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posted 5 Sept 2013, 14:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Sept 2013, 14:44 ]

Clotil Walcott, heroine of the working class, was a mentor and inspiration to many, she was determined to bring domestic workers  in line with other workers.

Ida Le Blanc, General Secretary of the National Union of Domestic Employees issued the following media release on September 5th 2013:
The National Union of Domestic Employees wishes to extend a heartfelt appreciation to all those who do domestic work as we celebrate “Clotil Walcott Day” on 7th September, with our Caribbean counterparts.

We have a lot to celebrate on Clotil Walcott Day. The Domestic Workers Convention no. 189 has now come into force. This International Convention offers vital protections to millions of workers around the world and Human Rights Watch is now calling on Governments to act promptly to ratify and enforce the convention.

The National Union of Domestic Employees co-convenes the Caribbean Domestic Workers Network together with the Jamaica Household Workers Union. This decision to honour Clotil Walcott and to declare her birthday Clotil Walcott day is an initiative of the Caribbean Domestic Workers Network.

The network consists of Antigua Trades and Labour Union, Barbados Workers Union, Jamaica Household Workers Union, Red Thread from Guyana, CAFRA St. Lucia, National Union of Domestic Employees and Transport and Industrial Workers Union from Trinidad and Tobago and will be hosting activities simultaneously.

In Trinidad and Tobago we will be hosting a TRIBUTE TO CLOIL WALCOTT we will be celebrating her life`s work, she was a mentor and inspiration to many, she was determined to bring domestic workers up in line as all workers. The day`s event will end with a dinner for domestic workers allowing them some time off, which will be our way of saying thank you for all the unpaid and low paid work they continue to contribute to society in order to keep families running. Thank you for your invaluable contribution in the Region.

Domestic Workers clean homes, cook, wash, iron and fold clothes, they secure homes, take care of the gardens and surrounding, drive children to and from school, they care for children, the elderly and the disabled in society. Even though they do all this work and more they are not considered workers and continue to be deprived of the right to enjoy basic labour rights under the industrial relations act as all other workers.

When Domestic Workers are recognised as workers they will enjoy the right to be recognised as workers under the Industrial Relations Act which will give them the right to seek recourse in cases of wrongful dismissal and redundancy claims so they can have access to conciliation at the Ministry of Labour Small and Micro Enterprises Development and the Industrial Court.

To deny them these rights under the law is a violation of the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago which states in chapter 1 part 1 4. (b) “the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law; which the domestic workers continue to be deprived of.

In 2011 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Convention 189 on Domestic Workers with a complimenting Recommendation 201. This convention spells out the rights to be implemented in law to bring domestic workers up in line as all other workers and the recommendation points to policies and guidelines to be followed in order to achieve decent work for domestic workers.

Even though in Trinidad and Tobago we have the right to sick leave, vacation leave, public holidays and overtime pay for domestic workers which are provisions under the Minimum Wages Order, it is not enforced. However our burning issue is the right for domestic workers to have recourse when they are wrongfully dismissed or their jobs become redundant.

Because they are fired without no means of recourse.

They are afraid to stand up for their rights, they are afraid to inform the National Insurance Board if they suspect their employers are not paying national insurance contributions on their behalf, they are afraid to speak to the employer about the late payment of their salaries, their overtime pay and to be paid for public holidays when it falls in their work week.

Under the ILO Convention, we will be recognised as workers and government would have no other choice than to include us as workers under the Industrial Relations Act. Because we are indeed workers and should be treated as such, we are no longer servants, nor helpers neither are we household assistants, assistant to who?

We are now entitled to all the rights that are spelled out in the ILO Convention 189. But we remain concerned especially about sleep in domestic workers and migrant workers who face exploitation of the worst kind, sleep in workers are always on call, they have no stipulated hours of work, they are not paid for overtime worked or on call duties.

Government is obligated to protecting domestic workers from violence and abuse, they must also allow us to speak for ourselves and participate in all decision making bodies that make decisions on behalf of domestic workers as we are the most representative body for domestic workers in Trinidad and Tobago.

Since the treaty was adopted in 2011, more than 30 countries have enacted crucial law reforms to better protect domestic workers, such as limits on working hours, access to social security and maternity benefits, minimum wage guarantees, overtime pay, and other basic labour rights.

“Dozens of countries have strengthened labour protections for domestic workers in recent years,” Van Gulik Global Rights Advocate from Human Rights Watch said. “although these reforms are very encouraging, we are still a long way from ensuring that all domestic workers enjoy basic labour rights.”

This is true, I want to agree with Van Gulik because right here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have so much to
do to ensure that domestic workers live a decent live but first we must start by ratifying the convention and then our next step is social dialogue between a tripartite body, between the chief stakeholders then
we can ventilate all the issues that affect domestic workers and come up with solutions through consensus to ensure that domestic workers can live a decent life in Trinidad and Tobago. We must hear what the Employers` Association and Chamber of Commerce have to say on the issue of domestic workers and government must make the space to enable us to do so. Not an ILO committee where domestic workers are represented by sea fearers. 

Ida Le Blanc
General Secretary
National Union of Domestic Employees

Trinidad and Tobago
5th September, 2013