Vulnerable workers bringing important perspective on violence and harassment to International Labour Conference in Geneva
Most of the world’s workers earn their living in the informal economy, yet informal workers have the least protection against violence and harassment in their places of work.
As the International Labour Conference (ILC) begins its second round of discussions on
Violence and Harassment in the World of Work
, representatives of informal street vendors, home-based workers, waste pickers, and domestic workers will be on hand to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed.
Low earnings, low status, dangerous or poor working conditions, and inadequate living conditions leave informal workers at a high risk of violence in the world of work.
This can include physical, verbal, sexual and psychological abuse.
This is true whether they work in public spaces—for example streets or landfills—or in private homes, though types of violence, driving forces and perpetrators differ.
Gender also plays a significant role; women informal workers are more vulnerable and often the least empowered to respond.
Informal workers are too often viewed as sources, rather than victims, of violence.
Widespread criminalization of informal work intensifies the issues. Authorities disregard the abuse of informal workers—and often, state authorities perpetrate it by assaulting informal workers, demanding bribes, confiscating goods, or ordering evictions. Local authorities play an indirect role, too, such as when inadequate infrastructure (poor lighting, unsafe toilets and transport stations, and unsafe housing) puts poor urban workers at risk.
Informal workers have travelled to Geneva because they want to ensure that this is reflected in the instrument under negotiation at the ILC.
Excluded from protective legislation
Informal workers are typically excluded from protective legislation against harassment and violence at work. In most of the 80 countries reviewed by the ILO’s
report on violence in the world of work
work-related violence and harassment provisions apply only to people in a standard employment relationship. In many countries, certain categories—such as domestic workers—are explicitly
from labour laws.
Further, in the aftermath of violence, informal workers lack complaint mechanisms or cannot access justice because they simply cannot afford to pay legal fees or spend time away from work to seek recourse.
An ILO standard on violence and harassment in the world of work must address the specific issues that affect informal workers.
For this reason, WIEGO believes it is essential that informal workers’ organizations have a voice at the ILC.
WIEGO’s delegation to the ILC includes representatives of:
- street vendors from StreetNet International’s executive
- home-based workers: the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India, HomeNet South Asia, and Cooperativa MAESOL of Brazil
- waste pickers (recicladores) from Colombia
WIEGO’s ally, the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), is bringing a strong delegation to highlight the persistent violence and harassment that
face on the job.
FOR INFORMATION OR TO ARRANGE INTERVIEWS, CONTACT:
- Sofia Trevino (onsite in Geneva): +1 613-290-5258 (English and Spanish)
- Demetria Tsoutouras (in Ottawa): +1 +613 882 3364; firstname.lastname@example.org (English and Spanish)
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