On June 21, 2011, we were alerted to good news about domestic workers from Fr. Peter O’Neill, SSC, who was attending the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) annual conference. He announced that on June 16th they celebrated the adoption of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which was overwhelmingly voted for by governments, trade unions, and employers’ organizations who make up the ILO. This revolutionary treaty will extend key labor protections to domestic workers and will protect millions of people who have gone without guarantees of their basic rights, according to Human Rights Watch.
The convention was adopted by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions. Fr. Peter has long been a member of The Migrant Forum in Asia, which played a leading role in securing the convention. Several countries with a Columban presence were also significant supporters of the convention, including the US and Australia.
The convention establishes the first global standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide. Around 83% of whom are women and girls and many who are migrant workers or members of disadvantaged communities. Essential components of the convention mandate governments to provide domestic workers with labor protections equal to those of other workers. In addition, the new standards require governments to protect workers from violence and abuse, and to ensure effective monitoring and enforcement. Furthermore, the convention requires that governments set a minimum age for domestic work and to guarantee that work by those above that age does not interfere with their education.
This victory has come after a 63-year long struggle of faithful souls who have kept their eyes on the light at the end of the dark tunnel of injustice for domestic workers. Our work now turns to ensuring that this historic convention is not only recognized on paper, but most importantly, recognized in practice all around the world.