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Joint Statement of Domestic Workers
on the Occasion of the Global Forum
on Migration and Development

Domestic Workers on the Occasion of the Global Forum on Migration and DevelopmentJuly 2007

We, grassroots organizations, unions, alliances, and federations of foreign migrant domestic workers, nannies, caretakers, caregivers, household service helpers in various countries worldwide, join hands and express in this declaration that:

As Victims of
Neoliberal Globalization

WE are living witnesses to the grave impacts of neoliberal globalization on our homeland. Instead of the promised development, neoliberal globalization has instead aggravated the marginalization and poverty of the majority of our people. Loss of jobs, displacement of peasants, decrease of wages and benefits, underemployment, unabated plunder of our natural resources—these and more have resulted from the implementation of the neoliberal policies of liberalization, privatization and deregulation.

Our economic condition is even further aggravated by the worsening political situation wherein our governments give more emphasis and dependency to foreign interests instead of addressing our concerns. Instead of listening to their people, governments intensify human rights violations in our countries in the guise of combating “terrorism”. This includes the recent attack on im/migrants in the US and the illegal arrest and detention of migrant workers in Brussels, among others.

Economic and political displacement with continued aggression through militarization and the war on terror has brought the massive forced migration of millions of our people. Millions of migrant workers, especially women, end up in domestic work and other related jobs. In the countries where we work, we face the same issues at work and in the general society. In some cases, these hardships are far graver than what we have experienced in our homeland.

“Our economic condition is even further aggravated by the worsening political situation wherein our governments give more emphasis and dependency to foreign interests instead of addressing our concerns.”

Unrecognized, Neglected and Abused

WE have been contributing so much to the socio-economic progress of the society where we work and to the relative economic stability of our homeland, yet we remain unrecognized and there is no protection of our labour rights. While some of our ranks are treated relatively well, most of us are confronted with cases of gross violations of our basic human rights. The slave-like utilization of our labour did not change.

WE are treated as servants, as docile migrants, and not as workers. We are either in an arrangement of live-in or by hourly basis. We have no assurance of job security, social health and maternity welfare protection.

WE are not included in the standard labour laws in our worksites. Although some of us have an employment contract but this alone does not assure us of the protection of our wages and well-being. There is no proworker bilateral agreement ensuring and upholding our employment rights and equal access to social services between the governments of the sending and the host countries.

They are a few of the thousands of foreign domestic workers abused, violated and abandoned in many countries like Hong Kong. In shelters, they learn about their rights and are empowered.

Underpaid, No Wage Protection and No Day-Off

WE carry out long working hours (12 hours, on call 24 hours a day) and are made to work even outside of our employers’ household.

Employers pay us wages not commensurate to our hard work and long years of service. Our wages are cut to the hilt when the economy is down and are forgotten when the economy fares well as shown by the experience of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. In Taiwan, domestic helpers and care-takers are not included in the recent plan of the government for wage increase because they are not in the labour standard law.

Many of us are denied of our right for a weekly day-off as stated in international labour standards. This practice is prevalent in live-in arrangements of our fellow migrant workers in the Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and elsewhere in other regions.

Discriminated and Criminalized

WE face various kinds of discrimination, abuse, exploitation and injustices. Our socio-cultural practices of our faith and traditions are not respected in some labor receiving countries.

Many of us are barred from exercising our political rights. We are verbally and physically abused and sexually attacked. We are easily subjected to all sorts of accusations, sent to jail, or are arbitrarily disposed off in the wee hours or are deported with no chance for redress.

Others are missing or mysteriously die. To all of these circumstances, justice is absent or very hard to come by.

Access to comprehensive health care is also denied to many of us. The hazards of our work make us vulnerable to various kinds of health problems. We are also vulnerable to contracting HIV-AIDS illnesses.

Meanwhile, the stringent laws and policies on undocumented migrant workers in many countries and particularly in Europe and USA are unjust, discriminatory and unfair.

Worse, undocumented migrants are unjustly treated as criminals.

Our Demands

The Global Forum on Migration to be attended by government diplomats should address our concerns. Instead of discussing how migrant labor can be further capitalized, how our remittances can be cornered, how much profit can be extracted from the export of cheap human labor, and how we can be further reduced to modern day slaves. Governments—both sending and receiving—must devise ways to alleviate our condition in our host countries and, more importantly, address the problem of forced migration in our homeland vis-à-vis recognizing domestic work as work.

WE strongly demand that our work be recognized as work and therefore our ranks must be clearly included in all national and international labour standards, policies and instruments assuring protective measures of our socio-economic-cultural and political rights while at worksites and when we return back home for good. The recognition and protection of our work is long overdue.

