[Statement] Call for Justice for All Domestic Workers! -Kanlungan

Call for Justice for All Domestic Workers!

We celebrate International Domestic Workers day, recognising the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy and to everyone’s lives.

We must unite on this workers day in international solidarity to demand human and labour rights and justice for all women and men who perform domestic work.

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Domestic workers are situated in structural inequality within the global neoliberal political economy; the local economy and households

Around the world neoliberal agendas have led to a growth in inequality. The human cost of structural adjustment programmes imposed in developing countries has been harsh – from budget cuts to privatisation policies aimed at reducing the role of the state and the deregulation of the market to open the local economy to global competition and foreign investment. There has been a shift from an informal sector to an informal economy with more precarious exploitative and unprotected forms of jobs and a decline in wages. It is in context in which women and men contemplate migrating to work overseas.

We call for an end to migrants being forced into low-wage domestic work by challenging the unjust conditions and policies that deny them a meaningful ‘choice’.

Everyone is thinking of going overseas because of poverty [inequality – no redistribution], to find a good job that will be enough for the family,especially with the increasing cost of living with privatization.

I went overseas to work because of a problem with my husband.
The problem here in our country is a lack of jobs and the salary is much higher in other countries.

For someone like me who could not finish studying I cannot work in an office only as a domestic worker or factory worker. I really want to be a teacher.
Kanlungan has found 60 to 70% of domestic workers are either college graduates or tertiary educated. Despite their education these women were forced into underemployment as domestic workers.

If I could choose a job, I would want a better job like simple office work as a secretary or a job that will make you known and rise up in a position more. I would like to serve in the government in order to help the poor.

Overseas job opportunities are highly gendered with women migrant workers only being offered employment in low-wage ‘feminised work’ such as domestic work, caregiving, entertainment sectors and nursing.

All domestic workers in a Kanlungan survey said NO – they would not want their daughter to be employed in domestic work.

Some workers are denied the opportunity to migrate due to lack of resources.

The Philippine government’s aggressive labour export policy, especially of domestic workers leads to the promotion of cheap labour to compete with other sending countries. There are contradictory policies between regulating labour migration whilst at the same time targeting a 1 million deployment per year. The government promotes domestic work by creating and marketing the concept of ‘super maids’ and ‘world-class domestic workers’.

We recognise reduced levels of state public accountability for family under neoliberal regimes in some countries and gender inequalities in families has led to a greater demand for the labour of domestic workers without subsequent recognition of its value.

Decent work and dignity for all domestic workers worldwide

We are one with migrant domestic workers who suffer injustices in the workplace:

No freedom, you are always incarcerated- you must be free to do what you want. No proper wages, rape, 24/7 work, physical abuse, not enough food, not enough rest especially in the evening and not having a weekly day off; being viewed and treated as lowly, stupid or a slave; cannot protect themselves from abuse or exploitation without further threat of violence or loss of job and being sent home; sometimes being framed up, accused of stealing; not having their own sleeping quarters or room; and the high cost of placement fee.

We recognise some domestic workers have a positive migrant experience based on suwerte suwerte lang – luck, through the random encounter with a ‘kind’ employer, rather than recognition of their entitlement to labour rights in the workplace.

We condemn the expectation that domestic workers ‘perform’ a subordinated role, which makes them particularly susceptible to violent abuse. Many are subject to control and surveillance practices by their employer and recruitment agents; some end up in forced labour situations. Stigmatizing societal and state stereotypes, derogative labels and the commoditised marketing by some recruitment agencies, shapes the inhumane treatment of migrant domestic workers.

We call for an end to so-called ‘protection’ for women domestic workers being conflated with confinement to oppress in some workplaces, training centres and shelters. This gendered system of control has led to social exclusion and created unsafe living conditions for women migrant workers where physical and sexual violence occurs. There must be rights-based gender sensitive social protection for domestic workers.

We recognise the wider structures of inequality and lack of resources that impact upon the domestic workers’ ability to claim rights and call for their transformation.

In keeping with the neoliberal agendas of privatization, states have created the conditions for private actors including employers to control low-wage migrant domestic workers.

Exclusion of domestic work from labour laws; the impunity of recruitment agents and employers; lack of enabling conditions for access to justice; gender inequality and resistance by states to commit and comply with international instruments to protect the rights of migrants workers: All are significant in creating structural conditions for exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers.

Participation of domestic workers is the foundation upon which justice for domestic workers must be built

Now is the time to unite and show solidarity with domestic workers – to move beyond treating domestic workers as the ‘subject’ and paying lip service to their empowerment.
Let us end the culture of consultation: domestic workers must be central in all stages of policy-making and importantly the framing of their struggle. There must be direct capacity building rather than a hierarchical chain with no real evidence of transfer to the migrant workers themselves.

We must be vigilant against the growth in neoliberal ‘technical advocacy’ with its professionalization of advocacy where trained ‘experts’ speak for domestic workers. This reinforces their subordination and adds another layer to the ‘migration industry’.

Now is the time is build the direct collective bargaining power of domestic workers in trade unions and associations.

We must build and strengthen the commitment to a grassroots movement to: forge solidarity; ensure activist thinking from the position of the disadvantaged; to ensure framing and mobilisation is based upon what domestic workers want; to improve their situation and emancipate them.

As with any movement, those affected must speak for themselves.

  • We call for solidarity with migrant domestic workers by:
    Recognising domestic work as work
  • Building and supporting solidarity between domestic workers
  • Ensuring migrant workers are well represented in conferences on their situation.
  • Strengthening labour and women’s movements support for the domestic workers’ struggle.
  • Ending human and labour rights violations of migrant domestic workers and demanding rights-based gender sensitive social protection
  • Challenging the dominance of neoliberal policies and inequalities in the global political economy and migrant management approaches that limit social and gender justice.
  • Calling for the ratification and compliance with the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (C189); the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Justice for all domestic workers! Domestic Workers Unite!

Kanlungan Center Foundation

77 K-10 Street, East Kamias, Quezon City
Website: http://www.kanlungan.org
Email: kanlungan2008@gmail.com

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