activism runs from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25 November, until Human Rights Day, 10 December.