Stricter laws to pro­tect do­mes­tic work­ers ur­gently needed

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE ED­I­TOR, Sir: INALLY, THE Govern­ment does some­thing for do­mes­tic work­ers. You would think the politi­cians would be more grate­ful to those peo­ple that keep their homes run­ning and their chil­dren in or­der. I have no doubt that some of these helpers, gar­den­ers and gate­men who cre­ate a pros­per­ous en­vi­ron­ment for our na­tion’s lead­ers are paid min­i­mum wage.

The In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion Con­ven­tion 189, which pro­tects the rights of do­mes­tic work­ers, was re­cently rat­i­fied by the Govern­ment of Ja­maica. One hopes it will lead to the cre­ation of laws and poli­cies to reg­u­late the treat­ment of do­mes­tic work­ers is­land­wide. Our labour laws are woe­fully in­ad­e­quate when it comes to pro­tect­ing the rights of those peo­ple that work in and around the home. Were it not for the Min­i­mum Wage Act, there would be noth­ing to stop those home­own­ers who don’t see do­mes­tic work as ‘real work’ from pay­ing do­mes­tic work­ers $2,000 per week.


Cur­rently, there is no leg­is­la­tion which out­lines the rights of do­mes­tic work­ers. There is no guar­an­teed lunchtime – and I can just imag­ine the plight of those sta­tion­ary gate­men who have to sneak to get lunch and hope no one stops by. There is no leg­is­lated pro­tec­tion from sex­ual ha­rass­ment, leav­ing many helpers at the mercy of some abu­sive em­ploy­ers who often threaten to fire them if they speak up. There is no guar­an­tee of health ben­e­fits, pay­ment of Na­tional Hous­ing Trust or Na­tional In­sur­ance. In other words, do­mes­tic work­ers have no safety nets in the case of ill­ness, and God for­bid that they be­come ill – for not all em­ploy­ers will ac­com­mo­date sick leave. On the mat­ter of leave, there are no guar­an­tees of same for do­mes­tic work­ers. In short, do­mes­tic work­ers are treated as less than their em­ploy­ers who are, for the most part, guar­an­teed all these em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and en­ti­tle­ments.

What is par­tic­u­larly un­for­tu­nate is that the per­sons who rou­tinely mistreat and de­grade do­mes­tic work­ers by fail­ing to pro­vide ad­e­quate, safe and healthy work con­di­tions are those per­sons who have come from very lit­tle them­selves. There is a chronic, colo­nial psy­che of the nou­veau riche to treat per­sons they be­lieve to be be­neath them as hor­ri­bly as they can to prove they have reached the up­per classes. This sounds eerily si­m­il­iar to those freed coloured slave own­ers who were mer­ci­less to their slaves.

There is a lot of work to be done to re­mind those who have re­cently en­tered the $1.5 mil­lion - $5-mil­lion tax bracket that when they ill-treat their do­mes­tic em­ploy­ees, they are only re­peat­ing the treat­ment their par­ents, grandparents and great-grandparents had to en­dure to get them a start in life. They in­sult the mem­ory of their for­bears by not recog­nis­ing the need to treat all per­sons with dig­nity in light of their in­her­ent hu­man­ity. GLEN­ROY MUR­RAY, LLB (Hons) Pol­icy & Ad­vo­cacy Man­ager, Equal­ity for All Foun­da­tion Pol­icy Of­fi­cer, WE-Change

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