ILO calls for protection of domestic workers

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Director for Nigeria, Ms Vanessa Phala, has reiterated the commitment of the organisation towards eliminating exploitation of domestic workers and promotion of decent work across the globe.

Ms Phala made this known at the Validation Meeting of the Report of the Study on Nigeria’s Domestic Work Sector in Abuja recently.

She said the situation analysis of the study “could, among other things, inform the development of the best plan of action for eliminating exploitation and achieving decent work for domestic workers in Nigeria.”

The ILO chief said the study would be a catalyst to modelling international best practices and promoting the ratification of international labour standards related to domestic work, particularly ILO Domestic Work Convention – 189 and Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190) in Nigeria.

She said: “Domestic work by its nature is complex and multifaceted. One of the most important type of labour, yet still grossly undervalued. It would be a perilous exercise to attempt to describe domestic work as if it were a uniform phenomenon.

“With over 75 million domestic workers globally, the interplay between cultural, social, religious and language and economic, historical and political factors significantly shapes the specificity of domestic work.

“Across those key differences, however, the life experiences and working conditions of domestic workers around Nigeria, like the rest of the world, are disturbingly similar.

“In furtherance of understanding key factors that influence domestic work in the Nigerian context, as an entry point for advocating for decent work for domestic workers, the International Labour Organisation and UN Women studied the existing framework for domestic work in Nigeria. This study reviewed the extent to which labour and human rights of domestic workers (including the child domestic workers and migrant domestic workers) in Nigeria are protected.

“The study produced a situation analysis of the Nigerian domestic work sector, which examined legal, economic, social, cultural and political data that affects and influences domestic work in Nigeria.

“To recognize the social and economic value of domestic work, to extend the Decent Work Agenda to domestic workers and to provide global minimum standards to guide national action in realizing decent work for domestic workers, ILO adopted Convention no. 189.

“The message of the Convention is clear: domestic workers are workers and should enjoy their rights as any other worker. The ILO Convention N0. 189 takes the following key measures and approaches to ensure that domestic workers enjoy rights as any other workers: Protection of human rights of DW, promotion and realization of fundamental principal and rights at work, protection against all forms

of abuse, harassment and violence, improving the contractual relationship, fair terms of employment and decent working conditions for domestic workers, on an equal footing with other workers (working time, wage, occupation health and safety, social security), Compliance strategies and measures, and collective organization and social dialogue.

“Although we are not where we need to be in terms of protecting the rights of domestic workers, but we have come very far from where we started 10 years ago. The ILO is counting on every stakeholder here present to further this campaign for better working conditions for domestic work, starting from the ratification of Convention 189. We can, and should do better for domestic workers.”

Also speaking, President of Trade Union Congress (TUC) Comrade Quadri A. Olaleye, said everyone, especially Nigerians, know there is decent work deficit.

He lamented the absence of sufficient employment opportunities, inadequate social protection, the denial of right at work and shortcomings in social dialogue.

“These breaches imperil the ability and hopes of people to have a better life. As a Labour Centre, we are particularly glad that the world labour body – International Labour Organisation (ILO) considers this group of workers in its (Convention 189) even when they work in private households to provide personal and household care.

“Oftentimes we are told by government that it is committed in building a nation that is devoid of discrimination, irrespective of gender, social condition, geographical location and economic status of parents, harnessing full potentials of all and assuring equal access to political, social and economic wealth creation but it is not always the so. These are political statements. These are the reasons we have more women among the domestic workforce than their men folk.

“The changes in labour transition towards a service economy have helped to create an environment in which more casual and insecure work has been an integral part of women’s increased labour force participation. The role, economic and social contributions of domestic workers is overwhelming. Yet, they experience uncertain working environment and little to social protection because domestic work is considered a low status job. They are denied employment benefits such as health insurance, maternity leave and benefits, social pension, job insecurity, exposure to violence, they hardly get off days; yet they excluded from having a minimum wage despite their heavy workloads. etc,” the labour leader said.

“The world is faced with unemployment challenge, that cannot be disputed. However, if we must engage these set of workers we must treat them as human, not slaves. I wish to appeal that we go beyond deliberations to lobby governments (executive, lawmakers and judiciary) at all levels to come up with laws to protect the vulnerable. We must also intermittently come up with adverts in the papers, radio and television appealing to the conscience of those who engage these workers to treat well,” Olaleye said.