Waling Waling’s call for the rights of domestic workers

Waling Waling: In 1997/98 the then Labour government accepted that domestic work in the private household would be recognised as work in employment legislation. 

This followed a ten-year long campaign organised by Kalayaan, Waling Waling, the Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW) and fully supported by the Transport & General Workers Union, now Unite.  Other organisations and individuals including parliamentarians in both Houses and in the European Parliament supported the campaign over the years.  Disgracefully, in 2012 the then Home Secretary in the coalition government, Teresa May abolished the domestic worker visa with rights and protections, saying that future domestic workers would be protected under the Modern Slavery Act, thereby reducing workers with legal rights and protections to victims with the promise of protection.  This system simply doesn’t work.

Domestic work in private households is skilled work.  It requires critical thinking, skills to manage the house,  to look after the employer’s children, very often babies.  We help the children with their homework, drop them off and pick them up from school and sometimes teach them English.  Then we need skills to care for the elderly in the household, to cook and clean for the family, to wash, iron, and care for the clothes as well as paintings and delicate ornaments around the house.  We are sometimes called upon to wash and hoover the cars and the offices of our employers as well. 

So, we consider that domestic work in private households must be restored to its rightful place within employment legislation.  We need a guarantee of genuine contracts, including regular hours of work, of fair pay, holiday, sick and overtime pay.  Domestic work in private households is not recognised in Health & Safety legislation even though it has long been recognised that accidents in the household are common – for example, falling off ladders and falling downstairs, skin irritations caused by certain detergents, burns, spillages, and the list goes on. 

Above all domestic workers need to be treated with respect. 

Waling Waling, along with other organisations is campaigning to have the Domestic Workers Visa restored and domestic work in private households to be recognised as work in Employment legislation.  As the majority of domestic workers are migrants, traveling with their employers from many different countries, it is easy to see why they are allowed to be exploited and abused without legal protections in the UK.  Unfortunately, colonialism and racism are much in evidence.  Waling Waling also supports the campaigns for a route to regularisation for all undocumented peoples living in the UK.