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Dominican Republic: Liliam Marrero, General Secretary of UNFETRAH-FENAMUTRA

by IDWFED published May 01, 2020 01:14 PM

Dominican Republic  -

Liliam has been a domestic and care worker for all her life. She has been caring for a 95-year-old woman for a few years now, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. As the country is in a state of emergency due to COVID-19, Liliam is quarantined in her house with no pay, despite working for the same employer for 7 years. She shared with us her concerns, as one of many domestic workers who found themselves struggling through this crisis.

I worry most about my domestic worker comrades, my compañeras. I fear they would catch the infection when it is not even possible for them to get tested. The COVID-19 test is expensive, more than $DR 5,000, which amounts to half of the monthly salary of a domestic worker here. I fear that they will be left alone to their own means: our government says one thing but does another in practice. I also fear the financial challenges their families and children are facing. I get phone calls every day from our affiliates who tell me that they are facing food shortages. On top of this, they are neither able to work nor look for a new job in case of dismissal. Many employers do not want domestic workers coming into their houses anymore. My worries grow more and more every day. Soon, a day will arrive when they will run out of food and savings.

As a union leader, my day to day workload has tripled, because members’ needs have increased. Our responsibilities have also increased: we need to support their health, basic food and care needs. Through our WhatsApp groups, we try to take note of their needs and to get some humanitarian support from everywhere, like churches, for example. Tomorrow, we are going to a neighborhood to distribute soap, hand sanitizers, toothpaste for the kids and food.

Our commitment now is stronger. We cannot let our affiliates get sick with COVID-19 because most likely they will not be diagnosed and hence will not receive medical treatment. Our strategy is prevention and information on how to take care of ourselves. As soon as I wake up, I listen all the messages from our members – their needs, pains and suffering.

Another worry that caused me sorrow is our union was accomplishing a lot or progress through organizing and advocacy work pre COVID-19. We were working on getting social protection for our sector, in a joint project between the IDWF and the Dominican Republic unions. We made quick progress and were excited to see the results of our work. Now all of that has stopped. This is too intense of a crisis after being on good path to achieve social protection and having large hopes for our livelihoods.