WE demand that the governments of the sending and host countries institute an effective mechanism ensuring the protection and safeguard the rights and interest of our ranks, documented or undocumented.

WE demand for both the host and sending countries to NOW sign the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

WE demand prompt and judicious investigations and resolutions to our employment grievances, and provision of legal aid and due process to those unjustly imprisoned and justice served to those who became victims of mysterious deaths.

WE demand the host governments to repeal all anti-migrant laws and other mechanisms unjustly targeting migrants as possible terrorists, subjecting them to racial profiling and consequently denying them of their democratic rights. All governments who have cracked down on the migrant community and subjected individuals to such unjust and illegal conditions should stop such actions, release unjustly imprisoned migrants, provide redress and remuneration to all victims and apologize for the grave violations they have committed against them.

WE also demand that both host and sending governments must provide transparency on all bilateral agreements and other free trade agreements that they have agreed on. Most, if not all, national policies negatively impacting on migrant workers are created and implemented based on these agreements. If they are deemed oppressive and exploitative of the migrant workers, these agreements should immediately be repealed.

WE demand that the governments of the sending and host countries uphold our dignity, rights and well-being, take on our issues and concerns as women, as migrant workers and that of our families. We are human beings, not commodities. Our lives, our future, and that of our families and our homelands, are at stake.

“Instead of discussing how much profit can be extracted from the export of cheap human labor, governments must devise ways to alleviate our condition in our host countries, address the problem of forced migration in our homeland vis-à-vis recognizing domestic work as work.”

In Solidarity with other Im/migrants Organizations

It is our legitimate right to unite our ranks, commit to organize ourselves along with other immigrants, migrants, refugees and displaced people in different countries into an International Migrants Alliance, and to raise our concerted actions into a global mass movement in the national and international level.

WE shall unite and organize ourselves on the bases of solidarity, protection and upholding of our rights as workers, migrants and as people, for just peace and democracy and against racism and discrimination, oppression and exploitation and all forms that subjugate further our sector, our families and loved ones, and our own people.

WE hope and aspire that someday we shall be reunited with our loved ones in our motherland, in a society where there is secured employment, social development and peace based on justice.

List of Supporting Organizations and Insitutions

AUSTRALIA: Migrante-Australia, Lingap Migrante, Philippines-Australia Women’s Association (PAWA), (PAWA Sub-committee on Domestic Helpers and Home-based Childcare Workers). AUSTRIA: Pinas First. BANGLADESH: National Home & Domestic Women Workers Union, United Labour Federation, Bangladesh Migrant Workers Forum. BELGIUM: Ugnayan ng mga Pilipino sa Belgium, MSP-Belgium. CANADA: SIKLAB, UGNAYAN, Philippine Women Centre of B.C., Philippine Women Centre of Manitoba, Philippine Women Centre of Ontario, Philippine Women Centre of Quebec, Filipino Nurses Support Group of B.C., Filipino Nurses Support Group of Quebec. CHINA (Hong Kong SAR): Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants, Mission for Migrant Workers, Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB), Thai Regional Alliance (TRA), Association of Indonesian Migrant Workers (ATKI), Far East Overseas Nepalese Association (FEONA), United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK), Filipino Migrant Workers Union, Abra Tingguian Ilocano Society, United Pangasinan in Hong Kong, Cordillera Alliance, Migrante Sectoral Party Hong Kong, Association of Concerned Filipinos, Filipino Migrant’s Association, Association of Filipino Women Migrant Workers, Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili, Friends of Bethune House. CHINA (Macau SAR): Macau Cordillerans Association. DENMARK: Ugnayan-Denmark. GHANA: Foresight Generation Club. INDIA: Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, National Agricultural Workers Forum. INDONESIA: Perserikatan OWA, Palembang-Indonesia. ITALY: UMANGAT-Rome, MSP-Italy, LAMPADA-Milan. JAPAN: FMC-Nagoya, KAFIN. MALAYSIA: TENAGANITA. NIGERIA: Grassroots Empowerment Network, Ikot Ekpene, AKS. PARAGUAY: Trabajo Infantil Domestico, Global Infancia. PHILIPPINES: Migrante International. QATAR: Migrante-Qatar. SAUDI ARABIA: Migrante-Saudi Arabia. SOUTH KOREA: Kasammako. SWITZERLAND: MIGRANTE-Geneva. TAIWAN: Migrante-Taiwan, Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA). THE NETHERLANDS: MIGRANTE Europe, MIGRANTE-Netherlands. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Migrante-Dubai. UNITED KINGDOM: MIGRANTE-UK. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities