PRESS RELEASE: 16 November 2010
MRCI Welcomes NERA Campaign To Protect Rights of Domestic Workers
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) welcomes the decision by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) to begin a targeted campaign of inspections of private homes and monitor working conditions of domestic workers. The initiative gives formal recognition to the fact that the private home can also be a workplace, and that domestic workers need the full protection of the law and to have their rights monitored and enforced.
MRCI has been advocating for the rights of domestic workers for nearly ten years, drawing attention to their particular vulnerability, and highlighting the need for inspections of private homes to ensure the enforcement of their employment rights.
According to Siobhán O’Donoghue, MRCI’s Director, ‘in our experience, domestic workers are consistently told that they do not have the same rights and entitlements as other workers because their workplace is the private home, when in fact they have the same rights under Irish Law as employees in other sectors.’
MRCI established a Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) in 2003 to respond to the high levels of exploitation identified in this sector of employment. This is a welcome victory for the Group, who have been campaigning for better protections for domestic workers, and actively calling on NERA to begin inspections in the sector for the last 18 months. It sends out a clear message to employers that the exploitation of workers in this sector is unacceptable.
Hilda Regaspi, spokesperson for DWAG, says the isolation experienced by migrants working in their employer’s home is a major problem; ‘Until now, the Irish authorities did not inspect employers who have domestic workers living and working in their homes, so it has been very difficult to identify when exploitation is taking place. These are exactly the high-risk situations where vulnerable workers can face abuse, so this move by NERA to inspect private homes is very welcome.’
However Ms O’Donoghue added, “In order to ensure this campaign is effective it must be clearly communicated to the public, so that all employers are aware of their responsibilities, and take steps to ensure they are fully compliant with their obligations.”
This news comes at a time when the issue of rights for domestic workers is being discussed internationally, at the International Labour Organisation (ILO). At present, there is support for a legally-binding international ILO Convention for June 2011. This would provide specific legislation to protect the millions of women and girls working in the sector across the globe. MRCI urges the government to follow in this spirit by committing to supporting a strong ILO Convention to protect the rights of domestic workers globally.
For more about the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers go to http://www.domesticworkerrights.org/