Views & Reviews
Domestic Workers and the Covid -19 Pandemic
Dimapur, 21th May 2020: Unlike other forms of labour market activity, domestic work takes place in an unconventional place of work, i.e. the household. Domestic workers are categorised as full-time, part-time workers and live-in i.e. residential workers.
I would like to highlight some of the challenges both of the NDWM- Nagaland Region and the domestic workers face are the following especially during the Covid 19 pandemic
1. Gaining public acceptance that Domestic workers are workers and domestic work is work
2. Inclusion of ‘domestic workers’ as workers in the Minimum Wages Act, Nagaland.
3. Implementations of labour laws especially relating to unorganised sectors and most importantly to regularise working hours.
Imagine our homes without their presence. I am sure due to the sudden lockdown for almost two months where many of the domestic workers were asked not to join the work till the employers call them back, how difficult it is to maintain the household work. Because when domestic workers were there, they managed everything for our homes and family. They are the one who know where the things are kept, what is needed to buy, how much is the consumption. In a way our domestic workers were running our homes, they were the owners of our homes because they are much aware of the things in our families. We need to understand just one thing — they do not exist in this world to sweep, mob, cook, clean, iron, drive and wash our bathrooms, take care of our babies and the children and the elderly. Just because at times they need financial support that does mean that their lives do not matter. As we value our lives as sacred likewise we ought to treat their lives as sacred, not servitude. They have families to take care of, children to feed and educate elderly parents to look after and large families to feed and take care of. We are privileged to have them in our homes. It is a sad reality that we have taken them for granted without recognising their contribution and their love for our homes.We must not abuse them or their work, especially during this terrible period of Covid-19 pandemic. We are all stuck and struggling to meet even our day’s end.
Problems faced by domestic workers during this Covid 19 pandemic:
1.Fear of losing the job.
2.Delay in paying their salary by withholding their salary.
3.Fear and anxiety about how to raise their family.
4.Increased form of domestic violence at home
5.Eversince lock-down, many domestic workers are residing at their employers’ homes and are
• Made to work round the clock, and
• Not providing just wages and humane working conditions like no proper place to sleep, to rest and to keep their belongings.
Some of the sad realities of the domestic workers
I am Rita (Name changed) in my employers house only couple lives. On the second day of the lockdown I had gone to work as usual my employer said don’t come for work till I call. Who knows if you carry the virus?
I am Rani (name Changed). I was in need of money so I called up my employer to pay my wages and the answer is from where shall I pay? I told my employer I am asking my salary/pay not asking advance or extra. Don’t I have the right to ask my wages? If my employer is not ready to pay whom shall I go to?
So being the Coordinator of the National Domestic Workers Movement – Nagaland Region, it is my humble request to all the employers to please pay their wages on time, the lockdown was not called by them it was for each one’s safety and security. If we don’t pay them what are they going to eat? How will they raise their families? Because when they were at our service they served us unconditionally, even at the cost of their health and their families, they served our homes just like theirs. During this lockdown, we, the team of NDWM – Nagaland region, when we went to provide dry ration and safety/ precautionary kit we witnessed many of our migrant domestic workers struggling to meet their livelihood and left all by themselves without any assistance or relief from anyone. So, dear employers, were you ever concerned for their wellbeing in this time of crisis? Have you made an effort or provide them some ration? As a landlord, have you waived off their house rent? Or, you told them not to join the work without any notice/security amount? Regardless of whatever be your response or circumstances, as an employer; let us all take this as a solemn duty to take utmost care of our domestic worker. We need them and they need us. Recognise their contribution to our homes. To our nation and especially to the economy.
Sr.Pramila Lobo UFS
Nagaland Domestic Workers’ Movement – Nagaland Region.