By Theresa Goodwin
A seasoned union official is calling on the government to implement a standardised policy to address violence and sexual harassment in the world of work.
In May, Antigua and Barbuda became the first country in the Caribbean to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 which seeks to recognise the right of everyone to a workplace free from violence and harassment.
Local trade unions have been working with various employer organisations to ensure policies to this effect are in place to foster a safe working environment, especially those with a strong female presence.
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) Kem Riley said while his organisation and others have had much success in this area, it would be more meaningful if a national policy was introduced to set out specific regulations and guidelines.
“We hope that the government will be able to introduce this as a national policy so it is not left up to the hotels and other sectors having their own terms and conditions,” he said.
“We know women are among the most vulnerable in our society, especially domestic workers and others. Government must employ people at the Labour Department in order for us to make sure that Convention 190 is really put in motion and not just have it on the shelf to just say we ratify and leave it there,” Riley explained.
He is also appealing to females within the workplace to report harassment and violence when they occur.
“As soon as you feel uncomfortable, I am asking the ladies to make that report,” he urged.
Sexual violence and harassment in the workplace formed a major part of the agenda during a series of meetings jointly hosted by the ABWU and the Antigua Trades and Labour Union (AT&LU) last week.
The sixth International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF) Caribbean Regional Conference was held from June 20 to 24.
IUF General Secretary Sue Longley noted that while ratification of the Convention is a key step, a number of governments are lagging behind when it comes to implementing it.
She said over the next few months the IUF will be working alongside its affiliates, including the ABWU and the AT&LU, in a bid to make progress.