In June 2019, at the Centenary Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 206) were adopted. By this action, the global community made it clear that violence and harassment in the world of work will not be tolerated and must end.
“Convention No. 190 and Recommendation No. 206 are the first international labour standards to provide a common framework to prevent, remedy and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment. The Convention includes the specific recognition, for the first time in international law, of the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, and sets out the obligation to respect, promote and realize this right. South Africa, represented by Government, Organised Labour, Business and Community at Nedlac, played an integral role in the adoption of this Convention. This was the first adoption of an ILO Convention which South Africa had been party to, quite an historic event!” says Martlé Keyter, MISA’s CEO: Operations.
After the adoption, hopes were high that South Africa would be one of the first countries to ratify the Convention.
“Regrettably, it took two (2) years for our country to ratify this momentous and historic Convention. Despite many months of dialogues, frustrations, campaigns, etc.; on the 24th of November 2021 the South African Government granted the approval for the ratification process. The 29th of November 2021 shall be etched in history as the day that our country took the significant step to ratify this Convention,” says Thandeka Phiri, MISA’s National Training and HR Manager, who attended the event.
The Business representative made a strong commitment to take effective actions in order to bring the Convention to life, to not sweep acts of violence and harassment under the carpet and to continue with the on-going meetings, workshops and awareness initiatives, which are directed to employers.
“The ratification is not the end of the road, rather it is a major and necessary milestone in the road of ensuring safe and conducive workplaces. After the ratification Government, employers and labour need to ensure that legislation, policies, procedures and practices within the workplace and our communities are aligned to and give life to the Convention. The state has the major role in enforcing the Convention ensuring that policy instruments and legislation, in support of the instrument, will be rolled out,” says Thandeka Phiri.
For MISA and our members, it is very reassuring that the Director of the ILO office in Pretoria, Dr Joni Musabayana ensured that the South African ratification document was vetted and approved by the Legal Department of the ILO for correctness, compatibility and compliance to the ILO Convention, prior to the ratification ceremony.
The Minister of Employment and Labour appealed to all of the social partners to strengthen partnerships and to pool resources in support and in implementation of the instrument and the process to follow.
The ratification of this Convention is extremely important especially if one considers the far reaching impact of domestic abuse and GBV not only in communities but also to workplace productivity. This is because even though the violence may occur in private, it inevitably spills over into workplaces.
The costs of violence against women and the impact on their children are typically described as direct (or tangible), indirect (or intangible) and opportunity costs.
■ Direct, or tangible, costs are those representing actual paid expenses, or real money spent, on the provision of services (medical care, reproductive health costs, psychological/psychiatric and psychosocial care, justice, etc.), facilities, or expenses incurred by the victim or the household.
■ Indirect, or intangible, costs are those which don’t have a monetary value, such as pain, fear and suffering or social and psychological costs of violence. These costs may be approximated by a quality or value of life measure or use of a reasonable proxy measure, such as those used credibly in the justice system for establishing compensation.
■ Opportunity costs, sometimes also regarded as indirect costs, are the costs foregone when a victim’s options are limited by the circumstances of violence, such as being in or leaving a violent relationship. They represent the loss of potential which have a monetary value that can be estimated.
A costing study, conducted in 2015, estimated that GBVF cost South Africa between R24 – 42 billion annually, but the true impact is severely underestimated as additional social costs that compromise sexual and reproductive health, mental health, social well-being, productivity, mobility and capacity of survivors to live healthy and fulfilling lives, are not fully considered.
One of the profound impacts of GBV is its interference with women’s social and economic development, which effectively prevents their equal participation in the economy. It also nullifies the progression made towards the economic empowerment of women and gender equality within societies.
This is in addition to the fact that women are already disadvantaged by the fact that they spend more than double the time on unpaid domestic work and more than five times on unpaid domestic care than their male counterparts.
This has consequences for the economy, reducing productivity and increasing absenteeism. The health impact of violence is profound, with death being the most extreme outcome.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has been found to also be associated with HIV infection in South Africa and abusive men are shown to be more likely to display HIV-risk behaviours. Conversely, HIV often leads to violence because it causes relationship conflicts such as during disclosure of HIV status.
“Prior to the ratification of the Convention, MISA proactively acted towards the elimination of violence and harassment by presenting a webinar on the Convention 190 (C190) for the Elimination of Violence and Harassment within the Motor Industry. MISA also took an extremely proactive step and launched the Industry Equality and Diversity Forum (IEDF). A Forum for employers and decision makers within the motor industry where the parties will be assisted with initiatives for the elimination or workplace violence and harassment, as well as the advancement of equality and diversity in the world of work,” says Martlé Keyter.
Although work on the Forum has already begun, MISA continues to extend the invitation to employers and motor industry decision makers to be part of this ground breaking initiative within the retail motor industry. The work of the Forum will continue despite the ratification of C190. This is due to the fact that the ratification is only the beginning of the road towards workplaces free of violence and harassment.
The next meeting of the Forum shall be held in January 2022 and we invite employers who have not yet participated to join us as we will assist businesses with the drafting of workplace policies, the roll out of those policies, as well as with communication to employees on equality and diversity matters. Through the Forum, the participants will be able to share best practices, receive training and there will be provision and sharing of resources for the betterment of workplaces.
Those who are interested or who would like more information about the Forum, may contact Mrs. Thandeka Phiri by sending an email to Thandeka.Phiri@ms.org.za or calling 011 476 3920.
We would like to thank everyone who participated during the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. We hope that all of our voices will be successful in driving and bringing forth change!