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Domestic Workers Launch Week of Action to call on the Government to end their Exploitation

Domestic Workers Launch Week of Action to call on the Government to end their Exploitation

PRESS RELEASE: 30 April 2012

Marking International Labour Day, May 1st, The Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) launches a week of action from May 1st to 7th.  This week calls on the Irish Government to establish more robust laws and regulations to prevent exploitation and to protect vulnerable workers whose rights have been grossly violated.

An estimated 10,000 people in Ireland work in the domestic work sector performing essential caring and cleaning services.  The isolation and invisibility of domestic workers, many of who live in their employers’ homes creates a fertile ground for exploitation.  This is a sector that has high incidences of exploitation and forced labour.  Common complaints reported to MRCI include, long hours of work, pay below national minimum wage, no day off, no sick pay, no holiday pay, harassment, bullying, retention of identity documents and physical and mental abuse.

“In recent years MRCI has uncovered over forty cases of forced labour and domestic servitude. We have also seen a marked increase in the exploitation of domestic workers employed by embassies and diplomatic staff in Ireland. This is unacceptable; the government needs to act now. We need laws to criminalise forced labour and protections for domestic workers employed in the homes of diplomats” says Aoife Smith of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI).

Mariaam Bhatti a migrant domestic worker and DWAG activists said, “We are people, not machines; we need breaks and proper pay. Many women in our group have suffered physical, emotional and psychological abuse on a daily basis at the hands of their employers. If the government is serious about protecting domestic workers, they need to ratify the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.  This sends out a strong message to unscrupulous employers that exploitation of domestic workers will not be tolerated.”

Domestic Workers Action Week highlights the essential work carried out by domestic workers. A series of events organised to raise awareness of exploitation in this sector, include a week long multimedia exhibition, participation in the May Day Rally and a collaborate evening of song and music in the Sugar Club, Dublin.



Notes for Editors:

Domestic Workers Action Week runs May 1-7 2012

  • Tuesday 1 May – Dublin City Council of Trade Union May Day Rally, Parnell Sq 6pm
  • Tuesday May 1-7 ‘Opening Doors’ Multimedia exhibition, Exchange Gallery, Templebar. Free.
  • Thursday 3 May – ‘The Soul Workers Session’, Music Concert. The Sugar Club, Lesson St. D2. Fundraiser, Tickets €12


MRCI Domestic Workers Action Group Survey, 2010

The domestic work sector holds the second largest percentage of complaints made to MRCI.

40% of domestic workers surveyed do not have an employment contract

38% are paid under the minimum wage (with severe cases as low as €2 per hour)

42% do not receive payslips

Two thirds of those surveyed experienced exploitations as a domestic worker in Ireland

30% work Sundays and Bank holidays without extra pay or a day off.

44% raised a complaint with their employer about their unfair treatment and long working hours but their concern was ignored and nothing changed.

ILO Convention no 189

Forced labour is defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention (No. 29) concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour

"...all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily."In effect, forced labour is a severe form of exploitation where a worker performs work against their will under threat.

The ILO has developed indicators to detect forced labour as follows:

  • Threats of or actual physical or sexual violence.
  • Restriction of movement and confinement, to the workplace or to a limited area.
  • Debt bondage: where a worker works to pay off debt or loan, and is not paid for his or her services.
  • Withholding of wages, refusing to pay the worker at all or excessive wage reductions.
  • Retention of passports and identity documents.
  • Threat of denunciation to the authorities.