CHENNAI: Consider these three pictures — one, a young girl who sacrifices college education to earn the family’s daily bread; two, an old widow who is worked to the bone for a meagre living after her daughter-in-law throws her out; and three, a sick mother who sweeps and mops all week to earn in place of an alcoholic husband.
This is the reality of most domestic workers employed today across the State, and they number in lakhs. The idea that domestic workers also must be considered employees and must avail benefits was the integral theme of the stakeholder’s meet on Saturday.
The dialogue that ensued under the theme ‘Decent living for Domestic Workers’ was organised by the Center for Women’s Development and Research in association with the International Labour Organisation. Representatives from NGOs that focus on domestic worker rights had come in from all parts of Tamil Nadu.
The idea that there is no regard or official provisions for domestic work labourers was highlighted among other everyday issues faced by them. “Unorganised sector’s worker issues have always been on the back burner. We only ask for Provident Fund (PF) and fair wage like any other worker would get,” says a member of the Tamil Nadu Unorganised Worker’s Federation.
He recounts as incident at a policeman’s household where after a gold chain went missing, and an FIR was filed against the domestic help. Despite finding the chain, the police women had subjected the said domestic help to below par treatment. “They work seven days a week with no job security. And yet they are only entitled to an accidental fund post death, not even an ESI (Employee’s State Insurance),” he adds.
Although India was one of the signatories at the International Labour Organisation convention, it is yet to be ratified and brought into effect. “We should stop attaching political angles to the issue and frame a common proposal for domestic workers of the State. The issue about fair wages and PF should be one that all stakeholders agree upon before approaching the government.” offers Regina from Arunodhaya Centre for street and working children.