Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Update No. 3 - 100th ILC - Geneva, Switzerland

June 4 & 6, 2011

As the tripartite sessions of the Committee on Domestic Workers continue to deliberate on the proposed amendments on the draft text of the convention, several attempts were made by governments and employers to weaken the convention but all failed.

The first attempt was initiated by the European Union last Saturday, the 4th day of the 100th Session of the International Labour Conference and the 3rd day of the tripartite deliberation by the committee on domestic workers.

The EU submitted a proposal to delete the whole Article 6 including its sub-paragraphs which refer to the information that are to be given to the domestic workers preferably in a written contract.

Instead, the EU proposed to replace it with three sub-paragraphs which (1) gave blanket “flexibility” to employers by inserting the words “reasonable time” for notification of workers on the provisions of employment, (2) inserted an exclusion clause on the basis of very vague terms like “certain limited cases of employment relations” and “when it is justified on objective grounds”, and (3) removed all the clearly identified information that are required in notifying the workers (i.e. name and address of employer and worker, type of worked to be performed, remuneration, hours of work, period of contract, provisions of food and accommodation, terms of repatriation and terms concerning employment termination).

Except for India, this proposal failed to get the support of the governments and even the employers’ group.

After intense and lengthy debate, the EU was forced to withdraw the proposal. Along the way, the workers’ group even managed to insert another item to Article No. 6 on the “address of workplace or workplaces”.

The committee ended the day’s session by adopting articles 5 to 8 of the draft convention.

Today, June 6, the deliberations went terribly slow after the employers proposed to delete the Article No. 9 (1)(a) that refers to a provision allowing the domestic workers to freely negotiate whether to reside or not in the household of the employer.

Deliberation on this particular proposal almost took the whole morning session. Finally, a compromise was reached with minor reformulations that are acceptable to all parties but with the sense and intent of the sub-paragraph intact.

When the session resumed, it was again bogged down by an amendment again by the EU, this time suggesting replacing the whole text of Article No. 10 (1) with a reformulated version but inserted the words “shall promote, as far as possible” replacing “shall take measures to ensure” referring to normal hours of work, overtime compensation, periods of daily and weekly rest and paid annual leave which weakened the whole sub paragraph and making it essentially useless.

The proposal also added the terms “taking into account the special characteristics of domestic work” in the end of the paragraph making it open to unwarranted “flexibility” by governments at the expense of the workers’ rights.

To make the matter worst, the employer proposed to sub-amend the EU’s amendment by deleting “overtime compensation” triggering strong oppositions from the workers’ group and other sympathetic regional government blocks like the Africa group and the GRULAC (Latin America and Caribbean).

The committee chairman was forced to call for a recess and requested the vice chairs of workers and employers to approache his bench for a caucus. Meanwhile, government groupings used the time to hold their own caucuses while the workers’ approached their respective governments to lobby support for the workers’ group position.

When the session resumed, the EU agreed to remove the terms “shall promote, as far as possible” and replaced it with “take measures towards ensuring” which made the workers and other governments comfortable.

Before the session ended, India and the employers’ group again attempted to bring down the other two important provisions of Article No. 10 by proposing to delete sub-paragraphs nos. 2 (weekly rest of not less than 24 consecutive hours) and 3 (periods on which domestic workers are on standby be regarded as working hours).

Both proposals were rejected by the workers and failed to get the support of other governments. Article No. 10 was finally adopted with minor amendments.

Finally, the session for the day ended with the record-breaking adoption of Article No. 11 in just one minute after the workers’ group withdrew its amendment, the only one for this article.

The session was adjourned at 9:30 in the evening.#

Report by Eman C. Villanueva, Vice Chairperson of the Filipino Migrant Workers' Union (FMWU) in Hong Kong and the representative of the UFDWR and the Asian Migrants' Coordinating Body (AMCB) to the 100th ILC in Geneva.

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