Due to the recent reports of abuse and call for decent and humane treatment of domestic helpers by countries sending manpower to the Middle East, representatives from five member nations of theGulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have met to discuss plans to establish a regional system concerning the management of domestic workers, according to the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation of the UAE, Nasser Bin Thani Al Hameli, last April 15.
Al Hameli, along with his counterparts from Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain attended the meeting on the sidelines of a labour conference held in Cairo, Egypt. Al Hameli further added that the Gulf representatives laid out a common vision, which is to process the file of domestic workers across all stages of the temporary contractual work cycle.
New Plan to Create a Common Policy by GCC Countries Aims to Protect Domestic Workers
Additionally, the Gulf officials agreed to form a technical committee that will work on developing proposals that will encompass the unified Gulf vision in the file handling of domestic workers. All of these recommendations will be laid out in a future meeting, according to Minister Al Hameli.
Just last year, the UAE passed a law to uphold the basic rights of domestic workers which includes a regular weekly day-off, 30 days of paid leave every year, and the right to keep their own personal documents.
The law also entitles domestic workers to rest for at least 12 hours, which includes eight consecutive hours of rest.
The enactment of such laws fosters acceptable to ideal labour conditions for domestic workers. This includes social security as well as access to special tribunals at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation and trial courts. The law maintains that only those and above 18 years of age may work as a domestic worker, which follows international standards with the vision to eradicate child labour worldwide.
UAE Minister Al Hameli shared in the meeting that domestic workers play an important role of the temporary employment in the Gulf countries, which fully support the advocacy of labour rights through laws and workplace practices in all of the GCC member countries in response to a number of challenges which call for establishing coordination among the ministries involved in handling and regulating the file of domestic workers from which joint contributions are called for to overcome such challenges.
The UAE minister added that the GCC member states are serious in building partnerships with the respective governments of labour-sending countries specifically through the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, in line with their social responsibility to support the enactment of fair and conscientious recruitment practices that will prune out any illegal and unfair practices, which the workers may experience even before their deployment to any GCC member countries.
With the development of a unified Gulf vision in the handing of file of domestic workers, an opportunity to enrich national legislation and practices, set the expectations of both employers and employees, and nip any negative procedure right in the bud can be achieved within the duration of the contractual work cycle, explained Minister Al Hameli.
The labour conditions of domestic workers in all six GCC member states have been put into scrutiny in the wake of the murder of a 29-year old Filipina domestic worker whose dead body was found inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait earlier this year.
Currently, Philippine officials are polishing an agreement with Kuwait to ascertain their workers their rights to keep their cell phones and travel documents, as well as for them to have proper rest periods and meals.