Convention 190 in action: preventing harassment of workers in Japanese banks

Labour banks (“Rokin Banks”) in Japan have been promoting workers’ access to finance for many years. They have also been in the vanguard when it comes to adopting international standards around workplace violence and harassment. Rokin Banks modelled their recent harassment guidelines directly on the ILO’s Convention 190, serving as an example and inspiration for legislation elsewhere in Japan, and for financial institutions around the world.

Article | 29 July 2021
Rokin Banks were first established in the early 1950s by trade unions and consumer cooperatives to enable their members to access finance at a time workers were excluded from the financial sector. Collaboration between Japan’s National Association of Labour Banks (NALB) and the ILO goes back many years. Already in 2011, the ILO documented the experience of Japanese unions and their union-led financial institutions in enhancing workers’ access to finance. And in 2019, at the occasion of the Rokin Banks’ 70-year anniversary, the NALB and the ILO reviewed the Rokin Bank model and strategies to address the challenges caused by a highly competitive financial sector and a changes in the world of work. That same report also explored Rokin Banks’ contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

When the ILO adopted Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the workplace in 2019, the Japanese Rokin Banks had already been putting in some work for a couple of years. Soon after the adoption, the Banks passed a resolution to create provisions based on Convention 190 with the aim of creating a pleasant workplace where all managers and employees can work safely and make the most of their abilities. Based on this new unified set of guidelines, each bank will revise its rules and regulations relating to harassment and develop the necessary systems. Drafting the guidelines has been a thorough process, in which both the management of the banks and the Federation of Labour Bank Worker’s Union worked closely together and consulted with local levels.

The guidelines provide staff, as well as interns, apprentices and applicants, protection against all forms of harassment, including by third parties like clients. They provide a broad protection by establishing internal reporting and complaint mechanisms. They also cover effective remedies and protection against retaliation, by establishing a consultation service for victims. The guidelines also facilitate collaboration between the management and trade unions to enable better monitoring. Incidents are then referred to the management as well as the external specialized agencies and trade unions to ensure that harassment reports are centrally monitored and responded to by persons with necessary expertise and authority.

Before the roll-out of these guidelines, the 13 labour banks that are part of the Rokin network each had their own set of rules and manuals. They are now working on updating their rules and manuals based on the guidelines, and this should be completed by the end of the Japanese fiscal year in March 2022.

The move by the Rokin Banks is already sparking inspiration among other organizations in Japan. The JTUC-RENGO, a central organisation representing 48 different industrial federation organizations in Japan, hopes to promote cooperation between unions and companies to formulate guidelines for the respective industries (link in Japanese).