News

Europe: Domestic Workers Begin to See Some Rights

30 June, 2010

By Claudia Ciobanu

Bucharest (IPS) – Twenty-seven-year-old Maria Puscariu is about to complete her MA in philosophy at a Belgian university. The Moldovan has been working for over five years as a domestic worker in Western Europe in order to support herself and finance her studies.

Puscariu started out as care worker in the Lisbon home of a patient with a mental condition. Even though the Portuguese family she worked for treated her well, she had to be careful not to upset her employers.

"When you are illegal and your work is unregulated, it all depends on the employer, and there is too much pressure to be nice," she tells IPS. "There is no sick leave, so if you become ill for a longer period of time, you risk being fired. The same can happen if you want to return to your country for a while to visit your family."

In Belgium, Puscariu works as a house cleaner, this time legally, as her student visa allows her to work for 20 hours weekly.

"The system is very well set up in Belgium and people are encouraged to hire housekeepers in this country through tax incentives," Puscariu says. She now works through an agency, and has access to sick leave, vacation pay and insurance.

"Being a domestic worker is not prestigious in Belgium, but it is respected. In Portugal, the family you work for can treat you horribly, thinking 'you're our maid, you are not worth being nice with'."

Like Puscariu, millions of Eastern European women work in private homes in Western Europe, cleaning or looking after children and the elderly. Precise numbers are hard to pin down since a large number of domestic workers in Europe work illegally. A Romanian or a Bulgarian, for instance, can go into a Western European country without a visa and then overstay the permitted three months without registering and start working informally.

According to WIEGO, an organisation representing women in informal employment worldwide, more than 1.2 million workers provide domestic services in Italy, and over 50 percent of migrant workers in France are domestic workers.

There are more than 100 million domestic workers worldwide, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). They form "one of the largest yet unprotected sectors of the labour force," it says. The vast majority are women.

According to research conducted between 2006 and 2007 in the UK by Kalayaan – an organisation supporting rights for migrant domestic workers, 84 percent of migrant domestic workers were female. Of these, 86 percent worked more than 16 hours a day, 70 percent complained of psychological abuse, and 56 percent had no private room in the employers' house.

The number of Eastern European domestic workers in Western Europe has boomed over the past decade as the EU enlarged eastward, and concurrent with the privatisation of care services in Western European countries, according to research by social scientist Sarah Schilliger from the Basel Institute for Sociology in Switzerland.

Schilliger's research focuses on care workers assisting elderly people in their homes in Switzerland. However, the features she attributes to doing this kind of job easily apply to most domestic work done by migrant women worldwide: low wages; insecurity of job and lack of social benefits and access to healthcare; blurry line between professional status and being considered a member of the family, which limits the privacy and power of negotiation of the worker; pressure to be always on the job if living in-house; isolation.

Like most domestic work, care work is traditionally considered a female occupation. In Europe, with increasing participation of women in the labour market, care and domestic tasks are increasingly left to migrant women.

In their turn, these women's departure leaves home countries suffering from a "care deficit". In Romania more than 25,000 children have both parents working abroad and several cases of children committing suicide among these were attributed by psychologists at least partly to the absence of the parents.

To avoid some of these negative consequences and improve the lives of migrant workers, this care cycle must be acknowledged and integrated in work legislation in all countries, argues Sarah Schilliger. "Care and care work must be understood as the centre of human life," the researcher tells IPS. "Governments must ensure that women's informal care work is covered by labour legislation and understood as a major contribution to the welfare system."

Some European governments are taking steps in the direction of regularising care and other domestic work but many are lagging behind.

Unionisation of migrant labour is notoriously difficult, and for migrant care workers additional obstacles appear. "Care workers live and work in the private household and the home is a private space, which makes it difficult to control working conditions," says Schilliger. "Secondly, the immigration status is crucial: a worker whose migration status is tied to her employer or is undocumented is extremely vulnerable."

In spite of this, migrant women are not powerless, stresses Schilliger. "Non-traditional forms of labour organising are more suited to the specifics of paid domestic work than traditional unionism."

The efforts of migrant workers groups are paying off. This year, meeting June 2–18, the International Labour Organisation (ILO, the UN agency focused on workers' rights) agreed to consider adopting an international convention for the protection of the rights of domestic workers, including fair working standards and norms regarding social assistance and support.

