Abused domestic workers and migrant workers' advocates witnessed the ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers at the Philippine Senate on August 6.
The Convention mandates ratifying ILO member countries to establish standards for decent wages, employment conditions and protection from different forms of abuse.
According to ILO Convention 189, domestic workers should be given:
- freedom of association
- reasonable working hours
- right to collective bargaining
- respect for fundamental principles
- weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, and
- clear information on terms and conditions of employment
Visayan Forum founder and international human rights awardee Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda said the ratification of the treaty signals "a new era" for domestic workers as they will be entitled to greater legal protection.
“With this, we will now start the process of covering more than three million Filipino domestic workers under the mantle of legal protection,” she said.
The Visayan Forum Foundation is a non-government organization that helps vulnerable migrants recuperate from horrific experiences.
Among those who witnessed the ratification of the treaty at the Philippine Senate were Nina and Christie, two domestic workers who experienced abuse from their employer.
Nina's Syrian employer allegedly stabbed her with a kitchen knife and pressed her hands with a hot iron.
On the other hand, Christie allegedly experienced sexual harassment from two employers -- a male and a lesbian. Christie broke her jaw and hands after trying to escape by climbing down from the fourth floor of her employer’s apartment.
Both Nina and Christie were repatriated from Syria with the help of the Philippine Embassy. They are now with the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.
The ratification of ILO Convention 189 has received broad support from many sectors such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, trade unions and civil society groups.
Meanwhile, an online petition initiated by Walk Free garnered more than 50,000 signatures.
Oebanda cited the support from these sectors as key factors in the successful ratification campaign.
During the voting, the Senate received attention and support from all over the world.
Oebanda said: “The vote is eagerly anticipated not only by Filipinos but also by the millions of domestic workers all over the world who continue to toil in invisibility.”
With the unanimous Senate vote, the Philippines is the second country to ratify ILO Convention 189 after Uruguay.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that the Convention was approved by President Benigno S. Aquino III on May 18 after which was sent to the Senate on May 23 for its concurrence.
“The Convention requires the ratification of at least two member states before its entry into force, which means Uruguay's ratification of Convention 189 last June turns the spotlight on the Philippines as the second ratifying ILO Member State,” she said.
“So, this puts the Philippines in a unique position with regards the entry into force of ILO Convention 189,” she added.
The Convention will enter into force as soon as the Philippines formally delivers the ratification instrument to ILO Geneva. - VVP, GMA News