Canada’s unions call for strengthened rights and protections for domestic workers

June 16, 2021

Canada’s unions are marking International Domestic Workers Day by calling on the federal government to increase access to services and protections for domestic workers and to ratify the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit domestic workers hard – as of June 2020, the ILO estimated that approximately 72.3% of global domestic workers were “significantly impacted” by the pandemic. For many, the pandemic closures and lockdown measures have led to reduced hours or job losses, while for others it has led to more work, unpaid wages, and increasingly unsafe and precarious working conditions.

Women make up the vast majority of domestic workers internationally. In Canada, most domestic work is carried out by racialized women, many of whom are migrants. Their work, while critical to our lives and the economy, has long been undervalued. Without full and permanent immigration status or full access to social security systems and labour protections, migrant care workers are made vulnerable, often unable to leave exploitative – and sometimes even violent – employment conditions. With domestic work largely taking place in the informal economy, workers are left without options, protections, or a safety net.

In Canada, a 2020 survey of migrant care workers found that one in three workers lost their jobs during COVID-19. Another third had their mobility limited by their employer and almost half of surveyed workers experienced work intensification and unpaid overtime as a result of the pandemic. Of those who did lose their job, one in three workers reported problems accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI).

“Domestic work continues to be made invisible and is underappreciated. While COVID-19 has made this work more visible, we still have a far way to go to demonstrate that this work is truly valued,” said Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Ten years after the adoption of ILO Convention 189, Canada’s unions call for the essential and skilled work of domestic workers be recognized and their rights protected.

Read more about Domestic Workers and COVID-19:

Learn about migrant care worker exploitation during COVID-19:

Read more on the campaign to Ratify C189:

Canada’s unions call for pathways to permanent residency for migrant workers:

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