Troubled times ahead for domestic workers

Domestic workers in many parts of Madurai are yet to get paid for the month of March and several have been asked to stop coming to work from May. COVID-19 has deeply affected their livelihood, they say.

Speaking to The Hindu, M. Pandiammal, a domestic worker who used to travel from Melur to Uthangudi for work everyday, says that she was yet to receive payment from some of the houses. “I work at five houses. Although two households paid my salary for March, the rest are yet to pay me. I am unable to travel to their houses due to lack of public transport. I have given them the bank account details of my son. I hope they will send the payment soon,” she says.

K. Selvi, another worker who works at Tirumohur, says that she has been told not to come for work in two houses. With two young daughters who will be going to classes 9 and 12 and one daughter who is to be married later this month, she says she doesn't know how she will afford the expenses.

“It is difficult to imagine how I will manage. My husband too cannot earn as he is a laundry man and no one is undertaking his services for now,” she says.

She adds that she has spent ₹10,000 printing invitations and distributing it to her relatives. She says that the wedding will now be postponed but the expense will continue to rise.

Lily Pushpam from S. S. Colony says that her employers ask her to come twice or three times a week for doing ‘light work’. However, when she arrives, she spends at least an hour cleaning, mopping and washing. “Since all the members of the house are at home, my employer also makes me cut vegetables without any additional pay. We are being paid merely ₹1,500 for the entire month when we are risking our health and going to work,” she says.

State Coordinator, Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers’ Union, P. Clarammal, says that even before COVID-19, domestic workers were poorly paid. Now that they are at risk of getting infected, it would only be right if employees paid them fair wages.

“How long can these families survive with the ration rice and ₹1,000 that the State Government has provided?” she asks.

She adds that the State Government has promised to disburse an additional ₹1,000 to workers from the unorganised sector if they have registered with the Tamil Nadu Domestic Workers Welfare Board. “However, several young and old women are yet to register with the board. They will not be able to tide through this economic crisis without help,” she says.

A senior official from the Labour department says that the State Government has provided instructions to collect the names and bank account details of those who are part of the board. The department has joined hands with social workers like Ms. Clarammal to get the account details soon. “We will try to accommodate as many workers as possible. We realise that it is a difficult time,” the officer says.

Ms. Clarammal says that timely aid will be beneficial to these women as the otherwise they would borrow heavily and fall into a debt trap.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 5:32:20 PM |

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