SEWA Punjab celebrates Domestic Workers’ Day to highlight issues of concern for them and supporting their movement in the light of Covid-19 second year
“How are we different from other workers?” What about our rights?
THE VOICE OF CHANDIGARH NEWS
In the wake of the ongoing pandemic and amid a growing need to recognise the rights of domestic workers in the state (a majority of them being women), the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in Punjab, a grassroots organization working for the upliftment of informal sector women workers, is observing the International Domestic Workers’ Day on Wednesday, June 16. A large percentage of informal women workers are engaged in domestic work in India. While domestic workers are sought after, they are rarely treated as workers nor do they consider themselves as workers. Employers too have little or no awareness to consider that they have rights – regulated working hours, decent wages, weekly offs etc.
Giving a collective voice to the movement of domestic workers and in support of their rights and entitlements as “workers”, SEWA in Punjab which works to empower over 4000 women domestic workers hopes to raise awareness amongst employers / city dwellers about the issues faced by domestic workers , as well as advocating to the state government to improve their conditions which is long overdue.
Given this, the domestic worker members of SEWA Punjab will be raising their concerns and expressing their right to be heard, at a peaceful awareness rally held at DC Complex Mohali – taking all necessary Covid precations.
SEWA Punjab member and health Agewan (community leader and volunteer) Deepa, from Gurunanak Colony, Mohali District, herself a domestic worker, has been leading the Covid relief efforts in her community. She says, “we have been appealing for our rights for many years but the government and our employers refuse to recognise our movement. There are hundreds and thousands of us engaged in domestic work but we do not have basic facilities or any health benefits. In this pandemic with majority of us losing our job, we received no support from the Govt. A large number of us are also single mothers so this is the only work that provides us with a livelihood. Yet, we have no protection as workers. Why? How are we different from other workers?
In 2011, the International Labour Organization ILO, passed a Convention called Decent Work for Domestic Workers – C 189. This convention clearly states that domestic workers are workers like all other workers and hence should have rights like all other workers…a weekly off, regulated working time, decent wages and social security. The government of India is signatory to this Convention but has not brought about any regulation within India. Several states in India had recognised Domestic workers as workers and also prescribed minimum wages. The government of Punjab has yet to do this.
With Covid-19 in its second year, the domestic workers have suffered badly as employers kept them at a distance for fear of the virus with majority losing their livelihoods. Unlike other workers like construction workers, no proactive measures are being taken to register domestic workers under any welfare board or provide social security particularly health and housing benefits to them.
While with good intention, the Punjab Government launched a portal for the online registration of domestic workers in order to extend the benefits of welfare schemes being run by the labour department, however this initiative closed down due to issues with registration process..
Also unlike West Bengal, Kerala and Haryana, the social security board for informal workers, although it exists in Punjab, has not been reinstated.