Deal gets better for domestic workers
By Luke Anami
By end of this month, you are supposed to enter into a job contract with your house help under the new convention sponsored by the International Labour Organisation.
ILO Convention 189 on ‘Decent Work for Domestic Workers’, employers will be required to include in their written contracts reasonable hours of work for house helps, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, plus disclosing your working address to the house help before he or she is engaged.
For those who hire their relatives as house girls, their days are numbered because they must be treated as employees. They will also be entitled to a negotiated pay, based on the actual work done.
"Under the new ILO Convention, no employer shall be required to terminate the services of a house help without a notice," said Francis Atwoli, the Secretary General of Central Organisation of Trade Unions when he addressed a news conference on Tuesday in Nairobi.
Woe to you if you allow the maid to spread your bed. You will soon be required to specify that in the contracts.
"Private homes can be dangerous for domestic workers. The ILO Convention will thus ensure elimination of all forms of forced labour at the domestic level," Atwoli said.
According to the new standards, domestic workers around the world who care for families and households must have the same basic labour rights as those available to other workers including clear information on terms and conditions of employment and respect for fundamental principles and rights at work including freedom of association.
"Some people employ children as maids and lock them indoors the whole day. In conjunction with the Government, Cotu will conduct impromptu visits to ensure this kind of discrimination and abuse is eliminated," said Atwoli, who was flanked by members of Cotu who attended the 100th ILO Geneva conference.
"Under the new convention, domestic workers must be allowed to collective bargaining. This is already enshrined in our Bill of Rights," he added.
He said the Government voted for the Convention but Kenya Federation of Employers abstained.
"We want domestic workers to know their rights. We are calling upon the Government to begin the process of ratifying. Kenyans should to be made aware of this new requirement we have been fighting for," Atwoli said.
Recent ILO estimates based on national surveys and/or censuses of 117 countries place the number of domestic workers at around 53 million.
Conference delegates, who included Labour PS Beatrice Kituyi and Atwoli, adopted the Convention on Domestic Workers (2011) by a vote of 396 to 16, with 63 abstentions and the accompanying recommendation by a vote of 434 to eight, with 42 abstentions.
The new Convention was enacted when governments, employers and workers attending the conference in Switzerland on Monday adopted the first convention and accompanying recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
The two standards will be the 189th Convention and the supplementing 201st Recommendation adopted by the labour organisation since its creation in 1919. The Convention is an international treaty that is binding on Member States that ratify it, while the Recommendation provides more detailed guidance on how to apply the Convention.
According to ILO proceedings, the new Convention will come into force after two countries have ratified it.
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