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IDWF e-Newsletter #11 - April 2016

IDWF e-Newsletter #11 - April 2016

by IDWFED published Apr 25, 2016 12:00 AM
Get Ready for June 16 - International Domestic Workers Day! Make "My Fair Home" Every Domestic Worker's Workplace!

Resource Type

Newsletter, Journal


In this issue:

  • RATIFY C189: Get Ready for June 16 - International Domestic Workers Day! Make "My Fair Home" Every Domestic Worker’s Workplace!
2016 is the fifth anniversary of our victory at the ILO for decent work for domestic workers! Since then, 22 countries have ratified C189, nearly 50 countries have implemented improvements in domestic worker legal protections, impacting over 15 million domestic workers. This year, we will re-launch the IDWF/ILO "My Fair Home" campaign, a wake-up call to our community, in particularly employers to say "yes" to the C189!

What will you do around the 5th Anniversary of C189? Tell us how to make this campaign a success in your country and everywhere! Let us know on IDWF Facebook or in IDWF Communication Network.

  • UNCSW60: IDWF at UN Commission on the Status of Women
In March, representatives of IDWF brought the voices and leadership of domestic workers to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW60) meeting in New York. We joined a delegation of 160 trade union women from around the world.

Jill Shenker, IDWF North America Coordinator, spoke at an event on equal pay which featured UN Women Executive Director,  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, followed by the panel with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (UN Women), Renana Jhabvala (SEWA), Abby Wambach (two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA Women’s World Cup champion), and Jill. You can read her remarks here.

Shirley Pryce (Jamaica Household Workers Union, Caribbean Domestic Workers Network, International Domestic Workers Federation) spoke at the UNCSW60 panel on Combatting the Trafficking of Women and Girls: What Role Can the Private Sector Play in Addressing and Preventing Human Trafficking and Modern-day Slavery? Read her remarks here.

Allison Julien, a domestic worker, gave public comment at the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment at UNCSW60. She was unable to complete her statement, despite being the only worker to provide comment. Here is her complete statement. You can watch the full discussion, including Allison’s statement around minute 50 here.

The Panel, commissioned by the UN General Secretary, will make action-oriented recommendations on how to improve economic outcomes for women in the context of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, promote women’s leadership in driving economic growth, and galvanize political will. The Panel will produce two reports to the UN Secretary-General, drawing on rigorous analysis of the evidence, and views from broad-based consultations, and highlighting good practices. The first report will be presented in September 2016, and the second in March 2017. Please participate in local consultations.

At its March meeting, Panel members endorsed a focus on six major issue areas:

  1. Eliminating legal barriers to female economic empowerment
  2. Addressing the care economy
  3. Reducing gender pay gaps
  4. Expanding opportunities for women who work informally
  5. Promoting financial and digital inclusion for women
  6. Fostering female entrepreneurship and enhancing the productivity of women-owned enterprises
IDWF will produce recommendations for the Panel. If you would like to contribute inputs, please share them with [email protected] by June 20.

  • AFRICA: Domestic worker unions leveraged International Women's Day to organize, advocate and educate
In Guinea, forty domestic workers of the union, SYNEM, led by General Secretary Asmaou Bah, rallied to pressure the government to ratify C189. This event was done before the Minister of Social Affairs,  Mrs Rabiatou, Diallo and the first lady, Mrs. Hadja Djene Conde.

In Tanzania, CHODAWU celebrated Women's Day in one of the rural districts, Iringa, where many domestic workers and child domestic workers are recruited to migrate and work.  In this district CHODAWU has managed to form membership branches in the residential areas. They marched and held a symposium jointly with other union sectors to create more awareness about domestic workers rights, C189, and why the workers should join the trade union. They performed a role play which depicted the issue of sexual harassment by employers.

In Ghana, the Domestic Service Workers Union, together with other IUF affiliates in Ghana, held a workshop where General Secretary Esther Kosi highlighted the issue of maternity leave for domestic workers.

  • NEPAL - ASIA: Campaign for domestic worker protections in new Labour Act
IDWF and Home Workers’ Union of Nepal (HUN) are conducting training and discussions with domestic workers in Nepal to gather input on how to include concrete and full legal protection for domestic workers in the adoption of the Labour Act of Nepal.

The Labour Act is currently being reviewed by the parliament, and will be endorsed in the next session. The Labour Act draft recognizes domestic workers are workers, thanks to the efforts by domestic workers, unions and civil society organizations in the drafting process. However, its provisions on protection of domestic workers are vague. It says government may declare separate minimum wage for domestic workers and that holidays and working hours regulation should be governed by separate rules for domestic workers.

