Thursday, July 12, 2007

MOU needed for migrant workers: ILO

National News - May 03, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The International Labor Organization (ILO) asked the government Wednesday to take the initiative and establish bilateral agreements with destination countries to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers.

"We want the government to focus on migrant domestic workers, because they make up ... 75 percent of Indonesian migrant workers," said Lotte Kejser, chief technical adviser for Combating Forced Labor and Trafficking of Indonesian Migrant Workers for the ILO.

"Most destination countries don't recognize domestic workers as skilled employees. The main problem is that household work is not regarded as a skills-based vocation."

She highlighted that Indonesia does not have labor laws covering the minimum standard of working conditions for domestic workers in its own country.

"You cannot ask for things from other governments that you are not providing for your own citizens."

"Most destination countries have not been willing to make agreements in regard to domestic workers," she said, citing the fact that a memorandum of understanding last year signed between Indonesia and Malaysia was insufficient in protecting the rights of migrant domestic workers.

"The MOU includes provisions which violate international law and human rights, for example by allowing employers to hold workers' passports. This makes workers dependent on employers and vulnerable to exploitation."

Kejser said the MOU contained no details of basic working standards such as maximum work hours, rest time, minimum wage, as well as access to health services and information.

"Indonesia's agreements with other countries mostly cover only migrant workers in...formal sectors, such as manufacturing. Agreements have yet to include domestic migrant workers."

She cited recent data indicating that 155,000 foreign domestic workers were registered in Malaysia in 2002, 70 percent of them Indonesians.

Director of the newly-established National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Overseas Labor, Ade Adam Noch, agreed: "The government will establish bilateral agreements on migrant domestic workers. However, we need the help of NGOs to put pressure on destination countries in providing protection for our migrant workforce."

He said Indonesia currently had bilateral agreements with Malaysia, South Korea and Jordan.

He said Indonesia hoped to increase the number of its migrant workers from 680,000 in 2006 to at least 750,000 this year.(07)


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