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IDWF Congress: Building domestic workers' organisations

by IDWFED published Oct 28, 2013 12:00 AM
Domestic workers can organise, but it takes innovative strategies to really make headway. We heard from some highly experienced people on this:
Oct 26, 2013 to Oct 28, 2013 (Universal / UTC0)
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Domestic workers can organise, but it takes innovative strategies to really make headway. We heard from some highly experienced people on this:

  •  Ai-Jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the USA talked of their campaign 'Caring Across Generations'. The rapidly ageing population needs ever more care workers, and families want the best for their elders. So the NDWA is working with associations of many different types for a win-win solution: trained care workers, with quality jobs, providing affordable homecare for millions of US citizens. 
  • Jeanne Devos spoke about how the National Domestic Workers Movement in India has been overcoming barriers of class, caste, language, lack of education, etc., and now has over 12,000 domestic workers' groups in 18 out of 28 states in India. They have just founded the National Domestic Workers Trade Union Federation. Its president is not with us in Uruguay, however, because the airline refused her permission to board. 
  • Hester Stephens from the South Africa Domestic and Allied Workers Union told us about the support they get from their union confederation COSATU, including office space, and access to national and international negotiations. Some other COSATU affiliates are now spreading the word about domestic workers' rights to their own members. After all, many unionists are also employers of domestic workers.
  • Phobsuk Gasing of the Thai Migrant Workers Union in Hong Kong took us through the story of how migrant domestic workers there formed unions based on nationality (Thai, Filipina, Indonesian, Nepali etc.) and meet together with Hong Kong national domestic workers in the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU).
  • Carmen Cruz from ASTRADOMES in Costa Rica (and General Secretary of the Latin America regional confederation CONLACTRAHO) said migrant workers there can belong to unions but not hold positions. So, many years ago they formed their own association which, among other activities, provides a shelter. 
At workshops, participants have been sharing their own experiences of such issues as building domestic workers' organisations at regional and global levels, organising homecare workers as well as migrant workers, national campaigns to ratify C189, enforcement of laws, social protection for domestic workers, and imaginative approaches to collective bargaining.
We also heard more about progress in our host country Uruguay. Walter Miglionico, Health and Safety Officer of the PIT-CNT union, took us through how they came to identify the risks that domestic workers face, but how much more needs to be done to raise awareness and provide specific training. Ariel Ferrari, Director of the Social Welfare Institute (BPS), said they are now achieving much greater registration of domestic workers, which is leading to better access to services and benefits, though they still need more policies and implementation specific to the sector. Juan Andres Roballo of the Labour Inspection body explained their approach to inspection of private homes, such as awareness-raising campaigns about the duties of employers to prevent risks, and systems for dealing with domestic workers' claims against an employer without putting the worker at risk.
Meanwhile, we are all preparing for the adoption of our new Federation's Constitution and election of our leadership tomorrow.
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