Therefore, IDWF and HUN are organizing trainings and discussions, and distributing pamphlets to raise awareness among domestic workers about the New Labour Act. We are organizing workshops in 10 districts (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Dhading, Kabhre, Sunsari, Makawanpur, Morang, Jhapa, Udaypur) to gather domestic workers to learn about proposed new legal changes and to discuss what we should demand for domestic workers in this the new Labour Act.After all the district discussions, a national consultation will be organized with policy makers and stakeholders where domestic workers will put forth our recommendations on the provisions of the New Labour Act.

  • BELGIUM - EUROPE: "Dienstencheques" will organize social elections in their companies 
This year, the sector of the "dienstencheques", which is the legalized Belgian domestic workers sector, will organize social elections in their companies. The social elections are a process for the "dienstencheques" workers to elect their job stewards for the next 4 years. The sector was created in 2004, and the election of leaders in as many companies as possible is part of strengthening and sustaining the sector. The ‘dienstencheques’ sector is one of the sectors with the most female workers in Belgium. In March 2016, our organization ACV Voeding en Diensten, introduced hundreds of women candidates all over the country to become the spokesperson of the workers in their companies.

In April, these women will organize their own campaigns and try to be persuasive enough to convince all voters. Finally, in May, no less than 100.000 dienstencheques workers will have the opportunity to elect their job stewards. Those elected will be trained and given the information needed to take these very important responsibilities, as for the next four years they will make all their co-workers’ voices be heard. This Belgian job stewards structure could be a model for domestic workers all over the world by showing how to create a support system and a strong women’s network.

Members of CIMTRA, UNISIMA & ATH were marching on March 8 in Santo Domingo asking for women's rights and equality.

  • LATIN AMERICA: Domestic Workers celebrated the International Day of Domestic Workers
On March 30, Domestic Workers throughout Latin America raised their voices, marched and celebrated the International Day of Domestic Workers. This day was established in 1988 by the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Domestic Workers (CONLACTRAHO) to raise awareness and celebrate achievements in the region. This is also a day of recognition and struggle as there is much to be done in achieving legislative progress, labor protection and decent working conditions.

Ernestina Ochoa, Vice-President of the IDWF shared her message (in Spanish) through social networks and reminds us that "Today we raise our voices for the rights of all domestic workers in Latin America, and the whole world'.

  • USA - NORTH AMERICA: Victory in Massachusetts! 
NDWA Affiliate, Matahari, protected au pairs rights and the domestic workers' law! On March 14, domestic worker leaders from Matahari attended a State House hearing on H.B. 4053, a bill that sought to exclude au pairs from the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Law, passed in 2014. It aimed to take away critical labor rights and protections from this group of domestic workers, creating an underclass of childcare providers, and undercutting the childcare industry as a whole.

With our team of nine hearing day testifiers, over 100 signatures on our petition, and dozens of organizational supporters, we made the case that au pairs deserve the same rights as all other domestic workers!

Claudia and Thaty, former au pairs and current Matahari member leaders and nannies, testified about their past experiences as au pairs. Claudia spoke of her four-month ordeal with one of her host families. The family worked her around the clock and did not allow her privacy or rest time; when she spoke up about her long hours, the family cut off her internet and phone access, even unplugging the phone at night. When she alerted the au pair agency, the family kicked her out of the house the same day.

Thaty spoke about how difficult it is for au pairs to speak up for themselves for fear of being sent back to their home countries and losing the fees they’ve paid to take part in the program. She also shared stories of fellow au pairs she had met who were constantly hungry, despite the fact that money was deducted from their weekly stipends for food; one au pair she knew was provided only canned soup to eat. These cases prove that au pairs need the protections of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights!

In less than 48 hours, we were able to collect over 100 petition signatures in support of our position! Normalyn, a Matahari member leader and nanny in Jamaica Plain, shared in her testimony how the au pair industry drives down wages and standards for nannies and how limiting au pair rights would make it worse. She proudly presented over 100 signatures from au pairs, nannies, and families to the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development!

Although we won this battle, this will not be the last effort to attack the Domestic Workers’ Law and to limit protections for au pairs, nannies, and other domestic workers. We will need everyone’s involvement to improve the industry for all!

  • CAPACITY BUILDING RESOURCE: Domestic Worker Organizing Toolbox
The National Domestic Workers Alliance (USA) recently unveiled the Domestic Worker Organizing Toolbox, a brand new organizing hub website for it’s affiliates, and available to IDWF affiliates as well. It is an incredible resource filled with a wide range of tools to support domestic worker organizations in achieving growth and impact. 

There are sections on outreach, campaigning, program design, communications, research, digital organizing, and more! Visit the website at Note that in the United States, domestic workers are excluded from the right to form trade unions, so the toolkit lacks resources about trade union formation.


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