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Unions hail global move against workplace harassment

25 June 2019

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has adopted a convention stating violence and harassment in the world of work can constitute breaches of human rights.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK and Ireland, and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), welcome this major step forward for labour rights, agreed on the final day of the Centenary International Labour Conference in Geneva on Friday 21 June.

The convention establishes for the first time a global and unique right of everyone to work free from violence and harassment.

The convention recognises that violence and harassment in the world of work "can constitute a human rights violation or abuse" and are "a threat to equal opportunities, unacceptable and incompatible with decent work". It provides broad definitions of what violence and harassment in the world of work mean, where they can take place and who can be concerned.

The convention will come into force 12 months after two member states have ratified it. The delegates also adopted a recommendation which provides guidelines on how the convention should be applied.

The IFJ welcomed the adoption of the convention; it has made the fight against harassment in the newsrooms, including gender-based violence, a campaigning priority.

Urgent action is needed: trade union research shows that at least one in every two journalists has suffered sexual harassment, psychological abuse, online trolling and other forms of human rights abuses.

In a statement issued today, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) also welcomed the adoption of the Convention. The statement said:

The European Trade Union Confederation congratulated trade union representatives at the UN International Labour Organisation for reaching agreement with governments and employers on a world-wide convention (and accompanying recommendation) for the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.

The convention would require countries across the globe to:

  • put in place laws that prohibit and sanction violence and harassment at work;
  • oblige employers, after consulting workers and their unions, to have a policy for preventing and tackling violence and harassment. 

"Everyone should have the right to earn a living without fear of violence or harassment," said Per Hilmersson, deputy general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), "and employers should have a duty to create transparent and clear procedures to prevent violence and harassment, to support the victim and deal with the perpetrator appropriately. Now the battle will be to make sure that each state ratifies the convention and converts it into clear and effective national law. The convention is an important achievement for working women and men across the world. Let’s turn the good intentions of the convention into better working conditions for all women and men in every country on every continent. Congratulations to the trade union delegation at the ILO who successfully negotiated the convention."

One in six workers across Europe report having been subjected to acts of violence, harassment and unwanted sexual attention.

In 2017 ETUC published a report 'Safe at home, safe at work', setting out trade union strategies to prevent, manage and eliminate workplace harassment and violence against women. It includes information on 40 collective agreements and workplace policies addressing violence and harassment at work across 11 EU member states.

Download the new convention.

Tags: , violence, harassment, employment rights, ilo, international labour organisation, ifj, international federation of journalists