Do­mes­tic helper’s trou­bles

The Sunday Independent - - METRO - LER­ATO DIALE ler­

MANY years of hard work and noth­ing to show for it.

This is the story of for­mer do­mes­tic worker Kele­bogile Mosweu, 54, who left her job af­ter al­most 30 years with­out a penny to her name.

Mosweu had no leave, of­ten worked over­time and was paid lit­tle. She was forced to re­tire when she turned 50 be­cause of ill health.

“Had it not been for my health is­sues such as arthri­tis, es­pe­cially back pain and swelling feet, I be­lieve I would still be work­ing. They (em­ploy­ers) told me straight that I should not ex­pect any­thing when I re­tire, so I still wanted to work and hope­fully get a grant to res­cue me from my sit­u­a­tion. But my hands are empty and I have noth­ing to show for all th­ese years,” said Mosweu.

“To­day, my chil­dren all went through univer­sity, are work­ing and have started their fam­i­lies be­cause I did not want them to go through the same thing I went through. I be­lieve I should at least have re­ceived a lit­tle sum of money, but all I got was ‘thank you and bye-bye’. It hurts.”

SA Do­mes­tic Ser­vice and Al­lied Work­ers Union’s Eu­nice Dh­ladhla at­tested to many of her col­leagues’ bleak fu­ture af­ter re­tire­ment.

Dh­ladhla said the union con­tin­ues to put pressure on the govern­ment to recog­nise do­mes­tic work as an oc­cu­pa­tion and pro­vide the nec­es­sary re­tire­ment ben­e­fits, such as Un­em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Fund (UIF) pay­outs.

“We are all work­ers. Why are they treat­ing us dif­fer­ently and shut­ting us out? We will con­tinue ad­vo­cat­ing for a pen­sion fund, com­pen­sa­tion for oc­cu­pa­tional in­juries and dis­eases and other ben­e­fits,” said Dh­ladhla.

She said that de­spite ef­forts by unions and the Depart­ment of Labour to ed­u­cate do­mes­tic work­ers about their rights, the in­for­ma­tion does not al­ways reach them.

“They all com­plain about the same things: un­fair dis­missal, ill-treat­ment, more work for less pay, un­paid over­time, not be­ing reg­is­tered and lack of ben­e­fits. They are even afraid to join unions be­cause they fear vic­tim­i­sa­tion and dis­missal,” she said, blam­ing lack of labour law en­force­ment for low com­pli­ance.

Labour depart­ment spokesper­son Te­boho The­jane said it con­ducts in­spec­tions to en­sure en­force­ment and ad­dress com­plaints de­spite the dif­fi­cul­ties they face.

“Find­ing em­ploy­ers at their pri­vate homes when re­quired is dif­fi­cult be­cause a def­i­ni­tion of a workplace does not in­clude a pri­vate dwelling/ house. In­spec­tors must make an ap­point­ment first and nor­mally their vis­its are late af­ter work as the do­mes­tic em­ploy­ers also work dur­ing the day,” said The­jane.

“The in­spec­tor has a right to en­ter any workplace with­out in­ter­fer­ence but does not have the same pow­ers at some­one’s house,” he said, adding that in­spec­tors have de­vised a spe­cial pro­gramme to en­sure they pro­mote com­pli­ance.

So­cio-Eco­nomic Rights In­sti­tute’s Kele­bogile Khu­nou said re­search has re­vealed that many do­mes­tic work­ers and em­ploy­ers are not aware of the laws that pro­tect their rights.

“It comes as a sur­prise to many em­ploy­ers that do­mes­tic work­ers are cov­ered by the Ba­sic Con­di­tions of Em­ploy­ment Act, Labour Re­la­tions Act, Un­em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Act and, hope­fully soon, the Com­pen­sa­tion for Oc­cu­pa­tional In­juries and Dis­eases Act,” she added.

The in­sti­tute re­cently launched a cam­paign to raise aware­ness among do­mes­tic work­ers and other af­fected par­ties. “Many em­ploy­ers know do­mes­tic work­ers are en­ti­tled to a wage for their work, but many do not know do­mes­tic work­ers are en­ti­tled to over­time pay, 21 days of leave per year, and that em­ploy­ers are obliged to regis­ter their em­ploy­ees for UIF.”

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