Landmark day for workers in private homes as Ireland ratifies Domestic Workers Convention

9 July, 2014 | MRCI | MRCI

IRELAND -

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland welcomes ‘momentous’ ratification of ILO Convention

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) today (Wednesday 9th July) welcomed Ireland’s ratification of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, saying it will provide increased protection for thousands of vulnerable domestic workers here.


Photo: Migrant Rights Centre Ireland/Facebook

Aoife Smith of MRCI said,

“There are thousands of childminders, cleaners, au pairs and carers in private homes across Ireland; the majority are women, and many are migrants. In this hidden sector, working conditions are generally poor and exploitation is rampant. By ratifying this convention, Ireland is recognising the value of this work and promoting the rights of workers in private homes. This is a momentous occasion.”

Smith continued,

“In our work with domestic workers, we have seen cases of extreme exploitation, trafficking and abuse, as well as widespread underpayment and disregard for the basic employment rights of workers in private homes. Domestic workers provide essential support and care to households and families all over Ireland. We believe this ratification gives us the opportunity to create a care sector which provides quality jobs and quality care.”

Smith concluded,

“Minister Bruton has made an immense contribution to the future welfare of domestic workers everywhere by pushing this Convention at EU level, particularly during Ireland’s European presidency. As one of the first European countries to ratify the Convention, Ireland is leading out on rights and protections for some of our most vulnerable workers.”

The Convention details the State’s responsibilities in protecting those working in private homes. Defining domestic work as ‘work performed in or for a household or households,’ the Convention sets out measures aimed at preventing exploitation, abuse and trafficking of cleaners, carers, childminders and other domestic workers.

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Domestic Workers Action Group statement:

Domestic workers join Minister Bruton to celebrate ratification of Convention

Today (Wednesday 9th July) migrant domestic workers joined Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD to celebrate the Irish government’s ratification of  the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Domestic Workers. The Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG) has campaigned since 2010 for Ireland to ratify the Convention,  which protects the rights of childminders, cleaners, carers, au pairs and other workers in private homes.

Mariaam Bhatti, a cleaner and member of the Domestic Workers Action Group, stated,

“Today is a landmark day for workers’ rights, women’s rights, migrant rights and human rights in Ireland. This is the result of a long campaign by domestic workers all over Ireland.  It’s not easy to come together to fight for your rights when you work long hours, alone in private homes, doing nights and weekends, but we did it.”

Ms Bhatti noted that domestic workers are essential to the economy and support thousands of families across Ireland.

“We are cleaners and carers, housekeepers and cooks, childminders and au pairs. We do the work that allows all other work to happen, yet many people do not see us as real workers and don’t pay and treat us equally. Ireland’s ratification of this Convention points to a future where domestic workers are valued, where the important services we provide are recognised, and where we are protected from exploitation.”

According to DWAG, many domestic workers in Ireland have experienced severe breaches of their basic rights. Hilda Regaspi, DWAG member, stated,

“In our group, we’ve seen exploitation of domestic workers throughout Ireland: trafficking for forced labour, serious issues in diplomatic households, discrimination, abuse and mistreatment.”

Ms Regaspi continued,

“Often, people think that domestic workers can be underpaid, overworked and exploited without repercussions; today, the Government is sending a clear message that domestic workers is work, that domestic workers have rights, and that Ireland is committed to protecting our rights. This is a great day for domestic workers not just in Ireland but around the world; we hope many other countries will now follow Ireland’s lead and ratify the Domestic Workers Convention.”

Ireland is the 16th country to sign up to the Convention, and only the third European country. The Convention states that workers in private homes are entitled to the same rights as all other workers: overtime pay, paid annual leave, minimum wage and adequate breaks. To protect domestic workers from trafficking and forced labour, it stipulates that employees must be allowed to keep their own travel and identity documents.

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