Violence and harassment should never be “just part of the job”

November 25, 2023

Canada’s unions are calling on the federal government to urgently address third-party violence and harassment at work by implementing ILO Convention 190 (C-190). November 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the beginning of 16 Days of Activism to End Gender-Based Violence.

For too many workers – especially women and gender-diverse workers – the risk of harassment and violence has become a daily reality. Seven in ten workers have experienced harassment and violence at work, often at the hands of third parties such as customers, patients, and members of the public. The risk is particularly high for those in public-facing jobs, like retail, journalism, health care, education, transportation and hospitality, sectors dominated by women and gender-diverse workers.

Following Canada’s ratification of ILO C-190 earlier this year, the government must implement a comprehensive strategy to enhance safety for all workers. Convention 190 is a global treaty aimed at eradicating violence and harassment in the world of work, and is the product of tripartite collaboration between unions, employer groups and governments.

“With Canada’s ratification of ILO C-190, we have a clear mandate to turn decades of advocacy into safer work for everyone,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “But we have to get it right. Canada needs a comprehensive strategy to implement the convention, which would not only address immediate workplace safety concerns, but also align and incorporate initiatives outlined in the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence.”

In recent years, we have seen numerous equity-deserving groups targeted by an emboldened far right. This rising tide of hate has contributed to higher rates of third‑party violence linked with pervasive forms of discrimination and marginalization. 2SLGBTQI+ workers, Black, racialized, Indigenous workers, and those with disabilities are most likely to be targeted. Public homophobic and transphobic attacks on members of the 2SLGBTQI+ community are spilling over into workplaces, leaving workers feeling unsafe in an increasing number of places within their own lives.

One worker who participated in the CLC’s 2022 report on harassment and violence in the workplace identified that they didn’t find current solutions intersectional. They explained that the harassing and violent behaviours they experience have overlapping roots, based in racism, homophobia and misogyny. Workers with multiple and intersecting identities in particular need strategic and multi-faceted solutions, that will end workplace harassment on all fronts.

“Dismantling gender-based violence at work also requires a unified response against rising hate. We know there won’t be a one size fits all solution to addressing harassment and violence in the workplace. It’s time for the federal government to bring union, employer and government leaders together to develop holistic strategies to prevent and address third-party violence at work,” said Siobhán Vipond, CLC Executive Vice-President. “Together we can close the gaps within existing legislation and regulations, and deepen our collective understanding of violence and harassment at work.”

“Everyone deserves to work free from violence and harassment,” said Bruske. “Unions are ready to work collaboratively with employers and governments on a comprehensive strategy to prevent, address and eliminate third-party violence at work, ensuring that everyone can work without fear and making work a safe and dignified place for all.”

To read the results of the National Survey on Harassment and Violence at work click here

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