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.

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