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Household workers form trade union

Monday, March 18, 2013    

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AFTER years of lobbying for better treatment and equal rights, the Jamaica Household Workers Association (JHWA) was formally established as a trade union on Friday, paving the way for even greater advocacy for the over 58,000 domestic workers in Jamaica.

The union was launched at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Caribbean Office, United Nations Women, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the International Domestic Workers Network. It was launched under the motto "Respect, equality, dignity...every household workers' right".

President of the JHWA and co-convener of the Caribbean Domestic Workers Network, Shirley Pryce, pointed out that the launch of the union was an historic event that will help the association better carry out its mandate.

"The Jamaica Household Workers Association strives to provide opportunities for the personal and professional development of its members and continues to galvanise support for the protection and rights of domestic workers," she said.

"We confidently believe that as this union grows and develops the capacity to defend the rights of all household workers, we will be doing our part in contributing to the achievement of gender equality, as stated in the National Policy for Gender Equality," she added.

JHWA was established as a non-government, voluntary, women's organisation in 1991 to represent the needs and interests of female household workers. Among other things, the organisation provides skills training in household management for its members, as well as ensures good working conditions and better payment for household workers.

Pryce, who was a domestic worker for over 20 years, currently works closely with the over 1,600 members who make up the JHWA. The organisation's members are predominantly women aged 25 to 65. It helps these women, most of whom are without formal education, to improve their living and working conditions and support their right to seek decent work or sustainable employment.

The JHWA has organised a number of rallies over the past few years in an effort to bring the concerns of these workers to the Government and public interests for discussion and action. One of the most recent rallies was held in December and saw over 200 domestic workers taking to the streets of Kingston to pressure the government to ratify the ILO convention 189 which is aimed at bringing domestic workers in line with all other categories of workers.

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