Press Centre

Historic Victory for Domestic Workers at the ILO

PRESS RELEASE: 28 June 2011

Migrant Rights Centre & SIPTU

ILO Committee Adopts Convention on Decent work for Domestic Workers

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and SIPTU welcome the adoption by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at its most recent meeting held in Geneva, of a Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.  Domestic worker organisations and trade unions globally are celebrating the victory of the long-awaited Convention, which is supplemented by a recommendation.  The Convention, adopted by the ILO Committee in Geneva today, sets international standards to protect the rights of domestic workers worldwide.

This historic moment is a milestone in the 63-year long struggle to secure the rights of this highly vulnerable group of workers.  Domestic work is an under-regulated, underpaid and undervalued sector.  Many workers live in isolation and suffer daily abuse and harassment from their employers.  The sector has some of the highest incidences of forced labour and modern day slavery, in addition to being known for some of the most shocking situations of child labour.

Mariaam Bhatti of the Domestic Workers Action Group says: “Finally, we have official recognition by the international community of domestic workers as workers, just like any others.  It gives us the dignity and respect we have long deserved and will go a long way towards ending the abuse and exploitation that is so prevalent in this sector”.   A significant achievement of the ILO process has been its ability to connect millions of domestic workers worldwide, mobilising them into taking action to making their plight visible to the world, and highlighting their important place in the world of work.

Aoife Smith, Coordinator of the MRCI’s Domestic Workers Action Group says: “While the adoption of the Convention is positive news for domestic workers, it will not improve their conditions overnight.  The international standards have been set but we will need to continue to lobby the government to ensure that national legislation reflects the provisions stipulated in the Convention”.

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, John King, is calling on the Government to ratify the Convention as a priority and to extend to these workers full working rights and conditions of employment no less favourable than other workers in this country;  ‘Domestic Workers are employed in isolated and vulnerable positions and ratifying this treaty to give legal effect to their status of worker, which builds on the Labour Relations Commission Code of Practice in Ireland, is the right thing to do and will be supported by all right minded people and organisations.’