Dominican Republic

The 300,000 domestic workers in the Dominican Republic are set to gain coverage under labour laws following an announcement by Labour Minister Francisco Domínguez Brito at a meeting organised in Santo Domingo by the ITUC and its three affiliates CASC, CNUS and CNTD. Drafting of the new law will start this week, and it is expected to be adopted by Parliament within three months, along with ratification of ILO Convention 189 on domestic workers.

“The time for domestic workers to have their rights respected and their dignity restored is overdue,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC. “The ITUC is eagerly waiting for the Dominican Congress to ratify the ILO Convention and for public authorities to implement it. This will make a huge difference to the lives of both migrant and Dominican women working hard from dawn to dusk without any rights and protection,” she said.

A formal request presented to Senators by domestic workers is the latest in a series of moves to ensure the country ratifies the ILO Convention. It is estimated that a third of the domestic workers in the Dominican Republic come from neighboring Haiti. Fear of deportation makes Haitian domestic workers particularly vulnerable to abuses from their employers.

“The unions will be able to step up their push to organize and represent the huge domestic workforce when the domestic workers are covered by labour legislation, so that they can negotiate decent wages and working conditions. We urge other countries to follow the lead of the Dominican Government, to end the widespread denial of basic rights to the millions of domestic workers around the world,” said Burrow.

The Dominican unions started organising domestic workers several years ago together with other workers from the informal economy lacking rights and protection. Trade union innovations include capacity-building activities, the setting-up of a school to increase technical skills and awareness on workers’ rights, a negotiated agreement with social security bodies for the registration of informally employed workers, as well as successful public awareness and advocacy work.

“This is a big step towards reaching the goal of the ITUC’s ‘12 by 12’ campaign to get 12 countries to ratify ILO Convention 189 by the end of 2012. This momentum will then help campaigning to get all countries to ratify the Convention and bring all domestic workers under the scope of decent labour legislation. The union movement will continue to do its part to support and empower these workers just as in any other sector,” said Burrow.