Domestic Workers Demand Their Due Share and Labour Rights
New Delhi, February 11 : The hand that feeds, cares for children, keeps the house clean and shining is often left unattended, uncared for and at times bruised and beaten. That’s the world of domestic workers working in lakhs of Delhi homes, striving to earn a dignified living and raising a family in 21st century rising India. Domestic work, an increasing necessity in this era of globalisation, expanding horizons for women, opening up opportunities but also creating a class of working slaves in mills, offices and homes. The emerging reality is contradictory like capitalism itself where a certain class of women have gained prominence, access to diversified jobs and equality in jobs and pay but on the other hand, the women in domestic work and in the unorganised and unprotected sector have to strive for basic facilities, from minimum wages, fixed hours of work, holidays, to bonus and most importantly value of their work, respect and recognition, something which workers of the world struggled to achieve in the 20th century. These issues were raised by nearly 30 women who deposed before a panel comprising of Kalyani Menon Sen, Kalpana Mehta, Subhash Lomte, Bilas Bhongade, Tarun Kanti Bose, Aneema and Neelima in a public hearing on the theme ‘Women in the Unorganised (Unprotected) Sector in the Era of Globalization’ organised by Shahri Mahila Kaamgar Union, an affiliate of National Alliance of People’s Movements at Indian Social Institute.
The hearing was attended by nearly 250 domestic workers from Gautampuri, Rohini, Faridabad,and other colonies of Delhi and some others from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.
“I have been working for 28 years and only get Rs. 1200. When I fell sick, my employers did not give me leave to go to a doctor. I am close to 50 years and find it difficult to continue doing this work. I do not get any medical benefits nor pension. What will happen to me I wonder? How will I survive?” asks a disillusioned Asha, one of the deposer’s in the gathering.
Anita who is now part of the Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union narrated how she was brought to the city by a placement agent. “I come from a poor family. In 2011, a placement agent convinced my parents to send me to Delhi for a better life. I was only 14 years and had to leave school. I did not want to do this work but had no option. Many times I wanted to leave but the agent forced me to continue working. Finally, I was rescued by the Union”
From the panelists, Subhash Lomte throwing light on how young girls are brought from villages to city with the promise of a better life and education said that “we must continue to fight for equal wages and pension”. The minimum wage should be adjusted to inflation and the pension amount should be atleast Rs. 2000. The age for women pensioners should be 50 years and for men it should be 55 years. The pension amount for women should get directly transferred to her bank account so that it is not misused by her husband. He urged the domestic workers from Delhi to all gather at Jantar Mantar on 6th March and raise the issue of a ‘minimum wage’ with the government.
“We all have to sell our labour but we cannot sell our labour without your labour “said Kalpana Mehta, a panelist from Indore as she addressed the gathering. “Always remember that the work you do is extremely important without which other homes will not function” she was quoted saying while stressing the need to give value and respect to domestic work.
The gathering passed the following resolutions at the end of the hearing:
A uniform law needs to be made for the welfare of domestic workers. Untill then Minimum Wages Act and other Labour laws must be applied to this category of workers too.
A body comprising of representatives from the government and domestic workers needs to be set up to monitor their real situation.
The minimum wages, working hours and time of remuneration should be fixed for Domestic Workers. Strict measures should be taken against those who flaunt it.
Complete profiles of all urban workers, their employers and all organizations linked to them should be done. A government agency should be set up for this purpose.
Other than weekly, monthly, yearly and sick leave, provisions should be made for emergency leave also for domestic workers. Pregnant workers should be given special leave of three months. All these leaves should be paid.
Strict punishment should be given to all those employers, placement agents and police personnel who subject domestic workers to physical, sexual and other kinds of abuse.
Other than financial aid, the government should provide other kinds of human support to those domestic workers who are crisis-struck.
All kind of middlemen and contractors should be removed between domestic workers and their employers.
To ensure security of livelihood, domestic workers and their families should be given insurance by the government
Along with an annual bonus and future investment options, annual wage increase adjusted with inflation should be given to these workers.
Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union also resolved to continue their struggle for decent work and ensure rights of the working women and take forward the recommendations of the public hearing to the authorities concerned.
Anita Kapoor, Poonam, Madeena Begum, Mudra, Lakshmi, Asha, Seela Manswanee
on Behalf of Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union
- ATTN #delhi- Public Hearing on Women in the Unorganised (Unprotected) Sector in the Era of Globalization #Vaw #Justice (kractivist.wordpress.com)