Domestic Workers Launch Global Federation in Uruguay

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From October 26-28, domestic workers from around the world will gather for the Founding Congress of the International Domestic Workers Federation. Domestic workers are organizing at the global level to advocate for improved working conditions and to access their rights as workers.

Domestic workers are organizing globally to challenge their public invisibility and slave-like working conditions. Representatives of 48 domestic workers organizations in 39 countries will meet in Montevideo, Uruguay from October 26-28 for the Founding Congress of the International Domestic Workers Federation.

The Federation is being launched two years after the adoption by the United Nations’ ILO of Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which laid the ground in international law for recognizing the rights of the more than 100 million domestic workers (mostly women), with the same fundamental rights as all other categories of workers.

When the International Network of Domestic Workers, (IDWN), was formed in 2009 one of the objectives was to win this long overdue international instrument. Now that Convention 189 has been adopted and ratified by several countries, the IDWN will make the move from a network to a formal organization of domestic workers.

At the Founding Congress, domestic workers’ leaders will elect a leadership, and adopt a constitution for their new global organization, which will focus initially on building membership and members’ capacity to push governments to transpose Convention 189 into domestic legislation, particularly on minimum wages, holidays and social protection. Protecting migrant domestic workers’ rights is also a key element in the organization’s work.

IDWN chose Uruguay as the host country for its founding congress because Uruguay was the first government to ratify the Domestic Workers Convention and played an important role in its negotiation. The Uruguayan domestic workers union SUTD negotiated its first national collective agreement in 2008 –the first such agreement in Latin America.

More than 200 participants including guests and representatives from the ILO, the ITUC, national trade union centers, Human Rights Watch and supporting organizations will attend this landmark step in the history of domestic workers.

The Founding Congress of the International Federation of Domestic Workers has received strong support from the national trade union center in Uruguay PIT-CNT, the national domestic workers’ union SUTD, the Ministries of Labour and Foreign Affairs, the Labour Inspectorate, the Social Security Institute and the Journalists’ Association in Uruguay and the mayor of Montevideo, who has provided the venue.

The IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations), which counts many domestic workers among its members, provides the organizational basis of the IDWN. WIEGO (Women in Informal Economy Globalizing and Organizing) also provides strong support to IDWN.

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Demetria Tsoutouras
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