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Ratify ILO Convention 189! Decent Work for Domestic Workers NOW!

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We are migrant workers’ organizations, individuals and advocates, concerned groups and institutions, family members of migrant workers, human rights defenders and stakeholders of the migrant industry from different parts of the globe. We unite with the collective call to the Philippine Senate and the President of the Philippines to immediately ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189, or the Decent Work for Domestic Workers’ Convention.

The passage of the (ILO) Convention 189 during the International ILO’s 100th International Labour Conference (ILC) is a cause celebre for many migrant organizations, both at the grassroots-level and among service institutions. Rightly hailed as the outcome of decades of organizing and advocacy among local and foreign domestic workers, the DWC is potentially a powerful legal instrument for promoting the rights of domestic workers everywhere.

Convention 189 implies the recognition of domestic work as work, reiterating its coverage in principle by previous international labor Conventions and Recommendations under the ILO. The Convention as passed also incorporates most salient demands recommended for inclusion by migrant Organizations worldwide, such as minimum wage coverage (Article 11); freedom of association and rights to collective bargaining; limiting of working hours, right to overtime pay, weekly rest and paid annual leave (Article 10); protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence (Article 5); fair terms of employment and decent working conditions; optional live-in requirement and right to keep possession of travel and identity documents (Article 9).

Even pending ratification by Members of the ILO, grassroots organizations and support institutions can already cite the Convention 189 in promoting and defending the fundamental rights of domestic workers on both ends of the migration flow. It is a moral victory whose mere existence may even deter errant host-country governments from institutionalizing blatant violations of foreign domestic workers' rights in their own backyards.

But like all other ILO Conventions and Recommendations, the full potency of Covention 189 lies in its ratification by majority if not all of the Members. At this stage, it has to be ratified first by two Members, and only twelve (12) months upon ratification will it be deemed in force as an international instrument.

Both the Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and President Benigno Aquino III have mentioned strong commitment to the ratification of the Convention 189. It is now only a matter of weeks and we call on them to ensure the Philippines’ ratification before the deadlines ends this July. If ratified by the Philippine Senate, the Philippine government will be the second country to have ratified Convention 189, after Uruguay, allowing for its official taking into force.

Convention 189 is a milestone, a product of long years of hard-fought struggle to secure the rights of domestic workers. In 2010, the number of Filipino domestic workers deployed were 154,535 which accounted for 45% of deploys for that year. Remittances of Filipino domestic workers are therefore a significant portion of the total remittances that support the Philippines economy.

We recognize that the ratification of Convention 189 is just a small opening and that the struggle to attain equal rights and protection for migrant domestic workers, including domestic workers here at home, is still a long way to go. We shall remain at the frontlines of the struggle for the rights and welfare of domestic workers and the fight for justice and the total eradication of modern-day slavery victimizing migrant workers around the world. ###

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