- Promoting decent work for domestic workers and eliminating violence at the workplace
The Centre for Working Women (CWW), in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), conducted an awareness programme yesterday (23) to educate the general public on promoting decent work for Sri Lankan domestic workers and eliminating violence and harassment at the workplace.
The event focused primarily on the importance of the ratification of ILO Conventions No. 189 (Domestic Workers’ Convention) and No. 190 (Violence and Harassment Convention).
Speaking at the event, National Workers’ Congress (NWC) General Secretary and CWW President Amila Kalupahana stressed how important it is to make use of international instruments to foster decent work in the world of work.
“I feel constrained to say that Sri Lanka has yet to ratify many more ILO conventions including C189 and C190. We feel that the ratification and implementation of the provisions of ILO Conventions No. 189 and No. 190 will be a first step to address the issues of the labour market in relation to women participation in the labour force in a very tangible way,” she said.
She noted that the ratification of ILO Convention No. 189, which discusses decent work for domestic workers, provides the process for governments to enter into local labour legislation to regularise the domestic workers’ sector. As for the ILO Convention No. 190, it is concerning the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.
It was particularly noted that often when we think about “violence and harassment”, it is either physical or sexual violence. But this convention also covers the mental harassment that workers may undergo as a result of their unsuitable working conditions.
Kalupahana further shared that this convention came into force on 25 June 2021 and governments that ratify C190 will be required to put in place the necessary laws and policy measures to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work.
She also stated that the convention represents a historic opportunity to shape a future of work based on dignity and respect for all, and to “encourage tripartism and promote dialogue at national level involving unions and employers in the formulation and implementation of national policies on social and economic affairs”.
Sharing her thoughts with Brunch with regard to why these provisions remain unratified in Sri Lanka, she shared that in our country, while much of the middle class and most definitely the upper strata of people are quick to raise their voice about their own workplace benefits, they are all yet to view domestic workers as people.
“In Sri Lanka, domestic work is a form of modern slavery. They are not recognised by the law as workers and the only reprieve they have is the labour tribunal. And you can imagine there are very few who seek out this relief considering their knowledge and meagre access to resources,” she said.
Kalupahana said that in a country with trade unions divided on political or ideological lines and issues, the challenges to peaceful cohabitation of interests and common commitment to resolve social differences and divisions becomes a particularly challenging task.
Finally, she shared that while flexible labour law reform is imperative, so are structural changes, workplace power structures, accommodation of pluralist workplace interests, education, and awareness building, among many others.