WIEGO's Karin Pape, coordinator of the international domestic workers' network at the ILO meeting, said that the decision that domestic workers' rights be written into a convention rather than a recommendation – as employers and some governments had wanted – "is just an important first step." But the convention still needs to be voted in the ILO plenary next year, and then has to be ratified by the 183 member states.

The activist said that this year domestic workers' groups have to work to persuade employers and many governments that the convention needs to be adopted. Some European governments too are among the skeptics, arguing that an international convention is not necessary because national legislation should be sufficient.

Source: www.ipsnews.net

Joint Declaration on Celebrating May Day 2010 as "Asian Domestic Workers' Day"

1 May, 2010

HONG KONG -

Joint Declaration on Celebrating May Day 2010 as “Asian Domestic Workers’ Day”

“We are not begging for special treatment. We, domestic workers, are claiming our basic rights. We are demanding equal treatment and proper recognition as workers and members of society. We will continue to fight abuses and exploitation. We want freedom from slavery.” ~Sringatin, Chairperson, Federation of Asian Domestic Workers’ Union (FADWU, Hong Kong)

May Day 2010 will mark 124 years since 300,000 workers first walked out of their jobs demanding an 8-hour workday. The '8-hour standard work' is one of the hallmarks that differentiate workers from slaves. At its very first session in 1919, the ILO formalized this principle into international law by adopting ILO Convention #1. In 1999, ‘decent work hours’ was identified as a key component of ILO’s decent work principles.

Sadly, a century-and-a-quarter later, one of the most vulnerable sections of the working class – the domestic (household) workers – have been denied decent work hours and other basic labour standards (decent wage, regular rest days, retirement/social security, reproductive/family rights, etc.). ILO Convention #1 and many other key ILO Conventions exclude domestic workers from their coverage. It is long overdue to renew the revolutionary spirit of May Day 1886 in the modern-day context – by making these basic standards universally applicable to all workers, especially the vulnerable, like the domestic workers.

Therefore, trade unions and domestic workers’ organizations, together with migrant, women, and civil society and partner advocates, have come together to spearhead the international campaign for the rights and recognition of domestic workers. As part of this joint campaign, we have agreed to jointly celebrate May Day 2010 as the “Asian Domestic Workers’ Day’ to emphasize the core labour rights principles and highlight our call for the proper recognition of the rights, value, and status of domestic workers as workers.

May Day 2010 is at the threshold of the global labour landscape because the 2011 International Labour Conference is expected to adopt the ILO Convention on Domestic Work. This new international treaty, like Convention #1 more than a century ago, will put a legal face to the hundreds of millions of domestic workers around the world. An ILO Convention will formally define domestic work as work, and will make all the fundamental labour rights and decent work principles equally applicable to domestic workers. The adoption of the Convention will help address the stark invisibility of domestic work as a form of employment.

Housework is one of the oldest and most fundamental duties performed by a majority of women because women are traditionally considered as nurturers of the family. For centuries, it has been work that is informal, unregulated, unpaid or undervalued, unprotected and unrecognized. Domestic workers enable employers and their families to participate in the productive processes of the larger society.

The intensification of free-market globalization in the last 50 years saw a need for domestic workers on a global scale, giving rise to multi-billion dollar migrant domestic work (MDW) industry. Millions of MDWs have taken over house care for families both in the global North and South, and have created new economic opportunities for other workingwomen in receiving countries. Domestic work has also generated economic benefits for sending countries, mainly through remittances than enable these countries to survive many economic crises. Migrant domestic work is now one of the main occupational preferences of women workers seeking to survive steadily disappearing livelihood opportunities at home.

Due to the nature of the job, the situation of domestic workers has remained precarious, vulnerable, and invisible. The unique challenges faced by domestic workers start from the day of recruitment. Live-in local and migrant domestic workers are particularly susceptible to various forms of maltreatment at the workplace and have little or no channels of redress. Migrant domestic workers are preyed on by opportunistic recruiters, employers, and corrupt officials. Vulnerabilities to forced labour, slavery-like conditions and trafficking increase as domestic workers end their employment and search for new work. Domestic workers, especially at the local level, also involve a substantial number of children, which is another major concern of the ILO.

