Domestic workers ‘exploited’
Union informs housekeepers of their rights and get a fair deal from employers
LESEGO MAKGATHO COMPLAINTS of domestic worker abuse and employers’ counter-claims are once again under the spotlight amid a push to include housekeepers in all labour law provisions.
The SA Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union has maintained that exploitation in the sector remains a reality, and they assist workers who have problems and those who don’t know about their rights.
“If a worker is dismissed, we assist them by calling his or her employer and try to help them,” said deputy general secretary Eunice Dhladhla, highlighting that most employers still treat their employees badly.
“They ill-treat them. If a worker requests an increase, the employer dismisses them. Employers tell them ‘you know about your rights... You know a lot. You know too much, so the best thing is to leave’. They are then dismissed without any notice, or letter of dismissal explaining why the worker is fired.”
The Sunday Independent spoke to some. Elizabeth Mokoena, 75, from QwaQwa in the Free State, reflected on her 25 years in the field. She said she now earned R3 000 a month, of which she sent some home.
“I used to work in Ridgeway and now I’m in Winchester. Some have had horrific experiences with their employers, while others like me have had a decent, good experience where we’ve managed to sustain a livelihood from our wages.”
Rudi du Plessis from Roseacres in Joburg said his 36-year-old domestic worker had been with the family for 15 years. “Her mom works for my motherin-law so her mom actually brought up my wife. We then got a home and she came to work for us. We’ve had no bad experiences. Nothing has gone missing in the house. She lives with us, she gets a good salary with yearly increases,” said Du Plessis, adding they signed her up to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and “the salary is quite good”.
“We are busy emigrating to New Zealand so she’s been trying to look for the same kind of work for the same kind of money and it’s not possible because of all the years and annual increases she got with us. There’s no one who’s going to pay a domestic worker R4 800 a month, and let her still stay there and eat from the house. So it’s been a bit tough on her.”
Betty Mahlangu, 58, from Mpumalanga, who works in Killarney, said she began working at the tender age of 13. “I come from a disadvantaged background. Many years ago, I used to earn R80. Now I earn R4 000, and I raised my kids on that money… My previous employer took me to school for me to acquire reading and writing skills. So I am happy.”