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South Africa: Domestic workers keep fighting "a living wage and proper hours"

South Africa: Domestic workers keep fighting "a living wage and proper hours"

by IDWFED published Dec 08, 2014 03:16 PM
Nearly 17 years ago, sitting behind a slightly battered desk in Cape Town's Salt River, Myrtle Witbooi told me that the dream of domestic workers being "treated like other workers" would not die. "We want a living wage and proper hours. It is a dream…but we will get there," said the woman who, in Cape Town in 1965, convened the first organisational meeting of domestic workers.




Myrtle Witbooi, IDWF President and General Secretary of the South African Domestic Service and Allied Workers Union was angry then and remains so now. Almost half a century later, she points out that a multitude of promises have been broken; that although the Labour Relations and Basic Conditions of Employment Acts are in place, domestic workers remain disadvantaged.

Myrtle Witbooi, second right, and the South African domestic workers keep fighting their rights of being "treated like other workers".  (File Photo: SADSAWU)

And the latest sectoral minimum wage determination by labour minister Mildred Oliphant has added fuel to the fires of resentment. Last month, national leaders of the still impecunious and tenuously organised SA Domestic and Allied Workers’ Union (Sadsawu) held a protest planning meeting.

“We are not happy, so watch out for next year, things will be happening,”

Witbooi said this week. Prime cause of the general unhappiness is the fact that the “same old formula” for determining domestic worker wages continues to be applied, despite petitions by thousands of Sadsawu members and supporters.

In the first place, there is a wage differential between what are regarded as metropolitan and small town or rural areas. There is also no allowance made for differences between live-in domestics and the probable majority who have to travel daily to work.

The increase announced by the minister, although higher than the rate in previous years, is still below the cost of living increase for the lower paid. Yet there was the usual cacophony of fallacious complaints from employers who threatened that jobs would be lost as domestic workers were “priced out of the market”.

This year, activists had hoped for more.

“The minister said she wanted the views of workers and, as she travelled around the country, we organised for workers to fill in forms to say what they wanted,”

said Witbooi.

“She paid no attention. It seems these people only listen to business,” she added.

Read the original article in full: Why South African domestic workers keep fighting | The South African

Source: Terry Bell/Ground Up

Story Type: Story

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