From the TUC

Domestic workers’ rights: Just how isolated and extreme are the CBI and HMG?

16 Jun 2011, by in International

My colleague Sam Gurney, one of the fourteen trade unionists on the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has blogged about the new Domestic Workers Convention, adopted this morning at the ILO Conference by a thumping 83% vote (only 3.5% voted against – the rest were abstentions), at Left Food Forward. The TUC’s immediate response to the vote, apart from pleasure that the plight of domestic workers has been officially recognised, expressed concern at the CBI’s vote against, and the British Government’s abstention. Detailed examination of the vote shows just how isolated and extreme they both are, and the British Government, in particular, is keeping company with some very unpleasant bedfellows.

Overall, the Convention was adopted by a huge majority – 396 delegates voted for, with only 16 against and 63 abstentions. It’s not quite as simple as that suggests, because while each country has one employer, one worker and one government representative, each government gets two votes. We know that in the ‘no’ camp, there was only one Government: the last feudal monarchy in Africa, Swaziland! That means that as well as the CBI, 13 other employer representatives excercised a futile vote against decency and respect for domestic workers.

In the abstention camp, the UK Government was joined by the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Malaysia, Panama, Singapore, Sudan and Thailand – mostly dictatorships or extremely right wing (although presumably some dictators and right wing governments actually voted in favour of the Convention) and 47 employer organisations. Strange company indeed.

The reasons given by the CBI and HMG are even more bizarre. In both cases, they indicated that a single article of the Convention caused them some problems. These articles were crawled over by an ILO committee on which both the CBI and HMG were represented over the last fortnight, and when they raised their concerns it was clear that their concerns were simply not shared by many of the other participants – yet still they persisted.

Mind you, it’s great to know that the CBI and HMG are so worried about the prospect of the UK not being able to comply with an ILO Convention – so worried that they were unwilling to accept the Convention – still less ratify it – unless the UK was 100% in compliance with it. Strangely, the UK is grossly out of compliance with the ILO’s Conventions on freedom of association and free collective bargaining (which are core conventions of the ILO – some of the most essential components of the ILO’s legal framework). But the CBI and the Government seem fundamentally unconcerned about that, and indeed regularly ponder further restrictions on industrial action, for instance, that would take the UK even further out of compliance.

So the CBI and British Government are not just extreme, not just isolated (except for a small cabal of very dodgy regimes), but also utterly hypocritical.