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June 17, 2021

Domestic Workers Day observed with call to ensure their rights

LAHORE:An off-day in a week is everybody’s right, that we all know, but if domestic workers are engaged to work on a day there is a festival, they are supposed to be paid three times their wage for a day. They are entitled to 14 days earned leave in a year and employers are bound to give six-week paid maternity leave.

This was announced by Muhammad Shahid, a Labour Department officer, on Domestic Workers Day on Thursday. Hundreds of domestic workers, all women, came together under one roof in a local hotel on Davis Road on the invitation of WISE (Women in Struggle for Empowerment) to press for their right to dignity of work, fair wages, safe working conditions, health cover and their right to leave as promised in the law. They chanted slogans on the occasion ‘We are workers, not servants’ and ‘Why do our wages not match our work’.

WISE has been on the forefront in helping women get computerised national identity cards (CNIC) which is the first step to get registered with the Labour Department. In that too it is taking the lead. Bushra Khaliq, who heads WISE, offered women transport to take them to Nadra for getting CNICs and bringing them back. Registration is an uphill task, shared Zakia Ali and Shamim, former councillor and social worker, because apart from worker’s CNIC, a copy of employer’s CNIC and phone number is also required and employers mostly refuse to give that.

By now 40,000 domestic workers have been registered by the Labour Department, the Labour officer said, adding when a worker works overtime, she/he can claim payment for that.

Registration of workers will give them social security so all of them should get registered. It was learnt that the Labour Department has a wing called Authority that gets dues from employers in case they withhold any.

Domestic workers addressed the gathering. Those who spoke on the occasion expressed their aspirations and shared their struggle to enable their children to get into work with prospects of growth and be anything but domestic workers. A domestic worker, Samreen, wants to see her son become a mechanical engineer and has high hopes to see that one day. She is getting her daughter trained as a beautician so that she could set up her work station at home and won’t have to work at other people’s homes. One thing that was very pronounced was that they understand the importance of education and are putting in effort to educate their children but they are also eager to learn themselves if someone in the family they work for takes out time to teach them to read and write Urdu and teach them basic arithmetic.

A common feeling among domestic workers was of being treated as inferior human beings and a general complaint was that they did not have the power to say no to a work for which they were not hired so they end up doing much more than is their due. There were women who took pride in their work, women who tried to convince other domestic workers to get vaccinated because that was in everyone’s benefit as all feel safe.