The Caribbean Domestic Workers Network (CDWN) is calling on regional countries to ratify and implement the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention that recognises and protects the rights and decent work conditions of domestic workers.
In a message to mark Labour Day, the international day set aside to recognise workers, the CDWN said it wanted to give a “special salute to the women and men who work in homes and support families throughout our communities.
“Domestic workers are workers and deserve the same rights and protections as any other worker. It is because of domestic workers that our societies can function, businesses can run, schools can be open, and doctors at hospitals can take care of the sick. Domestic Workers are a critical part of the fabric of our countries.”
But the CDWN, a network of unions and associations from Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, Barbados, St. Kitts-Nevis and St. Lucia, said yet domestic workers have been among the least protected workers worldwide, facing long long-standing challenges such as lack of recognition, poor working conditions, low pay, and limited access to social protections.
It said the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic further exposed the vulnerability of domestic workers, with many losing their jobs and facing economic hardship.
According to the CDWN, the ILO estimates that there are 503,897 domestic workers in the Caribbean and that “this means that fighting for better working conditions for domestic workers in our region will positively impact more than 2.5 million Caribbean citizens, as their families often depend on them for day-to-day living.”
CDWN said it is calling on regional governments to ratify and implement the ILO Convention 189 to recognise and protect the rights and decent work conditions of domestic workers, while applauding the governments of Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda for ratifying the Convention.
“But that is only four of 20 CARICOM countries. We are pushing for all CARICOM countries to ratify C-189,” it said, adding “ratification is the first step to show commitment to protecting and respecting domestic workers.
“It is critical that laws provide pensions, sick leave benefits, injury benefits, overtime benefits, severance pay and other social security benefits to domestic workers. The National Insurance Schemes (NIS) across all Caribbean countries provide the legal framework for these social protections, but the laws are not enough.”
CDWN said even in the countries where Convention 189 is ratified, too many domestic workers go unprotected and vulnerable to poverty as the laws are not enforced.
“Governments must enforce them and make them real to impact the lives of Domestic Workers in tangible ways. How can a domestic worker work in a household for more than 20 years and on retirement has no pension to rely on? The NIS helps in these situations! Employers must live up to their obligations!
“Domestic workers deserve dignity, respect, and equal treatment, and we must all work together to achieve this goal. On June 16, International Domestic Workers Day, we will engage in special activities to raise further awareness of the importance of our workers to our countries as we advocate for better rights and protections,” it added.
“Together, let us work towards a future where domestic workers are treated with dignity and respect, and their contributions to our societies are recognised and valued.”
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