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A toilet is a human right for all transport workers

For all transport workers, decent sanitary and washing facilities are a human right.

They are also:

  • a labour right
  • a gender equality right
  • central to decent work in the global transport economy
  • essential to the health, safety and welfare of transport workers.

A toilet should be available, appropriate, clean, private, safe, secure and accessible for all transport workers wherever they are working.

But labour rights, human rights, gender equality and health and safety rights in relation to provision of decent toilets and washing facilities are routinely flouted across the world. Lack of access forces workers to improvise for example using diapers and bottles for disposal, deliberate dehydration or “holding it in”. This compromises workers’ dignity, and their health and safety, and impacts on public safety and health.

Women transport workers are particularly affected: many transport workplaces do not even provide facilities for women workers, putting women at risk of violence and ill-health and creating a barrier to their employment in the transport industry.

The ITF’s sanitation campaign took off after ITF Women organised a well-attended fringe meeting “Our right to flush” at ITF Congress 2018 in Singapore and decent workplace sanitation for all transport workers became a Congress priority.

So this is why the ITF has launched the Transport Workers’ Sanitation Charter 

What is the Transport Workers’ Sanitation Charter?

  1. The Charter outlines the problem including workers’ stories of ill health, loss of dignity and threat of violence because of poor or non-existent toilet facilities for transport workers (especially for women).
  2. It emphasises that collaboration means improvement, including examples of successful actions and campaigns by affiliates.
  3. It includes definitions - for example: what are ‘decent toilets and sanitation systems’; decent work; workplace; sanitary facilities welfare facilities.
  4. It calls for positive action to achieve improvements in sanitary provision for transport workers, giving particular attention to the needs of women transport workers, from:

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) - which is urged to promote collaboration between governments, workers’ organisations and employer’s organisations to ensure effective implementation of international labour standards and operationalisation of guidance existing on safe and healthy access to decent toilets for both women and men transport workers.

Regional inter-governmental organisations – who are urged to consider the right to sanitation and the particular needs of transport workers in the elaboration of transport policies and programmes.

Social partners (including global, regional and national transport sector employers’ organisations) – who are urged to endorse and work together with transport workers’ unions to promote and implement the principles of the charter.

Investors in transport projects (including international financial institutions, regional development banks and private investors) – who are urged to incorporate the right to sanitation and water into all their lending policies and programmes and have due diligence policies in place to ensure that human rights and labour rights are respected.

Governments – which are urged to pass and enforce legislation to improve access to sanitation for transport workers taking account of the sanitary needs of women and men, including a legal right to take comfort breaks and a recognition of the broad meaning of a workplace which includes vehicles when used for work.

Employers – who are urged to provide decent sanitary facilities for transport workers, including through their supply chains; to recognise and promote the principles of freedom of association, including the right for workers to freely establish and join trade unions and collective bargaining; to recognise the benefit of worker representation and participation in occupational health and safety;  and to maintain jointly agreed and effective processes for consultation and participation of workers.

The charter also includes:

A checklist of requirements for decent sanitary facilities for transport workers.

Information on ill- health effects of lack of access to toilet facilities at work.

The Right to Sanitation under international law which lists key legal sources (including UN declarations and ILO Conventions) and relevant international codes and guidelines.

What can I do to secure the human right to sanitation for transport workers?

  1. Use the checklist to find out if your employer is providing decent toilet and washing facilities for workers.
  2. Carry out a survey of your members to find out if there is problem and if so why and where.
  3. Research your country’s law to find out what it says about workplace toilet and washing provision and identify any gaps in the law especially for transport workers.
  4. Draw up a report of your findings and agree this and your strategy with your members.
  5. Use your findings to bargain with your employer to improve sanitary provision and toilet and rest breaks and lobby your government to highlight the issue and plug gaps in the law.
  6. Use ITF campaign resources and take part in campaigning actions including on World Toilet Day – an official United Nations international observance day – on 19 November.
  7. Share information with the ITF about your campaigns and successes to help build the global sanitation campaign for all transport workers.

Please contact women@itf.org.uk for more information about the ITF sanitation campaign.

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