BENGALURU: As the domestic workers sector continues to be an unorganised one, exploitation at the work place in terms of wages, leave and lack of grievance redressal mechanisms remain at the forefront of their concerns. A small step to solve these issues has been taken up by residents of Keerthi Flora, an apartment complex in Brookefield. Six women formed a committee last September to provide a safe platform for domestic workers.
“All the domestic workers in our apartment are women, including the ones hired to clean the common areas and collect trash. Their supervisor has always been a man. We felt that if they had any concerns — be it health, personal or financial — they wouldn’t ever feel comfortable talking to a male supervisor or flat owner,” said Praneetha VB, joint secretary of the apartment.
At the very first meeting the committee had with the workers, Praneetha recalls them asking, ‘whom should we approach if we have any problems?’ “For example, one of the maids wanted to take a few days off during her period. Though they tried speaking to the supervisor, he did not understand and refused her request. She spoke to us, after which we went and convinced the supervisor. The same goes for pregnant women who want to take, say, half a day off or longer, as they get exhausted fast,” said Praneetha.
The housekeeping staff and the women’s committee meet once in two months to go over any concerns faced. They have not received any complaints of sexual harassment so far, and currently, deal only with administrative, personal and health issues faced by the staff. At times, they staff might have been spoken to rudely, for which they approach the committee.
“We have not received any complaints of inappropriate behaviour or sexual harassment. Should any arise, we have asked the staff to tell us immediately. This way, they do not have to fear losing their jobs. They need not confront the culprits directly,” she added.
The committee works with 16 housekeeping staff in the common area and 40 women working in individual homes. The apartment falls under the Mahadevpura, Kundalahalli, Hoodi, Whitefield and Hoodi cluster (MKWH) of the Bangalore Apartments’ Federation (BAF). Their idea to form women-led committees in all apartments has been shared by their residents to all members of BAF. Their advice to other apartments owners who are keen to start committees that look into the welfare of women domestic workers, is to “ask them to share all their concerns in a safe space.”