International Labour Organisation- THE CONVENTION TO PROTECT DOMESTIC WORKERS
The International Labour Organization’s 2011 Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers (Convention No. 189) was adopted in June 2011 to protect the rights of domestic workers across the world.
Countries ratifying the ILO Convention agree to ensure fair and decent conditions for domestic workers by protecting their fundamental labour rights, preventing abuse and violence and establishing safeguards for young domestic workers.
Only a few countries have ratified the Convention so far – as of January 2014 only 11 have completed the ratification procedure. In 2011 the UK Government abstained from voting, citing excellent domestic legislation as reason that the ILO protections are not needed. These are the protections which the Government went on to remove in 2012.
Click here to see Kalayaan’s briefing on the consequences of the Government proposals for migrant domestic workers and the reasoning behind the proposals, which is found to be flawed.
On the 9th June 2011 the Government announced a Consultation on Employment Related Settlement, Tier 5 and Overseas Domestic Workers.
Kalayaan condemns these proposals which, if made law, could mean a return to slavery for migrant domestic workers in the UK.
They include options to either abolish the route for migrant domestic workers to enter the UK, leaving them open to being brought into the UK by employers through informal routes in breach of immigration controls, or to restrict them to a 6 or 12 month non renewable visa, and to remove the right to change employers even if severely abused.
Removing the right to change employer would mean a return to bonded labour. The visa has been recognised as the main protection for this group of workers who are already especially vulnerable to severe exploitation including slavery and trafficking for domestic servitude. Removing the visa altogether would increase trafficking via illegal routes and unlawful working leaving those workers believing they are unable to contact the authorities for assistance and with few if any enforceable rights. Limiting the length of the visa makes it likely that unscrupulous employers would keep workers working for them beyond the length of the visa, again without any recourse to meaningful legal protection against even severe exploitation.
The Government claims that anti trafficking measures can replace protections provided by the visa. Kalayaan, together with many others working with victims of trafficking, hve real doubts about how effective these measures are in practice for all victims. Nor do anti trafficking protections do anything to protect an individual before they are trafficked or to assist those who have been severely exploited but whose abuse does not meet all the trafficking criteria.
It is vital that we take action now, before these proposals are implemented. Please watch this space for campaign actions and please do get involved to prevent this move towards state sanctioned slavery.
Kalayaan’s new report draws on evidence collected over the last decade and demonstrates that migrant domestic workers are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The research shows the the ‘Overseas Domestic Worker (ODW) visa is an inexpensive and effective way of protecting MDWs, and that without this legal channel trafficking of domestic workers via illegal routes could increase. There are however areas in which urgent action is needed to improve protections particularly for domestic workers who enter the UK accompanying diplomats. These workers are shown to be 20 times more likely to be in slavery than those who work in private households.
New visa forms were brought out by the UKBA on 7 April 2011. In addition to changing the fee (it is now £550 to renew a domestic worker visa in the post), the UKBA are asking that domestic workers provide their employer’s passport as evidence of the employer’s right to reside in the UK. Normally all documents sent to the UKBA must be originals. Kalayaan have spoken to the UKBA about this requirement and they have agreed that a photocopy of the employer’s passport (and visa if the employer is not a British National) is acceptable. A note about this will soon be included in the guidance given to caseworkers (sometimes referred to as the IDIs). Until the note is issued we will provide you with a letter detailing our conversation with the home office so that you can make the caseworker assessing your application aware of this. Please call us to request our help.
Kalayaan is delighted to be one of five small charities recognised for our ‘extraordinary work with vulnerable people’. As well as a cash prize, the award will give Kalayaan valuable mentoring, support and training. You can find out more on the guardian website.