New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic violence per capita in the developed world, and the second highest rate of workplace bullying.
The Public Service Association says this plague of violence – physical, verbal and emotional – must be addressed both at home and in the workplace.
The PSA calls on the government to show global leadership and become one of the first countries to ratify Convention 190 of the International Labour Organisation.
The ILO is the UN Agency which deals with workers’ issues, and Convention 190 provides a framework under international law to protect people from violence in the workplace. It provides the first international definition of violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence.
“We tend to think of violence as something that happens to women at home, behind closed doors, but workplaces are not always safe either. Too many New Zealanders face violence, harassment or intimidation at work, whether from abusive partners, clients or colleagues,” says PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk.
“Campaigning by anti-violence organisations and unions like our own has led to significant progress, such as the passing of the Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act. Winning ten days paid leave for survivors of domestic violence is an incredible achievement, but women are not confined to the home any more and our workplaces must also be made as safe as possible.”
ILO Convention 190 isn’t some arcane international document. It commits countries who ratify it to implementing concrete, workable policies that keep people safe and save lives, and supports cooperation between government, employers and unions to achieve this.
Many PSA members have experienced violence at work, whether physical, verbal or emotional. 2016 research done by the PSA, in collaboration with Victoria University’s Centre for Labour, Employment and Work, found 43% of public servants had experienced bullying at work and a third had experienced discrimination.
According to WorkSafe, between one in five and one in three New Zealanders report bullying or harassment at work every year.
The 2014 murders of two Work and Income Staff in Ashburton led the PSA to develop a Preventing Workplace Violence guidance policy. Strategic documents like this can help employers and worker representatives to implement training and systems that keep staff safe.
“The struggle for gender equality encompasses both the fight against violence and the fight for equal pay. It’s very difficult to leave a violent partner if you are unable to rely on secure, fairly paid employment,” says Nancy McShane, co-convenor of the PSA Women’s Network.
“We must address both ends of the problem. Pay women fairly for the work they do, and take concrete steps to ensure our homes and workplaces are free from all forms of violence.”