Thursday, 30 June 2011

Indonesia Must Take Immediate Action to Protect Migrant Domestic Workers: A Call for Endorsements

Endorse here

Indonesia Neglecting its Legal Responsibility to Migrant Domestic Workers

The plight of Indonesian domestic workers has once again come under the media spotlight with the beheading of Ruyati in Saudi Arabia this month. Ruyati had appealed to her employment agency in Saudi Arabia to remove her from unbearable conditions that included insufficient food, no rest time and withholding of pay by her employer as well as continuous physical and emotional abuse by her employer’s mother. The employment agency threatened Ruyati with violations of her contract if she left. Trapped and unable to bear the abuse, Ruyati killed her employer’s mother and confessed to the crime. After being neglected by her own government as well, Ruyati was beheaded six months later.

Today, 303 Indonesian migrant workers, who like Ruyati suffered abuse and neglect, are on death row awaiting the final and brutal consequence of being abandoned by their government.

In Indonesia, the Government’s insufficient and misguided response is to place a moratorium on deployment to Saudi Arabia in August, as it did with Malaysia in 2009. This paternalistic response will only increase the risk of women being smuggled or trafficked and coming to more harm. Any type of ban by sending or receiving governments only leads migration going underground and workers becoming more vulnerable to rights abuses. The Indonesian government needs to enforce protections that have been put in place to ensure the right of workers overseas. If this had been done, Ruyati’s employment agency would have acted accountable for her wellbeing and removed her due to the breach of contract and infringement of human rights by her employer.

Law No. 39/2004 on Deployment and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers provides full authority to recruitment agencies to recruit, deploy and to “protect”, but it is the governments obligations to ensure that agencies do not just recruit and deploy. Law No.39 leads to numerous exploitations such as falsification of identities, high fees, confinement in recruitment agencies, confiscation of travel documents, etc. An agency’s function should be limited to recruitment only, while the government should regulate the fees and ensure protection through MoUs and recognised employment contracts.

Just this month, rights advocates celebrated the Indonesian Government changing its position and voting in favour of the newly adopted Convention and Recommendation Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the International Labour Conference. Under Article 15 (1) (c) member states shall adopt all necessary and appropriate measures to provide adequate protection for and prevent abuses of domestic workers recruited by private employment agencies.

Indonesia’s Government enjoys enormous benefits from the remittances of migrant workers and from the fees collected by agencies, it is time for the government to act to ensure the employment agencies are taking responsibility for workers under the law. It is also time for the Indonesian government to start taking the full responsibility in looking after the welfare of their own people overseas and stop transferring the protection to the recruitment agency. The Government of Indonesia must ensure that women like Ruyati do not have to resort to violence to get out of situations of extreme human rights abuse. We call on Indonesia to lead the way and ratify the convention and take further actions to prevent more women like Ruyati from losing their lives.

We call on the Indonesian Government to:

-repatriate Ruyati’s body and claim her unpaid contractual benefits;

-provide appropriate legal and diplomatic assistance for Indonesian migrant workers charged with crimes while overseas;

-send a high level mission to Saudi Arabia to investigate and document the cases of women migrant workers in prison and call for the release of any women who have not committed internationally recognised crimes;

-change the Placement and Protection Law No.39/2004 by allowing for direct hiring; limit the scope of recruitment agencies to recruitment only; and regulate fees. Where agencies fail in their obligations Indonesia should enforce appropriate penalties;

-lead the way and ratify the Convention and Recommendation Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers and;

-instead of placing a moratorium on deployment of new workers, work with other countries to increase protections for workers already overseas and those who will soon depart.

Endorse here

A Code of Conduct for UN Staff with Domestic Workers

U.N. sets example with law on domestic workers

June 24, 2011 By Willow Osgood, The Daily Star

The United Nations in Lebanon has adopted a code of conduct for U.N. staff who employ domestic workers, in an effort to “influence” similar legislation at the national level.

“What we are hoping to achieve with the code of conduct for national and international staff is to set an example for Lebanon and other countries in the region which rely very heavily on help from domestic workers,” said Robert Watkins, U.N. resident coordinator for Lebanon, at a news conference Thursday to announce the guidelines.

Among the 21 guidelines are requirements that workers be over 18 years old, work no more than 10 hours a day (with breaks), receive a day off each week, and enjoy freedom of movement and an annual leave of at least 15 days. The code of conduct was also distributed in United Nations offices throughout the region.

To read the rest of the article:

Friday, 24 June 2011

Three ASEAN member states abstained on the vote for the domestic workers convention

A comment by UFDWR

As we celebrate the adoption of the new convention and recommendation at the ILC this month and pause to look at the details of what was included and what was not, I am left with a bitter taste in my mouth. UFDWR was part of the campaigning and was jubilant when India and Indonesia changed their tune and supported the new instruments, even voting in favour of adoption. We were unsurprised that our campaigning was unsuccessful with Malaysia, but at least they only abstained and did not vote against the convention as Swaziland did. What leaves the bitter taste is that three ASEAN nation states - in fact the more developed nation states who need domestic workers - abstained from the vote, Malaysia, but also Thailand and Singapore. Only nine governments abstained and three of them are in ASEAN!

Singapore, like Malaysia, also only wanted a recommendation, but it was much more quiet about its opposition to the convention.

Thailand however, unlike the two other nation states, was quietly supportive of the convention, it voted against having only a recommendation and its comments were positive on the whole. Thailand sought a convention and a recommendation in its response to the initial questionnaire in 2009-10 (Decent Work For Domestic Workers Report IV(2)) and wanted to raise awareness of the rights of domestic workers, being “mainly low-status women”. However, the government also commented that “the Convention should provide that each member State may exclude from its application, in part or in whole, limited categories of domestic work or workers, which would otherwise raise particular difficulties” which was reflected in the subsequent Article 2 of the proposed convention. Thailand also commented that arrangement to ensure compliance should be done in accordance with national conditions and expressed concerns as to the practicality of placement visits. Otherwise, Thailand was positive in its responses for a comprehensive standard, but seemed concerned that countries of origin take measures to prevent their citizens from entering other countries illegally and that; “the repatriation costs should be borne by the country of origin when the migrant domestic worker fails to comply with the national laws of the receiving country.”

In response to the draft convention and recommendation proposed in June 2010, Thailand was also quietly supportive, although the governments only comment recorded in the ‘Blue report’ Decent Work for Domestic Workers IV (2A) was; Thailand agrees in principle with the proposed Convention and Recommendation” a sentiment echoed exactly by the Thailand Employers’ Confederation of Business and Industries of the Nation (ECBIN)

Perhaps our campaigning should have had more focus on Thailand, but we believed that Thailand would continue to be quietly supportive and vote for adoption, as a country that not only employs many migrant domestic workers, but who also sends domestic workers out to wealthier countries in Asia. So while I may be dismayed, but unsurprised, by the final vote of Malaysia and Singapore, I am disappointed that Thailand, home to many of UFDWRs members, abstained.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Domestic Workers Convention: Interview with ILO’s Manuela Tomei

The landmark treaty setting standards for the treatment of domestic workers that was adopted at the International Labour Conference in Geneva has been widely hailed as a milestone. The Convention and accompanying Recommendation on decent work for domestic workers aim at protecting and improving the working and living conditions of domestic workers worldwide - estimated to number anywhere between 53 million and 100 million. ILO Online spoke to Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s Conditions of Work and Employment Programme.

Click to read more: International Labour Organisation Article | June 21, 2011