ILO Adopts Convention on Violence and Harassment at Work at the Centenary Meeting

“The Convention’s message is clear: Violence exists in the world of work, and cannot be tolerated,” says Numan Özcan, Director of ILO Office for Turkey.

Statement | 01 July 2019
At the Centenary International Labour Conference on 10-21 June at Geneva, ILO adopted the first-ever global Convention and Recommendation to “Combat Violence and Harassment at Work”.

The Convention recognizes that violence and harassment in the world of work constitutes a human rights violation and a threat to equal opportunities; and is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work. It defines violence and harassment as behaviours, practices or threats that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm. It reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a general environment of zero tolerance.

Making a statement on the issue, Numan Özcan, Director of ILO Office for Turkey, noted that ILO had long been working on the issue of eliminating violence in the world of work, and it was extremely important that ILO member states adopted an international convention as a result of long discussions and consequent agreement.

The convention represents the first-ever global agreement against violence

Özcan said: “Of course, it is meaningful that the Convention was adopted at the historic Centenary Session in the centenary of ILO. It is all the more important and meaningful that the Convention was adopted in an international consensus in an environment where it was increasingly difficulty to forge consensus on any matter to conclude a new international convention, and particularly considering that the previous ILO Convention was adopted in 2011.”

“The Convention’s message is clear: Violence exists in the world of work, and cannot be tolerated,” Özcan noted.

The new international labour standard aims to protect workers and employees, irrespective of their contractual status, and includes persons in training, interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants.

“The Convention places special emphasis on violence against women because they are disproportionately affected.”

Özcan noted that the Convention placed special emphasis on gender-based violence and violence against women because, as pointed out in the Convention, women were disproportionately affected.

“Gender inequalities in the society at large and particularly in the world of work expose women more to risk. Incidents of violence adversely impact women’s access, remaining and advancing in the labour market” said Özcan and continued: “In addition, violence in the world of work adversely impacts the development of sustainable enterprises, productivity, workplace relations and enterprise reputation.”

Noting that the Convention also emphasised domestic violence as well as violence at work, he underlined that domestic violence affected employment and productivity at varying levels; therefore, measures must be taken against domestic violence equally as in the case of violence at work.

Indicating that violence remains “veiled” due to social prejudices, Özcan stressed that methods of combating violence and harassment should be developed in a holistic and gender-responsive approach.

Özcan emphasised that public authorities and employers’ and workers’ organisations must act in concert in the work to address the issue, and collective bargaining processes and collective agreements should also address the issue.

ILO will intensify efforts on the issue

Özcan recalled that they held a conference on “Preventing Violence and Harassment against Women at Work” in December 2018 with the participation of social partners to help raise awareness on the issue, and called for cooperation in the future to prevent violence and harassment in the world of work.