The ILO has recognized the urgent need to establish minimum standards of “human dignity and self-respect” for domestic workers as early as 1965, in a resolution that cited the lack of social and legal protection for them. However, until today, this has not progressed into binding standards or legal commitments. Part of this inaction is the prevailing notion that domestic work does not constitute formal employment – i.e. it is an extension of women’s unpaid reproductive (nurturing) role; domestic workers also predominantly come from lower classes or castes especially in Asian societies. An ILO Convention will help break these gender and class stereotypes, and lay down the basis for an employer-employee relationship in domestic work.

We, the undersigned, call for the adoption by 2011 of an International Convention on Domestic Work, together with clear guidelines on monitoring and implementation, reporting and compliance mechanisms. We believe an ILO Convention will significantly contribute to the reduction of slavery-like conditions, abuse, violence, exploitation, inequality, and discrimination against women and domestic workers. It will help reduce the worst forms of child labour, the stigmatization and criminalization of migrant domestic workers, and racial and ethnic discrimination.



On May Day 2010, we call on everyone to support and celebrate the “Asian Domestic Workers’ Day.” We, the domestic workers’ groups, trade unions, migrant organizations, women’s groups, civil society and advocates in Asia and globally will march together in solidarity as we demand for the recognition and respect of rights, value, contributions, and status of domestic workers as workers and equal members of society.

Domestic Work is Work!

Domestic Workers are Workers!

Domestic Work is NOT Slavery!

Adopt an ILO Convention on Domestic Work in 2011!



SIGNATORIES:

Asia-Pacific

Regional unions & organizations

Asian Migrant Domestic Workers’ Alliance (ADWA) *

Asian Domestic Workers Network (ADWN) *

Asian Migrant Centre (AMC) *

Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs (APAY)

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

CARAM-Asia

Committee for Asian Women (CAW) *

Focus on the Global South - India, Philippines, Thailand

Global Network Asia *

IUF-Asia Pacific

International Young Christian Workers - Asia Pacific (IYCW ASPAC)

Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) *

Southeast Asia Women Watch (SEAWWatch)



Australia

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)



Bangladesh

Association for Community Development-ACD

Karmojibi Nari (KN)

WARBE Development Foundation

Burma

ALTSEAN Burma!

Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (FTUB)

Cambodia

Cambodia Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW)



China

Migrant Women's Club, Beijing



Hong Kong

Alliance of Progressive Labour-Hong Kong (APL-HK)

Association for the Advancement of Feminism

Black List for recruetmen agency, agency & employer who violate migrant rights alliance

Coalition for Migrants’ Rights (CMR) *

Federation of Asian Domestic Workers’ Unions in Hong Kong (FADWU) *

Filipino Domestic Workers' Union (FDWU)

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) *

Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union

Hong Kong Women's Coalition on Equal Opportunities

Hong Kong Women Workers' Association

Indonesian migran worker Union ( IMWU )

Unlad Kabayan



India

Alliance of Peoples Movement

Center for Education and Communication

Domestic workers rights union, Karnataka

Hind Mahila Sabha

Karnataka Domestic Workers' Union

National Campaign for Domestic Workers-India

National Domestic Workers Movement

Nirmala Niketan

Penn Thozhilalargal Sangam, (Women Workers' Union, Chennai)

Rural Women's Libaration Movement

Rural workers Movement

Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA)

Tamil Nadu Women's Forum

Tamil Nadu Dalit Women's Movement

Women Workers Trade Union



Indonesia

ACILS

ASPEK Indonesia

Association of Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (ATKI)

Federation of Indonesian Women Legal Aid

FKUI SBSI

The Foundation for Legal Aid (YPBHI) - Lampung

FSPMI

FSPSI Reformasi

FSPTSK

Imparsial-Indonesia

Indonesian Women in Politics Caucus Makassar

Jakarta Legal Aid Institute

Jala PRT (National Network for Advocacy for domestic workers)

Kelompok Perempuan untuk Keadilan Buruh (KPKB)

KSBSI

LBT APIK Jakarta

Migrant Care Indonesia

Migrant Care Jakarta

National Commission on Violence Against Women

Sahabat Sekerja (SAHAJA)

SBMI

Social Analysis and Research Institute (SARI)

Solidaritas Perempuan (Women's Solidarity for Human Rights)

SBSI

Tunas Mulia Domestic Workers Union, Yogjakarta

The United Development Party/PPP

UNIMIG Indonesia

YASANTI

Yuniasri (Gugus Kerja Pekerja Migran-Komaas Perempuan)



