Wednesday, June 8, 2011

IMA Statement on the Adoption of the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) congratulates domestic workers organizations, migrants groups and advocates for the rights of migrant workers who have advocated for the passing of an international instrument that can be used for the further advancement of domestic workers rights. Despite attempts by some governments, particularly of the European Union, to water down key provisions, the ILO Committee on Domestic Workers adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers that constituted a big step towards its passing.

Among migrant workers, an overwhelming number are in the domestic work sector. The frequent global crisis has pushed more and more people  especially women to domestic work as socio-economic and political problems in migrant-sending countries escalate. Meanwhile, the labour market in migrant-importing countries has contracted to the point where migrant workers are relegated to the 3D jobs dirty, difficult and dangerous that include domestic work.

As domestic workers, migrants experience some of the worst kind of exploitation and abuse. Severely underpaid, overworked and discriminated in all spheres, domestic workers labour rights are routinely violated with impunity. They suffer from extreme physical, mental and sexual abuse, and even brutal deaths.
Labour laws were not made to cover domestic workers. Most are in live-in employment arrangement that keeps abuse and exploitation hidden from the public. The right to file grievances and seek redress is also denied from domestic workers not only because they are excluded from national labour laws but also due to other barriers such as insecurity of livelihood and lack of access to legal services that should be provided both by the sending and receiving governments of migrant workers.

Organizations of foreign domestic workers have been consistently struggling against policies and practices that impinge on the rights of domestic workers. National movements of migrants in different countries have worked to painstakingly build the solid strength of migrants to resist anti-migrants and anti-women laws like the wage campaign in Hong Kong, the struggle against the anti-migrant provisions of the Live-in Caregiver Program in Canada, the campaign against abuses in the Middle East, resistance against the exploitation of the au pair system in Europe, and many other issues.

In the regional level, the IMA recognizes the work of formations such as the United for Foreign Domestic Workers Rights (UFDWRs) a network of leading grassroots migrants organizations and NGOs who have been calling to have domestic work recognized as work even before the ILO started exploring the possibility of an ILO agreement on domestic work.

But the work is not yet over. Recommendations that will be included in the final instrument are now being discussed. The adopted convention with recommendations must still be passed in the plenary of the International Labour Conference one week from now. If approved, the migrants movement must utilize the ILO Convention on Domestic Work to further push the advocacy for the rights of domestic workers especially in the national level.

Agreements on migrant workers rights have been present for years but still, national governments routinely ignore provisions of these conventions and disregard their principles. National governments must be pushed to revise or create policies that will be in accordance with the convention. The convention must not suffer the fate of the implementation of previous instruments that are violated and ignored.

In this regard, the strength of the grassroots migrants' movement is, more than ever, needed.

As the grassroots movement, both of local domestic workers and foreign domestic workers, plays a crucial role in the advocacy for the convention, so will this movement play a key part in its implementation. Organizing, educating and mobilizing domestic workers must continue to genuinely change the condition of exploitation and oppression of domestic workers.

As the global formation of grassroots migrants with more than 130 member organizations in 26 countries, the IMA shall continue to struggle for the rights and wellbeing of domestic workers. The struggle will not let up for as long as commodification and modern-day slavery of migrants persists, there is every reason for migrants to fight.

Members and networks of the International Migrants Alliance are currently in Geneva, Switzerland for the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference such as the Filipino Migrant Workers Union (FMWU-HK), MIGRANTE-Canada, and CARAM-Asia.

For reference: Eni Lestari
Chairperson, International Migrants Alliance
Tel. No.: 96081475

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