Manifesto of Migrant Domestic Workers
We, domestic workers from the different migrants communities in the Netherlands coming from the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, have joined together to form ourselves into a union to find our place within Dutch society and contribute to its over-all well being, as well as provide for ourselves and our families a life worthy of human beings.
In the current globalized and fast changing world, old ideas and regressive beliefs are giving way to new progressive ideas and beliefs that are more attuned to the times. More and more, views of dominance and inequality are being replaced by values such as respect and equality. Bigotry is being replaced by tolerance and mutual respect, xenophobia with international solidarity, male dominance with women’s equality. Decent society frowns upon any form of discrimination and injustice.
Moreover, these new ways of thinking and values have been incorporated in international treaties and conventions that are intended to guide governments in our pursuit to establish equitable and properly functioning societies. As for domestic work, there is the ILO Convention 189 that sets the standards that governments must follow in addressing this question.
We are therefore emboldened by these new developments in our modern world to put forward our agenda which we believe are in keeping with the new values we share in our common humanity.
It is time to recognize domestic work as real and essential work for the regular functioning of society. The practice of considering domestic work as unpaid labor borne primarily by the woman of the household that has existed for so long must be cast into the dustbin of history. Persons who perform the work should be compensated properly including all the social protection enjoyed by workers in other sectors.
As a measure for gender equality, the domestic worker enables the woman of the household the freedom to pursue a career and achieve a better work and life balance.
It is time for migrants who are engaged in this type of essential work to be given the recognition and protection enjoyed by workers in other sectors. They often work in the shadows invisible to official society and visible only to their employers. Many of them have no documents which subjects them to a life of insecurity and precarity.
We shall work with trade unions, women’s organizations, migrants organizations, human rights advocates, church groups, academics, politicians, employers and all people of goodwill in order to achieve our goals.
Our long-term goals are, firstly, for domestic work to be recognized as real work like any other with the concomitant obligation of granting the standard labour rights and social protection due to workers; and, secondly, for migrants to be given equal opportunities with their host-country counterparts to have access to employment in this sector with the accompanying measures based on an enlightened immigration policy.
To achieve these, we have to engage the policy makers with the help of influential organizations and personalities and the support of the general public.
We are fully aware that the achievement of our long-term goals will require a long, complicated and difficult struggle. Thus, we have set for ourselves the following immediate goals that may be feasible in the short term even as we are engaged in the struggle for our long-term goals. These immediate goals we hope will help us have at the minimum a more tolerable existence.
- Access to a bank account: More and more, a bank account is needed to have access to goods and services just to be able to stay alive and move around. Undocumented migrants are barred from this basic need. But there is a European Union directive to member countries to make this accessible to all residents of Europe regardless of their immigration status to enable them to have a fuller participation in the life of society.
- Access to medical and dental services: There are hospitals that provide medical care even to undocumented migrants as a form of social welfare. There are also doctors and dentists either as members of organizations or as individuals who offer medical and dental services pro-bono or at nominal cost. What is needed is to make the information known to undocumented migrants who are often not aware of this or else are hesitant to make use of these services for fear of adverse consequences.
- A fair and mutually beneficial contract: In cooperation with sympathetic employers, we shall try to work out a fair and mutually beneficial contract that can be agreed upon between the employer and the domestic worker. We can propagate the best practices among employers who are willing to join us in this project.
- A noodfonds: We shall try to set up a noodfonds for emergencies. Migrants domestic workers have to provide for their bare existence and what they can save up they often send to their families in their home countries. When emergencies strike, they are ill prepared to cope. Thus, the need for a noodfonds.
- Identification card: Whether it be a city identification card or a trade union card, an ID card can come handy for police or immigration control, or as a requirement to establish identity to have access to some services. ###