TODAY -

Domestic Workers reimagine the future of their work beyond COVID-19

New Delhi, June 16th 2020 :



The impact of Coronavirus has been disproportionately felt by informal migrant workers who have found themselves severally challenged with questions of survival and health at this time. As sole earning members of their families and already challenged with severe economic and social insecurities, the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have had debilitating impacts on the domestic workers and their families.

Among informal migrant workers, domestic workers are the most vulnerable to exploitation, violence, harassment, and forced labour, especially in the absence of laws that ensure social protection.

More than 60 domestic workers led a National-level virtual Round Table today on International Domestic Workers Day.

The Round Table – ‘Reimagining the world of work for Domestic Workers: Covid and Beyond’ was co-organised by
Martha Farrell Foundation, Nari Shakti Manch, National Domestic Workers’ Movement,
SEWA Bharat, National Alliance of People’s Movements,
Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), Jagori,
Samarthan CDS, Domestic Workers Network, Domestic Workers Forum Chetanalaya,
Delhi Gharelu Kamgar Union, Shahri Gharelu Kamgar Union,
National Platform for Domestic Workers (NPDW) and
Gharelu Kamgar Panchayat Sangam
to deliberate on strategies for actualising the manifesto of demands framed by domestic workers that reimagines a world of work for Domestic Workers that promises safety and dignity in their work.

The Manifesto was informed by an assessment led by Domestic Workers’ Action Network (an initiative of Martha Farrell Foundation) on the impacts of Covid-19 among domestic workers in Delhi and Haryana.

The assessment found that more than 95% of domestic workers had not received their salaries since March. Many had lost their jobs at the beginning of the lockdown, many were being forced to leave their families and live in their employer’s home and those who wanted to leave and go back home were not able to do so due to the high cost and non-availability of seats on the shramik railways.

At the Round Table domestic workers deliberated on these and other challenges.

Migrant domestic worker Surekha (name changed) narrated how she managed to escape the clutches of her abusive employers in Mumbai - “They were refusing to let me leave (for home) when the lockdown was announced; they had confiscated my mobile phone and Aadhaar Card.”

Bhanwari (name changed), a domestic worker in Delhi, reported that many of her sisters were out of work and their employers (belonging to affluent households in South Delhi) were denying them full wages. She also highlighted another acute problem faced by domestic workers returning to work today, saying, “With rising oil prices, domestic workers are also having to contend with the lack of affordable public transport in our routes.”

From Hyderabad, Jyotipriya (name changed) shed light on another pressing issue for domestic workers today. “Some states like Telangana have made it mandatory to produce a No Objection Certificate (NoC) to be able to return to work. But how can domestic workers pay for the NoC? It costs somewhere around Rs 2000! If our employers can demand it from us, shouldn’t they also show us a clean bill of their health?”

A Manifesto of demands prepared by domestic workers was shared and endorsed by all present. Envisioning a time in the near future when India would have a comprehensive Central legislation for Domestic Workers, they laid down specific working conditions to protect their work and themselves from exploitation and harassment
https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1nyqEq6Cy0iUUHw27WJTHSHxkfmbeTL_M?usp=sharing

Some highlights from the joint Manifesto:

o We expect that our employers will treat us well, with dignity and not like “Corona carriers”.
o We expect them to provide us with the same professional and safe environment that they would expect from their workplace.
o Demand to the State Government to constitute an institution of mechanization for domestic workers through the proper registration of employers and domestic workers.
o It is also essential that domestic workers have the same recourse to time-bound justice in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace through Local Committees as other workers do.
o Our work must be given due recognition
o Our concerns understood as serious
o As important stakeholders, we expect from RWAs that they should notify an order to the employers of each household to give the balance payment of all the domestic workers working in their society
o Workplace harassment and job insecurities are ever-present for us. The insecurity is intensified because of the absence of regulatory structures, redressal mechanisms and labour laws to protect us and our work.
o Bring domestic workers under the ambit of Labour Laws and employment regulations.
o Standardise wage calculation, and ensure domestic workers receive the standardised minimum wages. Under the current circumstances, the government must transfer Rs 5000 to every domestic worker in order for them to survive the pandemic.
o Support Domestic workers from India who are stranded abroad to come back home safely. Many have been thrown out of their houses and others are unable to do so because of the costs. The Indian Community Welfare Fund can be used to fund the travel for domestic workers.
o Ratify ILO Conventions 189 and 190 to accord domestic workers their rights as stipulated under global standards. Ensure time-bound redressal of sexual harassment faced by domestic workers at their workplace.

Guest speakers included District Labour Officers and experts from National Domestic Workers’ Movement (NDWM), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Domestic Workers’ Federation (IDWF), who laid down the primary challenges for domestic workers post-lockdown, and offered valuable insights into good practices that can help prepare for a more egalitarian future of domestic work.




* This Press Release was sent to e-pao.net by Elizabeth Devi Kh who can be contacted at elizadevi(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This Press Release was posted on 17 June 2020

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