Nearly 50 cleaning-sector employees from offices throughout Jaffna, Sri Lanka, discussed strategies for addressing gender-based violence at work and how unions can be instrumental in empowering workers to tackle the problem during a recent Solidarity Center training.
The 28 women and 18 men who provide cleaning services for courts, banks and finance companies began the daylong workshop with a discussion on how workers can be discriminated against based on gender, one aspect of which is gender-based violence at work.
Gender-based violence at work takes multiple forms, including physical and verbal abuse and sexual assault targeted at an individual based on gender. The Solidarity Center is taking part in a global campaign for passage of an International Labor Organization (ILO) convention covering gender-based violence at work.
For most participants, the gender equality workshop was their first experience discussing the issue, and some shared that were not aware of constitutes gender- based violence at work.
Participants also noted that some of their transgender co-workers frequently are bullied by employers, co-workers and office staff.
Participants also heard from labor lawyers on their fundamental workplace rights, with some saying they did not know they had the right to be paid overtime, double pay on holidays or even that they could form a union. Participants raised many questions about how best to overcome the obstacles they faced in forming unions.
Because “cleaning-sector employees are a very vulnerable working sector, this session aimed to improve their awareness level of basic labor rights and practices,” says Rubini Nishanth, Solidarity Center legal counsel in Jaffna, who moderated the workshop.