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Domestic workers rally to oppose the return to slavery...

Domestic workers rally to oppose the return to slavery in the UK

13 June 2014

No to slavery!

WHEN: 2pm-5pm, Sunday 15 June 2014
WHERE: Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1
WHEN: 11am, Monday 16 June 2014
WHERE: 10 Downing Street, Westminster, SW1

Migrant domestic workers will be gathering at Old Palace Yard, Westminster this Sunday (15 June) to demonstrate against the government’s changes to the domestic workers visa. They will also hand a petition to Downing Street on Monday (16 June), which has been signed by thousands, calling for the reinstatement of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa.

Despite strong opposition from many individuals, organisations, charities and unions, the government, in April 2012, abolished the rights of domestic workers to change employer once they are in the UK. Under the Tied Domestic Worker visa, implemented by this government, domestic workers entering the UK have become modern slaves.

They are ‘tied’ to the one employer (who brings them here) making them much more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and preventing enforcement of the employment rights they are supposed to be entitled to. This effectively traps them with that employer, and they will have to return either to their country or that of their employer within six months. There is a real danger that domestic workers are now driven underground as many employers enslave, abuse and exploit them more because the current system allows them to do so.

Two years on, thousands of migrant domestic workers have found themselves in this situation of being ‘tied’ to their employer, with no redress if they are abused and exploited and living with the added fear of deportation if they speak out. These workers, some of the most vulnerable workers in our society, are enraged that after decades of campaigning to get the same rights and privileges we all enjoy, this government demolished their achievement by replacing Overseas Domestic Worker visa with the Tied Domestic Worker visa.

Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “It had taken many years of campaigning to get some of the most vulnerable workers in our society the same rights and privileges that everyone should be able to count on, but this government has demolished these vital achievements.

“Justice for migrant domestic workers cannot be swept under the carpet by this government. They have reintroduced modern day slavery and Unite and others are absolutely committed to ending it and reinstating the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa.”

Marissa Begonia, Justice 4 Domestic Workers chair, said: “The trauma of repetitive abuse of migrant domestic workers on the Tied Domestic Worker visa with no access to justice is inhuman. For this government to facilitate and tolerate slavery in the UK is an unforgivable crime.

“This government must end the abuse, exploitation and slavery of the already vulnerable migrant domestic workers. It’s time to restore domestic workers’ rights.”

Kate Roberts, Kalayaan community advocate, said: “Given this government’s stated commitment to combating slavery in the UK we are dismayed at its rejection of the important recommendations of the Joint Committee for the draft Modern Slavery Bill to reinstate the original visa and corresponding rights.

“Two years since domestic workers were tied to their employers the evidence is clear; that these workers are far more likely to be abused and enslaved than those who are not tied and are effectively imprisoned in these conditions by the current immigration rules. With this knowledge it is unforgivable to maintain the tied visa which must be replaced urgently with the original Overseas Domestic Worker visa, a system proven to work well and to allow migrant domestic workers a chance for justice.”

ENDS

For more information please contact Marissa Begonia on 07584 160216 or contact Ashraf Choudhury in the Unite Press Office on 020 3371 2061 or 07980 224761.

Notes for Editors:

Unite
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. Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 

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 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.

Kalayaan
Kalayaan is a registered charity (no. 1103847). They give advice and practical support to migrant domestic workers and campaign with them to improve their rights. Kalayaan was established in 1987. www.kalayaan.org.uk