THE WOMEN, UNIONS & POWER INITIATIVE
IUF Asia-Pacific launched the “Women, Unions & Power” Initiative in 2019 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25). This Initiative is based on our commitment to promoting gender equality and eliminating sexual harassment and violence against women under the IUF Asia-Pacific Action Plan 2016-2021 and the demands adopted by the Regional Women’s Committee for International Women’s Day from 2016 to 2019.
This Initiative also incorporates the new ILO convention on violence and harassment in the world of work, c.190 and its supporting recommendation c.206 adopted in June 2019.
The Initiative has four main objectives:
- Ensure members in the Asia-Pacific region understand the importance of c.190 and r.206 and are actively involved in campaigns for ratification.
- Promote the use the IUF agreements with Transnational Companies on sexual harassment by members in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Promote a safe and secure workplace for women as part of the fight for gender equality and hiring of more women in better jobs.
- Develop the capacity and commitment of unions defend women’s rights and gender equality in the face of automation and new technologies, ensuring that women have access to training and secure jobs.
STOPPING SEXUAL HARASSMENT & VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Following extensive research into violence in the world of work in the IUF sectors in specific countries, the team has focused on raising awareness of the specific responsibilities of unions and the actions required. This is also linked to need for legislative and regulatory changes to comply with c.190 and r.206. Education and training to raise awareness of c.190 and r.206 is ongoing in several countries. This was also incorporated into existing training activities on gender equality or sexual harassment. Building on this awareness we will encourage the active involvement of IUF affiliates in national campaigns for ratification of c.190 and r.206.
The IUF has global agreements with several transnational companies on preventing sexual harassment, including Unilever, Sodexo, Melia, AccorInvest and Arla Foods. The challenge is to develop the capacity of our members to prioritize and implement these agreements. Through education and training we will incorporate this more fully into the agenda of union members in these companies, establishing the appropriate mechanisms and ensuring implementation. In other Transnational Companies we will use these examples to push to include sexual harassment in agreements at national or local level, which in turn creates a demand for these agreements at global level.
Promoting safe, secure workplaces for women & hiring of more women IN BETTER JOBS
One of the biggest challenges we face in securing gender equality is in workplaces where there are still no women. While we can make progress in changing hiring policies through collective bargaining, we also need to change the perceptions and habits concerning work and job roles. Part of this change involves guaranteeing a a safe and secure workplace. This benefits all workers, but in particular there are improvements in eliminating sexual harassment, training, transportation and facilities that benefit women workers and encourage more women to apply for better jobs.
Automation includes digitalization [computerization]; digital platforms; artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies and robotics. While automation leads to job losses, the biggest transformation is the change in how work is done, and the different skills needed. Due to existing discrimination and barriers to gender equality, many women are engaged in work designated as “unskilled”. This is partly a function of gender discrimination that undermines the value of work predominantly done by women. However, there is also work involving repetitive tasks viewed as “unskilled”. Initially automation is replacing repetitive tasks and reducing jobs, predominantly affecting women. The team is working with women leaders and members to better understand the impact of automation on women in the IUF sectors and to develop appropriate trade union strategies in response.