Paula Ilveskivi, Senior Legal Adviser at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), expressed the Finnish trade unions' position on ILO report on the Women at Work Initiative on Wednesday at ILO's annual Labour Conference in Geneva. You can read the whole speech below.
Speech on the 6th of June 2018 on the Report of the Director-General: The Women at Work Initiative: The push for equality
Mr. President, Mr. Director-General, Delegates, thank you very much for the opportunity to express the Finnish Trade Unions' position on Director General Guy Ryder's Report on The Women at Work Initiative: The push for equality.
We fully agree with and support the aim of the report: To promote gender equality at work and in society.
Equality between men and women is guaranteed as a human right by several human rights conventions – at the global and at the regional level – including ILO standards and other initiatives. As stated in the report of the Director General, somewhat progress has taken place but much more is to be done to reach the goal.
Welfare state, which has been built together with government and social partners, can be considered as a project of gender equality. Universal social rights – benefits and services – including parental leaves, which are compensated, child care and the care of elderly people among others have provided opportunities for women to participate in working life. Moreover, the right for everyone to education from early childhood education and primary school to higher education without being prevented by economic hardship has guaranteed capacities for women as well.
Even though Finland has been part of Nordic welfare states and we have a long history of women's involvement in working life and in society, many problems remain, and new ones are emerging. During the last three years backward steps have been taken as the consequence of austerity measures of the Finnish government. Social security benefits and services have been cut and even children's subjective right to early childhood education has been limited subject to their parent's participation in working life. This complicates, for example the return of unemployed parents to the labour market.
Despite long tradition of women´s role in working life, more promotive measures are to be taken before gender equality will be achieved. Women's share of working in low paid occupations, fixed-term employment contracts and part-time work is higher when compared with men. Moreover, even though men are taking part to family affairs and care of children more than they used to, these responsibilities lay mostly still on women's shoulders. If gender equality in the world of work is taken globally seriously, child care and other care services are to be provided equally for all.
Director General raises violence and harassment of women to the spotlight in his report. This is an issue of outmost importance. Violence and harassment take many forms, ranging from forms of maltreatment and discrimination that are hard to prove to more serious armed and other assaults on the lives and health of workers. Anyone may fall victim to violence and harassment at work.
Finnish trade union confederations point out that efforts to develop more detailed legislation preventing violence and harassment, instituting appropriate means of protection, after-care and reporting, and ensuring due process for victims have failed time and again in Finland due to opposition from employers, and with the government lacking the political will to enact such instruments in Finnish legislation.
To be able to reach the goal of gender equality and the right to physical and psychological self-determination for all, we need to be more ambitious in building trust and functioning tripartite co-operation at the national level and at the global level. We must bear in mind that fundamental principles and rights at work guaranteed by ILO Conventions as universal human rights are to be respected and enforced without any limitation or derogation.
Finnish trade union confederations believe that a new international Convention on violence and harassment will be an important measure to finally develop legislation to protect workers from violence and harassment and to promote gender equality in the world of work. It would also promote the global adoption of principles of the ILO Decent Work Agenda in society in general.