Tuesday, 31 May 2011

New London Living Wage figure announced

At a packed May Day event organised by London Citizens, the Chief Executive of Trust for London (one of Kalayaan’s funders), Bharat Mehta had the privilege of announcing the new London Living Wage figure, set annually by the Greater London Authority.

The new rate of £8.30 rose by 5.7%, which is the largest increase since its introduction.

The recent GLA report, A Fairer London: The 2011 Living Wage in London  highlights that 1 in 10 of full-time and 4 in 10 part-time workers are not paid the London Living Wage.

The event also saw the launch of the Living Wage Foundation  , the new accreditation body for this work; and the launch of a campaign organised by Fair Pensions  to persuade FTSE 100 companies to adopt the living wage.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Conference Thursday 26th May in London - 'Turning a blind eye: the British state and migrant workers' employment rights'

10am – 4.00pm
Toynbee Hall
28 Commercial St

London E1 6LS

Entitled Turning a blind eye: the British state and migrant workers' it is organised by the Working Lives Research Institute who carried out the research, looking at the enforcement of employment rights for migrant domestic workers in Britain using survey material, individual records from the UKBA and interviews with individual domestic workers.

The reseach uncovers widespread breaches of employment rights and examines the extent to which these can be, or are, detected and rectified by the State's enforcement bodies.

Speakers include:

· Dr Bridget Anderson, Centre for Migration Policy and Society, Oxford
  University, author of "Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic
  Labour" (London: Zed Books, Jan. 2000)
· Richard Murphy, Tax Research UK, founder of the Tax Justice Network
· Marissa Begonia, Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW)
· Paul Whitehouse, Chair, Gangmasters Licensing Authority
· Professor John Gabriel, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences,
  London Metropolitan University
· Leading speaker from Unite the Union· Nick Clark & Leena Kumarappan, authors
  of the  WLRI report “Turning a Blind Eye

This will be a participatory event where contributions from participants will be
encouraged. Space is limited to 100, so you are advised to register early. Registration
is free, and lunch will be provided.

Email workinglives@londonmet.ac.uk to register
your place, with your name, organisation, and contact details.
The conference will launch new research into the experience of migrant domestic workers in the UK and their employment rights.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Immigration Update session for migrant domestic workers

English lessons at Kalayaan                                  
Kalayaan is running an immigration update session this Sunday 22nd May at 2pm. We will go through any recent changes and answer general questions.
All migrant domestic workers welcome.

13, Hippodrome Place
London, W11 4SF
Tel: +44 (0)20 7243 2942

Monday, 16 May 2011

New report from Kalayaan finds diplomatic domestic workers 20 times more likely to be in slavery

Domestic workers employed by diplomats in the UK are 20 times more likely to be in slavery than those who work in private households, according to a new report by London based migrant domestic worker charity Kalayaan.

The UK is failing to prevent slavery in diplomatic households said the charity Kalayaan
today, as they published their new research Ending the abuse: Policies that work to protect migrant domestic workers in anticipation of a Government review of the visa protections afforded to this vulnerable group of mainly female workers.  The charity finds that while 0.2% of the 15,000 domestic workers who come to the UK each year find themselves in slavery, this figure rockets up to 3.8% for those in diplomatic households.

The report details how in the last three years, domestic workers who had been working for diplomats reported to Kalayaan that they had their passports withheld (58% of those registering with Kalayaan), had not been allowed out of the house unaccompanied (63%), had worked 16 hours or more per day (53%), 7 days a week (63%) and were paid under £50 per week (50%).  In some extreme cases individuals reported having been physically assaulted (11%) and sexually abused (6%).  (2010 percentages given)

Diplomatic immunity invoked by diplomats accused of slavery is currently protecting perpetrators from facing justice and a possible 14 years in prison. The charity believe that the UK must reform the immigration rules and allow migrant domestic workers who work for diplomats to change their employer, meaning they can at least escape slavery without losing their immigration status or their ability to send money home to their families.  Only then will domestic workers feel safe enough to try and pursue justice against powerful diplomats.


Jenny Moss, Community Advocate from Kalayaan said:

“The immunity of diplomats to prosecution means that this group of migrant women are the most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse including physical and sexual abuse and given the number of such abuse that have been reported it is extremely distasteful to think the Government may be unwilling to make such a change because of perceived difficulties with ‘diplomatic relations’. We simply cannot understand why those domestic workers in the employ of diplomats are not allowed to change employer just like any other domestic worker.”