Japan

Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center (AJWRC)



Jordan

Women Access To Entrepreneurship Development and Training (WAEDAT)* 



Korea

Korean House Managers Cooperative

Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)



Malaysia

Friends of Women

Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC)

The National Human Rights Society of Malaysia (HAKAM)

UNI Global Union - Malaysian Liaison Council (UNI-MLC) Migrant Workers Help Desk

Writer Alliance for Media Independence



Mongolia

Centre for Human Rights and Development



Nepal

Alliance for Social Dialogue

Children Women in Social Service and Human Rights(CWISH)

Gefont

Nepali Independent Domestic Workers Union

Nepal Institute of Development Studies (NIDS)

POURAKHI

Rural Women's Network Nepal (RUWON Nepal)

Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC Nepal)



Pakistan

Labour Education Foundation

Potonar Organization for Development Advocacy



Philippines

Alliance for Progressive Labor (APL) * 

Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines

Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN)

Mary Star of the Sea Seafarers Family Association (MaSSSFA)

Miriam College-Women and Gender Institute (WAGI)

Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Mangagawang Pantahanan sa Pilipinas (SUMAPI)

Solidaritas Migran Scalabrini Philippines INC.

Southeast Asia Women Watch (SEAWWatch)



Singapore

HOME Singapore

Singaporeans For Democracy

Transient Workers Count



Sri Lanka

Institute of Social Development

National Workers Congress

Red Flag Women's Movement



Taiwan

Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Center (HMISC)

Raging Citizens Act Now (RCAN)



Africa



Carboverdiana

Confederaçao Caboverdiana dos Sindicatos Livres - CCSL

Ghana

Ghana Trade Union Congress

Public Services Workers Union OF TUC, Ghana

Nigeria

BAOBAB for Women Human Rights

Food, Beverage & Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB)

IUF Nigeria Council



South Africa

Democratic Alliance

South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU)

Togo

Syndicat des Travailleurs des Enterprises de Boissons



Americas



Regional organizations -

Latin America

Avina Foundation

CONLACTRAHO

Latin American Association of Waste Pickers



Mexico

CACEH



USA

Chinese Progressive Association  (San Francisco) (CPA)

CIVISOL / RRA

Global Workers Justice Alliance

National Domestic Worker Alliance



USA & Canada

UNITEHERE



Europe

Regional organizations

Babaylan - Europe

RESPECT Network in Europe



Belgium

ACV – CSC Food and Services



Denmark

United Federation of Danish Workers (Fagligt Fælles Forbund/ 3F)

England

Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW)

Trades Union Congress



Finland

Finnish Philippine Society

Service Union United PAM

Workers' Education Association of Finland



France

CFDT

Syndicat CFDT des Salariés Particulier Employeur d'Ile de France

Georgia

IDP Women Association



Greece

KASAPI



Ireland

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

Republic of Moldova

Promo-LEX



The Netherlands

Commission for Filipino Migrant Workers

FNV Bondgenoten

I-MEI Committee-Nederland

India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN)

Philippine Solidarity Group Netherlands

RESPECT-NL

United Migrant Domestic Workers in the Netherlands (UMDWs-NL)

Turkey

Human Rights Research Association



International unions & organizations

AIC (Association Internationale des Charités - International Association of Charities)

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

Global Labour Institute

Human Rights Watch

International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) *

International Republican Institute

The International Labor Rights Forum

The Missionary Society of St. Columban (MSSC)

ITUC-AP (International Trade Union Confederation-Asia Pacific )

IUF

International Working Group for Domestic Workers (IWG-DW) *

Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW)

Migrants Rights International (MRI)

United Religious Initiative (URI)

OXFAM

WIEGO, Women in Informal Economy: Globalizing and Organizing

Worldwide Foundation

Individual



Ario Adityo

Rev.Hans Lutz

Jose Dimaandal

Joseph Cheng, City University of Hong Kong

Leociana Vieira

Dr. Tiwari



Read the full statement in WORD and/or in PDF.

Lita Anggraini: Never-ending struggle

16 February, 2010

INDONESIA -

By Sri Wahyuni

Lita Anggraini never imagined she would become a female activist fighting for the rights of domestic workers.

