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Domestic Workers not keen on forming a union
By Regina Selman Moore
THE idea of forming a union has not been embraced by a number of domestic workers, who formed part of a project entitled “Decent Work for Domestic Workers”, hosted by the local Labour Ministry with the assistance of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
However, Senator Dr. Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour, Social Security and Human Resource Development, has noted that local domestic workers are keen on having their challenges addressed through the legislative framework that speaks to their situation.
The Minister’s comments came as she addressed participants gathered for the opening of the 2013 Midterm Delegates’ Conference of the Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations of Barbados (CTUSAB), held at NUPW Headquarters yesterday.
“I have been advised that the idea of forming a union was not keenly embraced by the employees who participated in the focus groups, during the needs assessment component of the project. The draft report emanating from the study indicates that 72 per cent of those persons who were interviewed had no interest in being part of a trade union or any similar network,” she said.
“The domestic employees were emphatic that any challenges which were being experienced could be resolved, if provisions were made in our labour laws for domestic workers and guidelines were developed to inform standards of work, such as number of tasks to be carried out in a day, the number of working hours, the number of employees for a specific size house, and the number of days off,” the minister revealed.
“They also articulated the need for clearly defined job descriptions and pay that was commensurate with the work being done. These views represent only some of the recommendations of the domestic workers who participated in the study. It is our intention to review all these views and implement whatever measures are necessary for these workers to enjoy the basic rights to which they are entitled,” she further remarked.
Notwithstanding the lack of interest in being members of a union, Byer-Suckoo stated that it is noteworthy that a large number of the respondents indicated that they were in contact with other domestic workers.
“So they do have a network. It will therefore be necessary to engage in a sustained campaign to educate and sensitise these workers to the benefits of participating in a body that can represent their interests. Indeed, all workers, both in the formal and informal sector, need to be aware of their rights in the workplace and to the right to be part of an association which can lobby on their behalf,” the minister maintained.
Byer-Suckoo stressed that domestic workers are not the only workers in such a position. Employees in small businesses and offices of professionals often have no voice, are not organised and fear victimisation.
“The Employment Rights Act offers some protection, but I intend to investigate what more is needed for them to enjoy the rights and freedoms that workers in a collective bargaining unit enjoy. This is not to say that trade unions won’t be needed when the legislation is complete, but rather that the work of the Ministry will complement the untiring efforts of our local unions,” she said.
“Then there are security guards. Every day I receive a call or I am stopped to hear a complaint about the conditions of security guards. Their problems will be addressed, starting with a full investigation,” she pledged.