Today (Wednesday 9th July) migrant domestic workers joined Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD to celebrate the Irish government’s ratification of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers. The Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) has campaigned since 2010 for Ireland to ratify the Convention, which protects the rights of childminders, cleaners, carers, au pairs and other workers in private homes.
Mariaam Bhatti, a cleaner and member of the Domestic Workers Action Group, stated, “Today is a landmark day for workers’ rights, women’s rights, migrant rights and human rights in Ireland. This is the result of a long campaign by domestic workers all over Ireland. It’s not easy to come together to fight for your rights when you work long hours, alone in private homes, doing nights and weekends, but we did it.”
Ms Bhatti noted that domestic workers are essential to the economy and support thousands of families across Ireland. “We are cleaners and carers, housekeepers and cooks, childminders and au pairs. We do the work that allows all other work to happen, yet many people do not see us as real workers and don’t pay and treat us equally. Ireland’s ratification of this Convention points to a future where domestic workers are valued, where the important services we provide are recognised, and where we are protected from exploitation.”
According to DWAG, many domestic workers in Ireland have experienced severe breaches of their basic rights. Hilda Regaspi, DWAG member, stated, “In our group, we’ve seen exploitation of domestic workers throughout Ireland: trafficking for forced labour, serious issues in diplomatic households, discrimination, abuse and mistreatment.”
Ms Regaspi continued, “Often, people think that domestic workers can be underpaid, overworked and exploited without repercussions; today, the Government is sending a clear message that domestic workers is work, that domestic workers have rights, and that Ireland is committed to protecting our rights. This is a great day for domestic workers not just in Ireland but around the world; we hope many other countries will now follow Ireland’s lead and ratify the Domestic Workers Convention.”
Ireland is the 16th country to sign up to the Convention, and only the third European country. The Convention states that workers in private homes are entitled to the same rights as all other workers: overtime pay, paid annual leave, minimum wage and adequate breaks. To protect domestic workers from trafficking and forced labour, it stipulates that employees must be allowed to keep their own travel and identity documents.
The Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) was founded in Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) in 2003. Several hundred domestic workers are active members of the group.
List of previous ratifications (14 countries). The Dominican Republic has also just ratified the Convention.
International Labour Organisation C189 Domestic Workers Convention: Article by Article
Article 1: Domestic work = work performed in or for a household or households. A domestic worker = a person employed to do domestic work.
Article 2: The Convention applies to all domestic workers.
Article 3: Member states will protect and promote the human rights of all domestic workers and recognise, respect and realise the core principles of the Convention: the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association, the elimination of all forms of forced labour, and the elimination of discrimination in employment.
Article 4: Member states must set a minimum age for domestic workers.
Article 5: Domestic workers must be protected from all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.
Article 6: States must ensure domestic workers have fair terms of employment, decent working conditions, and, if they live in the household, decent living conditions and privacy.
Article 7: Terms and conditions of employment should be clearly laid out, in full detail, preferably in writing. These terms should be easily understandable.
Article 8: Migrant domestic workers recruited in one country to work in another should receive a detailed job offer or contract in writing. States must cooperate with each other to ensure that migrant domestic workers are protected by this Convention.
Article 9: Domestic workers must be free to leave the house and allowed to keep their own travel & identity documented.
Article 10: Domestic work is work, and so domestic workers are entitled to the same rights as other workers: overtime pay, adequate rest, paid annual leave. Any period in which the domestic worker is ‘on call’ and at the disposal of the household should be regarded as working hours.
Article 11: Domestic workers should be covered by minimum wage legislation.
Article 12: Domestic should be paid at regular intervals, at least once a month.
Article 13: Every domestic worker is entitled to a safe and healthy working environment.
Article 14: Domestic workers should have the same access to social protection as other workers, including with respect to maternity.
Article 15: States are responsible for regulating and monitoring private agencies recruiting and placing domestic workers, to prevent abusive practices. Fees charged by these agencies should not be deducted from domestic workers’ pay.
Article 16: Domestic workers must have access to justice equal to any other worker, through courts, tribunals and dispute resolution mechanisms.
Article 17: States must ensure complaint mechanisms are in place and implement measures for labour inspection, enforcement, and penalties.
The remaining articles (18-27) cover ratification and implementation of the Convention.