ILO Conference Takes Historic Step Forward – Adopts Convention for Domestic Workers

On Thursday, June 16, 2011, the United States, along with the other governments, worker and employer delegates at the 100th annual Conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted a historic set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of tens of millions of domestic workers worldwide. The U.S. worked with the other countries of the ILO and the social partners, to take this historic step forward.

The following is the text of the statement delivered by Robert Shepard, Director of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs at the U.S. Department of Labor to the Conference just before the new Convention was adopted.


100th Session of the International Labor Conference
Adoption of the Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers
Explanation of Vote by the U.S. Government, June 16, 2011

Delivered by Robert Shepard, U.S. Delegate,
Director, Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB), Department of Labor (DOL)

The United States Government strongly supports the adoption of the Convention and Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. We are pleased to have taken part in this collective effort to provide more effective protection to the estimated 100 million domestic workers worldwide.

All too often domestic workers – most of whom are women and girls – find it difficult to exercise, or realize, their labor rights; to negotiate or even find reliable information about the terms and conditions under which they may be employed; or to enjoy the benefits and protections commonly enjoyed by other workers. Because they are often invisible, domestic workers, and particularly children, are especially vulnerable to various forms of abuse or exploitation, including human trafficking.

We would like to highlight a significant breakthrough in this Convention and Recommendation, namely, the effort to ensure that domestic workers receive protections that are not less favorable than those provided for workers generally. The contribution of domestic workers has been long undervalued and unrecognized. Yet, domestic workers form a major component of the modern service economy. Among other things, they provide specialized help to the elderly, to children, and to those in need of medical attention. As people live longer the need for domestic workers is growing significantly and this trend will continue. The time has come to recognize that while their jobs and their places of work may be different, domestic workers should be treated like all other workers.

We wish to make clear that our vote to adopt the Convention is a reflection of our support for opening the Convention to ratification by Member States. In the case of the United States, a number of the provisions present complex issues with respect to our existing law and practice, including in regards to our federal system of government. Accordingly, we want to make clear that our vote to adopt the Convention entails no obligation by the United States to ratify it.

The United States strongly supports the efforts of this Conference to improve protections for domestic workers. We are very proud to have worked with the other member countries of the ILO and the social partners, at this 100th International Labor Conference, to take this historic step forward. We look to the ILO, to member countries, and to public and non-governmental organizations across the globe to work together to enable domestic workers to receive the protections they richly deserve and to enjoy their rights fully.