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Social dialogue to prevent gender-based violence and harassment in global supply chains 12
The fight against workplace violence and harassment

Social dialogue to prevent gender-based violence and harassment in global supply chains


The Global Deal partner IndustriALL Global Union, a federation representing 50 million workers in 140 countries, has been campaigning for the ratification and implementation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No.190) and its related Recommendation No. 206, the first international labour instruments to address gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH) in the world of work.

What is the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention No.190?

The ILO Convention No.190 is a ground-breaking international treaty that addresses all forms of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment.

This case study demonstrates that workplace co-operation and collective bargaining play an increasingly important role in preventing and addressing GBVH in the world of work.

IndustriALL’s research and training on ways to address the risks of GBVH

In 2021, IndustriALL carried out research to better understand the risks of GBVH in three sensitive sectors: mining, garment and electronics sectors.

As a result of the research, a series of recommendations were made to strengthen the role of social dialogue and build unions’ capacity to negotiate workplace policies, effective complaints mechanisms and initiatives for risk assessments to tackle GBVH. 

Following this, the global union federation developed a training-the-trainers programme for union affiliates to improve their ability to take part in these negotiations. Between 2021 and 2022, the training reached 113 trade union leaders (83 women and 30 men) from national and workplace levels in nearly 40 countries.

Given that sectoral bargaining can play an essential role in ensuring a solid commitment to ending GBVH, IndustriALL’s affiliates would like to see social dialogue embedded into all workplaces and eventually introduced through bargaining at an industry-wide, sectoral level.

Industry-wide (sectoral) bargaining will be the key to unlocking the barriers to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and brands can be important in helping to drive this. The work carried out by unions on GBVH, and the presence of more and more women in trade union leadership positions in garment factories has helped to give visibility to and ways to tackle GBVH in the garment sector. Having women in the unions has helped open up the safe spaces for women workers to speak out about GBVH.

Christina Hajagos-Clausen

Director, Textile and Garment Industry, IndustriALL Global Union

Examples of negotiations to end GBVH

Negotiations for gender-based violence-free factories in Indonesia

In light of concerns about GBVH at work in Indonesia, unions and employers have negotiated agreements to improve workplace culture and stop GBVH. A critical success factor of this work in the garment sector is that young women trade unionists have taken leadership roles in negotiating agreements and workplace measures.

A model collective bargaining agreement was drawn up by IndustriALL’s Indonesian Women’s Committee in 2021. Under the model agreement, the employer and trade union are required to establish a joint team to handle complaints, training and education, and also review the implementation of the policy.

The Indonesian IndustriALL Women’s Committee sees this zero-tolerance policy as a good start to our struggle. We work together with employers, unions and the government as well as part of the social dialogue.

Ira Laila

Chair of the Indonesian Women’s Committee

The negotiations commenced in October 2021, and by July 2022, 38 large companies had signed the joint commitment on zero tolerance from sectors such as pharmacy, chemical, rubber, materials, and garments and textiles. IndustriALL’s affiliates have also made a commitment to negotiating the agreement with all employers in these sectors.

The Women’s Committee of IndustriALL Indonesia is also organising a joint activity with the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection to train unions and employers on the full implementation of the joint commitments on zero tolerance.

Ending GBVH in Bangladeshi ready-made garment factories

In Bangladesh, high levels of reported harassment and violence in ready-made garment (RMG) factories led unions to bargain for the full implementation of a High Court judgement, which mandates the establishment of Anti-Harassment Committees (AHCs) in workplaces.

Social dialogue has played an essential role in establishing and fully operationalising these committees. In the last two years, trade union and employers have negotiated clauses in agreements to establish AHCs and provided joint training for committee representatives on handling complaints, thus contributing to the broader prevention of sexual harassment.

These agreements have resulted in positive outcomes, including greater awareness among workers and managers about sexual harassment. An initial assessment shows that workers have gained more confidence in reporting complaints directly to a trade union representative. However, given the low trade union density in the country’s RMG sector (7.2%), challenges remain in ensuring that all workers have access to complaints mechanisms that they trust.

Binding anti-sexual harassment agreements in Lesotho

In 2019, following allegations of systematic sexual harassment and abuse in factories in Lesotho, landmark agreements were signed with three factories, three trade unions, two women’s rights organisations and four brands.

An anti-GBVH programme was agreed upon, which included the establishment of an independent mechanism mandated to investigate and resolve complaints, a confidential information line run by women lawyers, and a code of conduct setting out the roles and responsibilities of managers and workers.

These measures have significantly reduced sexual harassment and raised women’s confidence in their ability to make a GBVH complaint. As binding agreements, they also ensured that brands tackled issues such as purchasing practices and production targets in order to address continued sexual harassment.

Ending GBVH across the supply chain: The example of the Global Framework Agreement with H&M

IndustriALL has also been party to a growing number of global framework agreements (GFAs) with multinational enterprises that specifically address GBVH across global supply chains. For example, the GFA between Global Deal partners IndustriALL and H&M, signed in 2015, provided the parties with a framework to implement further social dialogue measures on, among other things, ending sexual harassment.

Key Lessons

Social dialogue involving negotiations with unions delivers an increase in trust and a decrease in sexual harassment.

ILO Convention 190 and Recommendation 206 have provided space for unions and employers to negotiate policies and initiatives focused on ending GBVH.

Valuable lessons have been learned on the prevention of GBVH in the context of occupational safety and health.

Women’s leadership in unions has been critical in building capacity to integrate GBVH in negotiations with employers.

Independent complaints systems with the involvement of brands, unions and gender experts represent a new model for managing complaints.

Joint union-management training is critical in building effective social dialogue initiatives on remediation, complaint management and GBVH prevention.

Brands, industry-wide bargaining and GFAs also play an essential role in ending and reducing the risk of GBVH as they support bargaining and prevent supply-chain risks.

Read the full report

Download the Global Deal Flagship Report 2022 for the full version of this case study, plus 12 others examining the work carried out by Global Deal partners and the voluntary commitments made to promote social dialogue in addressing global-labour market challenges.

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