Bahrain urged to back key ILO rule
Manama, June 8, 2010
A local human rights group has called on Bahrain to support a new International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on domestic workers.
The Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS) has sent a letter to Labour Minister Dr Majeed Al Alawi urging the government to support the convention, supplemented by a recommendation, at this year's and the 2011 International Labour Conferences.
They call on the government to ensure the convention recognises the special conditions in which domestic work is carried out, set out clear rules to prevent abuse, and promotes equality for domestic workers under labour laws.
In addition, governments should ensure the convention contains specific provisions to protect child and migrant domestic workers.
The 99th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, running until June 18, is discussing the creation of a new international instrument on domestic work and a final decision on its possible adoption will be taken in June next year.
BHRWS secretary-general Faisal Fulad said civil societies, trade unions and other bodies in Bahrain and across the globe were supporting the adoption of the new convention.
'We have to protect the rights of domestic workers, they have no one to speak about them and they need respect because they are the ones who raised the leaders we see today,' he told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN).
'They are abused in the shadows and we want to bring them to the light.
'By signing the ILO convention it means you must make tools to monitor the situation.'
Fulad pointed out that existing international conventions had failed to address the unique circumstances of domestic work and not provided domestic workers with adequate protections against exploitation and slavery.
He said many domestic workers were subjected to some form of abuse, whether verbal, physical or sexual. Some domestic workers were also victims of human trafficking.
'They sell their cars, land and come to the Gulf, which they think is paradise, and then they work for six months without days off and without salary,' said Fulad.
'They work like donkeys for as little as BD45 per month and sometimes they don't even get proper food and during Ramadan they have to prepare a lot of food and work long hours.
'This must be stopped.'
Under the new domestic workers' convention employers would be required to inform domestic/household workers of their terms and conditions of employment, such as the type of work to be performed, including tasks not to be performed and hours of work, etc.
Domestic workers would have protection against all forms of abuse and harassment, including physical, verbal, sexual and mental abuse and harassment.
Workers would not be bound to remain in the household during the period of daily or weekly rest.
National laws and regulations would require that migrant domestic/household workers receive a written contract containing minimum terms and conditions of employment that must be agreed upon prior to crossing national borders
Migrant domestic/household workers would also be entitled to repatriation at no cost to them on expiry or termination of the employment contract. Employers would be prohibited from keeping in their possession including domestic workers' travel and identity documents.
Among other items, the new convention would also cover the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and immigrant/migrant status.
Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) chairwoman Mona Almoayyed supported the introduction of such a convention.
She said domestic workers were not covered by Bahrain's Labour Law and therefore the country should be included in any convention for domestic workers.
Almoayyed said many domestic workers such as nannies and housemaids lack basic rights and the MWPS shelter, which accommodates up to 14 people, frequently operates beyond its capacity.
'Because domestic workers are not under the Labour Law many are not paid their salaries but they have no proof and this needs to be documented, it shouldn't be given by hand,' Almoayyed told the GDN.
'Indemnity for house staff is not there and the number of days off and hours per day is not there - they are really being taken advantage of.
'We get cases like this every day and every Ramadan we get more number of cases because of the lifestyle of Bahrainis it means they stay up to three or four in the morning and then the housemaid has to wake up early for the children.
'Last month one nanny had a nervous breakdown as she was only getting two hours' sleep because the mother was making her also work in her two daughters' houses.'
The General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions also called for Bahrain to back the convention.
Deputy general-secretary Ebrahim Hamad Abdulla said such a law was needed because domestic workers were not protected by the Labour Law.
'We have been asking the government for a long time to have them under the Labour Law or to have a separate law for them,' he said.
'I don't think it will be easy to have this law but we are part of the ILO and should respect this convention.
'These domestic workers are human beings and have human rights at the same time they are labourers and deserve to be under the law.
'We know the culture for 30 years may disagree with the law but that shouldn't stop us from having it.'-TradeArabia News Service