UN body backs union role in protecting women

UN body backs union role in protecting women against violence

Trade unions have been recognised by the United Nations as key stakeholders in the campaign to prevent violence against women and girls.

The decision was made at the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March. It means that unions now have rights as stakeholders in the workplace to:

  • push for agreements to help victims and survivors of violence
  • work to ensure that all workplaces are free from violence and exploitation.

A delegation of women from unions around the world was proactive in lobbying and advocating for this outcome during the two-week event in New York. Among them was Prospect vice-president Denise McGuire, attending in her role as world women's president of UNI Global Union.

The policy is outlined in a key paragraph on dealing with the impact of violence at work. It states that the UN will take measures to ensure that all workplaces are free from discrimination and exploitation, violence, and sexual harassment and bullying. Proposed measures to address discrimination and violence against women and girls include:

  • regulatory and oversight frameworks and reforms
  • collective agreements
  • codes of conduct, including appropriate disciplinary measures, protocols and procedures
  • referral of cases of violence to health services for treatment and police for investigation
  • awareness-raising and capacity-building, in collaboration with employers, unions and workers, including workplace services and flexibility for victims and survivors.

Denise McGuire said: "A huge amount of work went on before and at the UN. Affiliates to UNI Global Union lobbied more than 50 governments.”

She said during the UN Commission's poceedings, many volunteers from the US unions attended meetings, parallel events, posted blogs and tweets and led a march in New York on International Women's Day.

"Getting this agreement was a real team effort – and now we must work together to make the agreement into a reality in all our workplaces," she added.

The commission's full conclusions are on the UN website.