President of the Jamaica Household Workers Association (JHWA), Shirley Pryce, appealed to legislators to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 190 on violence and harassment, known as C190.
Pryce made the appeal last Thursday during a meeting of the joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament reviewing a draft of the Sexual Harassment Act.
C190 is a convention that will help millions of workers have safer working environments, helping eliminate all forms of violence and harassment, especially gender-based violence.
Pryce told the committee that Jamaica was known for being a trendsetter and ratifying C190 is a trend the nation needed to set.
“We know Jamaica is a trendsetter across the Caribbean let us set the example. The convention provides the possibility of forging a future of work based on the dignity, respect free from violence and harassment, including gender based violence,” said Pryce.
Pryce explained that workers in informal spaces like domestic workers were particularly, prone to and often subjected to abuse.
” This work environment makes domestic workers: live-in, live-out or day-workers, especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, abuse by employers, their relatives and friends. The majority are informal workers with no formal contracts. Even though there is some legislation to cover domestic workers, most are not enforced,” said Pryce.
“With higher levels of unemployment, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestic Workers are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment in the homes of their employers, Labour inspectors do not have access to monitor working conditions in this private workspace, which makes it even more difficult,” added Pryce who encouraged the committee to ensure that the bill was more inclusive to such categories of workers.
Pryce who worked as a domestic worker for more than 31-years said she could attest to the fact that this category of workers were “especially” vulnerable to sexual harassment.
She further said the way in which the law sees sexual harassment, as a civil matter, was unacceptable noting that it should be a criminal offense, with stiff penalties to deter the behaviour.
Convention 190, which was adopted by the ILO in June 2019, is the first ever global standard that aims to eliminate violence and harassment in the workplace.
C190 applies not only to the formal workplace but the informal sectors and includes third party violence and harassment from customers, clients or service providers.
However, for the Convention to come into force it must be ratified by at least two countries.
So far, only Uruguay has ratified C190.