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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

Green MEP demands greater protection for UK’s migrant domestic workers

Green MEP for London, Jean Lambert has urged the UK Government to rethink its position on a package of measures which would provide concrete protection for vulnerable migrant domestic workers at home and around the world.

The International Labour Organisation Convention, responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards, proposed and adopted a new framework for the protection of domestic workers from exploitation and slavery in June 2011 [1].

Despite coming under significant pressure, the UK Government stated that migrant domestic workers already benefitted from strong protections under the existing Overseas Domestic Workers visa and that there was no need to create additional obligations in a new Convention.  Other arguments included a reluctance to deal with health and safety issues in a household setting, which demonstrates what domestic workers say – they are not seen as real workers but a pseudo “family member”.  The Coalition Government abstained in the vote. [2]

Since the June vote, the Government has proposed to scrap the visa, which would remove some of the most fundamental rights of migrant domestic workers, including the right to change employer without losing their immigration status, greatly increasing the risk of exploitation or trafficking by forcing a worker to stay with an abusive employer.

Speaking at a special event in the European Parliament to mark the Solidar Day of Action on Migrant Domestic Workers and Global Social Protection, Jean, a member of the European Parliament Employment and Social Affairs Committee, said:

“Domestic workers are an important part of the workforce and should be entitled to the same rights as any other worker, including pay and working hours.  Migrant domestic workers are especially vulnerable.  Despite claiming in June that such workers in the UK are adequately provided for, the Government has since signalled an intention to reduce their rights as part of its immigration crack-down.

“I urge the UK Government to reconsider its proposals to abolish the visa and instead look to improve the working and living conditions of domestic workers without delay by signing and ratifying the new ILO Convention. As Leddy Mozombite from the Domestic Workers Union in Peru said today: “When you are creating laws in Parliament, remember us: we look after your children”  ”

 

Notes to Editors

1. A domestic worker is a man, women or child who works within the employer’s household.  Approximately 15,000 migrant domestic workers come to the UK each year.  Domestic workers are often excluded from general labour laws and social protection, and as such are vulnerable to exploitation and harassment.  For more information on the ILO Convention, visit: http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang–en/index.htm.

2. The UK was one of only two EU Member States which did not support the Convention: the other was the Czech Republic.

3. For further information on the abolition of the Overseas Domestic Workers visa, please visit: http://www.antislavery.org/english/campaigns/home_alone/domestic_workers_visa_action.aspx.