But here she is now at age 41, coordinating the National Network for Domestic Worker Advocacy (Jala PRT), and advocating for the rights of PRTs, the popular abbreviation for domestic workers.

Her work consists in ensuring domestic workers are aware of their rights, and are acknowledged as well as legally protected as workers.

“I don’t consider this occupation as a job, but as a part of my life, and I will keep working at it even if there is no institution or organization employing me to do so,” Lita told The Jakarta Post in Yogyakarta early last week.

Lita was in the city for a series of meetings with activists from Rumpun Tjoet Njak Dien (RTND), an NGO focusing on PRT rights, which she once chaired and helped established in 1995 in Yogyakarta.

She came to Jakarta in 2008 to help run Jala PRT, an umbrella organization for 35 similar-minded groups across the country established in 2004.

Her agenda? Changing the public’s mindset about domestic workers, and making sure the rights of PRTs, both as citizens and workers, are recognized and protected.

Most domestic workers in Indonesia — the country with reportedly the largest number of PRT employed worldwide — are women from rural areas who have very little education.

Domestic workers have consequently been marginalized, as they are often looked down on as second-class citizens. They are also prone to physical, social and sexual abuse.

But Lita retorts that domestic workers perform tasks that are as dignified as other jobs in the formal sector. PRTs play a crucial role in the society, enabling other individuals to develop themselves and carry out their jobs.

“That’s why we prefer to use PRT as the abbreviation for domestic workers [pekerja rumah tangga] and not of domestic helpers [pembantu rumah tangga],” Lita said.

To help empower PRTs, Lita set up a PRT school at RTND’s headquarters in Yogyakarta in 2003 to provide three-month-long courses.

Participants are trained not only become professional PRTs but also citizens who understand their rights as workers and can fend for themselves in time of trouble.

By setting up a school, she said, she wanted to show the public that domestic work also required skills. At the same time, she is helping PRT’s realize that with each task well performed will come a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of respect.

While joining the course, participants are also advised to form their own organizations to increase their bargaining power, fight for their rights, reasonable wages and working hours, as well as be treated like workers, not slaves.

To achieve these objectives, with the help of organizations she either chairs or joins, Lita campaigns for the rights of PRTs through various media.

“Many have now acknowledged PRTs as workers, not helpers,” she said.

Sections of the public have also recognized the need for PRTs to be protected by law. In 2005, Jala PRT prepared a draft bill concerning the protection of PRTs and proposed it to the House of Representatives for deliberation.

It was once included in the House’s 2004-2009 list of national legislation programs (Prolegnas) but was never been discussed. Only this year did it finally become a priority for the 2010 Prolegnas.

“Thanks to all your prayers and support, the House’s Commission IX [which oversees the issue] has decided last night that of the two bills they had to deliberate this year, one would be the bill on PRT protection,” said Lita in a text message sent to The Post on Friday.

She said if everything ran as expected, the House would probably approve the bill in three years time.

Promising developments, according to Lita, have also been seen at the international level with the International Labor Organization (ILO) discussing legal instruments to protect PRTs either in the form of a convention or recommendations.

“We consider 2010 as an important year for this struggle. We have to focus our energy on making sure the bill is approved at the national level and that a convention on protecting PRTs is established at the international level,” Lita said.

She hoped the Asian Domestic Worker Network and the International Domestic Worker Network, co-established by RTND in 2005 and 2006, would encourage people to respect the work of PRTs.

“This is a never-ending movement for me that needs the supports from all stakeholders. I want to make people understand that this is our problem, given the majority of [Indonesian] families employ PRTs,” Lita said.

Lita, also an alumnus of the International Relations Department of Gadjah Mada University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, is planning to establish a domestic work institute to help speed up the struggle for domestic workers’ rights.

“It’s an institute for everyone who wants to know more about domestic workers, to foster in them a sense of pride in their job,” said Lita, hoping the institute would take off either in Jakarta, Semarang or Yogyakarta in two years time.





Source & Photo:

Lita Anggraini: Never-ending struggle | The Jakarta Post

EFFAT Women's Conference in Berlin

19 October, 2009

Berlin-

IDWN international coordinator Karin Pape attended a Women's Conference in Berlin hosted by the European Federation of Food, Agriculture & Tourism trade union (EFFAT). Click on the underlined links below to find out more about this October, 2009 event.

