To mark International Women's Day, ETI held a meeting at the University and College Union, to explore how we work collaboratively across ETI sectors to demonstrate leadership in production countries on progressing ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment at work. We also launched a new report, Safe Spaces, which calls for all sectors to work together to champion gender equality, support women workers to access the right to freedom of association and improve their rights through the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
Introduction from Beverley Hall, ETI's Senior Industrial Relations Advisor
What can we learn from better understanding how women access their rights, and organise themselves once they are empowered? We are here to galvanise support across ETI members, and increase investment in this historic and unique Convention.
Chair: Denise McGuire, retired President of the UNI Global Union Women's Committee
There are two mantras we should follow today:
If we build it, they will come.
Give us the tools and we'll do the job.
We are here to demonstrate leadership in production countries, so we can progress ratification of ILO C190. We have built the Convention together, and it is the job of all of us, with ILO, to convert it into reality, and to do that with the help of ETI. Today is about translating good words into good work, both in inside and outside work spaces around the world.
Valentina Beghini, Senior Technical Officer, Gender Equality, ILO: an overview of ILO C190 and Recommendation 206
This Convention applies to everyone in the world of work, in both the formal and informal economy. It demonstrates the value and power of tripartism and the role ILO can play in improving people's working lives.
Enthusiasm and excitement attended the adoption of these instruments. They are the first to establish and clearly spell out the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. It addresses a range of unacceptable behaviours and practices and calls for the adoption of an inclusive, integrated and gender-responsive approach to the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment at work.
The provisions of the Convention are applied via national laws and regulations, as well as collective agreements or other measures consistent with national practice. All Member States are required to bring the Convention to the attention of the competent national authorities, and the Convention comes into force for any Member 23 months after ratification is registered. States that ratify submit regular reports for review by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
We want this Convention to be a bridge between the past and the future in the world of work and to instil and push for a world of work where rights are respected for everyone.
There are 3 pillars to the Convention: prevention and protection; enforcement and remedies; and guidance and training. All have a role to play in this: governments, employers, workers and their respective organisations.
Convention 190 requires members to recognise the effects of domestic violence on the world of work, and mitigate its impact. Recommendation 206 calls for leave for victims, flexible work arrangements, temporary protection against dismissal, the inclusion of domestic violence in workplace risk assessments, and awareness raising.
What can you do, as employers?
- Adopt and implement the Convention a workplace policy on violence and harassment in consultation with workers and their representatives
- Include violence and harassment in your occupational health and safety policies
- Identify hazards and assess the risk of violence and harassment
- Provide information and training
- Respect, promote and realise the fundamental principles and rights at work, and promote decent work
- Make information on health and safety standards available to the worker representatives in your supply chain countries
- Support existing in-country campaigns
- Hester le Roux, Senior Economic Advisor, Policy and Advocacy Team, Care International UK
- Ramesh Panavalli, Ethical Trade Manager, Debenhams Retail Ltd
- Stephen Russell, Policy Office, TUC (UK's trade union representative at ILO)
What can businesses do? Advice from CARE International UK
ASSESS - recognise the new benchmark and assess existing policies and practices against it
ACT: take action to fill gaps and strengthen prevention, protection and response
ADVOCATE: for ratification: with host and home governments and with employer organisations
- Women are disproportionately affected because of power imbalances, social norms and vulnerable employment
- Violence and harassment takes a huge physical and psychological toll on survivors and their families
- It is a major contributor to the gender wage gap and losses in earning potential and a key barrier to women's full and productive engagement at work
- A high cost to businesses and economies in lost productivity
- 59 countries currently have no laws against workplace harassment and where laws exist, they are often patchy or poorly implemented
- But C190 marks a shift in norms and changed expectations and sends a clear signal that governments and employers must act.
Don't wait for the laws to change!
CARE's C190 ratification campaign has two objectives: widespread ratification (four countries have pledged commitment so far, 6 more by June 2021 and a further 8-12 making significant progress) and strengthening business policies and practice.
