Forum on building support for migrant domestic workers at Vrije Universiteit

June 16, 2022


Malu Villanueva of the Migrant Domestic Workers Union of the FNV welcomes everybody.

The MDW are touched by this broad representation of experts: researchers, academics, leaders of the women’s movement, unionists and of course the migrant domestic workers themselves.

The MDW have set 2 strategic goals: 1. the ratification of ILO C-189 (which recognizes domestic work as work); and 2. Regularization of the irregularly employed MDW via a work permit.

A pipe dream, a shot at the moon? Look at Italy, Belgium in 2004 and more recently, Ireland. Can this be done here?

Certainly the odds are tremendous: the Regeling Dienstverlening aan Huis, the Koppelingswet. But laws are made by men. The situation on the ground and changing needs of society dictate changes in law.

By bringing our best ideas and first recommendations together in 3 workshops we can make a start. We hope to meet again after summer to flesh out these plans. But before that, on behalf of the MDW, thanks to the Migration Law Section of the VU for providing this venue and to be reminded of the legacy of Sarah van Walsum under whose inspiration we conduct this meeting.  

Malu gives word to Thomas Spijkerboer, professor of migration law at the VU.

Thomas Spijkerboer, VU Welcome to the Migration Law Section, it is special in this light. Sarah’s work has focused on family and the intimacy of relationships, and the interaction with migration law and the nation. This research led also to questions and thoughts about the position of migrant domestic workers. She was very involved in this. If we want to speak about a tradition then it should be that research and thinking about this cannot be done without the domestic workers themselves. It’s good to look further together. t seems like an excellent time to pay attention to this. It is very clear that there is a lot of demand for support in care work in the current situation.

After the speech of Thomas Spijkerboer, the participants broke up into three workshop groups: 1) from research to rights, 2) employers as allies? and 3) brainstorm session on building popular support through actions.

After the reports of the workshops, the conclusion was that this was far too short, but that there is commitment to continue on all sides.

The list of participants plus e-mail addresses are added to this report, so that everyone can find each other. It was agreed within the Research workshop that the participants would also form a WA group. But participants of various workshops also want to remain involved in other themes. Concrete ideas for follow-up steps have already been presented within the workshops. In the coming period, the best ways to share information throughout the group will be considered.

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