Wellington, June 9 NZPA - Unions and the Human Rights Commission (HRC) are accusing the Government of voting against a proposal to set work standards for domestic workers at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
A spokesman for Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the complainants were misrepresenting the Government's position.
The Service and Food Workers Union, Public Service Association and HRC put out statements criticising the Government for voting against setting a new international labour standard for domestic workers which the ILO is considering.
Ms Wilkinson's spokesman said New Zealand did support a standard, but preferred a recommendation rather than a convention.
The ILO planned about two years of discussions on the issue at the end of which countries can choose to opt in or not.
"In an initial procedural vote on this issue on Friday 4 June last week, New Zealand voted for a recommendation as the basis for the initial conference discussion," he said.
"New Zealand is not a significant sender or destination for domestic workers and our employment laws apply to all workers.
"A key reason this discussion is taking place at the ILO is because current labour conventions are simply not applied to domestic workers by many countries.
"So the question is whether there is any point in another convention that would only be ignored by those countries where the exploitation of domestic workers occurs.
"New Zealand has been taking a serious and realistic position in encouraging consideration of practical mechanisms to promote the rights of domestic workers that are able to be widely adopted and effectively operated, particularly in countries where existing conventions are not applied. Hence the preference for a recommendation as the basis for the initial discussion."
The unions said international conventions were an important way of sending a message to countries and provided a benchmark in developing countries when they lacked local protection laws.