At a demonstration on Monday, the workers also said they wanted implementation of Social Security Act

A domestic help who is expected to work fulltime faces far from satisfactory work conditions. Movements for the welfare of domestic workers have not been able to achieve much, though they meet periodically, hoping to catch the government’s attention.

“Usually, a domestic help has no option but to accept whatever the employer pays her. It could be Rs. 1,000 or Rs. 500 for a month,” said P. Clara, who organises meetings of domestic workers. “In Madurai, a family wanted their help to pick up and drop their child at school, and live with them. I said the salary would be Rs. 6,000 but they were not willing to pay that amount,” she recalled.

A call to a domestic help service provider in Mylapore, Chennai, listed on the internet, revealed that the domestic help should be paid Rs. 300 for an hour per day.

If she is expected to live with the family then the monthly salary would be Rs. 8,000. The agency says it does background checks on its workers.

On Monday, domestic workers organised a demonstration under the aegis of the National Domestic Workers Movement, to commemorate International Domestic Workers Day, observed on June 16. M. Valarmathi, coordinator of the movement, said, “We have been asking for a uniform pay structure with fixed minimum wages. We want the government to allot separate funds for domestic workers in the Labour Welfare Board instead of including them with construction workers.”

Two years ago, the workers had sought Rs. 30 per hour as the minimum wage. Now, they have raised this amount to Rs. 50. Minimum wages is just one of their demands.

They want a comprehensive national legislation for domestic workers and the implementation of the Social Security Act, 2008 through the State Welfare Board. They also want India to ratify the International Labour Convention No. 189 on domestic workers.

Ms. Clara and Ms. Valarmathi pointed out that Philippines, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Mauritius, Italy, Norway and South Africa have all ratified the convention. India too, should follow suit, especially as, “India is a major sending-and-receiving country” for domestic helps, said Ms. Valarmathi.

According to an official at the labour department, at present, only 1,45,945 domestic workers – a third of the total number in the State have registered with the Social Security Board.

“Fixing minimum wages is a Cabinet decision that only the government can take. Karnataka and Kerala have stipulated minimum wages, but they are only on paper. If there is a national policy on domestic workers it would address the issue better,” the official said.

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