An Exclusive Legislation for Domestic workers is the Need of the Hour
Nearly 90 percent of the world's 67 million domestic workers, majority of them being women, do not even have any semblance of social security coverage (ILO) and their work is undervalued and unprotected.
In Odisha, AICCTU started organising domestic workers in Bhubaneswar city last year. These domestic workers are engaged by government colonies, apartments and various types of households for activities like sweeping, cleaning utensils, washing clothes, cooking and childcare activities. We initiated a dialogue with them in order to secure their rights. They work for more than 4-5 hours in the households.
Their appointment is informal without any written contract and mostly oral. They are discriminated in terms of their wages and working conditions.
Most of the domestic workers who hail from a poorest background are unable to purchase their own food, clothes and other household items. They are mainly women forced to head the family. They are unable to lead a decent life with the meagre wages.
More than 70% of our union members earn a monthly income of Rs 2000-3000 with which they are unable to make the ends meet. Their personal life is also filled with a lot of tragedies. They are also unable to demand any hike in wages because of fear of losing the work.
Bhubaneswar Domestic Workers Union affiliated to AICCTU was formed. A state level of forum of domestic workers unions, involving others and AICCTU, was also formed to represent the domestic workers issues to the state government.
The forum submitted a memorandum to the government demanding fixation of wages for domestic workers, allowing them to register under the unorganised workers welfare board for their social security and allocation of sufficient funds for the board. After the demonstration before the Labour Commissioner’s office, workers are being registered under the welfare board but are offered only a death benefit of one lakh rupees which is not enough. Around one lakh workers have registered under the welfare board. We are demanding expansion of welfare benefits including for education of their children, old age pension, hike in death and other benefits etc.
We are also demanding training to improve their skills. We are also demanding an exclusive legislation for domestic workers to regulate their services, wages, social security and service conditions. Its really pathetic that such a bill is pending for a long time before the parliament and is yet to be passed.
We also demand that India should ratify ILO convention 187 for domestic workers very soon.
To achieve these demands, it is more important to increase the unionisation among domestic workers which can only a means of empowerment of workers who are the poor and the powerless.