Governments lobbied over abuse of domestic workers

By staff writers
May 18, 2010

Anti-Slavery International is lobbying governments around the world to support a strong global convention on conditions for domestic workers. Member states of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) will gather at the United Nations in Geneva next month to vote for or against the creation of the convention.

The NGO insists that “a new ILO convention for domestic workers is essential in helping protect them from abuse, exploitation and slavery”.

In the UK, Anti-Slavery International has urged supporters to lobby the new government to support a convention. The previous government had expressed reservations about the plan.

They point out that, “In many countries, domestic workers are not considered ‘workers’ but rather as informal ‘help’ and are excluded from national labour legislation. Often they do not enjoy the same protections as other members of the workforce, such as minimum pay, social security, and maternity benefits”.

They add, “In countries where domestic workers are covered by national labour laws, enforcement is poor and these protections have not been translated into practice”.

Campaigners say that this situation results in many domestic workers around the world experiencing verbal abuse, alongside physical and even sexual abuse. Many domestic workers experience a lack of food and poor living conditions.

Anti-Slavery International is calling on the UK's new Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to cast the British vote in favour of the convention.

In a message to British supporters, Anti-Slavery International suggested that the formation of a new government shortly ahead of the global conference “provides us with a pivotal opportunity to call for the UK to strengthen its support for the convention and take a leading role among the international community to address the abuse of domestic workers both in the UK and around the world”.

Organisations including Human Rights Watch have backed calls for a new ILO convention.


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