On Sunday, 3 May, a Workers’ Day parade and festival were held here in Beirut. The events were led by the newly inaugurated Domestic Workers’ Union that seeks, among other things, to represent the interests of more than a quarter of a million female migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. The union’s formation earlier this year wasrejected by the Lebanese Labour Ministry.
The ostensible reason for holding the celebration on a Sunday rather than on 1 May, International Workers’ Day, was to maximise the number of participants. The problem, however, is that many household employees in Lebanon don’t get a single day off - hence the utility of a union dedicated to fighting for this and other rights.
The Lebanese government has declined to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention, which specifies some basic elements of “decent work” for domestic workers. These include not only the right to collective bargaining and 24 consecutive hours of weekly rest, but also protections from other common phenomena in Lebanon, such as the confiscation of passports by employers. Article 15 of the convention states that workers “recruited or placed by private employment agencies” should be protected “against abusive practises”.
Luckily for abusers, the ILO’s recommendations appear to be anathema to the state, with the Labour Ministry lambasting the domestic workers’ union as “illegal”. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.