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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED 9:01 pm) The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a resolution concurring with the ratification of International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189, bringing into legal force the landmark instrument seen to advance the situation of domestic workers worldwide.
Senate Resolution No. 816, or the Resolution Concurring in the Ratification of Convention 189, Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, was approved on third reading with 20 votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention.
Globally, the treaty required two ratifications to come into legal force. The first country to ratify it was Uruguay, last April 30.
Senators who voted for concurrence in the treaty were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Tito Sotto, Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Sens. Joker Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Frank Drilon, Chiz Escudero, T.G. Guingona, Gringo Honasan, Ping Lacson, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Bongbong Marcos, Serge Osmenia, Koko Pimentel, Ralph Recto, Bong Revilla Jr., Sonny Trillanes and Manny Villar.
Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Edgardo Angara were absent: Santiago on official sick leave, and Angara on official mission in Singapore.
Enrile lauded the passage of the resolution, noting that the Philippines sends a large number of domestic workers abroad annually.
“We need to protect our workers and ensure that their rights are well-protected, that they have access to services that are beneficial to them, that they are treated well and that they are protected from abuses,” Enrile said.
Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is sponsor of the proposed measure, underscored the need to protect Filipino domestic workers, especially in countries that do not have friendly laws.
“Through this Convention we can provide stronger protection and greater support to our local and migrant domestic workers because the International Labor Organization Convention 189 obliges ratifying states to provide decent working conditions, just compensation and sufficient benefits to domestic workers," Legarda said.
PH ratification brings treaty into legal force
The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention will bring the groundbreaking international treaty into legal force, promising better working conditions and key labor protections for millions of domestic workers, Human Rights Watch said Monday. The convention takes effect one year after the second ratification.
The Philippine Senate ratified the instrument Monday; President Benigno Aquino III signed it on May 18, 2012, following the treaty’s first ratification, by Uruguay, on April 30.
“The Philippines’ ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention means that basic labor rights for domestic workers are finally becoming a reality,” said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “As the treaty goes into effect, millions of women and girls will have the chance for better working conditions and better lives.”
The Domestic Workers Convention sets the first global standards for the estimated 50 to 100 million domestic workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Domestic workers face a wide range of serious abuses and labor exploitation, including excessive working hours without rest, non-payment of wages, forced confinement, physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and trafficking. Under the treaty, domestic workers are entitled to protections available to other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, and minimum wage and social security coverage. The convention also obliges governments to protect domestic workers from violence and abuse, and to prevent child labor in domestic work, said a statement from HRW.
The Philippines has approximately two million domestic workers at home and millions more abroad. Remittances from Filipino migrant domestic workers, mostly women, constitute a significant source of the country’s foreign exchange. Filipinos working abroad send home over US$20 billion per year.
Migrant domestic workers are often at heightened risk of exploitation due to excessive recruitment fees, language barriers, and national policies that link workers’ immigration status to individual employers. Human Rights Watch has documented abuses against Filipino migrant domestic workers in Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Singapore, including beatings, confiscation of passports, confinement to the home, overlong working hours with no days off, and in some cases, months or years of unpaid wages.
The Domestic Workers Convention includes specific provisions to protect migrant domestic workers, including detailed requirements to regulate private employment agencies, investigate complaints, and prohibit the practice of deducting from domestic workers’ salaries to pay recruitment fees. The convention also requires that migrant domestic workers receive a written contract that is enforceable in the country of employment and requires governments to strengthen international cooperation to protect domestic workers.
“The Philippines’ leadership in ratifying the convention sets an important example for other countries,” Varia said. “President Aquino and the Philippine Senate should be commended for the ratification. However, the government should move quickly to adopt national legislation to protect domestic workers at home.”
A draft bill, the Philippines’ Domestic Workers Act (“Kasambahay” bill), would raise the minimum wage for Filipino domestic workers, require a written contract, extend social security, and improve protection from violence and abuse. The draft legislation, originally filed in the mid-1990s, has been designated as “urgent” by President Aquino and was adopted by the Senate in 2010. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure in the coming days.
The Philippines chaired two years of negotiations on the Domestic Workers Convention. Hans Cacdac, director of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, chaired the final negotiations leading up to the convention’s adoption by an overwhelming majority of members of the International Labor Organization at the International Labor Conference on June 16, 2011. The Domestic Workers Convention required two ratifications to enter into legal force.
Human Rights Watch has investigated conditions for domestic workers in over 20 countries around the world, documenting routine exclusions from national labor law, exploitation, and labor and criminal abuses. Domestic workers who are children – nearly 30 percent of the total – and migrants are often the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, Human Rights Watch said.