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Meeting discusses rights for domestic help

November 09, 2013

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LAHORE, Nov 8: Women domestic workers discussed on Friday their labour rights at a meeting by the HomeNet Pakistan and the Plan Pakistan.

They decided to take serious measures establishing and implementing labour laws, especially with regard to domestic workers who did not even have basic minimum pay.

HomeNet Pakistan’s Umme Laila explained that the issues of workers in the informal sector, saying if they were registered and could form their trade unions, domestic workers would be able to receive help from the Pakistan Workers Federation as well.

“The situation of the informal workers who make up more than half of the economy of the country, is dire to say the least,” she said.

Women Workers’ Union of Lahore’s Shaheena Kausar said only industrial workers in the country were registered as workers and had social security. Home-based workers and domestic labours did not fall under the security of any constitutional laws.

“It is about time that the government be pressured at least at the provincial level to secure a basic pay scale and work timings which constitute main problems of the domestic workers,” she stated.

One of the presidents of Member Based Organisation (MBO), Madeeha, said that it was a serious problem working for someone who did not respect their employees.

“I worked hard for five years at a house, and was made to come every day at 8am but had no time when it came to going home,” she told the panel.

“I was paid next to nothing for the work I did, and on days when I could not come, my salary would get a cut.”

Other workers said they had no medical allowance, or aid, and salary would not be paid on time.

Many domestic workers are also sexually and physically abused and have to work in hazardous situations. No laws safeguard their rights, nor is there any minimum age limit.

Ms Kausar said that according to the ILO Convention 189, passed in 2012, domestic workers rights had been recognised and were now being implemented globally.

“There are no fixed wages for these workers, and coupled with the problem of poverty, they usually cannot negotiate the salary,” she said. She said lady health workers’ salary was doubled to only Rs3,200 after 16 years of working. They started a heavy campaign and by 2008, their salaries were raised by the government to Rs7,000 and at present it was Rs10,000.

“This is all due to campaigning,” said Ms Kausar.

“We are trying to organise domestic workers, which they have already begun to do, and to start building pressure,” she said.

Constitutional laws took a very long time to be formulated and implemented, so it would be a big step if they managed to convince the chief minister to formulate a system where each domestic worker was answerable to and also be recruited through town councils which fell under union councils.

Work on reorganizing domestic workers in committees has already begun in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. These MBOs ask for a small amount of membership fee per month (as much as a worker can spare).

“We hope that this is accepted by the chief minister as a workable solution for the time being, till any laws are made,” said Ms Kausar.