Massive info campaign on Kasambahay rights needed

Posted at 09/07/2012 12:53 PM | Updated as of 09/07/2012 12:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A massive information campaign is now needed to relay the principles of decent work for “kasambahays” as embodied in the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189 or the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

“Both the convention and the forthcoming Kasambahay Law are landmark initiatives that recognize domestic workers as part of the labor force and thus entitled to basic rights and social benefits. But its implementation won’t come easy hence the need for a nationwide, grassroots information campaign,” said Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.

The DOLE’s idea of a model contract between an employer and his or her household worker is one of the key elements that should be included in the information campaign.

Ople said it should be considered a singular honor for the Philippines to be the second country in the world to ratify ILO Convention 189 which prescribes such basic rights to domestic workers as reasonable working hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, and respect for fundamental principles and rights at work.

Last Wednesday, Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva Ambassador Evan Garcia, presented the Instrument of Ratification to ILO Director General (DG) Juan Somavia at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

The deposit of the Philippines' Instrument of Ratification will bring the Convention into force a year later thus bestowing recognition and protection to around 100 million domestic workers worldwide as legitimate members of the global workforce.

In a separate statement, the Visayan Forum Foundation, a non-government organization that has long been fighting for the rights of domestic workers, acknowledged the role of the House leadership and other members of Congress in passing their version of the Domestic Workers Act.

The House of Representatives finally approved House Bill 6144 or the Domestic Workers Act of 2012 last September 5, 2012.

House Bill 6144 establishes standards for the employment of domestic workers including minimum wage, days and hours of rest, and social security and health insurance coverage. The Bill also provides for mechanisms that would protect domestic workers from abuse, trafficking, and debt bondage.

“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.

SUMAPI, a national association of Filipino domestic workers, also hailed the passage of the Bill.

According to Lilibeth Masamloc, SUMAPI National President and a former child domestic worker, the Bill will help prevent another Bonita Baran – a domestic worker who lost her eyesight because of severe maltreatment of her employer.