USA: The Rights of Domestic Workers

14 June, 2009

There are more than 200,000 workplaces in New York State where fundamental labor standards do not apply, not even in theory. These are not sweatshops or salt mines. They are private homes, where housekeepers, nannies and caregivers for the elderly do work as important as it is isolated and unprotected.

The exclusion is a relic of the New Deal, when labor protections like overtime pay were written specifically to exclude domestic and farm labor. From exclusion it can be a short distance to abuse: to long hours, low pay, dehumanizing treatment, physical and sexual harassment.

Domestic workers and their advocates in New York have been pressing for reforms. They have been telling their stories in Albany and across the state and steadily gathering support for a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. The legislation, the first of its kind in the nation, would reform state labor law to provide basic protections like time-and-a-half pay for every hour over a 40-hour week; one day off a week; paid vacation and sick days; severance pay and health coverage – and a means of enforcing these standards in court.

Most other workers take these standards for granted. They don't know what it's like to have to show up for work sick rather than be fired, to be denied privacy and dignity, to be powerless to demand decent treatment from their employers.

Backers of the bill had been confident that this could finally be the year for a groundbreaking victory, at least before the recent power struggle brought the Capitol to new depths of shame, ridicule and paralysis.

If the Legislature decides to return to its senses and start passing meaningful legislation that improves New Yorkers' lives, it should include the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights. Albany, which has not been able to govern its way out of a paper bag, should at least be able to bestow some fundamental rights and protections on the invisible workers whose labors are a cornerstone of the New York economy.

Source: Editorial of The New York Times, 14 June 2009

Malaysia: Drafting First Laws To Protect Maids

23 April, 2009

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) – Malaysia is drafting new laws to protect domestic workers from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor working conditions, an official said Thursday. The move would provide the first legal protection for domestic workers in Malaysia – mostly from Indonesia – who are not covered by legislation that protects foreign workers in other sectors like construction. "We have proposed three new provisions in law to deal with sexual harassment, wages and their working conditions," said Sabri Karmani, deputy director general of the labour department.

"They are with the Attorney-General's Chambers now and hopefully they will be tabled in the next parliament session," he said in a speech to a conference on migrant labour. Sabri said that last year there were 834 complaints filed by domestic workers through their embassies, with non payment of wages topping the list at 207, followed by 117 who complained about poor working conditions.

Malaysia – one of Asia's largest importers of labour – last year hosted an estimated 2.2 million foreign workers, including domestic maids as well as workers in the plantation and manufacturing sectors. Malaysia has no laws enshrining working conditions for domestic workers, meaning that they have no right to set working hours or regular time off. Indonesian maids often work long hours, seven days a week, for a wage as low as 120 dollars a month. However, the Philippines insists on contracts stipulating payment and regular days off for its citizens working here.

"The employment act is silent on all forms of protection for domestic workers to claim wages as a worker and other protection such as having her day off," said Aegile Fernandez, coordinator for migrant labour group Tenaganita. "There is an urgent need for state enforcement agencies to protect domestic workers," she told AFP on the sidelines of the conference. "They live in isolated work conditions and there is no free movement, they are exposed to more abusive situations."

Trinidad and Tobago: Dismissal of Ria Sinanan – Domestic Worker

7 April, 2009

Ria Sinanan worked as a Domestic Worker for a family in the East of Trinidad. She is twenty eight (28) years old and started employment with the employer in June, 1998 until she was dismissed on April 7, 2009.

She reported to the Union that she was told to go on the roof of the employer`s house to show a workman, who came to repair the roof, where the leaks were. She said she did as she was told and when she left the roof and was climbing down the ladder, the ladder slipped and she fell off the roof and broke her hand. She said it was a rainy day and the ladder was a folding ladder. The employer never investigated as to what caused the ladder to slip. The worker said it was because of the rain.

However, the worker said the employer came outside and saw her on the ground after she started calling for help. The employer then went inside and called her mother on the telephone and told her that her daughter had an accident and she should come and take her to the hospital.

Her mother Margaret Sinanan said when she arrived the ambulance was already there apparently waiting for her and she said she alighted the ambulance immediately and accompanied her daughter to the Hospital.

The worker was examined at the Sangre Grande Hospital and was then referred to the Port of Spain General Hospital (approximately 30 miles away) to be attended to. She was examined and her hand put in cast.

