EU and WECF discuss the opportunities of ratification ILO Convention 190 by Georgia - Women in Europe for a Common Future






EU and WECF discuss the opportunities of ratification ILO Convention 190 by Georgia

WECF Georgia organized the high-level virtual conference on “Strengthening national measures to end sexual and gender-based violence in work environments" in Tbilisi, December 8, 2020.

In June 2019, the International Labour Conference said STOP to violence and harassment in the world of work by adopting a ground-breaking international tool, Convention 190 (C190) and a Recommendation 206 (R206).

This new Convention protects all workers irrespective of their contractual status; interns, apprentices, people in training, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers and jobseekers. This is the first international standard that aims to put an end to violence and harassment in the world of work. It recognizes that everyone has the right to a world of work free from violence and harassment. The Convention addresses existing gaps in national legislation.

WECF Georgia organized the high-level virtual conference on “Strengthening national measures to end sexual and gender-based violence in work environments in Tbilisi, December 8, 2020. The aim of the meeting was to familiarize the participants with the important new instrument to prevent violence in work environments, the ILO Convention 190, which is now open for ratification by Member States. At this conference, which was taking place during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, we aimed to discuss how Georgia can benefit from ratifying the ILO190c to eliminate gender-based violence in workplaces. An estimated 35 persons working on women’s labor rights took part in this online conference and all stakeholders including EU delegation, government of Georgia, Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) and Employers’ Association of Georgia attended. 

“The EU and Georgia have an association agreement and under the agreement Georgia has committed to implement a number of EU directives, including those concerning labor issues. In the Labor Chapter, among others, there are three topics: occupational health and safety, labor standards as well as gender nondiscrimination. It fits very well with our cooperation agenda with Georgia and therefore we will be ready to also support and advocate for implementing Convention 190 in Georgia,” says Jurate JUODSNUKYTE, Labour Market, Migration and Gender Program Officer of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. She emphasizes the importance of institutional reforms, enforcement of legislation, awareness raising and overcoming gender-related stereotypes. 

“Georgia shares the principles and values of the Convention 190 and we are making practical steps in this regard”, says Lela Akiashvili, the Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights and Gender Equality. She names the three actions recently done by the government against GBV and harassment in the workplace: a) a comprehensive research on harassment in the workplaces in public sector; b) a mechanism against GBV and harassment that are now being introduced to the 9 public institutions (4 ministries and 5 LEPLs) and c) awareness-raising through informational forums that are by now attended more than 200 public sector employees. 

“The Tripartite Commission for the Social Partners approved a new action plan on 9 July, 2019 which provides for the ratification of various ILO conventions, including the 190th Convention”, says Lika Klimiashvili, Head of Labor Relations and Social Partnership Division of Ministry of Health.

Chidi King, Director of the Equality Department of International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) explains the importance of the ILO C190: Until 2019 no holistic approach existed to achieve equality in labor relations; Individual guidelines for the employers and governments failed to address the violence and harassment in the workplace. There are many women in a situation where they have only two options left to choose from, one to get used to GBV and harassment in the workplace because they have no other way, they need a job, and the other to just leave a job that neither is actually a solution. 

The purpose of ratification is to change the environment in the employment area. It is not only about prevention, but also about creating a means of appeal, taking remedial measures. It is a holistic approach and it aligns well to the goals of sustainable development. 

The convention applies to everyone regardless of their type of contract: self-employed, contractors, temporary employees, apprentices, applicants, interns, practitioners, etc. It also covers employees both in formal and informal economics. The concept of the workplace is broadened and it includes the way to and from the work, transportation, job-related social events, training, cyberspace, etc.

On the question of what measures are needed for Georgia to ratify this convention, Raisa Liparteliani the Vise-President of GTUC answers: “This requires political will from the state, as well as the organizations and structures that work on it, to continue working. First and foremost to raise awareness through campaigns, such as this event.” 

She stresses the importance of combined efforts: “Both at the ratification stage and before, we had joint support from the government, the Employers' Association and the Trade Union itself. I think this is a very positive development.” She also mentions the challenges that might arise in this process: “This convention is accompanied by such articles and regulations - I mean the wide scope of its coverage, the coverage of the informal sector, third party risk insurance - that it will not be so easy for the state to do so. The state does not even have an official data on the scale of this informal sector in Georgia. We have to identify them first and then spread this tool on them.” As for employers, she mentions the required efforts and resources for training of the employees.

“Therefore, we will need to join forces to plan appropriate measures in this direction, to pay more attention to this instrument and achieve Georgia's ratification. We will have to convince both employers and the government of the importance of a working environment free from violence and harassment for both democracy and for business interests. It is not an easy process, but I think it can be overcome”, concludes Raisa Liparteliani.

As for the NGOs, says Sashca Gabizon, Executive Director of WECF and the facilitator of the conference, introducing the internal policies against harassment and the related discussion can be a useful exercise for both employees, board members and partners to reflect on the definition of gender-based violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The conference is a part of the project “Job Equality: Equal, Inclusive and Safe Workplace in Georgia”, supported by the EU Delegation in Georgia.