Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rights for domestic workers.

Reports today that the Federal Cabinet has set up a taskforce to to 'regulate the relationship between domestic workers and their sponsors.'

A proposed new law will, it is said, ensure the rights and duties of both sides are guaranteed.

It's another of the catch-up laws, of which there are so many in most areas of our lives. What has been accepted in the past is no longer acceptable, but so often we don't yet have laws to cover the problem areas.

The UAE Human Rights Organisation recently demanded, according to the Gulf News story, that domestic workers be covered by the Labour Law.

Why they weren't is a mystery to me.

The watchdog said that the domestic helpers' contract regulating the relationship with employers falls short of the minimum human rights and international labour standards.

There are thousands of domestic workers here and that's some indictment. It's obviously something that couldn't be allowed to continue.

Recommendations from the organisation are common sense and I can't see one good reason why they wouldn't be adopted in full and written into law.

They say the contract should include:
*A minimum wage.
*Working hours & duties for each job.
*System to transfer wages to banks regularly & on time.
*Proper accommodation ensuring privacy.
*Specific daily working hours and weekly rest.
*Annual leave as for other workers.
*Contract to be translated into languages known by domestic helpers.

And finally, a Hotline to be set up for complaints from domestic workers against any abuses.

Even though it's late the move is to be applauded. Let's hope it doesn't all get bogged down and delayed for months or years.

I do have one sceptical comment though. Assuming the law is passed, how is it all going to be enforced?

Very difficult when the domestic helpers are often poorly educated, if at all, they are strangers in the country with no network, are hidden away inside villas or apartments, maybe don't have the means to communicate, don't in any case know their rights.

There's a large responsibility on the home governments I would have thought, to inform and educate their citizens before they take domestic jobs overseas.


LDU said...

I was watching an AlJazeera-English channel documentary on the treatment of construction workers (Asians) in the UAE. It was really sad. The shocking thing about it was how the country, whilst being in the international spot light, can get away with it.

If a construction worker here does 12 hour shifts on a daily basis, they would be earning a six digit income.

Seabee said...

Yes, they do it tough. A lot are ripped off by agents in their own countries, who charge immense amounts for visa etc, the labourers borrow from their entire family to scrape enough together, then when they get here the job/salary/accommodation/conditions are not anything like promised. But they can't go back because of the money situation. That particular problem is being sorted out by the governments banning agents and setting up official agencies. That's just one of the problems they face...

LDU said...

Jeez. That is awful. I suppose the government setting up official recruitment agency will curb the problem a bit.

Seabee said...

There was a violent protest a few days ago, with some construction workers demanding higher pay & better conditions. They were getting an average of AED600 a month the reports said, that's less than 200 Aussie dollars.

i*maginate said...

"The shocking thing about it was how the country, whilst being in the international spot light, can get away with it."

Are you referring to one of the UNSC countries?

LDU said...

Seabee - There's a huge anti Union campaign by the government down here at the moment hehe.

It would be good if those workers could organise themselves into some sort of workers union. Refusing to work would be a good start and getting the medias regular attention.

Imaginate - I was referring to the UAE. It's not serving its SC tenure at the moment, is it? If you're referring to China's treatment of its workers, i heard Chinese workers have a bad ride too.