The IDWF represented half a million domestic workers over the world. Many of them are migrant women. At the panel titled “Decent work and labour mobility,” Vicky Kanyoka pointed out that African countries have emerged as new countries of origin for migrant domestic workers going to the Middle East in recent years.
Vicky Kanyoka, the regional coordinator of IDWF for the African region, spoke at the 6th informal thematic session “Irregular migration and regular pathways, including decent work, labour mobility, recognition of skills and qualifications and other relevant measures” at the UN, Geneva, on 12-13 Oct 2017. The session was part of the intergovernmental preparation, consultation, and negotiations in regards to the UN Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
The IDWF represented half a million domestic workers over the world. Many of them are migrant women. At the panel titled “Decent work and labour mobility,” Vicky Kanyoka pointed out that African countries have emerged as new countries of origin for migrant domestic workers going to the Middle East in recent years. However, data and information are lacking. Kafala system restrains workers’ freedom of mobility and limits workers’ ability to escape from exploitations and seek justice.
At a sub-regional workshop organized by the IDWF with its affiliates in Nairobi, Kenya on 20-21 Sep 2017, union leaders, domestic workers and returned migrant domestic workers revealed problems faced by the migrant domestic workers abroad. Cissey, for example, was a former migrant domestic worker from Uganda who was rescued by the HTS union, affiliate of the IDWF in the country. She was trafficked and overcharged by an illegal agent. She suffered from bad working conditions, long working hours, no rest, abuses and very little payment of wages.
Currently, there are inadequate laws and policies in place to ensure the rights of migrant domestic worker both in the countries of origin and destination. Vicky called for the recognition of domestic workers as workers, especially:
- the removal of kafala system in the Middle East countries and discriminatory policies and practices against domestic workers and migrants;
- National laws to ensure decent work and mobility in line with international labour standards, including the fundamental principles and rights at work, the freedom of associations, etc. E.g., the Employment Relation Act of 2007 of Kenya includes the protection of migrant domestic workers.
- Bilateral agreements and MoUs between countries should uphold international labour standards, workers-centred, transparent and engage other stakeholders such as migrant workers, CSOs, and trade unions. The process should be a tripartite one. For example, the HTS Union was involved in the Uganda and Saudi Arabia MoU negotiation process.
- Standard Employment Contract should follow international labour standards, e.g., the Model Employment Contract stipulating minimum rights of Ugandan migrant workers developed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
- Labour attachees from the government of countries of origin to assist workers.
- Monitory systems including capable and an adequate number of labour inspectors to monitor the working conditions of domestic workers at private households.
- Workers informed of their rights. Good examples include the pre-departure training for migrant workers in Ethiopia and Zanzibar, and the awareness-raising programs by KUDHEIHA union in Kenya and CHODAWU Zanzibar, affiliates of the IDWF in Kenya and Tanzania-Zanzibar respectively.
- Fair recruitment process and no charge of recruitment fees on workers.
Vicky Kanyoka stressed that the Global Compact should make sure that migrant workers and domestic workers are workers to be treated like other workers. They need to be protected. They should have the right to organize and be recruited into unions, associations to safeguard their rights. The Global Compact should uphold the principle of social dialogue and tripartism as a way to bring stakeholders to lay down policies and laws to protect migrant workers.