From words to action: it’s time to address violence and harassment in the world of work and we know how

Sunday 8 March 2020

Across the continent, women and their unions are stepping up to demand that governments take meaningful action to curb violence and harassment in the world of work. Last year saw a historic breakthrough when trade unions, employers and governments successfully negotiated the historic ILO Violence and Harassment Convention 190. Now it is time for governments to ratify it and write the visionary measures it puts forward into national laws.

Covering all workers, irrespective of their contractual status, in the public and private, rural and urban, formal and the informal economies, the Convention is a major step. With a strong focus on gender-based violence, which overwhelming affects women, it sets out measures that address key structural elements of this devastating and persisting injustice. The Convention recognises and addresses domestic violence as an element that affects employment, as well as the health and safety of workers.

“Union women drove the campaign for and won the ambitious agreement. All the concrete steps that the Convention provides only come into force for workers once their government ratifies it. That is why, service sector unions are moving together to demand that their governments see it through: #RatifyILO190,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

“A third of women have experienced sexual and/or physical violence in the EU but we refuse to stand by and be victims. Throughout the labour movement we are seeing inspiring efforts to end gender-based violence. This is a vital time for us and we need EU action so let’s keep up the pressure and get this international binding instrument over the line,” said Amel Djemail, Equal Opportunities Director at UNI Europa.

 

Women rising

“Convention 190 is a central win of a flourish of union mobilisation for gender equity. Service sector workers are changing the face of trade unionism itself, as ever increasing numbers of women join the trade union movement. Through their unions, women are bringing their demands to the collective bargaining table too, winning improved maternity leave and reducing the gender pay gap in their sectors,” said Oliver Roethig.

Women’s strikes have swept the continent with major mobilisations from Spain and Iceland to Switzerland and Poland. Closing the gender pay gap has been another major focus of these movements. A prerequisite to achieving equal pay is pay transparency and UNI Europa recently ramped up calls for EU legislation on pay transparency. Bank tellers, shop floor assistants, graphical designers, care workers, posties, hair dressers: working women are getting involved to make concrete changes in their lives and the lives of their colleagues.

UNI Europa backs the European Trade Union Confederation in calling on the EU for bolder, stronger and faster action. While UNI Europa welcomes that the recently published Gender Equality Strategy backs Convention 190 ratification, we also highlight its major shortcomings in taking on inequality in pay.

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