Lai Brown, The National Organising Secretary of the Automobile, Boatyards and Technical Equipment and Allied Staff Union (AUTOBATE), an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria.
On 21 June 2019, the ILO Convention C190 against Violence and Harassment, and accompanying Recommendation R206 were adopted at the International Labour Conference (ILC). These new international labour conventions received record votes at the ILC, demonstrating an overwhelming consensus for a world of work free of violence and harassment.
While the convention was voted for by representatives of the workers, governments and employers, it is important to understand that popular actions precipitated the adoption of C190 and R206. These were organized by ordinary working-class people, particularly women in workplaces, communities and on the streets, who demonstrated through their actions that they would no longer tolerate harassment, and violence against them.
There were widespread protest movements which advanced the fight against sexual harassment, putting this on the front burner of global public opinion in 2017. A clear outcome of this was the #MeToo Movement in which a looming figure, Harvey Weinstein who has just been found guilty and jailed, was shown for the monster he is, as unfortunately many other predators with power are. History is not simply made by institutions; rather people make institution and history.
The new convention complies with the rule on total inclusiveness and integration. It takes an inclusive and integrated approach, by extending protection to all workers whether in the formal and informal economy and irrespective of their contractual status and including jobseekers, trainees, interns, apprentices and volunteers (ITUC, 2019).
The fact that embers of revolt inspired adoption of the international labour covenants on violence and harassment establishes two things; that in our hands as the working masses united lies the power to change, and to change the world, and also; that freedom for the working-class comes through struggle. Although we know it is not yet Uhuru with Convention No 190 and Recommendation No 206 on violence and harassment in the world of work; the battle for ratification in the ILO member states and implementation in our factories and workplaces is one we must now wage.