The National Platform of Domestic Workers writes to the Prime Minister against the exclusion of informal workers in the New Labour Codes
The Prime Minister
As citizens of India, all constrained by the impact of COVID, we understand that the responsibilities you shoulder as the Prime minister at this time are very heavy. We appreciate that you have finally called a Parliamentary Session so that we citizens, through our MPs, can understand the reasons for several decisions that have been taken during the last months.
As the National Platform of Domestic Workers we particularly want to bring important facts to your notice.
There is still no data on the number of workers who engage in this sector of work although it is the fastest growing sector of workers today in India, with 78% being women. While there are no official statistics on this sector, there are reports that say they number over 30 million today. Domestic workers are also one of the most marginalised group of workers as what they do is not considered work and hence they are also treated with disdain. During the lockdown, employers responded differently to the workers. While the majority of them abruptly shut the workers out, some of them did respond more humanely providing wages and support for the first couple of months. A large group of employers wanted live-in workers as caring for the sick, old, disabled and children was still a demanding job as employers continued to work professionally from home. They did not want workers to come in on a daily basis for fear of infection and workers themselves could not reach work because of the lack of public transport. The end result is that despite lockdown being partially lifted, it is about 6 months now that 70% of the workers have been without work and there is no indication as to when the situation will ‘normalise’.
It is in this context that the NPDW, which has been in existence since 2011 and which has the participation of 34 unions, 5 of which are Central Trade Unions, makes the following demands:
- In the light of the fact that the Government of India (GOI) is recodifying labour law, we humbly submit that the informal workers and particularly domestic workers continue to be excluded as workers with rights in the existing draft codes. Considering that the GOI has been a signatory to the ILO Convention 189, the country is obliged to treat these workers on par with all other workers and not lump them into a BPL category as poor workers. As a Platform representing such workers, we demand that Comprehensive Legislation for Domestic Workers be enacted. This will not only raise the visibility of these workers but will impress on the employers that they too have to treat such workers as workers and contribute to their social security.
- We know that the three new labour codes will also be tabled during this session. It is regarding this that we wish to express our utter disappointment regarding the lack of concern regarding the workers in the informal sector. Although the introduction of the Codes claimed to make Labour Laws more efficient and universal, neither of these objectives have been addressed. More specifically, the domestic workers have even been specifically excluded.
We feel this is a stark injustice meted out to these workers who remain invisible and who voice is not heard.
- In the context of the National Disaster Management Act whereby the GOI has centralised all decisions regarding the implementation of the lockdown, we bring to your notice Revised list of items & norms (e) of assistance from State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) / National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to focus on the relief that should be extended to the vulnerable people whose livelihood are affected by the disaster and therefore we demand that all workers be provided with a cash transfer of Rs 6300 per month for period of 3 months amounting to 18600 with immediate effect. As domestic workers fall into this category, they should also receive this allowance.
- Unaware exactly when the employment situation will normalise, we demand that the GOI implements an Urban employment Guarantee scheme – on the lines of the NREGS.
We urge you heed these demands and do what is in your power to reach out to this very vulnerable section of workers.
Nalini Nayak – SEWA and
Subhash Bhatnagar – Nirmana
Convenors, National Platform of Domestic Workers (NPDW)