The social partners of the International Labour Conference – employers groups, governments, and workers groups – debated and came to a consensus on the preambular paragraphs, and Convention Articles 1-8 on June 3rd and 4th. With more than 100 proposed amendments, the sessions were long and productive.
The workers have come away from these two days of debates with a sense of forward momentum. Their positions have generally been met with support from the governments, and even the employers’ group has conceded on important pro-worker provisions. Support has been particularly strong from South Africa on behalf of Africa, the GRULAC countries, particularly Brazil and Australia, and the Philippines from Asia-Pacific. Throughout the discussions, the governments, workers, and employers have all emphasized the importance of establishing a convention that is flexible, principle-based, and widely ratifiable.
The purpose of a Convention’s preamble is to set the context and general principles upon which the articles of the Convention are based. The preamble is non-binding, which allows for some greater flexibility in terms of the text’s formulation. Important additions were made to the preamble on the first day of the tripartite debate. These included the strengthening of protection principles through reference to other important Conventions – the Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
A significant achievement of the workers’ group was the addition of a paragraph to Article 3 of the Convention, strengthening the rights of domestic workers to collective bargaining and freedom of association.
The most intense debate was on Article 6, which deals with the rights of domestic workers to be informed of the terms and conditions of their employment. Some governments were wary of the enumeration in the Convention of specific items of which the domestic worker must be informed, while the workers’ group stood firm that the enumeration was fundamental to the establishment of robust minimum standards. With perseverance and a strong stance on the part of the workers’ representative, the workers group was able to retain the original text. It now reads:
6. Each Member shall take measures to ensure that domestic workers are informed of their terms and conditions of employment in an appropriate, verifiable and easily understandable manner and preferably, where possible, through written contracts in accordance with national laws and regulations, in particular:
(a) the name and address of the employer and the worker;
(b) the type of work to be performed;
(c) the remuneration, method of calculation and periodicity of payments; the normal hours of work;
(d) the normal hours of work;
(e) the starting date and, where the contract is for a specified period of time, its duration;
(f) the provision of food and accommodation, if applicable;
(g) the period of probation or trial period, if applicable;
(h) the terms of repatriation, if applicable; and
(i) terms and conditions concerning termination of employment.
Sessions will resume on June 6th for discussions on Articles 9-18.