From November 2014 onwards, Making Herstory has been backing Justice 4 Domestic Workers’ (J4DW) campaign and protests to ensure the new Modern Slavery Act contains crucial amendments which could save the lives of abused Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) – in short, the nannies, maids, cleaners and cooks brought / trafficked in from abroad to work in some of the richest households in the country.
On 25th March 2015, to our great disappointment, MPs in the House of Commons voted against a basic protection which permitted a migrant domestic worker in the UK to change their employers and independently apply to renew their visa.
This amendment, which would have demolished the current Tied Visa System through which workers are tied to their employers no matter what they suffer and is widely reported to be “turning domestic workers into modern-day slaves”, had been voted into the Modern Slavery Bill by the House of Lords on 25th February 2015.
The UK Government however, opposed the Lords’ amendment, arguing that by allowing migrant domestic workers to change employers, workers may not go forward to the police and their employers may escape prosecution. The question which arises of why an employee, tied to (and therefore completely dependent) on their employer, would go to the police and prosecute them when they have no means of escape or support, was of course ignored.
The failure of the House of Commons to include this amendment in an Act intended to wipe out the existence of slavery in the UK, means those MDWs who experience abuse and sexual violence have no means of escaping their abusers.
We will continue working with J4DW to improve the situations of abused workers, and look forward to updating you as we go.