ILO Takes Big Step Toward Domestic Workers Rule

Devon Whitman of the AFL-CIO Field Department reports on a huge victory for domestic workers at the International Labor Organization (ILO) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Last night, following a week of intense negotiations, governments, employers and workers from across the globe reached agreement on the 19 articles which will make up the first international convention on domestic work at the 100th annual conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO). While the final vote of the ILO's general body will take place on June 16, the victory last night marked a major achievement on the road to winning a strong international convention setting out the rights of domestic workers the world over.

An ILO "convention" sets an international labor standard. Governments must ratify the convention for it to become the law in that nation.

Juana Flores, of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (Women United and Active) of San Francisco, said:

So many women throughout the world have never been recognized for their labor. With this convention the world is recognizing, for the first time, that domestic workers are workers like any other and deserve the same treatment. I feel incredibly proud to have been able to represent the domestic workers of the United States in this process.

The agreed upon convention opens with the recognition of the following inalienable rights of domestic workers, which include:

•Freedom of association and collective bargaining.

•Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor.

•Effective abolition of child labor.

•Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The proposed convention also provides protections for migrant domestic workers, including the obligation that national laws and regulations require that such workers receive a written job offer or contract of employment that is enforceable in the country in which the work is performed stipulating specific terms and conditions of employment.

It also requires that countries take measures toward ensuring that domestic workers enjoy equal treatment with workers generally in relation to working hours, overtime compensation and rest periods and minimum wage protections.

When the agreement on the convention was reached, the South African delegation of domestic workers led domestic workers from across the globe in a song:

My mother was a kitchen girl, my father was a garden boy, that's why I'm a trade unionist, that's why I'm a trade unionist!

afl-cio now blog, Wed Jun 8 2011

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