‘Recognize domestic work as work’

‘Recognize domestic work as work’

Domestic workers in Nagaland are unorganized and suffer from the lack of decent working conditions, including no limits on working hours, lack of weekly offs, annual leaves, little care towards their health and safety at the workplace and no protection from abuse and discrimination. (Representational Image courtesy: Women in Informal Employment, Globalizing and Organizing)

Dimapur, April 15 (MExN): In Nagaland State, domestic workers are not considered as workers “mainly due to their unorganized nature of work, though the employers and employees’ relationship is widely established.”
There is a severe lack of decent working conditions, including no limits on working hours, lack of weekly offs, annual leaves, little care towards their health and safety at the workplace and no protection from abuse and discrimination.

Domestic workers in Nagaland have, thus, “become the property or slave of the employers i.e. to say that their pay, safety, security etc. is at the mercy of the employers.”

This was stated in a press release by the National Domestic Workers Movement, Nagaland Region, and the All Nagaland Domestic Workers Union. The two bodies have condemned the ‘inhuman act’ of assault of a minor domestic worker in Kohima on April 12.

Defining the assault as “heartbreaking” although “just the tip of the iceberg,” the bodies claimed that “such similar incidents take place in Nagaland daily.”

“The victim is a child who is child labour. Where is the law to protect these minors?” wondered the workers’ unions.

“We, the National Domestic Workers Movement – Nagaland Region, working for the domestic workers in Nagaland, come across similar incidents on a regular basis wherein domestic workers are physically, sexually, emotionally abused, their pay is not paid, and they are made to work overtime. The plight of the domestic workers is Nagaland is very sad.”
‘Not recognized as workers’

One of the important reasons for this condition, according to the workers, is that the Nagaland State Government has “not yet recognized domestic workers as workers and their work as work.”

“Though we work for their rights, justice, empowerment, and dignity we can’t go to employers’ house and fight for their rights because our State Government does not recognize them as workers, they are not listed in the Schedule of Employment of the Minimum Wages Act, they are not recognized by the State Government as workers,” explained the unions.

Though the Nagaland State Government has registered domestic workers under the Trade Union Act, acknowledged the bodies, “what about the other benefits, where is the safety and the security? The abuses of the domestic workers are violation of human rights.”

In Nagaland State, almost every household has a domestic worker and “It is time for all of us, specially the State Government, to protect the domestic workers,” they urged.

“If the government does not protect them, then they will continue to suffer under the employer,” felt the workers’ bodies.

Further, they appealed, “The employer who treats their domestic worker in an inhuman way should be punished, labour law should give a provision to recognize domestic workers as workers and their work as work and protect them under the Act, where contract is made between the tri-party so that the domestic workers will be protected.”

Domestic workers, they maintained, are “not slaves; they are workers who contribute a lot for the economy of the state and the nation.”

Who are domestic workers?

Domestic workers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers. They work for private households, often without clear terms of employment, unregistered in any book, and excluded from the scope of labour legislation. Currently there are at least 67 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers and this number is increasing steadily in developed and developing countries. Even though a substantial number of men work in the sector – often as gardeners, drivers or butlers – it remains a highly feminized sector: 80 per cent of all domestic workers are women.

Their work may include tasks such as cleaning the house, cooking, washing and ironing clothes, taking care of children, or elderly or sick members of a family, gardening, guarding the house, driving for the family, and even taking care of household pets.

A domestic worker may work on full-time or part-time basis; may be employed by a single household or by multiple employers; may be residing in the household of the employer (live-in worker) or may be living in his or her own residence (live-out).

At present, domestic workers often face very low wages, excessively long hours, have no guaranteed weekly day of rest and at times are vulnerable to physical, mental and sexual abuse or restrictions on freedom of movement. Exploitation of domestic workers can partly be attributed to gaps in national labour and employment legislation, and often reflects discrimination along the lines of sex, race and caste.
Source: International Labour Organization