Stopping Violence at Work: A Victory, and a Call to Action

ILC 2018 - credit CWGL Rutgers

In a world where longtime serial predators are plotting their return to the workplace almost immediately after being ousted for their behavior, it’s time for some good news. This month, unions and worker organizations traveled to Geneva to negotiate a new international standard aimed at stopping the tidal wave of gender-based violence in every workplace. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a tripartite structure made up of government, employer and worker representatives, and today marks the close of two weeks of debate and negotiation among the parties.

At the end of the negotiations, all three parties agreed the future instrument should be a convention, supplemented by a recommendation. This is the strongest possible instrument to lay out further guidance for stopping and addressing gender-based violence at work.

Only the beginning

In the coming years, it will take energy to make the case to governments that voting in favor of, and later ratifying, this new ILO standard.  Women workers across the globe are counting on strong protections in this standard, and the next frontier is getting governments to support the instrument in its final form. You can see where your government stands on the ILO convention here.

In the meantime, brands have a disproportionate amount of power in this context, particularly where countries and workers alike depend on their continued business. Some retailers have begun leveraging that power in support of an ILO convention. CEOs, working through The B Team and representing multinationals Safaricom Limited, GSMA, Thrive Global, Celtel, Kering Group and Unilever, wrote to the International Organization of Employers advocating in favor of a strong convention. In their letter, the B Team CEOs noted that, “An international instrument would provide a baseline level of understanding of what constitutes violence and harassment at work and assist governments and employers in addressing its various forms.”

Following a report by Asia Floor Wage Alliance and Global Labor Justice exposing widespread sexual and physical abuse in factories producing for them as a result of high production targets, H&M and Gap have also recently voiced their support for an ILO instrument. It’s now critical that more brands step up to support a strong ILO mechanism to stop gender-based violence in their supply chains, and that activists tell brands to publicly communicate their support for ILO action on gender-based violence.

Time for action

What can you do to get involved?

Get up to speed

Read our report, Advancing Legal Protections on Gender-Based Violence at Work, to learn how an international standard can support local initiatives, and make it easier for women organizers to make change on the ground.

Take action

Sign petitions calling on Walmart to support an ILO Convention on violence and harassment in the world of work, and calling for H&M and Gap to meet with the Asia Floor Wage Women’s Committee to make a plan to tackle gender-based violence in their supply chains.

Spread the word

Share some photos and stories from #ILC2018 with friends and followers who might not be up to speed. Tweet this Moment with the best photos from the meetings, or share this video to Facebook to help people recognize what gender-based violence looks like in the workplace.