The first general assembly for the Syndicate of Men and Women Domestic Workers
25 December 2015 – The efforts of two years resulted in the establishment of the Syndicate of Men and Women Domestic Workers. The syndicate’s assembly was faced with resistance from the Lebanese Ministry of Labour. News reports reported that Sejaan Qazzi, the Minister of Labour, rejected the syndicate and threatened to use force against the workers who called for the assembly, and not to issue a license to legalise the status of the syndicate. Migrant and foreign workers have no right to establish such bodies as they are excluded from the legal protection of the Lebanese Labour Law. The assembly raised the demands of “recognising the right to organisation for all workers,” ratifying the ILO convention no. 87 concerning freedom of association and the right to organisation, and convention no. 189 concerning the conditions of domestic workers and the abolishment of the exploitative Kafala system (the sponsorship system).
However, according to Farah Kobeissi, a feminist political activist, the syndicate does not enjoy autonomy since it came to be under the auspices of the National Federation of Employees’ and Workers’ Unions in Lebanon (FENASOL). She said:
“Even the members of the syndicate were not given enough space to express themselves or to voice their opinions about their logos, the banners, or slogans they raise in marches due to the control coming from FENASOL. It is imposed on them by the leadership of the general federation. The majority of the leadership of the syndicate have already left the country; whether they did so voluntarily or by force remains unclear.” 1