Her mother Margaret said she took up employment with the employer for three weeks while her daughter was nursing her broken hand but they had a disagreement and the employer told both Margaret and Ria to leave her House and do not come back.

Margaret said what caused the argument is that Ria came to the employer`s home where she was working and she asked her what she was doing there? Ria said she came to feed the dogs because the Madam had called her. Her mother Margaret then told the employer that Margaret`s doctor said she should be resting the hand. But the employer insisted that Ria could still be at work to answer the door, open the gate and feed the dog.

The mother said she took up the job with Ria`s employer, and worked for three weeks and she was paid $50.00 per week. She said she took the job only because, she said “they will brainwash her and make her do things she should not be doing with her hand”. She also said she worked Monday to Saturday four hours per day.

Meanwhile they gave Ria $200 per week until they dismissed she and her mother three weeks after the accident. She was not qualified to receive injury benefits from the National Insurance Scheme because the employer had never registered her with the National Insurance nor did the employer pay any contributions on her behalf.

The worker was never given injury leave. She was deprived of benefits under the National Insurance, and her injury caused her to be dismissed.

There is nowhere for this worker to seek redress. The Industrial Relations Act (IRA) deprives her of the right to recourse, because under the Act she is not regarded as a worker. Nevertheless she can seek redress with regards to violations of the Minimum Wages (Household Assistant Order) Act.

Ria worked:

Monday to Saturday from 7.00a.m. to 6.00p.m.

Sundays  8.00a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and she would return for 3.00p.m. to 5.00pm. for a weekly salary  of $450.00.

She was not paid extra for working overtime, or for working on Public Holidays, she never received vacation leave, neither was she paid for it.

Domestic workers are not covered under the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act).

--ION (National Union of Domestic Employees)

Indonesia: Domestic Workers Ask For National Day, More Days Off

16 February, 2009

In a rare day off from housekeeping and childcare Sunday, maids emerged from the domestic sphere to gather at the Hotel Indonesia Traffic Circle, Central Jakarta, to rally for their rights. Organized by the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT), some 300 people, including 100 domestic workers, staged a rally to mark Feb. 15, a day the group has proclaimed National Domestic Workers Day. Domestic workers stood in a row wearing aprons that spell out "15 Februari". The workers asked that this date be named their national day, and demanded the deliberation of laws to protect them.

Protesters carried cardboard posters depicting a maid on her knees at her employers feet, with words: "PRT are not allowed outside the house". PRT is short for pekerja rumah tangga (domestic workers). The protesters also staged a short play about the daily life of a house maid. The protestors demanded employers acknowledge their job as a profession and give them rights such as getting the day off on official holidays."Who calls themselves pembantu (helper) here?" a protester asked the crowd of domestic workers. "We should stop calling ourselves pembantu. We are workers!" "If all we do is help out people all the time, when do we receive our rights?" she asked, earning cheers from the crowd.

Protesters also demanded the government pass a Domestic Worker's Protection Law and officially make Feb. 15 a national holiday for domestic workers. In Indonesia, most middle-class families employ maids to perform domestic chores and childcare, but not all acknowledge their rights. The Jala PRT estimated in 2008 that more than 4 million people are employed as domestic workers, including one million child maids.

However, despite this widespread use, Indonesia does not view the job as a profession. It is not recognized under Indonesia's Labor Law. As some workers live with the employing family, the job remains in the private business of the family, outside of the sphere of labour laws and public scrutiny. Domestic workers face many problems. They receive very low pay for very heavy work loads. Salaries can start from as low as Rp 200,000. Lita said that sometimes employers keep their workers salary by delaying their payment and often reduce the salary as they like. There is also no fixed workload, resulting in long working hours. Domestic workers generally work for between 12 and 16 hours a day, they do not have weekly holidays and have very few opportunities to socialize outside their workplace.

Ongoing battle: Four women hold posters asking the government to issue a law on the protection of domestic workers' rights, during a protest in 2006. To date, the government has yet to pass any such law. (JP) Ongoing battle: Four women hold posters asking the government to issue a law on the protection of domestic workers' rights, during a protest in 2006. To date, the government has yet to pass any such law. (JP) The lack of regulation and legal protection makes domestic workers prone to exploitation and abuse.

