“My employer is entitled to periodic salary increases, why not me? When the government recognizes all other types of work and sets minimum wages for them, why is my work as a domestic helper not recognized? asked Sajina, 30, a resident of Bengali Basti in Jai Hind camp in Vasant Kunj.
Originally from Bihar, Sajina moved to Delhi after her marriage and has worked as a domestic helper for over a decade now. She works 8-10 hours a day with no time off and earns a meager ₹10,000.
“I asked my employer for a hike a year ago, but he told me to wait six months. It’s been over a year now, I still haven’t got a raise. Also, I only have the right to leave if I don’t feel well, otherwise I have to work the whole month without a break,” Ms. Sajina said.
“Aware of rights”
Last year, she met members of the Sangrami Gharelu-kamgar Union (SGU) during a program in Bengali Basti to mark International Women’s Day. She joined the group hoping to make a difference for herself as well as others. “Initially, only six to seven women joined, but the numbers have increased significantly over the past year. About 300 women attended the last monthly meeting. Although nothing much has changed, we are now more aware of our rights and united in our fight for them,” Ms Sajina said.
One of the convention participants shares her experience of working as a domestic worker | Photo credit: special arrangement
SGU organized domestic workers in Delhi-NCR, Kolkata and Bengaluru to demand legal recognition of their work and defend their right to dignified employment. Some of its main demands include comprehensive worker-friendly legislation, the right to form unions, minimum wages and social security.
According to SGU member Shreya Ghosh, apart from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kerala, none of the other states or the Union government have any legislation in place for domestic workers. “Unless there is a law guaranteeing the rights of domestic workers, they cannot legally demand them,” she said.
No social security
Ms Ghosh said most domestic workers end up working 10-12 hour days or even more to earn ₹10,000-12,000 per month. “Given the rate of inflation and long working hours, their wages should be much higher. Moreover, there are no social security schemes to take care of them when they grow old and are unable to work. They are on their own and surviving on their meager savings,” Ms Ghosh said.
At a convention of domestic workers organized by the SGU at Masoodpur in Vasant Kunj last month, many shared their experiences and talked about the difficulties they face and demanded compulsory weekly paid leave, minimum wage and social security. and old age.
“Although the Delhi government has set minimum wages for workers, this does not apply to domestic workers as they are not recognized as ‘statutory work’. It’s a similar situation in most other states,” Ms Ghosh said.
She said simply having legislation in place is not enough, as seen in the case of the four states where there is a law for domestic workers. “Workers must unite and form unions to claim their legal rights. But it is very difficult for domestic workers to register a union. Tribunals should be set up to address their grievances such as arbitrary dismissal and non-payment of dues,” Ms Ghosh said.
Union Labor and Employment Minister Bhupender Yadav launched the first-ever pan-India survey of domestic workers last November. It aims to estimate the number of domestic workers at the national and state level, their percentage distribution in relation to formal/informal employment, their salaries and other socio-economic characteristics.
The result of the investigation is expected by the end of this year.