International Domestic Workers Day, June 16, celebrates the 2011 passage of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 189 for Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Canadian Labour Congress joined with global unions and domestic workers from around the world to champion this international law for domestic workers. The Convention represented an historic step forward towards domestic work being recognized as work like any other, and establishing fundamental labour protections. Now the Canadian Labour Congress and affiliates call on our federal government to ratify Convention 189 and work with the provinces and territories to ensure our labour legislation recognizes and protects these vulnerable workers.
Because Canada lacks adequate child care and home care programs, many Canadian families rely on migrant domestic workers to help care for children, aging loved ones and people with disabilities. These workers, who are usually women, racialized and mothers themselves, contribute to our economy but do not enjoy the same rights and benefits as other workers in Canada. The Canadian Labour Congress believes that domestic workers’ rights should not rely on the mere compassion of employers but must be guaranteed by governments, just like other workers. Domestic workers should have a path to permanent residency in order to live, work, study, access social benefits and be protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Unfortunately, the federal government’s recent changes to the Live-in Caregivers’ program has had a negative impact on migrant domestic workers. In fact, since the changes, only one in ten applications for permanent residency status has been approved. This not only has implications for individual live-in caregivers, but also makes it more difficult for their families to reunite.
Domestic work is among the lowest paid work in any labour market and these workers experience poor and even abusive working conditions. Many live-in caregivers do not get a day off and most are making little more than minimum wages with no benefits. Currently Quebec is the only province that has an act to protect the basic rights of live-in caregivers by providing minimum standards in wages, days off and other compensations.
The federal government should not be exploiting vulnerable live-in caregivers but rather supporting them with basic work rights, a solid path to permanent residency and by investing in a national child care and home care program Canada will be a better place for all workers.