HUNDREDS of migrant domestic workers gathered last Sunday in Old Palace Yard, Westminster to demonstrate against the Government’s proposed changes to the domestic workers’ visa.
The British government has proposed to change the domestic workers’ visa and remove some of the most fundamental rights of migrant domestic workers, which could leave them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
At present migrant domestic workers have some protections. They are allowed to change their employer without losing their immigration status, meaning if they are mistreated, they can leave and find new non-exploitative work to support their families.
They can seek justice through the police or the employment courts without fearing they will be deported.
If these rights are removed, unscrupulous employers will know they can abuse and exploit with impunity.
Justice 4 Domestic Workers, the domestic worker led group organising the rally, and supported by Kalayaan and Unite the union in demanding that the Government does not return slavery to Britain and that:
• Domestic worker visa rights are retained, including the right to change employer and recognition as a worker covered by employment legislation;
• Those who come to the UK with diplomats have these same rights;
• The UK government ratifies and implements the International Labour Convention on domestic workers
Marissa Begonia, chair of Justice 4 Domestic Workers, said: “Where are we heading if the minimal protection we have is about to be removed, back to the century of slavery?
“The domestic worker visa has been our escape route from abusive employers and enabled us to rebuild our lives from this exploitative situation.
“The UK government acknowledged the need to protect migrant domestic workers in 1998 and implemented the domestic workers’ visa. Why take back what is proven as the best protection of some of the most vulnerable workers?
“We urge the Government to uphold the honour and dignity of the United Kingdom and improve the current working and living conditions of domestic workers. The more vulnerable the worker is, the more protection they need.”
Jenny Moss, community advocate at Kalayaan, said: “Removing the vital protections associated with the domestic worker visa will undoubtedly lead to an increase in abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. It is shameful that the UK government intends to return us to slavery for the sake of knocking 1,000 people from their net migration total.”
Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “The domestic worker visa was introduced with all-party support to right a very serious wrong. It is horrifying to contemplate a return to the slavery and bonded labour before the visa. This Government cannot brush the issue of slavery under the carpet.”