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JM | Jun 17, 2022

‘NO MORE!’ Days of abusing household workers nearing end – Samuda

Juanique Tennant

Juanique Tennant / Our Today

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Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda addresses attendees of the official launch of the household workers and employers in Jamaica manual held on Thursday (June 16) (Photo: Our Today/Juanique Tennant)

Just in time to celebrate International Domestic Workers Day, observed on June 16, Labour Minister Karl Samuda has expressed confidence that the days of abusing household workers are nearing an end, thanks to the continued advocacy of their workers’ union.

Making his address at the official launch of the household workers and employers in Jamaica manual, put on by the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU) on Thursday (June 16), Samuda shared: “Over the years through the help of people like Shirley Pryce (president of the JHWU) the community of domestic workers are gaining every day in respect and support for the work they do.”

He noted, however, that despite the gains achieved and progress made “it wasn’t always like that”.

Jamaica Household Workers’ Union (JHWU) President Shirley Pryce (seated, centre) points out a feature in the JHWU Manual for Household Workers and Employers in Jamaica to Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda and Project Consultant on the manual and PSA campaign Imani Duncan-Price (seated left) at Thursday’s launch of the manual. Standing behind them are JHWU executive members (from left) Leashia Tyrell-Moore, Elaine Duncan, and Maureen Smith (Photo: Our Today/Cassandra Everett)

“Many worked under [difficult] circumstances, and you’ve heard just a few about abuse, because it was felt that you can do anything to a domestic helper because they have no alternatives, so you’ll get away with it,” stated the minister.

He added: “Who is going to challenge the head of a company and say that he should be found guilty of sexual abuse? Not only would the individual domestic helper lose a job, but nobody would listen to her.”

Samuda highlighted that “those days are rapidly coming to an end. And it is only coming to an end because of the methods that have been applied by the union in elevating the standard of the domestic helper”.

Following calls from various stakeholders throughout the launch, the minister committed to playing his part in ensuring that Convention 190 is ratified by the Government of Jamaica.

Minister of Labour and Social Security, Karl Samuda addresses attendees of the official launch of the household workers and employers in Jamaica manual held on Thursday (June 16) (Photo: Our Today/ Juanique Tennant)

He stated: “There is a lot of talk about ratifying Convention 190, as you all know alone I can’t do it. But I will tell you this much, I will use every means possible and every level of authority in my power to convince my colleagues to ensure that it is done as quickly as possible.”

Convention 190 is the first international treaty to recognise the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.

Governments that ratify C190 will be required to put in place the necessary laws and policy measures to prevent and address violence and harassment in the world of work.

The Convention was adopted in June 2019, by the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and came into force on June 25 last year.

Minister of Labour and Social Security Karl Samuda (centre) and Project Consultant on the manual and PSA campaign Imani Duncan-Price pose alongside GraceKennedy representative Suzanne Stanley (second right) and executive members of the Jamaica Household Workers Union with copies of the household workers and employers in Jamaica manual. (Photo: Our Today/ Cassandra Everett)

For her part, President of the JHWU Shirley Pryce said she was pleased with the launch of the manual. She described it as a tool which should be used by employers and employees as “it is not a one-sided thing”.

At the same time, she expressed concern about the increasing number of household workers who are experiencing sexual harassment, noting she was hopeful a change would come with the passage of Jamaica’s Sexual Harassment Bill.

“For many domestic workers, we know that sexual harassment is getting more and more on the increase, especially since the COVID. Before the COVID it was up for a while, and then it went down, but since COVID it has been increasing,” said Pryce.

“We have had so many complaints in recent times. We are aware that the reports of sexual harassment of domestic workers seldom reach the police, much less the public. Instead, they are relegated to counselling sessions at our union.”

She added: “I’m glad that the Sexual Harassment Act is in place now and I know that Minister Samuda will ratify the Convention 190 very soon.”

The JHWU Manual for Household Workers and Employers in Jamaica is intended to raise awareness of domestic workers, employers, the community, law enforcement agencies, and legislators on the rights and importance of the sector in Jamaica.

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