2nd Workshop

Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil, Sat July 3 – Mon July 5, 2010

The workshop started with an interactive session with three Campinas-based Brazilian DWs from the trade union “Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Domésticos de Campinas – SP”. Their union is associated with the service trade union CONTRACS. Their presentation contained: 1) the fascinating history and present state of the domestic workers organizing in Brazil. As early as in 1936, the first domestic workers’ organization was founded by Laudelina de Campos Mello. 2) a reflection on the ILO Convention on “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” and the International Labour Conference in June 2010 in Geneva. Two of our guests and two of the workshop participants had been present in Geneva. In the discussion also issues on the relation between trade unions and domestic workers came up. Some left-wing parts of the Brazilian unions support very much the domestic workers, however, there is still discrimination of DW within the unions, we learned. They feel that the problem is that they do not work under general labour law (Art. 7 of the Constitution grants rights for all workers, but excludes domestic workers), which has the effect that also unions consider their engagement for DW more as charity and less as part of a joint struggle. 

The group discussed the research that has been conducted after the previous meeting in Geneva: Interdisciplinary research; GLU Alumni Research Group with seven country studies; the production of a Global Statistical Overview by Lisa-Marie Heimeshoff and Helen Schwenken for the IUF/IDWN; they also conducted a German case study on undocumented migrant domestic workers (for the European Fundamental Rights Agency); the two co-organisers of the Geneva-meeting are editing a debate section in the International Feminist Journal of Politics, including an imaginary round table with domestic workers’ positions on the upcoming ILO convention, a paper by Shireen Ally and a piece arguing for a DW Convention (Claire Hobden kindly volunteered as author).

In the following session the role of trade unions in organizing domestic workers was discussed based on several presentations:

  • Akua Britwum, University of Cape Coast, Ghana: Trade union efforts for organising domestic workers in Ghana
  • Sabrina Marchetti, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands: When labour rights meet migration: Trade unionists and Filipina domestic worker activists in Italy (tabled paper)
  • Jô Portilho, Rio de Janeiro, GLU alumni research group on domestic work: Organising domestic workers: A case study from Brazil

At the last day of the workshop, we went for an excursion to Sao Paulo to visit several groups engaged with domestic workers’ and migrant issues. First, we visited a faith-based service center for migrants, CAMI. Our second stop was the services trade union CONTRACS. Two of the domestic workers we already knew from Saturday, joined the first part of the discussion. In the evening we went to a meeting with Grupo i-migrantes, a broad alliance of several migrant and advocacy groups. The group representatives present gave us an overview on migrant issues in Sao Paulo and different approaches (local government’s Human Rights Commission; African diaspora; faith-based; anti-racism; regularization campaign; women’s issues; incarceration; human rights etc.).