IWD: Workplace violence missing from EU action

Workplace measures have been largely overlooked in EU plans to crackdown on violence against women despite women workers reporting high levels of abuse.

The European Commission has today launched a draft directive on combating violence against women which contains many much-needed measures and the ETUC applauds the fact Commissioners have marked International Women’s Day with action rather than just words.

However, it is disappointing to see a lack of action on workplace violence and the absence of support for practical solutions like stronger collective bargaining for women workers at a time when:

  • 16% of women in EU said the most serious violence by a non-partner took place at work
  • 63% of women workers in transport across Europe have experienced violence at work and a quarter consider harassment a part of their job 
  • Service and sales workers, who are predominantly women, suffer violence and abuse “considerably more often” than others

On International Women’s Day, the ETUC is highlighting how women joining in their trade unions to negotiate a better deal at work is one of the best ways to combat violence and harassment both in person and online. But the ETUC’s analysis of the draft directive found:

  • The proposal lacks practical solutions to make workplaces safe from violence and harassments, as it fails to underscore the need for employers to implement and update policies to combat gender-based violence and harassment, including cyber-violence, such as cyber stalking and cyber harassment.
  • The proposal also fails to acknowledge the link between domestic violence and the world of work, knowing that trade unions have come up with solutions to support and protect victims and survivors of domestic violence through collective bargaining agreements.
  • In times where more and more Member states are ratifying the ILO Convention 190, it is surprising to see the European Commission’s lack of support for the Convention.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“Violence and harassment of women at work exploded during the pandemic, with shop assistants, transport workers and carers facing increased face-to-face abuse but also women working at home facing new forms of cyber harassment facilitated by intrusive monitoring tools increasingly used by employers.

“So, it’s disappointing to see workplace violence and the most practical solution to it – collective bargaining - have been overlooked in this important legislation. The evidence shows that more workplace democracy and a clear role for trade union health and safety reps result in safer workplaces.

“The Commission’s proposal is a good start, but changes are needed to ensure that women workers and their unions are empowered to bargain for safe workplaces. Stronger safeguards are also needed when it comes to online abuse.  Telework has shown us that just because someone is working from home, that doesn’t that they are safe from violence and harassment at work.

“This proposal cannot replace efforts to finally ratify the Istanbul Convention and to empower EU Member states to ratify ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment at work.”