By Michael Oche, Abuja
A study by the Solidarity Centre AFL-CIO, has made recommendations on how governments, employers and trade unions can address Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) in the world of work.
The Solidarity Center AFL-CIO is the largest U.S based international worker rights organization partnering directly with workers and unions across the globe to attain safe and healthy workplaces, fair wages, a voice in the global economy and dignity on the job.
The study titled “MADE FOR THIS MOMENT – How ILO Convention 190 Addresses Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in the World of Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond” was released November 2020.
The study which revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the cases of GBVH at work stated that there is an urgent need for Governments, employers and unions to work together to ratify and implement critical protections in ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 in order to ensure safe, respectful workplaces for all.
LEADERSHIP reports that the ILO adopted Convention 190 supplemented by Recommendation 206 in June 2019. This convention is the first global, binding treaty on eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work, including GBVH.
‘MADE FOR THIS MOMENT REPORT’ described GBVH in the world of work to include not only rape, sexual assault, unwanted sexual advances and other forms of sexual harassment but any other form of physical or psychological abuse based on a person’s actual or perceived gender identity, including bullying, mobbing, offensive gender stereotyping and degrading comments.
Based on the report, “the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread social and economic instability, increasing the risk of GBVH against women and other marginalized workers in the world of work. It has exacerbated preexisting and ongoing oppression, including the growth of precarious work, gender-based discrimination, and the use of violence and harassment to prevent marginalized workers from organizing to address poverty and exclusion from laws and social protections.”
Report carries vivid and true life experiences of women workers in Nigeria who are survivors of different forms GBVH. One such story is that of an office cleaner who was raped by her supervisor during COVID 19 lockdown under the pretext of having worker clean his office at an irregular time when other workers were not absent.
The study recommended that ratifying ILO Convention 190 will give governments, employers, and unions tools to address the increase in GBVH during the pandemic and beyond.
It also recommended that governments mandate collection of data on the scope and incidence of GBVH in the world of work to inform appropriate legislative and policy responses.
It stressed that governments with workers and employers, should develop and implement comprehensive amendments to national legislation, including laws on labour and employment, occupational safety and health, non-discrimination, criminal law and other areas as relevant, to: prohibit all forms of GBVH as defined by ILO Convention 190, Protect all workers as defined by ILO Convention 190, cover the entire world of work as defined by ILO Convention 190 as well as require employer accountability for failure to prevent GBVH in the world of work.
On the role of employers, the study recommended that employers should publicly support and advocate for ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 by national governments. Employers should also conduct trainings for all staff, including managers on GBVH in the world of work; employer policies must be in place to prevent it.
It urged employers to equally consult with workers and unions to implement employer obligations under ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206, including: engaging in a comprehensive risk assessment that examines working conditions, exposure to third parties, power relationships, discrimination and underlying social and cultural norms that support violence and harassment, adopting a workplace policy that defines and prohibits all forms of GBVH as defined in ILO Convention.
The need to engage in collective bargaining with workers on policies and procedures to address GBVH, including voluntarily recognizing unions and associations formed by workers who do not currently enjoy the right to collective bargaining under national law was recommended.
The study encouraged Nigerian trade unions to continue to build diverse national and international coalitions to advocate for ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 as well as incorporate the ILO Convention 190 framework into internal union policies.
The MADE FOR THIS MOMENT Report provides useful information on how ILO Convention can be easily understood by workers as it provides great examples to illustrate applicability of some major C190 articles.