The 100th annual Conference of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Thursday adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers (2011) by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions and the accompanying recommendation by a vote of 434 to 8, with 42 abstentions. The convention is an international treaty that is binding on member states that ratify it, while the recommendation provides more detailed guidance on how to apply the convention. Ida Le Blanc, general secretary of the National Union of Domestic Employees (NUDE), who participated in the vote on the convention, was for years a leading member of the international campaign to have legal restrictions which prevents domestic workers being treated like other workers, removed. "We have won an ILO convention and a recommendation for domestic workers," Le Blanc said.
"The voting was excellent...The Trinidad and Tobago delegation all voted for in favour of the convention and recommendation. "This is a historic moment for us and more than 100 million domestic workers of the world (90 per cent of which are women and many who are migrants). "We have to now call for ratification and for the instrument to be implemented by our different countries. "The adoption of the convention is loudly stating that domestic workers are not servants anymore, but workers with rights like any other worker. "That is what Clotil Walcott sought to do...She had a vision for the domestic workers.
"Domestic workers are a representative sector of the global economy, deserving full labour and social protections.
"Domestic workers care for the most valuable aspects of their employers' lives. "We are very glad the convention protects the rights of migrant domestic workers and prohibits child domestic labour. "We are proud that by organising ourselves, we have been able to be one of the few groups of worker to sit at the table and negotiate our convention...More than 70 domestic workers from all continents were at the Conference."
According to the Web site of the ILO:
"The new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world who care for families and households, must have the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers: reasonable hours of work, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. "Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries, place the number of domestic workers at around 53 million.
"However, experts say that due to the fact that this kind of work is often hidden and unregistered, the total number of domestic workers could be as high as 100 million. "In developing countries, they make up at least 4 to 12 per cent of wage employment... Around 83 per cent of these workers are women or girls and many are migrant workers." The convention defines domestic work as work performed in or for a household or households. While the new instruments cover all domestic workers, they provide for special measures to protect those workers who, because of their young age or nationality or live-in status, may be exposed to additional risks relative to their peers, among others.
According to ILO proceedings, the new convention will come into force after two countries have ratified it.
In its introductory text, the new convention says that "domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and work, and to other abuses of human rights."