Fantastic win for overseas domestic workers
As the coalition government staggers towards its last days, the House of Lords has inflicted one last defeat – by just seven votes, 183-176 – over the rights of overseas domestic workers. The TUC welcomes that move (we called for it this morning) because it restores freedom from slavery for some of the most vulnerable in society, a key part of our agenda on forced labour and domestic workers’ right to be treated fairly at work.
The amendment to the Modern Slavery Bill, which the TUC strongly supports, aims to return to overseas domestic workers the rights union campaigns secured under the last Labour government. When the right to switch jobs was taken away from those women with domestic worker visas, they were laid wide open to possible exploitation by their employers. Organisations like Kalayaan, whose Community Advocate Kate Roberts wrote about the issue on Touchstone last Thursday, Anti-Slavery International and Human Rights Watch have fought for years against these changes. They have been backed by the TUC and trade unions, including Unite’s Justice 4 Domestic Workers (J4DW), an organisation of domestic workers. The amendment is in line with the recent ILO Domestic Workers Convention which unions helped negotiate.
Now the Lords have insisted the Government change course. Although sponsored by a cross-party group of Peers, it was Labour Lords, crossbenchers and Bishops who filed through the division lobbies to vote for the bill (135 Labour peers, 35 crossbenchers, four bishops and seven others.) But the government has pledged that any changes made to the Bill will be fast-tracked onto the statute books before the election.