Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Domestic workers are indeed a priority

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is on a mission to change the perception of domestic workers world-wide and to ensure that they too are guaranteed access to decent work.

Jane Hodges, head of the Gender Equality and Diversity Branch of the ILO said that Convention 189 is the 21st century approach to addressing the challenges faced by domestic workers, particularly as it relates to them not being considered employees.

“This Convention sends a very strong message that these persons are human beings, so it has got a very strong human rights element, but it is also very technical. It says that in addition to this rights-based approach, these persons need to be covered by legislation – they must be given written contracts; they need to know what their hours of work are; what their pay will be; what their leave would be and ensures too that maternity protection also applies to them,” she explained in a recent interview with the Grenada Advocate.

Furthermore, “These are the women who look after our kids, and we must ensure someone looks after them when they have theirs. That was a very strong argument among the delegates, women and men, when they adopted 189. It is going to be a breakthrough.”

The ILO official speaking to the provisions in the document, note that Article 5 prohibits any domestic workers from being subjected to abuse, harassment and violence in the workplace and she said that this is a groundbreaking step, as it is the first time that a convention specifically denounces workplace violence so strongly.

Hodges explained that while the lack of protection for domestic workers is a widespread problem, there are a few countries in the world where there are domestic workers’ unions and she suggested more entities like that are needed. Her comments came as she noted that to date only nine countries have ratified the Convention which was adopted in 2011. However, Hodges noted that while the figure may seem low, it is a good start, as there are approximately 25 other member states the ILO is closely working with to ratify it.

“Some may be waiting on their parliamentary committees, or they need to go through some steps before the Minister formally puts the text through the normal stages for ratification. In many countries, that is happening and sometimes that requires, depending on their own internal law, the prime minister or president to sign off and then it has to be sent to the ILO. So it is not an overnight process,” she explained. (JRT)

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