“I have been working for 28 years and only get Rs. 1200. When I fell sick, my employers did not give me leave to go to see a doctor. I am close to 50 years and find it difficult to continue doing this work. I do not get any medical benefits or pension. What will happen to me, I wonder? How will I survive?” asks a disillusioned Asha, one of the deposers in the gathering.
Anita who is now part of the Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union narrated how she was brought to the city by a placement agent. “I come from a poor family. In 2011, a placement agent convinced my parents to send me to Delhi for a better life. I was only 14 years and had to leave school. I did not want to do this work but had no option. Many times I wanted to leave but the agent forced me to continue working. Finally, I was rescued by the Union”
From the panelists, Subhash Lomte throwing light on how young girls are brought from villages to city with the promise of a better life and education said, “We must continue to fight for equal wages and pension”. The minimum wage should be adjusted to inflation and the pension amount should be at least Rs. 2000.
The age for women pensioners should be 50 years and for men it should be 55 years. The pension amount for women should get directly transferred to her bank account so that it is not misused by her husband. He urged the domestic workers from Delhi to gather at Jantar Mantar on 6th March and raise the issue of a ‘minimum wage’ with the government.
“We all have to sell our labour but we cannot sell our labour without your labour,” said Kalpana Mehta, a panelist from Indore as she addressed the gathering. “Always remember that the work you do is extremely important without which other homes will not function,” she was quoted as saying while stressing the need to give value and respect to domestic work.
At the end of the hearing, in the resolutions adopted by them demanded a uniform law needs to be made for the welfare of domestic workers. Untill then Minimum Wages Act and other Labour laws must be applied to this category of workers too and a body comprising representatives from the government and domestic workers needs to be set up to monitor their real situation.
They also insisted on minimum wages, working hours and time of remuneration should be fixed for Domestic Workers. Strict measures should be taken against those who flaunt it and complete profiles of all urban workers, their employers and all organizations linked to them should be done. A government agency should be set up for this purpose.
Other than weekly, monthly, yearly and sick leave, they said that provisions should be made for emergency leave also for domestic workers. Pregnant workers should be given special leave of three months. All these leaves should be paid. They demanded strict punishment should be given to all those employers, placement agents and police personnel who subject domestic workers to physical, sexual and other kinds of abuse.
Other than financial aid, they said that the government should provide other kinds of human support to those domestic workers who are crisis-struck and all kind of middlemen and contractors should be removed between domestic workers and their employers.
To ensure security of livelihood, they demanded domestic workers and their families should be given insurance by the government. They also resolved stating that along with an annual bonus and future investment options, annual wage increase adjusted with inflation should be given to these workers.
Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union also resolved to continue their struggle for decent work and ensure rights of the working women and take forward the recommendations of the public hearing to the authorities concerned.
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