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Domestic workers rally for decent working conditions in Jamaica
“Domestic work remains a virtually invisible form of employment in many countries and many domestic workers endure very poor working conditions, including underpayment of wages, long working hours, inadequate privacy and the threat of sexual harassment,” Shirley Pryce explained.
FEELING that their pleas for the better treatment of household workers have fallen on deaf ears, over 200 domestic workers took to the streets of Kingston last weekend to stage a rally aimed at bringing more attention to the need for decent work.
Photo: Jamaica Household Workers Association (JHWA)
Clad in their aprons, the domestic workers chanted songs, recited poems, and read from speeches in an effort to pressure the government to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 189. This convention is aimed at bringing domestic workers in line with all other categories of workers by protecting their rights.
So far, only Uruguay, Philippines, Mauritius, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Italy have ratified the convention, which was adopted by the ILO in June 2011. Among those in attendance during the ILO conference in 2011 in Geneva was president of the Jamaica Household Workers Association (JHWA) Shirley Pryce. She argues that Jamaica’s labour laws are archaic and need to be amended to address the inequities domestic workers continue to face.
“Domestic work remains a virtually invisible form of employment in many countries and many domestic workers endure very poor working conditions, including underpayment of wages, long working hours, inadequate privacy and the threat of sexual harassment,” she explained.
“Ratifying the ILO Convention 189 will bring domestic workers in line with all other categories of workers, giving them the right to exercise and enjoy protection under all existing labour legislation. Access to justice and equality before the law is for all,” she said.
Given Jamaica’s representation during the ILO conference in Geneva, Pryce said it would be nice if the Jamaican government leads the rest of the Caribbean in ratifying the convention in time for International Women’s Day which will be celebrated on March 8, 2013.
In the meantime, Pryce said the JHWA will continue to provide opportunities for the personal and professional development of its members with their motto, ‘Respect, Equality, Dignity . . . Every Household Workers’ Right’ in mind. Their efforts have been bolstered with the assistance of UN Women, which is providing support to educate and mobilise domestic workers.
“We will continue our campaign for domestic workers to be recognised as workers and to be protected by employment legislation, as we believe that all workers must be counted. Domestic work is work,” she said.