Employers and employees must look to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention 2019 and its related Recommendation No. 206, 2019, to guide their actions, in this COVID-19 work environment.
Minister of Labour and Social Partnership Relations, Colin Jordan, emphasized this during a virtual ILO high-level event entitled: Guiding the COVID-19 response and recovery towards a better normal, free from violence and harassment: The role of ILO Convention No.190 and Recommendation No. 206.
The event marked the first anniversary of the adoption of the Convention and its supplementing Recommendation No. 206.
“It has resulted in a number of dislocations in economies across the world. It has occasioned mass layoffs, job losses, closure of businesses and as countries work to reopen their economies and to get business and people back to work, the labour market is in flux and there is now an oversupply of workers,” Minister Jordan said, while also acknowledging that when this happens it unfortunately results in the kind of situation that facilitates oppression.
Known also as the C190 – Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190), it was adopted on June 21, 2019, in Geneva with this island’s Labour Minister playing a key role in the creation of the document.
He stressed the relevance of the Convention and its related Recommendation No. 206 to this period.
“The Convention speaks to the matter of violence and harassment in the world of work. So, it brings attention to the fact that overtly and subtly, in some cases, there is the tendency to violence and certain forms of harassment, so that violence may not be overt, but there are those pressures that are brought to bear.
“And, in a climate like the one we are in, it will become more rampant. So first, the Convention brings attention to the matter. It brings attention to the fact that there will be certain fears, certain uncertainties on the part of workers …. It also brings attention to the fact that in crisis situations, there is a … disproportionate negative impact on the women workers.
And, so the Convention that we crafted essentially one year ago, speaks generally to violence and harassment in the world of work, but it also speaks to, or highlights specifically gender-based violence and harassment.”
The Labour Minister contended that with this crisis there was a need to highlight the fact that women will be at a greater risk than men, in terms of negative impact.
“So, bringing to the fore these matters, as outlined in the Convention, really helps us to focus in on the realities on the ground, so that we can address them,” he pointed out.
Noting that there was the important inclusion in the Convention of the “world of work” as opposed to “the workplace”, Mr. Jordan explained that it was important to look beyond the physical work space, as we know it.
“There is now the situation where people are working from home or teleworking, or using the technology much more than they did before, and Convention 190 allows us to recognize that instances of violence and harassment, overt or covert or subtle, can take place even outside of an office – the physical work space – but wherever that worker is involved in work-related activity. Those spaces and those places also need to be considered as we look at the impacts that violence and harassment can have on people in this COVID-19 crisis situation,” the Labour Minister stated.