ILC ends with adoption of landmark Convention

Helen Shok Jok. Geneva.

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The International Labour Conference, ILC, has ended with what is said to be an unprecedented Convention and accompanying recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the workplace.

The conference, which marked the centenary of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, lasted for two weeks in Geneva, Switzerland.

The conference also came up with a Declaration charting the way towards a human –centred future of work, which is seen as “a reaffirmation of the relevance and importance of the ILO’s mandate in the changing world of work, a strong statement of intent, a mobilizing call, and a road map for action by the ILO itself”.

This is the first time that a Convention and Recommendation on violence and harassment in the world of work have been adopted.

The adoption signifies an agreed definition of violence and harassment stipulating what needs to be done to prevent and address it, and by whom.

According to the ILO, the Convention will enter into force 12 months after two member States have ratified it.

Though the Recommendation is not legally binding, it provides guidelines on how the Convention could be applied.

The visibly elated Director General of the ILO, Mr Guy Ryder said, “What we have adopted today is a roadmap, a compass to take us forward in the future of this organization, because the future of work is the future of our Organization. 

“The Declaration looks to the future of work with a human-centred lens. It has a strong focus on enabling people to benefit from changes in the world of work, by strengthening the institutions of work to ensure adequate protection of all workers, and by promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth and full and productive employment,” he said.

This is the first new Convention agreed by the International Labour Conference since 2011, when the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) was adopted.

439 votes were cast in favour of the Convention, while seven were against, with 30 abstentions while the Recommendation was passed with 397 votes in favour, 12 votes against and 44 abstentions.

The Convention 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,” and reminds member States that they have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance”.

Also speaking, the Director ILO Work Quality Department, Mr Manuela Tomei said:   “Without respect, there is no dignity at work, and without dignity, there is no social justice”.

He said that 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 have been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants.

“It recognises that individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer can also be subjected to violence and harassment.

“The new standards recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment,” he said.

Specific areas for action identified include: The effective realization of gender equality in opportunities and treatment; effective lifelong learning and quality education for all; Universal access to comprehensive and sustainable social protection as well as the espect for workers’ fundamental rights.

Others are: An adequate minimum wage; maximum limits on working time; safety and health at work; policies that promote decent work, and measures that ensure appropriate privacy and personal data protection as well as response to challenges and opportunities  in the digital transformation of work, including platform work.

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, while commending the ILO, said that adopting the Convention and Declaration had moved the organization nearer to attaining its set mandate in the world of work.

“You are carrying forward the torch that was lit one hundred years ago to help build a new world,  a world based on social justice, founded on a model of inclusion, with governments, workers and employers at the decision-making table together.

“The Declaration marks a historic opportunity to open a door to a brighter future for people around the world”, the UN Scribe said.

Conventions are legally binding international treaties that may be ratified by member States, while Recommendations serve as non-binding guidelines.

On the other hand, Declarations are resolutions of the ILO’s member States used to make a formal and authoritative statement.

The 109th Session of the International Labour Confernce is scheduled to hold from 25th May to 5th June, 2020, in Geneva Switzerland.