The second and final discussions on an ILO Convention & Recommendation for Domestic Workers were successfully concluded on June 16, making this a historic day for millions of domestic workers around the world who have finally been recognized as workers and guaranteed the same basic rights as other categories of workers.
The Convention was adopted with 396 votes in favor, 16 against (15 employers plus the government of Swaziland) and 63 abstentions. The Recommendation received 434 votes in favor, 8 against (all employers) and 42 abstentions.
With a new spokesperson for the employers’ group, this year’s negotiations took place in a much more constructive and positive spirit than last year’s, when the employers constantly tried to block discussions through procedural tactics.
The workers’ group continued to get strong support from various governments, particularly Australia, Brazil (for the GRULAC countries), France, Namibia and South Africa (for the African countries) and the US. As was the case last year, the EU governments, and the UK in particular, were less supportive.
In addition to the fundamental rights set out in the ILO’s core conventions, (freedom of Association, collective bargaining, elimination of child labour and forced labour), some of the most important gains include:
- the right to a written contract
- working time regulation
- health and safety provisions
- social security coverage, including maternity
- protection of migrant domestic workers including monitoring mechanisms for labour agencies
In the course of the discussion it was far from clear that a consensus would be reached on domestic workers’ right to normal hours of work and a minimum of 24 hours’ weekly rest. The most contentious issue was the “stand by” time when the worker remains at the disposal of the employer. In the view of the workers’ group and a majority of governments, stand by time shall be considered as working time. This was reportedly the issue that brought some employers to vote against the Convention.
However, the Convention and Recommendation have obtained broad support and some governments (e.g. the Philippines and Uruguay) have already declared that they will proceed to ratification.
Members of the IUF-supported International Network of Domestic Workers, IDWN, played a crucial role in the whole preparatory work for the convention. their contribution was recognized by ILO Director General, Juan Somavia, who celebrated the victory together with IDWN representatives outside the plenary hall.