ILO-IDWF-ITUC Regional workshop on organising domestic workers: An exchange of knowledge and experience among practitioners

The joint collaboration of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) brought together various representatives of unions and domestic workers organizations across the region in a sharing workshop held in Bangkok, Thailand (25-27 Sept. 2015). Around 56 participants, most of them domestic workers, union leaders and union organizers, attended the meeting and shared their knowledge and experiences on organizing domestic workers in receiving and destination countries. They have joined the domestic workers’ leaders from South Africa and the United States.

It is not obvious to organizers and domestic workers that organizing into a collective and creating a critical mass is a daunting task, especially in countries of origin and destination where labour laws are flawed, and C189 has not been ratified. The legal impediments and practical challenges that obviously create insecurity among domestic workers have made organizing difficult. These are:

  • Domestic workers are frequently excluded from labour legislation; thus, they are sometimes not identified as workers in law; by default, they are not able to exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively.
  • Organizing domestic workers require patience and innovation in terms of maximizing the workers’ limited time and resources so that a stable network is established.
  • Fear of losing job or work/residency permits deters domestic workers from getting organized.
  • Lack of awareness of rights as domestic workers.

With this backdrop, the workshop reflected on these challenges and generated discourse among the participants on how to move forward. The workshop served as a platform for exchanges on lessons learned, challenges, and best practices on organising as well as for building solidarity among unions and associations towards national, bi-national and regional cooperation for campaigns and advocacy on decent work for migrant domestic workers.

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