Beyond Trafficking and Slavery

The precarity of domestic workers in Mexico

Mexican domestic workers face precarious protections and a lack of legal recognition, despite international efforts to recognise their rights. Español

Marcelina Bautista
2 February 2018

My name is Marcelina Bautista, and I am from Mexico City. I represent the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras del Hogar (National Union of Domestic Workers). It is an organisation founded to defend and promote the human rights and labour rights of domestic workers.

In Mexico, the situation with domestic workers has become very precarious, since their rights have not been legally recognised. Our union is advocating for the legal recognition of domestic workers’ rights. Domestic workers deserve dignified work conditions, a fair wage, and recognition of their right to organise and to social security. Additionally, employers must recognise the value of domestic labour, which allows them to be professionals and contribute to the wellbeing of their countries in other ways.

Neil Howard (oD): What does the international convention mean for the domestic labour sector?

Marcelina: For domestic workers, the convention is very important. Many of our countries do not have laws that guarantee our rights, so we can only turn to Convention 189 (the ILO’s Domestic Workers Convention). In the case of Mexico, where our rights are not recognised and the laws are quite bad, we are demanding full ratification. We’ve been advocating for ratification in Mexico for six years.


♒ ♒ ♒ ♒ /flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The government has yet to do it, and our union is negotiating in a more direct way with employers so that they can begin to acknowledge our rights. We’ve created a collective labour contract that employers can sign and that formalises these rights in a contractual relationship. I am calling for my government in Mexico to ratify it. Of the 183 countries that have signed the agreement, only 24 have ratified it. Therefore, I believe it is very important that we call for all governments to abide by the agreement, since our work is so important to society at large.

Neil (oD): Why is this struggle important for other workers?

Marcelina: I think that unity among workers is very important. Domestic workers are not the only ones that have a hard time gaining recognition of their rights. Unity among struggles is also important, since our sector includes migrant workers, child workers and indigenous women. It should be essential for all working people to have a right to just and dignified employment.

Neil (oD): Is there anything you would like to add?

Marcelina: I’m calling on all my fellow domestic workers  to join our struggle to dignify our labour. I am also asking employers to recognise our labour, which should be granted the same rights as any other form of work.

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