All Woman

Domestic workers yet to see improvement in working conditions

By NADINE WILSON All Woman writer wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 09, 2012    

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MORE than a year after Jamaica agreed to adopt the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on decent work for domestic workers, household workers here are yet to see the ratification and implementation of the convention which would help to improve their working conditions.

Representatives from Jamaica were among the close to 400 delegates who voted for the convention during the 100th annual conference of the ILO on June 16 last year in Geneva, Switzerland. Delegates agreed to adopt a historic set of international standards aimed at improving the working conditions of an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide.

Among other things, the new ILO standards set out that domestic workers around the world must have the same basic labour rights available to other workers, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, reasonable hours of work, and clear information on terms and conditions of employment.

The convention is an international treaty that is binding once ratified.

With countries such as Uruguay already ratifying the convention, and others such as the Philippines giving commitment to follow shortly, president of the Jamaica Household Workers' Association (JHWA) Shirley Pryce is hoping that the convention will soon be ratified in Jamaica as well.

"We urge the government of Jamaica to make a public commitment to ratify the convention and implement the recommendation as soon as possible," implored the JHWA in a letter that was hand delivered to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller a few days prior to June 16 which was celebrated as International Domestic Workers' Day.

"The actions by the government will ensure that the standards adopted a year ago become a reality for domestic workers, and that we will not have to wait any longer for long overdue and desperately needed protections," the group wrote.

In a message to commemorate the day, Simpson Miller commended JHWA for the work it has been doing in improving the employability and job satisfaction of domestic workers. She also saluted domestic workers for the contribution they have been making to nation-building.

"At all levels throughout the society, the benefits of your service as domestic workers can be seen as it is you who help to take care of the children, the elderly and other family members while also allowing others the opportunity to pursue their educational, professional and career advancement," she said.

She noted too that, "through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the drafting of the necessary legislative amendments to allow for ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention concerning decent work for domestic workers is currently being undertaken."

In the interim, Pryce said her group has been conducting a number of seminars and establishing chapters in various parishes in Jamaica so as to sensitise domestic workers about the convention and how it stands to benefit them.

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