- Train the trainer approaches are scalable
- Challenges are opportunities! Tackle the lack of data, lack of awareness and education, and social stigma around reporting are opportunities with awareness and rights training, the training of audit partners, the establishment of elected women's committees, of safe transport and accommodation, and better data collection
- Case studies, real-life examples, role play and group work can help challenge embedded social norms
- Training alone won't achieve change - there is a need to empower workers' organisations and women's organisations at work too. The stronger they are, the lower the rates of violence and harassment
- Always encourage women to take leadership roles in addition to training
- Robust reporting policies must be in place
- Engage men and boys
Don't wait for ratification, any more than you would wait to be given best practice for any of the countries you work in. These are the right approaches, and the only way you can protect the human rights of people in your supply chains. Follow these recommendations. Don't wait to be told by governments. And don't wait for the 'nirvana' of ratification.
Debenhams gender programme, known as LIFE, looks at reducing inequalities within its global supply-chains, through the empowerment of women and their communities. Debenhams Swasti LIFE programme provides life skills training for workers in its key India factories to support women's empowerment and iscross checked with C190. Workers are provided with training in health and nutrition, reproductive health, financial literacy, gender discrimination, gender-based violence and gender stereotyping via peer education and a train-the-trainer model. The programme has impacted more than 11,000 workers, both men and women. In one of the factories awareness of domestic violence has increased by 41.1%, and awareness of a helpline, and linkages for reporting sexual harassment and violence by 56.5%.
The other programme is Sudokkho in Bangladesh, which is funded by DFID. It looks at upskilling employees and offers supervisory training which has impacted on more than 4000 workers in 31 factories. Debenhams is also a part of the ILO Better work programme in Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
Caroline Downey, Women Working Worldwide: Safe Spaces report
Why do women organise? What motivates them? How do they come together? Our methodology included interviews with practitioners, case studies, questionnaires and analysis. We make recommendations on 3 types of safe space: knowledge and legal; work; and community. And we outline recommendations for companies, unions and NGOs.
- Freedom of association and collective bargaining are rights denied to many workers, men and women, but even when they do exist, women's voices are not heard because they are not there.
- Social and cultural constraints mean those who do speak up are often seen as "troublemakers".
- Women-only spaces should be independent from management, and women should be free to decide on their own priorities, rather than have that imposed on them
- Women must be free to determine who will represent them
- Management must listen and respond without retaliation
- We need to work in partnership with men.
Tipping points and barriers: Sexual harassment; lack of voice; threats to wages and benefits; lack of contracts; poor health care and maternity rights; lack of control of finances; lack of opportunity to advance and lead.
Insights from breakouts
- Leverage spaces of collaboration to achieve more in factory or by supplier - for example the Open Apparel Registry, the first open source supply chain map for brands
- Adopt a gender lens on all initiatives
- Understand the societal backlash when you empower women, and work with civil society in resourcing countries to limit it
- The UK should be the No 1 target for ratification: Lobby the UK government to encourage other sourcing countries to follow
- Work with other businesses on advocacy - support letters to governments, campaign with industry associations
- Build capacity and understanding of C190 in your own operations to encourage and set an example suppliers
- Work with local authorities as well as country governments
- Safe Spaces, when created, need to be sustainable - so they don't cease to exist when a manager or union representative leaves or changes
- Start with countries where there is a strong civil society and where there are already campaigns for ratification, such as South Africa, Kenya, Spain, Italy, Ecuador, Mexico, Cameroon
- Bring suppliers into the room and make links with buying teams
- Collaborate with other brands on data - approaching ratification via a partnership approach
Denise McGuire summary: the 3 Ds
Domestic violence - it's not always understood that it follows you to work, via emails, phone calls, visits to your office. Have your car keys been stolen, or your children not been picked up when they were meant to be? This impacts on your performance and attendance.
Decision points - any process, whether it's asking for your overtime to be paid, or to take the breaks you're entitled to, is an opportunity for a manager to exploit you. Every time you have to 'ask' for something you're entitled to, someone can exploit you. We need to think about this.
Demonstration - you can get keywords from the Convention and Recommendation into company policies, procedures and collective bargaining agreements. Creating awareness around ILO standards and helping people to enforce their rights at work is something we an all do.
Let's take those words that we ploughed over for so many days at the ILO and convert them from practice into purpose in the world's workplaces.
What are we doing?
- Reviewing Chinese laws and policies and holding a webinar
- Publishing a background paper with potential for a train-the-trainer module on gender-based violence
- Holding a similar event to today's in May. We have also developed a gender-based violence module which will be incorporated into the Social Dialogue programme
- Developing good practice of examples of tackling gender-based violence
- New handbooks for South Africa and India which include briefings on women's empowerment GOSH
- We will be coordinating with our trade union, NGO members and partners on targeted campaigns for ratification.