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Historic convention enshrines domestic workers’ rights

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Summary of story from ITUC, June 16, 2011

Today represented ‘a historic victory for domestic workers’, in the words of Marieke Koning, ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) expert on gender equality and domestic work issues.

Koning is referring to the adoption, at the 100th session of the International Labour Conference, of a new Convention about the working of domestic workers.

The Convention gives domestic workers around the world the same rights as other workers, providing, Koning says: ‘recognition as workers, as fully fledged human beings’ and ‘a mark of respect for work that is traditionally done by women and is therefore underpaid and undervalued’.

The first right recognized by the Convention is the right of domestic workers to form unions and to negotiate better working conditions.

Domestic workers are given the same rights regarding minimum wage and working hours as other workers in their country, including one day off per week and maternity leave. Children under 18 must receive education or training.

Migrant issue workers are specifically addressed, including the right to keep one’s own identity and travel documents, and to decide whether or not to live in the place of work.

Labour inspectors are given the right to enter private residences to ensure the Convention is upheld.

The next stage, says Koning, is to convince governments to ratify the Convention. This may be ‘a long and arduous task’, but ‘the issues has already been brought to the table and it will stay there, no one will be able to ignore it any longer’.

The UK government abstained from signing the convention – a decision that has shocked campaigners (see WVoN story).

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