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The ILO process on "Ending violence and Harassment against women and men in the world of work"

by IDWFED published Jul 20, 2017 12:00 AM

The ILO Process

The ILO process on "Ending violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work" is a two-year standard-setting process starting at the International Labour Conference (ILC) 2018. Because of the centenary celebrations in 2019[1] , the negotiations will be continued in 2020. The outcome will be either a Recommendation or a Convention - or a Convention, supplemented by a Recommendation.

ILO Assembly

The procedure in detail[2]:

12 May 2017

Law and Practice Report of ILO, incl. a questionnaire is published at the ILO web-site[3]
Governments have to consult with the trade union centres and the employers's organizations at national level

22 Sept 2017

Deadline to hand in answers to the questionnaire to the ILO Office ()

March 2018

The first report containing the replies (and analysis) to the questionnaire will be sent to ILO Constituents


First discussion at the 107th Session of the Conference - Report on the outcome of the June 2018 deliberations will be published by the ILO and will prepare a revised draft of the instrument based on the first discussion


Second discussion during the ILC 2010 and adoption of the instrument

What is the ILO?

The ILO is the specialized UN agency dealing with labour  issues. It is the only UN agency which has a tripartite structure. This means that not only governments, but also trade unions and employers' organizations are  represented and included into decision-making processes.

The main objective of the ILO is to set international labour standards in order to create a bottom defining line of rights and measures of protection which should be applicable to all workers in the world. ILO Conventions are binding instruments, when ratified at the national level.

In that case, governments need to report in regular intervals about the implementation of ILO Conventions. ILO Recommendations are guidelines for governments if they wish to adopt national laws or policies on a certain topic. Often ILO Conventions are accompanied by a Recommendation. Both instruments are part of international law.   


How to ensure that domestic workers' voices are taken into account?

1. Trade Unions (TUs)

The rules of the ILO stipulate, that with regard to workers' and employers' organizations the most representative ones in a country are representing the workers and employers interests within the ILO.  These are the trade union centres in a country. If there is more than one, it is either the one with the most members or there are agreed procedures how to ensure the broadest possible representation, which would also include smaller organizations or a rotation between the organisation.  The trade union centres are the organizations who are representing workers' interests in national tripartite bodies.

Any branch union, including domestic worker unions or federations, need to ensure that their concerns and demands are incorporated in a position by the trade union centre(s).

A private home can  also be a workplace. Private homes are proned for harassment, abuse and violence towards workers, because domestic workers work in isolation and in a direct dependency relationship. This means that domestic work is among the most effected sectors with regard to harassment and violence at work. The perpetrators can be the employers, family members, friends of the family or any other persons relating to the family. Because of the isolated working environment, it is extremely difficult for domestic workers to seek support and have proper access to complaint procedure mechanisms.

We like to highlight that the private home is also a work place for home-based workers, who work in their own homes. In this context we like to note, that the conclusions of the meeting of Experts on Violence against Women and Men in the World of Work[4] state that domestic violence is relevant to the world of work.  There are more workplaces, which are not covered by a traditional approach, such as streets and other public places. These are often work places for informal workers, as this is also often the case for domestic workers. In solidarity with (other) informal workers organizations, we need to ensure that the definition of the workplace is as broad as possible and will cover all workplaces.

Domestic workers organizations need to lobby their trade union centres that the specific aspects of violence against women and men at work are taken into account into the official trade union position

The specific demands of domestic workers organizations need to be reflected in the answers of the trade union centres to the questionnaire at the end of the ILO Law and Practice Report.

Representatives of domestic workers' organizations need to be represented in the national trade union delegations to the ILO Conferences in 2018 and 2020.


2. Governments 

The trade union centres are the workers' organizations which usually negotiate with their governments labour relevant policies. Even if trade union centres are willing and able to include domestic workers' demands into their positions, it is more effective when domestic workers themselves put forward their demands and concerns.  

In addition, domestic workers' organizations can support the trade union centres, for example, in the demand that also the governments should respond to the questionnaire included in the ILO Law and Practice Report.

Furthermore governments need to understand that the 'world of work'  is far broader than working in a factory or an office. A private home is also a work place. To impose preventive measures and inflicting penalties for violating laws and regulations with regard to harassment and violence at work is far more difficult in a private home than at traditional work places. Therefore governments should welcome the ILO process as setting international rules which would help them to end violence and harassment for all workers.    


3. Employers

There are very rare cases that employers of domestic workers organize in their own organizations. If they do, they are often open regarding regulating working conditions for domestic workers.

We need to ensure that supportive employers organizations speak up and push in their own ranks for a protective global instrument to end violence and harassment in the world of work.  Employers in the ILO are against international labour standards as a matter of principle. National employers organizations need to understand that this is not the place to fight over ideologies but to ensure basic human rights for all workers in a country.


What to do?

  • Lobby your trade union centre to answer to the questions of the ILO Law and Practice Report and send the answers to the ILO the latest by 22nd September 2017
  • Lobby your trade union centre to include specific demands of domestic workers into the answers to the questionnaire at the end of  ILO Law and Practice report (IDWF will produce recommended answers)

  • Lobby your trade union centre that members of your organizations are to be included into the trade union delegation to the ILC 2018, so that domestic workers' voices are heard

  • Lobby your government to answer to the questions of the ILO Law and Practice Report and to send the answers to the ILO the latest by 22nd September 2017

  • Lobby your government to support a broad definition of the 'world of work' and to include the private home as a place of work

  • Lobby supportive employers organizations to lobby in their own ranks to support an international standard to end harassment and violence at work

We like to encourage all domestic workers organizations to answer themselves to the questions at the end of the ILO Law and Practice Report and to send the forms to IDWF. In addition, IDWF will conduct a membership survey on the topic in due time. Based on the answers of the survey and the answers to the questionnaire IDWF will produce consolidated recommended answers to the questionnaire.

The process as described above, is nothing new for domestic workers' organizations. We have been following the same path when we advocated for the Domestic Workers Convention C 189. By now, the collaboration with the ILO constituents, in particular with the trade union centres, is part of our daily work and we trust to even better collaborate based on the relationships we built.


What will IDWF do?

  • IDWF will highlight the importance of the ILO process on "Ending violence and Harassment against women and men in the world of work" alongside with our ongoing campaign to ratify and implement the ILO Convention 189 (Decent Work for Domestic Workers).
  • Based on the feed-back of our affiliates, IDWF will develop recommended answers to the questionnaire and send them as a consolidated position back to our affiliates, but also send copies to the IUF, ITUC and the ILO.
  • We seek a good collaboration with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the ILO Workers' Group, which are the leading trade union organizations in the ILO. We want that the ITUC takes into account our views when developing their recommended answers to the trade union centres.
  • IDWF will play a coordination role to ensure best representation of domestic workers' interests within the whole ILO process.

[1] It is the 100th birthday of ILO
[2] You can find a more detailed description in the ITUC Campaign Toolkit  (Section 2); see the link under the section "Resources" at the end of this document
[3] See link to the ILO web-site under "Resources" at the end of this document
[4] the tripartite meeting took place from 3-5 Oct. 2016 in the ILO in Geneva. This is the link to the report:; (conclusions: page 39ff)

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