Social organizations in the state are planning to set up a domestic workers’ welfare board at the national, state and district levels to bring all domestic workers under the social security network, and have approached the central and state governments for the same. They also want the allocation of a proper budget for the unorganized sector.
In Vizag alone, there are nearly 3,000 domestic workers, 95 percent of whom are women in the 18-60 age group. This unorganized sector has absolutely no social security — such as life insurance, fixed or minimum wages, leaves, loan facilities, education of children, right against social discrimination, abuse, health or family welfare schemes, grievance redressal mechanism etc. They also face various kinds of other problems and abuse.
The AP High Court recently sent some directions to the state government regarding this and the matter is under consideration. The ministry of labour and employment also reviewed the matter last year and a policy has already been drafted. As of now, things look positive and it appears that domestic workers may get the right to equal and minimum wages, social security cover, skill development programme and forming unions at par with other workers under existing labour laws in the near future.
The policy intends to set up an institutional mechanism for social security cover, fair terms of employment, grievance redressal and dispute resolution. The policy will also provide them the rights to organise and form their own unions/associations and seek affiliation from other unions/associations.
It intends to provide a model contract of employment with a well-defined period of work and rest. The policy will clearly define various terms — such as part-time workers, full-time workers, live-in workers, employers and private placement agencies.
The draft national policy for domestic workers will, however, leave it to the states to set up boards to register workers, bring them into social security net and notify minimum wages, leave entitlement and work timings, as per the ministry of labour and employment advisory.
Domestic workers’ unions and NGOs have suggested a proper budget, including government benefits, pension and insurance schemes, to be included in the draft policy. “Boards of registration could be set up at state, district, or even Resident Welfare Association (RWA) levels. These boards would administer social security benefits for workers, including provident fund contributions by the employers and medical insurance,” stated K Swarnakumari, secretary of NGO Mahila Action, which has trained around 1,800 domestic workers in skill-upgradation programmes with the help of the GVMC.