Mary, a migrant domestic worker trafficked to the UK by a diplomat from her own country said:

“Once we arrived in London, I was expected to work from half past five in the morning to ten or eleven o’clock at night. I was never given a day off during the three months that I worked there and they did not pay me at all. When I asked my employer about my salary one day, he beat me severely and told me that they weren’t going to pay me because they had paid for my air ticket and I was costing them lots of money because of the food I was eating and the water I was drinking. On another occasion, I asked him about my passport, he refused to talk to me about it and kicked me in the stomach.

In the five years since I fled from my employer, I have never been paid. The problem is that the moment someone knows you’re illegal, that you don’t have any papers, then they know that you have no rights.”

 “Ending the Abuse” draws on data from the Home Office and from Kalayaan’s extensive client database and on interviews with domestic workers. The research finds that the Overseas domestic worker visa for private households is working as intended, with 94% of domestic workers coming to the UK for a short period of time and then leaving again with their employer.

In addition to extending the private household domestic worker visa rights to those in the employer of diplomats, the report also recommends a number of measures that would prevent the exploitation, abuse and trafficking of migrant domestic workers in general.  These include the Government giving every domestic worker information about their rights in their own language as part of the visa application process; to maintain the right to settlement for domestic workers so that they are able to finally be independent of an employer’s sponsorship; to institute a bridging visa for migrant domestic workers who have become undocumented through no fault of their own; and to clarify in law that all migrant domestic workers are entitled to the national minimum wage.

Premana, a migrant domestic worker who came to the UK with a private household worked long hours with no rest day for only £25 per week, and was not allowed out of the house without her employers who kept her passport.  She endured this treatment for two long years because she had never been told her rights and didn’t know she had any other option.  She said:

“I was so scared then, they used to shout and insult me all the time.  In my new job I still work long hours but the employers treat me well and I get a good salary.  Now I have a day off and go and meet the new friends I made.  I’m so much happier... I want other domestic workers to know that whatever their employers tell them, they don’t need to be scared; in the UK they have rights.”

Monday, 9 May 2011

Good news story continued

Maria’s English is slowly improving.  She is relatively well educated and can read and write some English but struggles to speak it out loud. She says that the kids she now looks after don’t understand her language so she has to speak to them in English, it’s starting to come more fluently but she is still much quieter than her friend.

Maria says one thing to me which I think probably captures what we are trying to achieve at Kalayaan more generally.  She says of the small settlement monies “at least now they know that the law is for everyone, not just for the rich people with money”. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Good news story continued

Sunday English class at Kalayaan                             
It really makes any hard work worthwhile, when you see people like Maria and Grace* who have transformed from nervous, tired and afraid of what might happen to them, to women bubbling with enthusiasm for life.  They both managed to find new employers fairly quickly after they ran away from their initial employer who’d exploited them so badly.

Grace is learning to drive – her new employer has offered to pay for her to do this but warned her that it’s difficult to learn to drive in London – he failed twice.  He’s told her to keep trying though.  She tells me she misses her daughter but that she came here to work to make a better life for them and now that she has found a good employer this is what she is doing. 

She had to work through her days off in the past three weeks because her new employer’s family were moving house but she has just been given a long rest break to compensate her and a generous bonus for her time.  She says that “I don’t mind working hard, that is what I came here for, as long as my employer is good to me, I can feel it in my heart”.

* Their names have been changed to protect their identities.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A good news story from Kalayaan Community Advocate Jenny Moss

Sometimes working in migration can feel like an uphill struggle; David Cameron’s speech on immigration recently did nothing to reassure me that this Government were moving away from polemics and policy based on populist anxieties.  I was grateful therefore that yesterday was also a good news day.  Two domestic workers who I first met about a year ago received a settlement from their former employer.  Not a settlement that was in anyway commensurate with the hours of work they did or the money they should have been paid under the national minimum wage but it was something.  And for the domestic workers themselves it was the principle rather than the money. 

Over a cup of coffee and some cake they’d brought in to say thanks, one told me that “there were so many times I wanted to give up; even though my english is not strong, after a full day’s work with my new employers, I had to read my forty page statement until late at night checking it.  But I wanted to make sure that they won’t treat anyone else like they treated me so we didn’t give up.”