A graffiti stencil 16 June is International Domestic Workers Day, and domestic workers around the world are stepping up the campaign to get governments to ratify ILO Convention 189 on the Rights of Domestic Workers. Domestic workers will be taking acti …

A graffiti stencil

A graffiti stencil

16 June is International Domestic Workers Day, and domestic workers around the world are stepping up the campaign to get governments to ratify ILO Convention 189 on the Rights of Domestic Workers.

Domestic workers will be taking action in London this Sunday. The will be making two demands of the UK Government:

1. Ratify ILO Convention 189 (C189) on the Rights of Domestic Workers

2. Restore the Domestic Worker Visa

There are very serious concerns at the removal of the basic rights of migrant domestic workers by the Coalition government and the introduction of a visa which ‘ties’ them to their employer.

This change has enslaved migrant domestic workers. If they flee abuse and exploitation, their tied status means they have no redress.

The irony is that in June 2011 the International Labour Organisation passed ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. In the same month the British Government refused to sign the Convention and instead reintroduced a system of slavery for migrant domestic workers in the UK.

This is truly shameful as one of the reasons given for not signing was that UK had the best protections already in place for migrant domestic workers.

We do not need to live again the horrifying abuse of the past. From 1980-1997 because of inhuman treatment, over 4,000 migrant domestic workers escaped their abusive employers. Many suffered from physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or underpayment of wages, long hours of work and sleep deprivation.

The introduction in 1998 of the overseas domestic worker visa, with cross-party support, gave basic rights as workers to migrant domestic workers, and was a proud moment in this country’s history. I ask you to make sure that the rights in the 1998 overseas domestic worker visa are restored and also applied to domestic workers in diplomatic households. By doing so, the UK really could proudly proclaim itself as a world leader in combating trafficking and slavery.

The rally will be joined from New York via Skype. Details of the New York session are here.

Support and solidarity messages from around the world

You can take part too by joining the live, interactive session online between 5:30 and 6:30pm UK time. You can join the session via our web conferencing facility.

You can also participate by using the #J4DW hashtag.

Instructions for logging on

On the right side of the home page there is a box called Big Blue Button, with a drop down list of meeting rooms. Select the meeting called

Type in your name, and the password.

  • The participant password is 123.
  • The moderator’s password is 456.

The moderator chairs the meeting, and can upload documents and presentations, and allow other users to speak.

Click ‘Join’, and you will be redirected to the web conference. It will take a few seconds to connect to the server and log you in to the conference.

Click ‘Join’, and you will be redirected to the web conference. It will take a few seconds to connect to the server and log you in to the conference.

A window will pop up asking permission to use your web cam and microphone, as well as the opportunity to choose devices and edit preferences. Allow, and click ‘join audio’. If possible, use a head set, as computer speakers can cause feedback.

Your web cam won’t come on automatically. There is a camera icon in the top left hand corner of the screen. If you click that a video window will open with a ‘play’ button at the bottom. If you click that your video will go live.

More instructions on logging into web conferencing are given here.

Where ever you are: Take action on 16 June: International Domestic Workers Day!

ratify c189_0

Keep up the pressure – urge your government to:

  • Ratify C189
  • Adopt labour law reforms

To secure rights and protections of domestic workers!

The ITUC Congress in Berlin, Germany (18-23 May 2014) re-confirmed its commitment to support domestic workers and continue as the 12+12 campaign aiming at:

  • C189 ratifications and its effective implementation in law and practice,
  • labour law reforms and
  • organizing 100,000 more domestic workers

Your actions made a difference! Rights and protections improved for more than 10 million domestic workers – since the adoption of ILO Convention 189 on 16 June 2011: 14 countries ratified C189: Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Guyana, Italy, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Uruguay and Colombia.

Ratification number 15 and 16 are on their way: the Dominican Republic and Switzerland are in a process to register their ratifications at the ILO.

And a number of governments are expected to ratify this year: in Europe, Africa and Latin America

  • 3 new Collective Bargaining Agreements in Uruguay, Italy and Brazil
  • Labour law reforms in more than 12 countries : Brazil, Argentina, 3 States of the US, Uruguay, Philippines, Venezuela, Chile, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, India and Spain and more
  • Increase of minimum wages in 4 African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.

Domestic workers Unite!

Since the IDWF founding Congress (October 2013, Montevideo, Uruguay) they unite domestic workers from 49 affiliates in 40 countries.

At the ITUC Congress in May 2014 (Berlin, Germany) , the IDWF reported that 100,000 domestic workers joined a union in the past few years

Domestic workers and their allies formed unions in 12 countries (Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Egypt, India, Angola, Argentina and Pakistan

Myrtle Witbooi, President of the IDWF at the Labour Start Conference plenary on “How do we build power at the global workplace?”

Take action on 16 June!


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar

Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

Read All Articles

Related Articles