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Introduction and Key Recommendations for an ILO Convention on Domestic Work 

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Submitted by R.E.S.P.E.C.T Network

Campaigning for the Rights of Migrant Domestic Workers in Europe and Internationally

Amsterdam, May 2009

Summary on proposed Key recommendations

In the European context therefore, RESPECT highlights the following key

considerations in preparing the proposed ILO Instruments:

 

1) The recognition of Domestic work: The recognition of domestic work as

proper work and the inclusion of all domestic workers (women and men,

young or old, national citizen or migrant, live-in or live-out) as an integral part

of the workforce with an immigration status that recognises migrant domestic

workers.

 

2) Comprehensive legal protections: Labour legislation that applies to all other

workers to be applied to the domestic workers and to ensure equal protection

under the law – related to written contracts, agreed wages, hours of work and

rest, health insurance and other social benefits, freedom of mobility and to

form self-organisations and join trade unions, freedom to change employers, as

well as provisions covering the unique circumstance of live-in domestic

workers regarding living conditions and privacy.

3) Effective mechanisms of enforcement of labour legislation: This should

include instruments protection against unjust termination; against the risks of

homelessness of live-in domestic workers; paid holidays and sick leave days.

4) Effective protection for migrant domestic workers: Migrant domestic workers

should have a work permit independent of their employer to ensure avoidance

of abuse and violation of rights regularly experienced in ‘tied’ employment.

Domestic work is not a category for migration in most European countries.

Therefore while migrant workers are on the one hand delivering an enormous

contribution – economically and socially - to needed and important work in

4

European societies, on the other hand they are vulnerable to exploitation (such

as long hours of work, low payment and to personal abuse by members of the

families) as a consequence of the separation of juridical residence and work

permit.

 

5) Effective protection for Domestic Workers in the employment of the

Diplomatic corps: Domestic workers in the employment of the Diplomatic

corps should be protected by existing and new labour legislation and be able to

access legal redress in the case of unjust or abusive treatment. Specific

mechanisms should be put in place ensuring a judicial process in relation to

diplomats who are responsible for abusing their domestic workers.

 

6) Effective protection for ‘au pairs’: This is a particularly vulnerable sector of

people who work in the private home. It has been a practice to accept that au

pairs undertake “light household work” as exchange for accommodation while

undertaking a cultural exchange. However there is increasing evidence that

this framework is exploited to access a flexible and cheap source of domestic

workers. The ‘au pair’ framework should therefore be strongly regulated.

7) Provisions to protect domestic workers against physical, sexual and

psychological violence: These provisions include access to immediate and

confidential redress as well as support for and access to legal redress.

 

 

  • Protection of Labor rights of Migrant Domestic Workers and for Au-pairs workng as domestic workers

  • Possibility to migrate as MDW- put in place an immigration status, independent status from the employer 

  • Regularisation of undocumented Migrant Workers

 

Domestic work is not another market

Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW) constitutes one of the most vulnerable groups of workers in the European labour market as they are frequently found working and living in conditions that can be subjected to multiple and intersecting discriminations deriving from their gender, their status as migrants and their occupation. Besides this domestic work is not merely work but a socially constructed gender activity where women are seen as primarily responsible for taking care of the home, family, children, disabled and  elderlywhich until now is perceived as “unproductive” undervalued in its economic and social contribution. This is providing a justification for the invisibility and exclusion of workers in this sector, whom are mainly women. 

 

We inevitably wonder if the system of gender equality and inclusion we have constructed in Europe is actually in favour of women when it is based on someone else’s, the female migrant women that is, discrimination and exclusion. In this development there is a new, emerging inequality.