|Oscar Fernandes, former union minister for labor addressing the national consultation on domestic workers in New Delhi on Dec. 1. (ucanews.com photo)|
Church organizations in New Delhi joined a national consultation to finalize a draft bill that aims to ensure domestic workers receive fair wages and other employment benefits.
Chetnalaya, the social service wing of the Delhi Archdiocese joined 28 trade unions, forums of domestic workers and other civil society organizations on Dec. 1 for a two-day roundtable to discuss and fine tune the Domestic Workers Welfare and Social Security Act 2016.
"We can't keep our eyes closed when our sisters are suffering, it is time we raised our voices and demanded our rights," said Nalini Nayak, convenor of an amalgam of organizations and trade unions that work for domestic workers.
The draft was presented to Bandaru Dattatreya, federal minister for labor and employment, with a request to present it in Parliament. Nayak said several members of Parliament have promised to support the bill.
Nayak told ucanews.com that the bill was the result of four years of consultations and lobbying as "we wanted something suitable and acceptable to all concerned." It is now "comprehensive and non-negotiable," she said.
The draft bill seeks to regulate domestic worker employment by clarifying the duties of employers and service providers, working hours, holidays, benefits and wages.
In India, domestic workers are employed to clean, cook, babysit and do other odd jobs around the house. Most have not had the chance to be educated and come from remote villages lured by the promise of a lucrative job in the city. However, reports of exploitation are numerous.
Nayak said that India has some 35 million domestic workers and they are the largest indirect contributors to the country's economy. However, without a law to ensure their rights, these unskilled workers remain voiceless and unprotected.
India is a signatory to the landmark International Labour Organization Convention 189 on domestic workers, adopted in 2011.
However, the government has done nothing "to ensure the rights of domestic workers," said Anushika Thompson of Chetnalaya's domestic workers' forum. Organizations such as theirs have been campaigning for a law for more than six years, she added.
Bandaru Dattatreya, minister of labor, who attended a session of the workshop, said that the government is aware of the domestic worker issue and will take every step to address it.
Nayak said that, since most of the ministers have promised to support the bill, they hope it will be passed in the next session of Parliament in March 2017.
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