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MRCI Calls for Government to Establish a Clear, Transparent Visa Regime for Domestic Workers Employed by Diplomats

PRESS RELEASE: 28 November 2010

Domestic Workers Stage Protest Outside Philippines Embassy after No-Show at Employment Complaints Hearing

On Sunday, 28 November members of the Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) are gathering in front of the Philippines Embassy at 1:30pm, to protest against the embassy’s decision not to attend an employment complaint hearing brought by a former employee at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) last Friday.

The employment complaints were brought to the LRC by a Filipina, who was employed by the embassy as a domestic worker between July and December 2009. The woman claims that her employment rights were violated and, assisted by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, lodged formal complaints against the embassy under four different acts: Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994; Payment of Wages Act, 1991; Organisation of Working Time, 1997; and National Minimum Wage Act, 2000.

According to Hilda Regaspi of the Domestic Workers Action Group, ‘It takes a lot of courage for a domestic worker to stand up for their rights when they have been violated, especially by diplomats who have more power.  Domestic workers, like all other workers, deserve the right to a fair hearing and due process regarding grievances, including those employed by foreign diplomats. By not showing up at this hearing and ignoring the jurisdiction of the Labour Relations Commission, the Philippines Embassy has shown absolute disregard for the rights of one of their own nationals. Foreign diplomats are supposed to be representing their country in the highest regard, and we would expect that they respect Irish laws and afford their employees due process.”

The protest comes on the same day that the Philippines Embassy are celebrating the opening of its new offices in central Dublin, after being established in Ireland only a year ago.

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s Director, Siobhán O’Donoghue, said, “This serious problem was highlighted last year when the South African Embassy invoked diplomatic immunity and prevented a domestic worker from having her case heard. Now the Philippines embassy is showing the same disregard for the law by not attending a complaints hearing. MRCI is aware of several other cases involving allegations of abuse of domestic workers by foreign diplomats.  It is shameful and unfair that domestic workers employed by diplomats are being denied access to their basic rights.  We are calling on Minister Martin to establish a clear, transparent visa regime for domestic employees of diplomats. This must include employment contracts that comply with Irish labour laws.”

ENDS

 

Note to editors:

All diplomatic agents of embassies in Ireland, including their spouses and families, are granted diplomatic immunity in accordance with the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967. This Act incorporates the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, into Irish law. The convention also provides for this immunity to be waived by the sending State at any time.

The Domestic Workers Action Group, an initiative of MRCI, was established in 2004, and is currently made up of over 200 women fighting for the rights, dignity and recognition of all workers employed in the private home in Ireland.