Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Migrants’ C189 advocacy bears fruit

(Source: APMM News Digest, July 2012)

“Finally, months of campaigning and lobbying by migrant organizations have paid off, and the C189 can now be used as a benchmark for protecting the rights of all dometic workers, especially those working abroad.”

This was the reaction of Ramon Bultron, Managing Director of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), on the Philippine Senate’s recent ratification of the ILO Convention on Domestic Work (C189). Voting overwhelmingly for the Convention last August 6, the Upper House passed Senate Resolution No. 816, or the Resolution Concurring in the Ratification of Convention 189, Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. This was approved on third reading with 20 votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention.

“This development provides all C189 campaigners with a much-needed shot in the arm, so to speak. Along with grassroots migrant organization and advocate networks such as the United for Foreign Domestic Workers Rights, APMM is determined more than ever to see this Convention ratified by the most number of countries that traffic in this type of employment,” Bultron said.

APMM’s head considers the Senate concurrence to be a sign of the increasing effectivity of migrant organizations and advocates in influencing state policies, which he said has been built up painstakingly over the years in both sending and receving countries. “It is a testament especially to the persistence and unwavering determination of grassroots organizations such as those in Hong Kong, who launched their ratification campaign right after the Convention’s passage in Geneva last year.”    

Lobbying in Manila

Last June 27-29, Migrante International (MI) and migrant organizations under the United for Foreign Domestic Workers’ Rights (UFDWR) campaign network conducted a series of lobbying activities among some embassies in Manila. APMM as a core committee member of UFDWR and one of its two Secretariat organizations spearheaded preparations and enacted a partnership with MI for the lobbying activity.
Along with key officers of MI, officers of APMM, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM Asia) and the Asia Migrants Coordinating body (AMCB) sent lobby teams to the UK, Norway, Sri Lanka and Venezuela embassies to appeal for the speedy ratification of the Convention. The teams were able to submit position papers and and elicit varying commitments from officials of these embassies to respond to the submissions by MI and UFDWR.

According to the APMM’s activity report to UFDWR, a lot needs to be done to coax governments into adopting the Convention for their respective countries. “In terms of analyzing the content of the dialogues, there is a problem with the logic of diplomats in all four embassies in citing reasons for delay or lack of interest in their governments’ early ratification of C189. Having laws equal to or superior to provisions in the Convention should even facilitate, rather than hinder, these governments’ adoption of the Convention (i.e., it will be easier to harmonize C189 with local laws). The fear that ratifying the Convention would lead to local laws giving way to its provisions, especially with the supposed prior existence of adequate safeguards, is certainly irrational. It reveals an inadequate appreciation of the need to set formal standards whereby fundamental rights may be accorded to disadvantaged sectors of society.”

More pressure for C189

APMM’s Bultron also expressed apprehension over the future of C189’s implementation, given that “receiving countries have traditionally been slow in ratifying migrant conventions, if they will sign at all.” He cited the case of the UN Migrant Workers’ Convention, which took effect only 13 years after it was signed in 1990. So far, no major receiving country has signed the said convention.  

He explained that under ILO rules, conventions can only enter into force twelve months after the formal ratifications of two member-governments have been registered with the ILO Director-General. “In this case, the Philippine government still needs to ‘deposit’ the ratification documents to the ILO before its adoption of the Convention can be considered as a registered one.”

Last June, the government of Uruguay became the first country to ratify C189 when it presented its documents to the annual 101st International Labour Conference in the Swiss capital. The Philippine ratification completes the required minimum of two ratifiers for the Convention to enter into effect.

While the regional migrant organization does not view the the C189 as an assurance of protection for foreign domestic workers’ rights, it does see its provisions as important in advocacy work that aims to alleviate their difficult working conditions.

In relation to this, Bultron called on the Philippine government to swiftly harmonize its relevant laws and policies with those of the Convention. “This is especially urgent with regard to its unconscionable exaction of fees from OFWs, which creates ideal conditions for debt bondage and increases the suffering of foreign domestic workers and other migrants,” he said.

The APMM head also urged foreign domestic workers (FDWs) everywhere to get organized to be more effective in pushing not only for further country-ratifications of C189, but also for concrete gains in their economic welfare and political rights. “Based on the experience of the Asia Pacific migrant movement, it is only through the organized efforts of FDWs in unity with other migrants and sectors that their rights can be protected in the long term,” Bultron concluded. #     

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