Saudi Arabia: King Must End Slavery of Domestic Workers

The international union movement is marking the occasion of International Women’s Day by writing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on behalf 1.5 million women domestic workers calling on him to support laws which give domestic workers the same rights as all other workers.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation, said domestic workers are excluded from labour legislation in the Saudi Kingdom and open to serious exploitation and abuse. Most workers are migrant woman from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and India.

“On International Women’s Day the International Trade Union movement and the 12 x 12 campaign for domestic workers rights are calling on Saudi Arabia to be the first country to ratify the ILO Convention on domestic workers,” said Sharan Burrow.

Saudi Arabia does not protect the rights of workers to form and join trade unions and to bargain collectively.

The migratory sponsorship system, under which most migrant labour work puts foreign workers at the mercy of their employer or sponsor who hold their passports and process their residence permits.

“Only by protecting the rights of workers in law, can Saudi Arabia put an end to modern day slavery and restore the human dignity of the 1.5 million women domestic workers employed with no rights or voice, ” said Burrow.

The Saudi Kingdom was singled out for abuses of workers in reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in 2011. These documented cases of employers cutting the ears of domestic workers, burning them with irons and forcing nails and needles into their bodies.
Last year the Gulf Kingdom beheaded the Indonesian domestic worker Ruyati binti Satubi, accused of killing her employers’ wife.

Read the letter from ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The letter will also be posted on the websites of unions in over 50 countries.