Urgent action needed to eliminate violence and harassment at work

25 November, 2020

Australian federal government failing to take the real steps to end violence and harassment at work.

Although it has been a year and a half since the International Labour Organisation Convention on the Elimination of Violence and Harassment at Work, the federal government is yet to formally acknowledge its ratification.

IEU Assistant Federal Secretary Christine Cooper said while the federal government voted in favour of supporting the ILO Convention 190 and the associated Recommendation 206 to eliminate gendered violence at work, its lack of action to ratify means the progress remains aspirational.

“Despite violence against women having been recognised as a human rights violation since the UN World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, it has taken until the adoption of this Convention and Recommendation last year to have a dedicated instrument that specifically addresses gender-based violence in the workplace,” Christine said.

“The ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 established for the first time an international standard to prevent and eliminate violence and harassment at work.

“It places obligations on governments to develop national laws prohibiting workplace violence and on employers to proactively take steps to prevent violence and harassment,” she said.

Both Uraguay and Fiji have already ratified the convention in their respective parliaments, becoming the first two countries to officially commit to applying the convention in law and practice.

Gendered violence; a sinister pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately seen an increase in the incidence of gendered violence, both at work and at home.

At the workplace, front line workers in care and service industries are facing increased risks of violence and harassment from anxious and stressed customers, patients, parents and clients.

Social distancing and isolation measures have blurred the lines between home and workplace for many employees, putting those who experience family and domestic violence at greater risk of harm during this time.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles reported in May that hospital emergency rooms had seen an increase in significant injuries related to domestic violence.

“I’ve been disturbed to hear from our emergency department staff that the reduction in sporting injuries and road trauma has been partially offset by trauma caused by domestic and family violence,” he recently told the ABC.

Christine said the protections ILO Convention 190 provide are needed now more than ever and the federal government’s ratification is a vital step in ensuring safer workplaces for employees.

“The immediate ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190 is necessary as a key element of Australia’s COVID-19 response and recovery,” Christine said.

“The protections provide for everyone who works, regardless of contractual status, meaning interns, volunteers, job applicants and persons exercising the authority of an employer.

“It applies to the public and private sectors, the formal and informal economy and urban and rural areas,” she said.

Gender-based violence and harassment is highlighted within the convention, which also addresses domestic violence, the impact it has on work and practical measures to support victims/survivors like paid leave and flexible working arrangements.

Time for urgent action

Urgent action must be taken to ensure everyone’s right to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

Our union encourages all IEU members to support the ILO Convention and to

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