The International Labour Conference of the ILO has overridden opposition from Bangladesh, India, Arab countries and employers to adopt a convention on the rights of domestic workers around the world.
Opponents to the measure tried to have the document limited to a non-binding “recommendation.”
Unexpected support for the convention came from China, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
“This is a major victory,” said Sister Jeanne Devos from India’s National Domestic Workers Movement (NDWM), which has more than 3.5 million members.
The decision showed that the international community has recognized domestic workers as people with rights comparable to other workers, she said.
The official opposition to a convention showed the scale of problems facing workers and their advocates, she said.
The new convention was passed at the ILO’s June 2-18 meeting in Geneva, attended by more than 2,500 delegates from member countries, trade unions and employer’s confederations.
It provides for freedom of association, fair terms of employment and decent working and living conditions, easy access to dispute settlement procedures, regulation of employment agencies and protection of migrant domestic workers.
The agenda also included the adoption of two recommendations - one on decent work for domestic workers and the other on HIV/AIDS and the world of work.
The conference’s decision “is only the beginning of hard bargaining for the inclusion of substantive provisions to protect the rights of domestic workers,” said Halimah Yacob, deputy secretary-general of Singapore’s National Trades Union Congress.
She praised the defeat of the resolution for a recommendation.