Union wants gov’t to implement treaty to address harassment, violence at work

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By Carlena Knight

[email protected]

A local union wants the government to put into effect a new treaty to safeguard employers and employees, whether formal or informal, against violence and harassment in the workplace.

The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) added its voice to the cause by joining the Women Against Rape (WAR) group which also called for the ratification and implementation of the C190 treaty in Antigua and Barbuda.

ILO Convention No. 190 or C190 for short is the first international treaty to recognise the rights of everyone to a world of work, free from violence and harassment.

The Convention was adopted in June 2019 by the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and came into force in June.

This treaty speaks to matters which not only occur in the physical workplace, but anywhere that can be linked back to work.

ABWU’s Industrial Relations and Training Officer Hazel Luke expounded on the importance of having such a framework in place in the country.

“It is a necessary convention because it protects everybody once a policy like that is in place. It’s important that we pay attention to this because we have a society that tends to brush things over and when the truth comes out, we tend to justify it.

“But the fact that we have dealt with issues like that and are still dealing with [them], then it is important that the government [implements it]. It would be a national commitment that we will ensure that no one becomes a victim of violence and harassment in the workplace or wherever they may work,” Luke explained.

Governments that implement C190 will be required to put in place the necessary laws and policy measures to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work.

This is a welcome requirement for the union as Luke revealed that they have dealt with such matters in the past.

“We would have had to settle matters of harassment. We have had to settle matters of bullying. We have had to settle matters of emotional violence. Some things are subtle, but there are times when they go unreported because people are afraid to lose their jobs, but once it is reported it is a matter that we deal with,” Luke said.

“Violence is not a matter that happens at the workplace alone; it happens at home and as a matter of fact during Covid, we have found that it has turned up its face even more because, you know, people are home with each other and that psychosocial situation tends to show itself a little bit more,” she added.

Luke’s comments come days after the ABWU, an affiliate of the Union Network International Global Women of the Americas, released a statement calling on the Gaston Browne administration to implement the C190.

In the release, the ABWU said it was the responsibility of unions to ensure a safe and healthy place of work.

It went on to state that because the convention applies to all sectors, whether government, employers, formal and informal and the private sector, that it is crucial for all these parties to ensure that the convention is implemented.

Already, government has made some headway in this field with the establishment of a Sexual Offences Court.

In June of this year, it also announced that officials in the Ministry of Social Transformation were working towards establishing legislation on sexual harassment.

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