Domestic workers entitled to protection under the law

International Domestic Workers Day will be celebrated tomorrow, July 16. Avrie Allen-March, sociologist with the Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), noted: “On this day, in 2011, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (C189). The convention lays down basic rights and principles to make decent work a reality for domestic workers.”

Well, do I remember that day in 2016 at the GraceKennedy Household Workers Awards ceremony (for which I am happy to be ideator) when president of the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU) Shirley Pryce briefed Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the convention. When he gave the keynote address he declared that Jamaica would adopt this convention. True to his word, he announced its ratification in September 2016.

Allen-March explained: “This means that a domestic worker in Jamaica is entitled to the same protections under the law as any other worker. This includes the following: a contract, sufficient daily and/or weekly rest, a salary no lower than the minimum wage, paid annual leave, compensation for overtime work, as well as social security contributions.”

I am appealing to media colleagues to mention these rights on the air and encourage household workers to join the JHWU to have strength in numbers. Having served on the panel of judges for the GK-Heather Little-White Household Workers of the Year awards, I can attest to the dedication of our household workers, women and men. Indeed, they are nominated by their employers, who clearly appreciate the years of service they have given to sometimes more than one generation. From these interviews we learn that household workers are entrusted with keys and funds when their employers travel. We learn that they hone their skills and practise time management. We learn of their compassion in assisting with the care of special needs children and elderly family members. They have noted the kindness of their employers, sometimes allowing them to include their children in live-in arrangements.

To mark International Domestic Workers’ Day, the BGA and JHWU are collaborating to host an awards ceremony with the theme ‘Uniting and Celebrating Domestic Workers’. This Saturday, July 20, at Altamont Court Hotel, they will be recognising 27 domestic workers with over 20 years of service with Invisible Giant Awards.

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