The Senate of the Philippines today approved the International Labour Convention No. 189 on decent work for domestic workers. The ratification will have a significant impact on the rights and the conditions not only for over 3.4 million domestic workers in the Philippines but worldwide, since C189 needed a second ratification to enter into force, after the government of Uruguay ratified it on 26 April 2012.
The Philippines is the first Asian country to commit itself to the respect and the implementation of the new ILO labour standard that was adopted at the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva on 16 June 2011. The adoption of a Convention and of a Recommendation, which are aimed at extending fundamental labour rights to an estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, represents a landmark step in the fight against discrimination and abuses.
The ratification of C189 implies the adoption of laws that recognise the right of domestic workers to organise and collectively defend their interests through trade unions and the right to a minimum wage in countries where such a wage exists. The Convention also guarantees a monthly payment, access to social security, one day off per week and the regulation of working hours and leave days.
In the case of the Philippines, this ratification is even more significant, since the country is one of the major world suppliers of domestic labour. In 2010 alone, according to the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), 154,535 domestic labourers, mostly women, moved to the Middle East, to Europe and to neighbouring countries, like Hong Kong and Singapore. These workers, who represent 45 per cent of the total Filipino migrant workforce, are particularly exposed to trafficking and exploitation.
“By recognizing that decent work principles should be embedded in domestic work, the Philippines and the world are finally coming to terms with their humanity. Workers’ rights and decent work should not be limited to certain types of workers only, but to all kinds of workers,” commented Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The FFW; the ITUC-affiliated Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP); the Alliance of Progressive Labour and SUMAPI (domestic workers union); other groups, such as Migrant Forum in Asia and the Visayan Forum, worked with government agencies led by the Department of Labor and Employment to prepare the way for ratification.
In December 2011 the ITUC launched the‘12 by 12’ campaign, with the goal of 12 ratifications of C189 in 2012 and the strengthening of domestic workers’ unions. Over 100 affiliated organisations in 81 countries have been mobilised so far. The ITUC has been monitoring the ratification process and established various partnerships with international organisations . After the governments of Uruguay and of the Philippines, other governments are expected to follow soon, including South Africa, Mauritius, Belgium, Kenya, Brazil and Colombia.
“The goal of 12 ratifications by the end of 2012 is a real challenge, but with a force of ’12 by 12’ campaign teams in 81 countries, it is achievable,” says Marieke Koning, ITUC expert on gender equality and domestic work issues. “Today the campaign reached a major victory: the second ratification by the Philippines means C189 is here to stay as an international instrument to protect the rights of domestic workers.”