Friday, 10 June 2011

Beyond the Passage of the ILO Convention on Domestic Work

The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) welcomes the recent adoption of the Domestic Workers’ Convention through the appropriate International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee. We see this as a promising development towards the much-desired passage of this Convention in the June 15-16 plenary of the ongoing International Labour Convention (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

While this is indeed a milestone of sorts in the long advocacy of domestic workers for international statutes that formally guarantee their rights, it also reveals the obstacles that need to be hurdled in the short term and the hard work ahead that needs to be done in the long term. What the heated debate that preceded the Committee adoption forebodes is that the much sought-after plenary approval will not be a walk in the park, and that EU member representatives will be exerting their utmost to derail the proposed Convention’s passage through plenary. Furthermore, our long experience with international standards tells us that even with the approval of this Convention, governments on both ends of the migration divide will need to accede to it, promulgate pertinent laws that accord to it, and provide the necessary political muscle to implement and enforce such laws.

Even as this statement is being written, we can expect the Convention’s EU oppositors to be doing discreet spadework to undermine support for it. And they do not lack for potential allies, as many FDW-receiving countries would tend to support initiatives that preserve the oppressive status quo on labor migration, and this would certainly include preventing the passage of the proposed DW Convention. All migrant organizations and advocates who are inside and outside the ongoing 100thSession of the ILC should bear this in mind, and conduct their own lobbying and advocacy efforts to counter this conservative and anti-migrant drumbeating by EU members.

As the current global crisis deepens and impacts severely on wages, jobs and other labor rights, governments in labor-receiving countries will rely increasingly on migrant-scapegoating in order to deflect the blame from themselves and their bankrupt neoliberal programs. Manifesting their opposition to the proposed DW Convention is certainly one way of highlighting this xenophobic mantra for the consumption of their restless constituents at home, especially those who buy into the Rightist concept of a “Fortress Europe”. As matters stand, these governments are still powerful enough to muster the numbers in contentious meetings such as the ongoing ILC, and so a multiplicity of methods in advocating for the rights of foreign domestic workers and labor in general is called for. Defeat in one arena of struggle (for we would be disregardful of historical lessons if we do not consider temporary setbacks) should not be a case for capitulation in others, and an all-too-real possibility of seeing the DW Convention voted down next week should prepare migrant organizations and advocates for the exploration of other channels of political advocacy.

Through its two core thematic programs, Migrant Trade Unionization (MTU) and Domestic Works As Work (DWAW), APMM will do its share in pushing for local and international statutes that promote the core rights of FDWs. With or without the passage of the DW Convention, it will remain committed to a comprehensive form of migrant advocacy that aims for social justice in its profoundest sense. In the coming months and years, we hope to be able to see the migrant workers’ movement mature into this kind of advocacy and expand its framework beyond statutory guarantees set by monolithic institutions specializing in the “management” of labor migration.

Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
G/F, No.2 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR

Tel. no.: (852) 2723-7536
Fax no.: (852) 2735-4559
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