Domestic worker ‘suffragettes’ demonstrate as Modern S...

Domestic worker ‘suffragettes’ demonstrate as Modern Slavery bill amendment debated

16 March 2015

WHEN: Photo Opportunity: Tuesday 17 March 2015 at 10.00
WHERE: Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1

Domestic workers donning suffragette costume will stage a demonstration outside parliament tomorrow (Tuesday 17 March), as MPs debate the crunch amendment to the Modern Slavery bill which reinstates the right of domestic workers to change employers. 

Migrant Domestic Workers, part of Justice 4 Domestic Workers (J4DW) and Unite, the country’s largest union, as well as Kalayaan and  Anti-Slavery  International opposed the introduction of the  tied visa system three years ago, which ties migrant domestic workers to their employer - ‘a form of modern day slavery’. 

The tied visa system means migrant domestic workers are more fearful, more vulnerable to exploitation, and their right to legal redress has effectively been taken away, along with their status as a worker in their own right – recognition so hard-fought for over decades and won from the Labour party with cross-party support in 1998.

However, The House of Lords last month passed an amendment to the Modern Slavery bill which now allows domestic workers to change employers once in the UK and renew their visas, if in work.

The amended bill is being debated tomorrow by MPs during its third – and final - reading.

The workers will also wear the tied domestic worker ‘mask’ boards with heart-rendering stories written on them.

Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “The demonstration tomorrow is a sharp reminder to every MP that basic human rights need to be protected, not undermined.

“We call on all MPs to support the amendment to the Modern Slavery bill from the House of Lords which frees up domestic workers from being tied to the employer and ends modern day slavery in reality, not just in words.”   

Marissa Begonia, Justice 4 Domestic Workers coordinator, said: “We call on MPs to support the amendment as domestic workers are some of the most vulnerable employees in the UK. We need to stamp out any opportunity for abuse that a bad employer may have.

“We hope that MPs see the justice of the amendment and keep it in the bill on its third reading.”

Kate Roberts, community advocate at Kalayaan, said: “The government has rightly pointed out that migrant domestic workers were abused even when they had the right to change employer.

“This is exactly why these rights should have been maintained and built upon, rather than removed and replaced with a system which leaves the workers without way to challenge exploitation without breaching the immigration rules.”


For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.

Unite was central to the campaign to establish the Overseas Domestic Workers visa in 1998, and the achievement of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention in 2011.

Justice 4 Domestic Workers
Justice 4 Domestic Workers (J4DW) is a domestic worker led group formed in 2009 affiliated with Unite. It has more than a thousand members from different countries, mainly the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Morocco and Nigeria.

J4DW is campaigning for the retention of the domestic worker visa and for the government to sign and ratify ILO Convention 189 “Decent work for domestic workers”. The ILO convention was passed in June 2011. The UK government, having committed to supporting a convention ‘in principle’ refused to vote to pass the convention. The government abstained along with the Sudan, El Salvador and Malaysia. The only other EU country to abstain was the Czech Republic.

Notes to editors: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.