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Domestic Workers Bill finally gets Congress OK
September 6, 2012

The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) welcomes with enthusiasm the passage of the Kasambahay Bill after more than 15 years of lobbying in Congress. 

“If we are united, we shall succeed! This is a victory for the workers' movement. An improvement of our laws,” said Atty. Sonny Matula, president of the FFW, an affiliate of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The FFW lauded the House of Representatives after finally heeding the call of domestic workers, trade unions and civil society groups. “Once enacted, the law would be an improvement of the existing labor laws since it would establish labor standards for domestic workers higher than what we have now. If properly implemented it will work towards decent employment and income, enhanced coverage of social protection, respect for human rights and strengthened social dialogue,” said Matula.

With the passage of House Bill 6144, panels from both the Senate and the Lower House shall meet in the Bicameral Conference Committee, to reconcile their respective versions of the Domestic Workers Bill to make it compliant to International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189. Once this gets the nod of both Houses of Congress, the President will then sign it into Law. 

ILO C. 189 or the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention is a landmark international treaty  that establishes labor standards for domestic workers around the world. Thanks to the Philippines it shall come into force a year from now after the ILO formally received the Philippine ratification of ILO Convention 189 at its headquarters in Geneva. The Convention provides that it will only come into force, a year after a second member-state of the ILO ratifies it.

The Philippine Senate passed a resolution on August 6, concurring to the ratification of President Benigno Aquino III of ILO C. 189. Uruguay was the first country to ratify C. 189.

Domestic workers elated

“After 15 years of waiting, domestic workers will now enjoy the rights and benefits as other workers,” said Lilibeth Masamloc, president of SUMAPI, a national domestic workers association in the Philippines.

“Domestic workers will now be protected from different kinds of abuse sand will have better access to social protection. The challenge now is how to effectively implement the law,” added a Masamloc, a former child domestic worker.

“Domestic workers sector cannot afford another Bonita Baran, who suffered severe maltreatment which caused her to lose her sight. Her employers took her dreams away,” said Masamloc in reference to the local domestic worker who last month went into the open to expose the abuse she suffered at the hand of her employer.

“Finally, after 15 years of struggle, we are now in the cusp of extending basic rights and legal protection to almost 2 million domestic workers in the Philippines,” said Ma. Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, President and Founder of the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc. 

“We are grateful that the leadership of the House of Representatives has finally recognized that it is a national priority to put a stop to the widespread abuse of the rights of domestic workers and to start providing domestic workers with the means and opportunities to break free from the bondages of poverty,” added Oebanda.  

Wide movement

The FFW, Visasyan Forum and SUMAPI together with other trade unions, such as the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and Alliance of Progressive Labor; civill society groups such as the Migrant Forum in Asia; employers group Employers Confederation of the Philippines; and government agencies led by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) comprise the Philippine Technical Working Group (TWG) for the Campaign for Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The TWG has strongly advocated for domestic workers’ rights. It led the campaign for the ratification of ILO C. 189 and the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill at both Houses of Congress.

The DOLE, acting as government representative to the International Labor Conference in Geneva in June 2010 and June 2011 chaired the Committee that deliberated on C. 189, which was adopted unanimously by the Conference.

The members of the Philippine TWG recognize their role in leading a regional and international movement for the ratification of C. 189 and the respect for the rights of domestic workers across borders.

Both the International Labor Organization, through its office in Manila and the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels congratulated the TWG for all the hard work and encouraged them to share their experience with other countries.

“This is a victory for our long struggle, for domestic workers to be recognized and be treated with dignity in law and practice like the other workers Domestic Workers will soon be covered by the Minimum Wage Law,” said Matula. Domestic workers are presently excluded from the jurisdiction of the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productive Boards. 

The Bill entitles domestic workers to five-day incentive leaves per year in addition to the existing one-day a week rest-day.  It also tasks employers tol provide appropriate rest and assistance to the domestic worker in case of illnesses and injuries sustained during service without loss of benefits. 

“No more abuses!” said Matula. 

The employer or any member of the household shall not subject a domestic worker or “kasambahay” to any kind of abuse nor inflict any form of physical violence or harassment or any act tending to degrade the dignity of a domestic worker.

The Domestic Bill also provides that “the employer shall provide for the basic necessities of the domestic worker to include at least three (3) adequate meals a day and humane sleeping arrangements that ensure privacy and safety.”

In addition, there is a clear penalty for violation of the law to deter non-compliance. Violations shall be punishable with a fine that ranges from ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00) to forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00), apart from other penalties arising from applicable civil and criminal acts. #

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