On Feb. 15. eight years ago, domestic workers took the streets of Surabaya to protest the fatal abuse of Sunarsih, a local child maid. Sunarsih died Feb. 12, 2001 at the age of 14. The Jala PRT has recorded 412 cases of domestic worker abuse between 2000 and 2007. In July last year, a housewife with a history of mental illness allegedly beat her maid to death in South Kedoya, West Jakarta. In August 2007, two maids from Lampung, working for a family in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, were beaten, scalded with hot water and locked in a cabinet for drinking the milk of their employer's children. In the same month, an employer in Bengkulu abused a domestic worker who was 13, by placing a hot iron on her skin.

Lita said that they aim to change people's perception of domestic workers, by making employers see the job as a profession. "We want people to be aware of this movement and to acknowledge the rights of domestic workers," Lita said. Lita said that ideally, domestic workers should be covered by the 2003 Labor Law. She however said that this would take a very long time. Meanwhile, she said, legal protection for domestic workers is crucially needed. That is why the group is pushing for a domestic worker's protection law.

The State Minister for Women's Empowerment is currently drafting a Domestic Worker's Protection bill. The government is planning to submit the draft in 2010. The advocacy group, however, wants the law to be considered earlier. The Jala PRT will submit their draft of a domestic worker's protection law to the House of Representatives at the end of this month. "We are aiming to have the law deliberated this year,"  Lita said that legal protection for domestic workers was crucially needed to stop the abuse of domestic workers.

Source: The Jakarta Post, February 16, 2009

Prodita Sabarini

Indonesia: Giving housemaids weekend off, time to rest, recharge

16 February, 2009

Among their colleagues, domestic workers Maria Goreti Emohsarnah, 36 and Sayuti, 19 are considered lucky. Maria has worked as a domestic worker in Jakarta for 12 years,while Sayuti works for a family in Yogyakarta. They are among the rare few domestic workers in Indonesia who receive annual leave and days off on a weekly basis and on national holidays.

They were at the Hotel Indonesia Traffic circle Sunday, along with hundreds of domestic workers, rallying for the rights of their colleagues to rest after a hard week's work. "People think we're just lucky. I want to change that. I want to make other domestic workers know that it's their right to have a holiday, to be able to enjoy time off and do other stuff," Sayuti said. After receiving guidance from the National Network of Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT) Sayuti requested weekly holidays from her employer before starting work. She signed a contract with her employer which details her salary and working hours. She has been working for her employers for two years now.

Employers, meanwhile, have mixed feelings about the idea of giving domestic workers weekly holidays. Fahmi Ismail, who shares a house with six friends, said that he does not give his maid weekends off. "However, if she request a holiday we will give it," he said. Last year, he gave 10 days leave to his maid. He said that for maids who live with the family, weekly holidays should be given to them. "But for someone who's only working part time, I don't think it's necessary," he said.

Working mother Dahlia Fatmawati, however, thinks differently. She allocated Saturday and Sunday as holidays for her maid, so that she could rest. "I have two little kids and I know that sometimes taking care of children can be a very tiring and stressful job," she said. She gave her maid weekly holidays after noticing the quality of her work deteriorate after six months without a day off. "She became inattentive with the kids. I thought that firing her because of her performance would not resolve any problems, so I decided to let her rest on the weekends," she said. She gives time off for her maid on Saturdays and Sundays so that the maid can recharge her energy and be in a better mood at the start of each week. "The result has been very good. She handles the kids better because she has enough time to rest," she said.

Sayuti said that giving holidays would make domestic workers like their job more and be more professional. "People, even domestic workers, have negative perception of the job. It's actually a nice job, for someone who likes domestic work. It's nice as long as we get fixed working hours and holidays. As long as we get our rights," Sayuti said. Sayuti uses her free time to acquire skills through courses. Working part time, Sayuti has finished a sewing course. Now she's taking English lessons. "People say that we should be intelligent so we don't get fooled. I want to study more so one day I can get another job with better pay," she said.

Source: The Jakarta Post,  February 16, 2009

Prodita Sabarini

forwarded by Joyo Indonesia News Service

Philippines: The Alliance of Progressive Labor

27 October, 2008

Domestic work is work, not slavery! Domestic workers are human beings, not commodities! So proclaims the Philippine Alliance of Progressive Labor in preparation for a Manila protest to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Read about the problems of the Philippine labor export policy and the working conditions of domestic workers.

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