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Global: EC-ILO cooperation brings better life for migrant domestic workers

Global: EC-ILO cooperation brings better life for migrant domestic workers

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by IDWFED published Jul 21, 2015 12:00 AM
Contributors: EC-ILO
The EU-funded Global Action Project on Migrant Domestic Workers expands knowledge on the challenges that domestic workers face, advocates for their rights, encourages policy and legislative reform, and supports organization and advocacy through pilot interventions in five migration corridors.

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GLOBAL -

“Why do other workers have rights, but not us?”

remembers asking herself Maria Perez, Paraguayan, when she first arrived in Argentina 25 years ago to find employment as domestic worker. Today, after decades of labor organizing, Argentina passed a new national migration policy, including a new law on Domestic Workers (DWs) which echoes a strong commitment by the Government of Argentina to regularize and formalize the domestic work sector for nationals and migrants alike.

Around the world, at least 52 million people, over 80 per cent of whom are women, earn their living as domestic workers. A considerable number of these women are from developing countries who take up jobs caring for families in the North. They clean, cook, look after children and take care of the elderly, among other tasks. Domestic workers make invaluable economic, cultural and social contributions to the countries of origin, transit and destination but their contributions are often overlooked. In consequence, they are excluded from the protection of national legislation, work for excessively long hours, with little pay, and with almost no access to social protection.

On 16 June 2011, the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization  adopted the Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers, which is also referred to as the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189).

In order to address the specific challenges that Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) face, the ILO, with funding from the European Union, has embarked on the “Global Action Programme on Migrant Domestic Workers and their Families” in 2013. The programme seeks to promote the human and labour rights of MDWs worldwide by addressing the factors that make them particularly vulnerable to the risks of exploitation and abuse. The EU-funded Global Action Project on Migrant Domestic Workers expands knowledge on the challenges that domestic workers face, advocates for their rights, encourages policy and legislative reform, and supports organization and advocacy through pilot interventions in five migration corridors.

The project has succeeded in facilitating the conclusion of bilateral agreements between trade unions in countries of origin and destination in three migration corridors, influenced the passing of legislation in favour of greater protections for DWs in Paraguay, and helped found the first domestic workers’ union in the Arab world (Lebanon’s Domestic Workers’ Union).

Following the adoption of the first Migration Law in 2004, in March 2013, the government of Argentina passed yet another progressive law to regulate employment relationships for private home workers, a significant advance in the application of the principles promoted by Convention No. 189 in terms of complete equality between the rights of domestic workers and other workers. The law updates and expands domestic workers’ labour rights by recognizing maternity leave, paid holidays, minimum wage, a yearly bonus and compensation in case of layoffs or firing. It restricts working hours to eight per day and 48 per week.

 "I'm very optimistic. I always believed things could be better. Many people thought it was our destiny to be exploited, but I never lost faith things could improve for us workers," said Maria as we met her in Buenos Aires, where she now works as a live-out domestic worker.

“I work now as a live-out worker from Monday to Friday. I have a contract and I know my rights. After many years working in Argentina, I will be able to retire and have my pension paid in Paraguay.”

Maria has also joined the Domestic Workers Union (UPACP) and enrolled in the vocational training course “Servicios en casas particulares” UPACP provides free of charge to its affiliates.

“I received a Diploma. I framed it and I hung it on the wall. I feel so proud of myself.”

“Since the passing of the laws, I have made sure to tell all my friends from Paraguay who also work as domestic workers to request a work contract from their employers and claim the new benefits. Most of them are now part of the formal economy,” said Maria.

Future progress will depend on the effective coordination between the ILO, member states and social partners, with a particularly significant promotional role by the domestic workers’ organizations and trade unions that were instrumental in the adoption of the Convention.

“We have to keep demanding respect and make sure all domestic workers have a contract,” said Maria. “It is about our future and the future of our children.”

 "Maria's story needs to be re-told and her experience be replicated until domestic workers everywhere will enjoy the same rights and protection"

says Elizabeth Tang, Secretary General of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), with 55 Domestic Workers Unions affiliate and presence in 44 countries.

Source: EC-ILO

Story Type: Story

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