The International Labor Organization adopted a global treaty on Friday meant to reduce violence and harassment in the workplace, but stopped short of including language that would include LGBTI people.
Amid cheers and applause, the U.N. labor agency’s 12-day International Labor Conference for 5,000 delegates from its 187 member nations wrapped up its last day by approving the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment.
The new treaty and an accompanying non-binding recommendation that provides guidance on the convention’s obligations were adopted by a vote of 439-7 with 30 abstentions. It now goes to member nations for ratification.
The treaty says violence and harassment in the world of work “can constitute a human rights violation or abuse” and that it “is a threat to equal opportunities, is unacceptable and incompatible with decent work.”
It says nations have a responsibility to promote a “general environment of zero tolerance” for workplace violence and harassment, which are defined as behaviors, practices or threats “that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm.”
But a proposal to protect LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people was excluded due to disagreement over employers’ responsibilities and opposition from African member nations.
— ILO (@ilo) June 21, 2019
Right to work free of violence
The ILO, created in 1919 as part of the Treaty of Versailles that helped end the 20th century’s first global catastrophe, became a U.N. specialized agency in 1946.
As the only international organization of its kind that combines representatives of governments, employers and workers, ILO identified workplace harassment and violence as an important issue in 2015 — before the #MeToo movement emerged.
“The new standards recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment,” said ILO’s Director-General Guy Ryder, who credited the #MeToo movement with providing momentum for the treaty, which was negotiated for two years.
Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said governments, workers and employers made history by adopting a treaty that sets standards for ending the scourge of violence and harassment in the world of work.
“The women who bravely spoke up about their #MeToo abuses at work have made themselves heard at this negotiation, and their voices are reflected in these important new protections,” she said.