Landmark treaty adopted to protect domestic workers’ rights

Governments must improve working conditions for tens of millions of domestic workers around the world, Amnesty International said today after the adoption of a new treaty setting global standards for domestic work.   The International Labour Organization (ILO)’s annual conference overwhelmingly adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers yesterday, extending a range of measures to protect labour rights that have been abused or have gone largely ignored in the past. “Abuses against domestic workers – the vast majority of whom are women and girls – are all too common in many parts of the world, but until now we’ve lacked good measures to stop them,” said Michael Bochenek, International Director of Law and Policy for Amnesty International.“All countries should ratify this landmark treaty, which lays a strong foundation for a global legal framework to put an end to such abuses.”Amnesty International’s research in many countries has shown that large numbers of domestic workers, particularly those who are migrants, are exploited economically and denied their rights to fair conditions of work, health, education, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement.Lured overseas by the promise of work, migrant domestic workers are often easily exploited, both as racial and ethnic minorities and because they may depend on their employers to maintain their immigration status. Employers commonly withhold passports and use the threat of deportation as a form of coercion.Many domestic workers begin to work in their early teens or younger, making domestic work one of the most common forms of child labour in the world.Because they also live in their place of work, domestic workers are frequently expected to be on call around the clock. Some are never paid for their work; others are forced to accept enormous deductions from their wages for things like recruitment fees, uniforms and claims of damage to property.National labour laws frequently exclude domestic workers from protections or grant them fewer protections than other workers.“States must grant domestic workers the same protections as any other worker, including fair terms of employment and decent working conditions, as well as the right not to be discriminated against and the right to freedom of association,” said Michael Bochenek. “Governments should honour their commitment to this new treaty by putting in place effective national laws to regulate the labour rights of domestic workers, including monitoring mechanisms and ensuring that all complaints of abuse, harassment and violence are properly investigated.”The new ILO convention will enter into force after two countries have ratified it.