“Domestic work is work, not slavery”! “Domestic workers are human beings, not commodities”!

Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong and from other countries are here in Manila to confront the Philippine government on its labor export policy and the inhuman working conditions the domestic workers are subjected to in their workplaces. The organized Filipino domestic workers from Hong Kong are here in Manila in time for the opening of the 2nd Global Forum on Migration tomorrow, 27 October 2008.

Hundreds of Filipino domestic workers supported by local and international trade unions will troop to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay on 27 October 2008, at 2:00pm. Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong will lambast the government’s policy of exporting migrant workers like commodities while living off on the hard-earned remittances of migrant workers. “Kinakalakal kami ng gobyerno na parang mga saging at pinya upang magtrabaho sa ibang bansa at pinakikinabangan ng gobyerno ang perang pinapadala namin sa bansa”, says Maryjane Forendo, Filipino Domestic Workers Union-APL. The more than US$15 billion remittances coming from Filipino migrant workers is keeping the country’s economy afloat especially at this time of global financial crisis.

Sending workers to work abroad was initially a temporary policy during the Marcos period to ease the pressure of unemployment in the country. At present, labor migration has become a huge industry in the country with millions of Filipinos dependent on foreign remittances. It has become the main employment strategy of the country.

Domestic workers likewise bewail the inhuman working conditions in their countries of work. Domestic foreign workers in Hong Kong and in other countries work as long as 24 hours while others are systematically abused by their employers. “Domestic work is work, not slavery. Hindi kami pumunta sa ibang bansa at iwanan ang aming mga pamilya para magtrabaho at hindi maging alipin,” Lori Brunio, Chair, Filipino Community Services and Information Network, vehemently asserts. Most countries have no legislations on standard working hours and minimum wage for domestic work. Some domestic workers are even deprived of basic human freedoms such as movement, adequate living conditions and humane treatment. “This is not only violation of core labour rights but abuse of human rights!”, states Balotte Mirafuentes, organizer of domestic workers in Hong Kong for the Alliance of Progressive Labor.

The Filipino, Indonesian and Thai domestic workers in Hong Kong are now organizing into trade unions to avail of the basic core labor rights for decent work and protection of their human rights. The organized domestic workers are demanding protection because even their employment contracts are violated. The domestic workers demand the respect of their rights as workers and their rights unionize. Specifically, the organized domestic workers are demanding standardized employment contracts; a just living wage; good working conditions; protection from unscrupulous recruiters; institute criminal sanctions against illegal recruiters; and social security policies from the governments. As the governments meet to discuss the future of migration in development on the GFMD, domestic workers demand decent work and equal treatment. “Domestic workers are human beings. We are not robots or commodities that are just traded among governments”, Lori, a Filipino domestic worker, said.

The Filipino domestic workers organized by APL are here in Manila in time for the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) from 27-30 October 2008 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). The trade unions in the Philippines such as the Alliance of Progressive Labor and the various migrant organizations here and abroad are critical of the GFMD where government officials are expected to participate. The civil society groups, after being prohibited to conduct parallel events in Manila, perceive that the government meeting will not result to any substantial change to the plight of migrant workers. “The GFMD is nothing but a futile exercise and a talkshop for government officials ignoring migrants’ rights and welfare,” says Josua Mata, Secretary-General of the Alliance of Progressive Labor.

Domestic migrant workers based in Europe are also here in Manila to express their solidarity with the Asian migrant workers as well as to decry and oppose the new EU Directive on migration. The EU Directive on expulsion of irregular migrant workers working in Europe is practically seeking to criminalize the labor migration the European fortress.

The international and local domestic workers’ organizations will collectively march to the Department of Foreign Affairs at 2pm, 27 October 2008.

Signed:

Alliance of Progressive of Labor (APL)

Filipino Domestic Workers Union-APL

Filipino Community Services and Information Network (FILCOMSIN)

RESPECT Network in Europe

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