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Summits  |  Declarations

Domestic Workers Summit held on the 27-28 August 2011 Declaration

On the 27-28 August 2011 the South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU), Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) , International Labour Organisation (ILO), Social Law Project (SLP), Labour Research Service (LRS), African National Congress - Women`s League (ANCWL), and Progressive Women`s Movement of South Africa (PWMSA), have jointly come together to celebrate Women`s Month and to highlight the call to the South African Government to start the processes of ratifying Convention 189 (C189) on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The 100th session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) on 16 June 2011 adopted the first ever Domestic Workers Convention and Recommendations (R201) on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Convention recognises the "significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy" and that domestic work is "undervalued, invisible, and mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities".

The Summit recognises that domestic work sector has been growing socially and economically but domestic workers remain one of the most undervalued, underpaid and unprotected by the legislations. South Africa`s Sectoral Determination 7 (SD7) on domestic work provides standards for conditions of employment, minimum wages, and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits, among other. The summit identified a number of areas covered by C189 and R201 not provided for in SD7, such as, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), maternity leave, protection of migrant workers, right to repatriation, right to privacy, paid overtime and standby, right of a domestic worker to education, abolition of child labour, and right to collective bargaining. The summit further recognises the need to align SD7 with C189 and R201 by including these provisions.

The summit also recognises the massive and significant contribution of domestic workers to the economy of South Africa and globally and that the South African Sectoral Determination 7 has established a good basis for the drafting of the Convention and Recommendation. Hence, the call and emphasis by the Domestic Workers Summit for the South African Government to be the first country to ratify Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.

It is estimated that there are about 1 million domestic workers in the country, most of whom are black and African in particular. The government statistics in terms of the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) there is 876000 domestic workers. However, the number of domestic workers registered with the UIF amounts to 647126 (July 2011 figures).
The conference was addressed by among others the Honorable Minister of labour Mildred Oliphant, the COSATU Deputy General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali, the Director of the South African ILO office, Vic Van Vuuren and the President of the ANC Women`s League Angie Motshekga.

The Summit handed over Convention 189 on Domestic Work and Convention 183 on Maternity Protection to the Minister of Labour for her to start engaging with the relevant structures in order to enable the South African government to be the first country to ratify the Convention. The two conventions were also handed over to the President of ANCWL to engage the ruling party when formulating policies.

The Summit informed workers on what the Convention entails and what it means for South African domestic workers.

The Summit resolved to:

  • Embark on a study to assess the contribution of domestic workers to the economy as all women are domestic workers whether paid or unpaid
  • Demand that government should penalize employers for non-compliance.
  • Demand that employers should provide for housing that is closer to the workplace.
  • Unite domestic workers and encourage workers to join trade unions.
  • Call on established trade unions to assist domestic workers organizations financially, technically and the provision of infrastructure e.g. facilities for meetings etc.
  • Raise awareness of Convention 189 through bodies such as the CCMA
  • Translate the Convention in to mother tongue languages.
  • Establish an inclusive national forum comprising of different trade union federations such as COSATU, FEDUSA, NACTU and domestic workers` organizations in order to build a strong united voice to carry out this programme.
  • Demand the establishment of a bargaining council for domestic workers
  • Campaign for the extension of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to domestic workers.
  • Support the banning of labour brokers
  • Develop organizational capacity of domestic workers` trade unions
  • Establish recruitment campaigns that will involve all stakeholders and develop strategies that take into account the specific situation of domestic workers.
  • Use all forms of media e.g. community radio stations to inform domestic workers about their rights, in particular, Convention 189 and SD7.
  • Sensitize employers about the Convention and other policies and laws on domestic workers.
  • Include protection and advancement of domestic workers` rights through, among other, programmes of trade union federation affiliates`.
  • Campaign for trade union federation affiliates` members to allow their domestic workers to join trade unions.
  • Encourage trade union federation affiliates` to invite domestic workers trade unions to their educational programmes.
  • Calls on government to provide skills development systems that would empower workers beyond domestic work.
  • Demand exemption or relaxation of trade union registration requirements for domestic workers` organizations and other vulnerable sectors.
  • Campaign for stronger compliance and enforcement measures through, among other, inspectorate systems.
  • Organize a `domestic workers parliament` so that domestic workers views could be heard by politicians.
  • Convene an annual domestic workers` summit to evaluate progress and develop new strategies
  • Establish domestic workers` watch programs in the areas where they are working
  • Ensure that domestic workers earn a living and decent wage.
  • Use the national days to blitz and raise awareness on domestic workers legislations
  • Migration laws and procedures should be amended such that immigration officials should not be involved in labour disputes
  • Ensure that domestic workers not be deported whilst their labour case is still in dispute and unresolved.
  • Housing allocation to domestic workers should be closer to their workplace areas.

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