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New treaty to protect workers from violence, harassment

By Taddeo Bwambale

Added 25th June 2019 01:17 PM

“We are in the process of ratification of the convention,” said Bigirimana, who was part of Uganda’s delegation to the ILO conference.

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Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Photo/File

“We are in the process of ratification of the convention,” said Bigirimana, who was part of Uganda’s delegation to the ILO conference.

HARASSMENT  

KAMPALA - Uganda is one of the countries that voted on Friday in favour of a ground-breaking global treaty by the International Labour Organization to improve protections for workers facing violence and harassment.

ILO member governments, worker representatives, and employers’ organizations voted overwhelmingly to adopt the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment, after two years of negotiations.

Governments that ratify the treaty will be required to develop national laws prohibiting workplace violence and to take preventive measures.

They are also obliged to monitor the issue and provide access to remedies via complaint mechanisms, witness protection, and victim services, and to provide protect victims and whistleblowers.

Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development told the New Vision that the convention broader protections for all categories of workers.

“We are in the process of ratification of the convention,” said Bigirimana, who was part of Uganda’s delegation to the ILO conference.

The treaty covers workers, trainees, workers whose employment has been terminated, job seekers, and others, and applies to both formal and informal sectors. It also accounts for violence and harassment involving third parties, such as clients, customers, or service providers.

Previously, there was no international standard specifically addressing violence and harassment in the world of work, Bigirimana said.

A World Bank report in 2018 found that 59 out of the 189 countries examined had no specific legal provisions covering sexual harassment in employment.

These include a lack of coherent laws, a lack of coverage in laws and policies for workers most exposed to violence, and an overly narrow definition of “workplace” in existing laws and regulations.

The new ILO convention and recommendation affirm the right to freedom from violence and harassment in the workplace.

They provide for an integrated, inclusive, and gender-responsive approach for the prevention and elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.

The convention defines violence and harassment as “a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices, or threats, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment.”

The treaty notes that violence and harassment go beyond just the physical workplace but extends to workers while they commute to work, at social events, or while dealing with clients or third parties.

It requires governments to take measures to prevent and protect people from violence and harassment and to provide enforcement mechanisms and remedies for victims, including compensation.

These include adopting legal prohibitions of violence and harassment at work and ensuring effective inspections, investigations, and protection from retaliation.

Governments should require employers to have workplace policies addressing violence and harassment, appropriate risk assessments, prevention measures, and training.

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