UN labour agency approves landmark anti-harassment convention

22 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

GENEVA: The International Labour Organization adopted a landmark convention Friday on preventing violence and harassment in the workplace, following tough negotiations among governments, employers and labour groups, reports AFP.

The text approved by an overwhelming majority at a conference marking the ILO’s 100 anniversary will become legally binding once it is ratified by national parliaments.

The UN’s labour agency began work on the convention in 2015, two years before the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein triggered the #MeToo movement.

But ILO director general Guy Ryder said that the global #MeToo campaign gave “momentum and significance” to the process.

Ryder conceded there had been “contentious” negotiations on the convention that establishes protection standards for workers worldwide on a range of issues, including sexual harassment.

A major stumbling block, he said, was defining “vulnerable groups.”

Many wanted the convention to name these groups—a list that would have included people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI).

Some governments, including in Africa, opposed a defined list and Ryder said a “better solution” to achieve consensus was a “generic” reference to vulnerable groups.

Even though some are unquestionably more vulnerable to violence and harassment in the workplace—notably women—Ryder stressed that the text offers protection to “everybody.”

The ILO’s work is often complicated by its tripartite structure that includes government officials, union leaders and private sector employer representatives.

Employers had been particularly concerned about whether the convention would seek to hold them responsible for abuses among colleagues that happened away from the workplace.