Campaigners remind MPs that basic human rights need to be protected, not undermined

ParliamentDomestic workers donning suffragette costume are today staging a demonstration outside Parliament, as MPs debate the crunch amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill which reinstates the right of domestic workers to change employers.

Migrant Domestic Workers, part of Justice 4 Domestic Workers (J4DW) and Unite, as well as Kalayaan and  Anti-Slavery  International opposed the introduction of the  tied visa system three years ago, which ties migrant domestic workers to their employer – ‘a form of modern day slavery’.

The tied visa system means migrant domestic workers are more fearful, more vulnerable to exploitation, and their right to legal redress has effectively been taken away, along with their status as a worker in their own right – recognition so hard-fought for over decades and won from the Labour party with cross-party support in 1998.

However, The House of Lords last month passed an amendment to the Modern Slavery bill which now allows domestic workers to change employers once in the UK and renew their visas, if in work.

The amended bill is being debated tomorrow by MPs during its third – and final – reading.

The workers will also wear the tied domestic worker ‘mask’ boards with heart-rendering stories written on them.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “The demonstration today is a sharp reminder to every MP that basic human rights need to be protected, not undermined.

“We call on all MPs to support the amendment to the Modern Slavery bill from the House of Lords which frees up domestic workers from being tied to the employer and ends modern day slavery in reality, not just in words.”

Marissa Begonia, Justice 4 Domestic Workers coordinator, said: “We call on MPs to support the amendment as domestic workers are some of the most vulnerable employees in the UK. We need to stamp out any opportunity for abuse that a bad employer may have.

“We hope that MPs see the justice of the amendment and keep it in the bill on its third reading.”

Kate Roberts, community advocate at Kalayaan, said: “The government has rightly pointed out that migrant domestic workers were abused even when they had the right to change employer.

“This is exactly why these rights should have been maintained and built upon, rather than removed and replaced with a system which leaves the workers without way to challenge exploitation without breaching the immigration rules.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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