Nearly six months after the Labour Department formed a committee to fix wages for domestic workers, it looks like the large unorganised sector should soon have the Bill.

According to senior officials in the Labour Department, the committee has sent its recommendations to the government after consultations with trade unions, domestic workers, and employers in the State. Sources said that Rs. 30 per hour is the proposal put forward by the committee.

Although there are various issues that need to be addressed in the Bill, activists said fixing a minimum wage is one step towards empowering the unorganised domestic workers.

“Issues such as safety, security are not being addressed in the recommendations as proposed by stake-holders in our consultations,” said a senior official.

The 18,000 members of the Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers' Union have proposed three levels based on which minimum wage is counted — fix Rs. 35 for an hour, or fix wages for full-time workers based on work done for eight hours, or consider the number of people in a family and fix wages accordingly.

“Domestic workers in Chennai want Rs. 50 per hour as the minimum wage as they feel that the cost of living is high, while members in other districts want Rs. 35 per hour,” said Clara Ammal, State-level coordinator, Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers' Union.

Other perks such as extra pay for working overtime, maternity benefits and weekly holiday needs to be counted, said Ms. Ammal.

According to R. Geetha, adviser, National Campaign Committee for Unorganised Sector Workers, enforcing minimum wages would also build awareness through trade unions.

“Underpayment, non-payment and cheating by placement agencies on the pretext of giving them work are long-pending issues that domestic workers have been subjected to. Through the Payment of Wages Act, the fine levied would be seven times the salary,” said Ms. Geetha.

In Kerala, she said, the minimum wages for domestic workers is Rs. 120 a day.


Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012