USCIB Vice President for Corporate Responsibly and Labor Affairs Gabriella Rigg Herzog led a five-member U.S. Employer delegation to the 107th annual International Labor Conference (ILC) of the International Labor Organization (ILO) May 28 – June 8. The ILC is the ILO’s annual policy setting meeting at which global representatives of national governments, employers and workers gather to negotiate and adopt policy and governance on a range of priority issues.
This year’s ILC was attended by over 5,000 participants from across the world, of which 32.7% were women. “Important topics discussed by delegates this year included the role of the ILO in carrying out development cooperation programs in light of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, and what constitutes social dialogue in the workplace and what value can it deliver to industrial relations and productive workplaces,” noted Herzog. The ILO’s Committee on the Application of Standards also met to review in detail 24 cases of governments alleged to not be effectively enforcing a range of ILO standards they had ratified and committed to implement. Without a doubt, however, the topic at the top of this year’s ILC agenda was the first round of a two-year standard-setting discussion on violence & harassment in the workplace.
“The challenge and the opportunity for the ILO and its tripartite constituents is how to develop an instrument that can protect the most people, with special focus on gender-based violence and harassment, in the most places in the world,” stressed Herzog. “This will be a challenge because while violence in the workplace is broadly understood and condemned, there is less universal understanding and consensus around the world on what constitutes harassment. Given this and the growing realization of the prevalence and negative impacts of these unacceptable behaviors, USCIB and global employers are and will continue to work to address these practices where they appear and also push for an effective instrument addressing this issue at the ILO.”
While there was consensus among the government, employer and worker representatives on the need for ILO action, there was unfortunately lack of consensus on core definitions that will determine the ultimate effectiveness of the instrument and its chances to interest governments in ratification. Unfortunately, vague and contested definitions for foundational issues like what constitutes violence and harassment, who is a worker, what are the boundaries of a workplace, and the behaviors from which workers should be protected were adopted. The problems with these overly broad definitions began to become clear to some of the participants when discussions turned to operationalizing the responsibilities of governments and employers.
“USCIB – together with our members and IOE’s global affiliates – will work hard over the coming year to meaningfully engage tripartite ILO partners with an eye towards a refresh in 2019 and a hopefully more balanced text that is both bold in its aspiration but practical in its direction to governments on the important task of working to eliminate both violence and harassment from the workplace,” said Herzog.
Herzog gave remarks at the closing ceremony in support of the IOE violence and harassment spokesperson. Her full speech can be found here, and below.