A new ILO Convention prohibits the deduction of domestic workers’ salaries to pay recruitment fees and provides for 24-hour weekly rest days, collective bargaining, and written contracts that are enforceable in the country of employment.
These were among a ground-breaking set of international standards adopted yesterday by delegates at the 100th annual Conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Convention on Domestic Workers (2011) was passed by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions and the accompanying Recommendation by a vote of 434 to 8, with 42 abstentions, reported the ILO. The ILO is the only tripartite UN organisation of the UN. Each of its 183 Member States is represented by two government delegates, and one employer and one worker delegate, with an independent vote.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Swaziland was the only government that did not vote in favour of the convention.
HRW noted that Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand were among only nine countries that abstained from the vote.
Why? Do we think that domestic workers don’t deserve proper labour standards? Are they not workers like any other worker?
In contrast, countries like the Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), along with Bangladesh, Indonesia, and India, reversed their early opposition and expressed support in the latest round of negotiations and final vote, noted HRW.
What are the major provisions of the Convention? According to HRW:
Key elements of the convention require governments to provide domestic workers with labour protections equivalent to those of other workers, including for working hours, minimum wage coverage, overtime compensation, daily and weekly rest periods, social security, and maternity protection. The new standards also oblige governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to ensure effective monitoring and enforcement…
The new convention contains detailed requirements for governments to regulate private employment agencies, investigate complaints, and prohibit the practice of deducting domestic workers’ salaries to pay recruitment fees. The convention also stipulates that migrant domestic workers must receive a written contract that is enforceable in the country of employment and that governments should strengthen international cooperation.
According to the ILO:
The new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world who care for families and households, must have the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers: reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.