Canada’s unions play key role in ILO negotiations on addressing violence at work

June 11, 2019

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Representatives from labour, governments, and employers are meeting this month as part of the 108th International Labour Conference in Geneva.

Marie Clarke Walker, Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), serves as the Worker Spokesperson and will continue as a key leader in the effort to strengthen obligations to end violence and harassment at work.

Representatives of the ILO’s 188 member states will be meeting from June 10 to 22, 2019 to negotiate the ILO’s Centennial Declaration. The ILO Centenary provides an important moment to look back and celebrate the ILO’s history and achievements, but also to reaffirm its social justice mandate. Workers are calling for a new Social Contract that guarantees a fair deal for all working people to change the current model of globalisation that puts profit ahead of working people. The thematic focus for the event is the “Future of Work,” aiming to respond to the global drivers of change, including global economic policy, climate change and technology.

This year, discussions will lead to the development of a specific Convention and a Recommendation aiming to end violence and harassment in the world of work. This Convention would be a legally binding international treaty, which, when ratified by ILO member states, would commit them to apply the Convention in national law and practice, while a Recommendation is a guideline providing more details on its application. Worker representatives are advocating for language to enshrine the right for all people to a work environment free from violence and harassment. A priority focus will be on gender-based violence, reflecting the prevailing gender inequalities in the world of work and that victims of violence and harassment are overwhelmingly women.

The CLC’s Marie Clarke Walker was appointed last year to serve the two-year term as the Worker Spokesperson on the ILO Standard Setting Committee. Her role in the Committee is that of chief negotiator representing workers. Two weeks of intense discussions aim to lead towards a consensus with concerned parties on the language for new instruments on ending violence and harassment in the world of work.

“There can be no decent work with violence at work,” said Clarke Walker. “Few countries provide protection against violence in the workplace, especially gender-based violence. A strong ILO Convention and Recommendation are important instruments to recognize and close this gap.”

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