Statewatch article: RefNo# 27599
Netherlands: Confederation accepts undocumented migrant domestic workers
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 16 no 5/6 August-December 2006
After five years of relentless campaigning, the Dutch-based Commission of Filipino Migrant Workers (CFMW), which is part of the European RESPECT network of migrant domestic workers (MDWs), trade unions and NGOs, has attained union recognition for MDWs in the Netherlands. It is estimated that 80% of MDWs have no legal residency and/or work permits. CFMW will act as a go-between for the trade union and undocumented workers and has been given the right to collect membership fees, whilst workers without papers will not have to disclose their identity to the trade union, a compromise which lessened the workers' fear of identification and deportation. The Dutch Trade Union Confederation (FNV), which comprises 14 unions representing the interests of around 1.2 million workers, supported a new MDW section within the national trade union for social care and the public sector, AbvaKabo-FNV. The AbvaKabo-FNV women's group, together with the CFMW, are researching methods of supporting the often undocumented workers. They have developed a model employment contract and are working on collective agreements. The FNV confederation is an umbrella organisation. Its affiliated trade unions operate in their specific fields and enter into collective labour agreements and conduct negotiations with employers and government. The FNV coordinates these activities.

Often unknown to workers and employers alike, undocumented workers have rights under internationally binding law such as the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICMW), notably not yet ratified by most migrant receiving countries. On 26 July the CFMW hosted a meeting of 60 people, mostly migrant domestic workers, at a historic first trade union meeting that brought together officials of the AbvaKabo-FNV and MDWs for the purpose of joining the trade union. CFMW spokesman Mr Nonoi Hacbang emphasised the significance of this occasion:

Five years ago when we started the campaign for the rights of MDWs in the Netherlands, this moment was unimaginable. Today we are making history as a result of the persistence of the MDWs and the response of the ABVAKABO FNV who have taken the significant step of recognising MDWs as workers and to welcome them whether documented or undocumented as members of the trade union.

One migrant domestic worker commented on their working conditions:

Is working a 54 hour week normal? What about my situation when employers go on holiday ? it's a case of no work, no pay...and being without contracts, our rights don't count and we are very vulnerable to threats from employers.

Fe Jusay, co-ordinator of the CFMW Women's Programme, explained that the unionisation was the culmination of many initiatives by the RESPECT Netherlands campaign for the rights of MDWs in which their participation as principal actors was central: "It is the lack of recognition of domestic work as proper work or as a category for immigration which creates the conditions of vulnerability and violations of MDWs rights as workers and as migrants".

CFMW, under the slogan "Don't agonize, organize!" began organising domestic workers from the 1980s onwards, not only representing Filipinos but around 32 different nationalities. In the UK, the organisation has achieved a partial regularisation of domestic workers, improving social welfare and education rights. RESPECT and CFMW analyse the increase of (undocumented) migrant domestic work in industrialised countries as a central element of the globalised economy, where:

European households are increasingly dependent on such migrant domestic workers and without them their employers could not go out to work in the "productive" economy. In this way, the transnational, globalised economy is brought into the private home, not just in goods consumed there, but at its very core in the organising and delivery of "reproductive" labour."

The protection of

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