Asian Domestic Workers hold Regional Conference on Domestic Work Convention 2011 (C189) in Manila

With the major theme “Advocacy towards the Ratification and Implementation of ILO Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers,“ the regional conference had delegates who come all the way from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, East Asia and South Asia. Around 50 participants from the Philippines also attended. Secretary Baldoz of the Department of Labor and Employment delivered the keynote speech in behalf of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to formally open the regional conference and reiterate the Philippines` commitment to recognize and protect the rights of domestic workers.

Last June 16, 2011, the adoption of the ILO Convention 189 and its supplementary Recommendation 201 (R201) by the majority of ILO member countries and delegates to the 100th ILC session held in Geneva, Switzerland culminated the long struggle and sacrifice of various domestic workers` groups, trade unions, and civil society advocates. The Philippine government had been one of the leading countries that supported the Convention and lobbied for its eventual adoption. In fact, the Philippines is one of the two countries that signified their immediate ratification of C189. It is for this main reason that trade union groups as well as networks of domestic workers and migrants decided to conduct this year`s post-ILC seminar in the Philippines to further urge the Aquino Administration to facilitate the immediate ratification by the Philippine Senate of C189 and together with it set in motion the passage of the “Kasambahay“ Bill. This action at the local level will send a strong message to the other member-states of the ILO to do the same. At the global level, the seminar aims to continue the C189 supporters` joint efforts in ensuring decent work for about 53 million local and migrant domestic workers in the world, 23 million of whom are based in Asia alone. The international lobbying and advocacy efforts began in Hong Kong in 2008 and 2009, in Manila after the 2010 ILC, in Jakarta in 2010, and in Singapore before the 2011 ILC. At this level, Asia has been very vocal on domestic work issues with the Philippines` lead considering that the country is one of domestic workers` leading countries of origin.

C189 provides the framework and governing rules for the recognition of domestic work as work and equal rights for all domestic workers in the world. It is the first international treaty that recognizes the need to protect the human and labor rights of ALL domestic workers. Now that domestic workers have a convention, the challenge is to translate its contents into reality. The Convention for Domestic Workers needs to be ratified by the member countries of the ILO in order for it to take effect and become binding.

One of the main outputs of the conference was a detailed Plan of Action varying across all participating countries. The proposed activities laid out by the conference participants revolve around these general actions:

• Support the “12 in 12“ ITUC Plan of Action, which targets 12 ratifications in 2012 plus labor law reforms to cover domestic workers, 12,000 newly organized domestic workers and 12 stronger domestic workers unions;
• Support domestic workers in forming, joining and sustaining their own trade unions, organizations and networks;
• Submit petition letters to governments, embassies and consulates as well as senators and legislators to ratify C189;
• Get the support of key political actors at the national and local levels;
• Continue popularizing, raising awareness and educating people about C189 through the production and dissemination of solidarity statements, posters, primers, leaflets, videos, reports, petitions, flyers, journals and other publications; holding of press conferences, rallies, meetings and forums; and launching of Mass Media coverage on issues, online and social networking sites postings and advocacy and signature campaigns;
• Do research and gather data and statistics on domestic workers and their situation;
• Sustain dialogs and interactions with government officials, bureaucrats and employers` groups regarding the passage of laws concerning domestic work and reforming existing labor laws to cover domestic workers;
• Continue to strengthen and sustain the alliance with trade unions, civil society organizations, social movements, migrant workers` organizations, and include women`s groups, informal workers in other sectors, and human rights organizations in the process.

This year`s Asia Regional Conference was organized by the International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN), Global Network – Asia, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), International Trade Union Confederation in the Asia and the Pacific (ITUC-AP) and the Technical Working Group (TWG) for Domestic Work in the Philippines in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

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