Unite Union Press Release:
Migrant domestic workers will be gathering at Old Palace Yard, Westminster this Sunday (15 June) to demonstrate against the government’s changes to the domestic workers visa.
They will also hand a petition to Downing Street on Monday (16 June), which has been signed by thousands, calling for the reinstatement of the Overseas Domestic Worker visa.
Despite strong opposition from many individuals, organisations, charities and unions, the government, in April 2012, abolished the rights of domestic workers to change employer once they are in the UK.
Under the Tied Domestic Worker visa, implemented by this government, domestic workers entering the UK have become modern slaves.
They are ‘tied’ to the one employer (who brings them here) making them much more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and preventing enforcement of the employment rights they are supposed to be entitled to.
This effectively traps them with that employer, and they will have to return either to their country or that of their employer within six months.
There is a real danger that domestic workers are now driven underground as many employers enslave, abuse and exploit them more because the current system allows them to do so.
Two years on, thousands of migrant domestic workers have found themselves in this situation of being ‘tied’ to their employer, with no redress if they are abused and exploited and living with the added fear of deportation if they speak out.
These workers, some of the most vulnerable workers in our society, are enraged that after decades of campaigning to get the same rights and privileges we all enjoy, this government demolished their achievement by replacing Overseas Domestic Worker visa with the Tied Domestic Worker visa.
Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “It had taken many years of campaigning to get some of the most vulnerable workers in our society the same rights and privileges that everyone should be able to count on, but this government has demolished these vital achievements.
“Justice for migrant domestic workers cannot be swept under the carpet by this government. They have reintroduced modern day slavery and Unite and others are absolutely committed to ending it and reinstating the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa.”
Marissa Begonia, Justice 4 Domestic Workers chair, said: “The trauma of repetitive abuse of migrant domestic workers on the Tied Domestic Worker visa with no access to justice is inhuman. For this government to facilitate and tolerate slavery in the UK is an unforgivable crime.
“This government must end the abuse, exploitation and slavery of the already vulnerable migrant domestic workers. It’s time to restore domestic workers’ rights.”
Kate Roberts, Kalayaan community advocate, said: “Given this government’s stated commitment to combating slavery in the UK we are dismayed at its rejection of the important recommendations of the Joint Committee for the draft Modern Slavery Bill to reinstate the original visa and corresponding rights.
“Two years since domestic workers were tied to their employers the evidence is clear; that these workers are far more likely to be abused and enslaved than those who are not tied and are effectively imprisoned in these conditions by the current immigration rules.
“With this knowledge it is unforgivable to maintain the tied visa which must be replaced urgently with the original Overseas Domestic Worker visa, a system proven to work well and to allow migrant domestic workers a chance for justice.”
Source: Domestic workers rally to oppose the return to slavery in the UK – Published with permission.