Globe, Human Rights, Politiks, Struggles, United Kingdom, Workers

Slavery by another name

New visas received by domestic workers arriving in the United Kingdom have drawn criticism from within the employment industries sector, with organisations labelling the move “inhumane” and promoting slavery. Seeking to improve conditions and existing rights, their campaign will take place on the 8th of May.

 

Esclavitud con 05A study published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) highlights the 52 million domestic workers in the world today, and how some – in the majority of cases women – in the 21st century they still do not benefit from employment protections found in other sectors.

In 2011, as part of its conventions and recommendations, the ILO published a series of suggestions aimed at guaranteeing decent working conditions and adequate salaries for employees.

However, in many countries these rules have passed by unnoticed. One country striving to defend the rights of domestic workers is Brazil, where an estimated 6 million people work as cleaners and domestic staff. In its new constitution approved on the 3rd of April 2013, Brazil placed these employees on level terms with all other salaried professionals.

Esclavitud con 01The United Kingdom meanwhile opted for a different approach. According to some trade unions and groups of domestic workers, last year, David Cameron made changes to the domestic worker visa, eliminating certain rights and protections enjoyed by employees up until now.

The new system is accused of promoting slavery in households, returning to Victorian-era working conditions. One employee released an anonymous report on the Justice for Domestic Workers’ website, detailing their working conditions. The report stated that they “worked in five large houses, without days off and without pay for two years”.

Esclavitud con 06Various organisations have criticised the new visa for infringing on rights and eliminating a fundamental protection, namely that a worker has the right to change employer, saying that “This will lead to abuse and exploitation.”

As a result, workers will raise their voices in protest, calling for the return of the old system, already regarded as inadequate, but at least giving a greater amount of protection to their rights.

The initiative: “Slavery by another name: the new Domestic Worker Visa” is organised by the groups Kalayaan, Justice 4 Domestic Workers, and Unite the Union, and sets out to discuss the current system.

Esclavitud con 02The initiative also seeks to restore fundamental rights, such as the right to change employers, family reunification and the ability to renew a visa whilst the applicant is still in England.

The campaign will take place in the House of Commons on the 8th of May.

For more information visit the website.

(Translated by Tara Balfour – Email: tarabalfour@gmail.com)

 

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