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New ver.di campaign seeks to eliminate violence and sexual assault against women commerce workers


New ver.di campaign seeks to eliminate violence and sexual assault against women commerce workers

UNI Global Union affiliate ver.di has launched a new initiative to strengthen protections for women against violence and sexual assault in the world of work. The campaign, kick-started by the German union’s women’s executive committee, is called “Strong together – Against violence in retail.”

“Women working in retail are increasingly exposed to harassment. Female colleagues say that it has become worse in the pandemic, whether in line at the checkout or even when there are too few staff. They experience insults and verbal abuse daily. This must stop,” said Stefanie Nutzenberger, who is responsible for trade, women and equality on the ver.di national executive board.

As part of the initiative, ver.di will collect comprehensive data about this problem. To do so, it started a joint research project earlier this year with the Berufsgenossenschaft Handel und Warenlogistik (BGHW – Trade and Merchandise Logistics Employers’ Liability Insurance Association), that includes the first German survey about harassment and assault in the retail sector. The results will be available at the beginning of 2023.

“It is crucial that companies develop necessary measures [against violence]. It must not be in the hands of individual female colleagues or works councils alone to defend themselves; companies and managers have a responsibility here. It is a matter of respect, appreciation and recognition of commerce workers,” Nutzenberger said.

ver.di also wants political action.

“In order to improve the overall working situation of women, we call on the German government to finally ratify and implement the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on the Elimination of Sexual Harassment and Violence at Work. Women in working life must be safe from sexualized and any other form of violence in Germany,” Nutzenberger demands.

Unfortunately, the problem of violence against retail workers—particularly women—is not limited to Germany.

“In country after country, retail workers around the world are seeing a disturbing rise in violence–particularly women workers,” said Mathias Bolton, Head of UNI’s Commerce sector. “That is why we are supporting national campaigns like ver.di as well as bringing together unions from around the world to tackle the problem globally.”

UNI recently held its global day of action against violence in retail, as part of which it launched an online resource centre for unions. Additionally, the global union will focus on third party violence as part of its participation in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence.