Philippines: Workers welcome gov’t support for new treaty for domestic workers

Philippines Workers’ Groups are elated over government’s declaration of support for a new International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Domestic Work and the passage of a Magna Carta for Domestic Workers. In her closing remarks at the Second National Domestic Workers Summit held at the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City last week, Labor and Employment Undersecretary Rosalinda Baldoz declared government’s “categorical full support” for a new International Convention on Domestic Workers and the Magna Carta for Domestic Workers.

“The extent to which DOLE has given its commitment as a reliable partner in the Philippine campaign for decent work should speak for itself,” she added. “Government’s decision to push for a new Convention together with workers shows that it is sensitive to the plea of domestic workers,” said Julius Cainglet, spokesperson of the Federation of Free Workers (FFW). “We hope that government will continue to listen and actively participate with workers throughout the campaign,” he added.

Last week, government was mum on the issue at the Working World Trialogues sponsored by the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS), but confirmed that its internal process of consultation on domestic work has commenced.

“This is definitely a big step forward. With considerable support at the local front, we can effectively contribute to the international campaign on decent work for domestic workers until we see an International Convention adopted at the International Labor Conference and ratified by ILO member states,” Cainglet explained.

Ball in Employers’ court
With this development, employers’ group are now under pressure to revise its position on the issue. A week earlier, in the same Working World Trialogues of the ILS, they said they “favor a Recommendation at this point in time.”

“We will continue to convince employers to upgrade their position towards endorsing a Convention,” Cainglet added. Unlike an International Convention, which shall be binding to a state once it is ratified, a Recommendation only serves as a guide for the crafting of national laws and policies. States are not obligated to implement its provisions because this international instrument is not open for ratification.

The International Labor Conference of the ILO meets each year in Geneva to deliberate on international labor standards. Unlike other UN bodies, the ILO does not only have government as delegates. Workers and employers are also represented. Thus, members of the Philippine delegation are entitled to a vote each. 

More to Lose
Unionists may have actually more to lose financially than employers by endorsing a Convention and the Magna Carta for Domestic Workers. “Once these come into force, workers might have to dig deeper into their pockets to meet the new standards for domestic workers, should they decide to get their services,” Cainglet explained. “Employers will presumably have less problems since they have the means to adjust,” he added. “But we are pushing for a new Convention in solidarity with domestic workers, who are our sisters and brothers in the trade union movement.”  

Undeserving of a minimum wage
“Household service workers should not be minimum wage-earners,” said Baldoz, who quickly explained that “this is because they deserve more than the minimum wage.” She recalled that as an administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) she used to receive good feedback about the quality of service Filipino household service workers provide. “Malinis sila sa katawan, malinis sa trabaho at sa bahay.” (“They are neat, they work cleanly and clean the house well.”)

Priority agenda
Referring to the Magna Carta for Domestic Workers, she said, “bills must be subjected to continuous consultations to gather a broad consensus.” Once she assumes her role as Undersecretary for Labor Relations, Usec. Baldoz vowed to have the DOLE’s Legislative Liaison Office “include this (Magna Carta on Domestic Workers) in the priority agenda” and “have the bill certified as urgent.” The Technical Working Group on the Philippine Campaign on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, to which the FFW and the Visayan Forum are members of, conducted the 2nd National Domestic Workers’ Summit.  

The output of the Summit will aid the Philippine government in answering the ILO questionnaire distributed to all member states on the possibility of crafting a new Convention on Domestic Work. Governments have until the end of the month to submit the accomplished questionnaire to the ILO in Geneva.

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