As the world’s largest trade union federation, the ITUC’s primary mission is the “promotion and defence of workers’ rights and interests, through international cooperation between trade unions, global campaigning and advocacy within the major global institutions.” In working toward this mission, the ITUC advocated strongly for the adoption and ratification of ILO Convention 190 (C190) and Recommendation 206 (R206) to establish a set of global norms to end gender-based violence and harassment at work. They formally represented workers in the tripartite negotiation.
Since the adoption of C190 last year, ITUC has been supporting the work of unions calling for ratification in many countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Egypt, Bangladesh, Italy, Ireland, Australia, and more.
ITUC cares about women’s rights and this year being the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action at the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in 1995, the ITUC also called upon governments to “take urgent action to fulfill the promise of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for realizing gender equality and social justice.” The statement asked governments to ensure that all workers, including in the informal economy, are guaranteed access to social protection, to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work, to promote women in leadership through a feminist approach to leadership, and more.
Union membership among women has increased over the years but unevenly, varying by sector and country. For example, in the garment sector of Bangladesh, “new kinds of unions are run by women,” says Nazma Akter, a union leader in Dhaka and the founder of Awaj Foundation, a labor rights organization that supports over 740,000 workers in the garment sector, which is made up primarily of women workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in the United States, women now make up 50% of union membership but only 20% of union leadership.
“Women are still unequal in the labor market,” ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said in a video statement released on the occasion of International Women’s Day in 2020. “We need a transformative agenda for women—the capacity to manage work and family, the capacity to be secure in the knowledge that violence and harassment are indeed eliminated, or the protections are there should they arise.”
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has been working to call attention to the heightened vulnerabilities of workers to oppressive government measures and employers’ efforts to restrict their organizing. ITUC’s 2020 Global Rights Index notes that worker’s rights violations are the highest in seven years, which underscores the current relevance of C190 and R206 in addition to other ILO conventions.