June 16 is International Domestic Workers Day! It marks the first anniversary of the adoption of the ILO convention 189 which aims for “decent work for domestic workers”. But some activists and observers were afraid that the first anniversary of the convention may also be its last – since it has failed to achieve the minimum of two ratifications. This turned out to be a misunderstanding:
The convention indeed needs a minimum of two ratifications to come into force. But the time frame of one year does not mean that the convention will be scrapped if it does not receive two ratifications within its first year – it rather means that it takes twelve months for it to come into force after the two minimum ratifications are received.
Thanks to my colleague Nicola Piper for researching this issue, which I had reported incorrectly myself in a previous post:
As Piyasiri Wickramasekara pointed out, it always pays off to look into the text of the convention itself – in this case Article 21 states that
1. This Convention shall be binding only upon those Members of the International Labour Organization whose ratifications have been registered with the Director-General of the International Labour Office.
2. It shall come into force twelve months after the date on which the ratifications of two Members have been registered with the Director- General.
3. Thereafter, this Convention shall come into force for any Member twelve months after the date on which its ratification is registered.
So, the convention is far from being dead, but in order to come to life, at least one more ratification is needed to start the 12 month “gestation” period. So far, only Uruguay has ratified the convention, but until recently this ratification has not yet been “formally deposited with the ILO”, so technically there is no ratification yet.
Again, this is a technical issue, so no reason for concerns. Domestic worker, migrant and trade union activists can now further focus on advocacy for a significant number of ratifications. Among the countries expected to ratify the convention in the near future are the Philippines, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Barbados and Belgium.