In a first, Paschimbanga Griha Paricharika Samit (PGPS-West Bengal Domestic Workers Society) obtained a trade union certificate from the state government earlier this week after applying for it in 2014.
Image: The Hindu
Kolkata: In May, a minor girl from Jharkhand named Soni Kumari was murdered and dismembered for asking for her rightful salary. She was a domestic worker in New Delhi. As shocking as the incident was, the plight of domestic workers has often been brushed under the carpet. They are overworked, underfed, abused and tortured. A trade union certificate given to a domestic workers group in West Bengal could overturn many of these horrors.
In a first, Kolkata based Paschimbanga Griha Paricharika Samit (PGPS-West Bengal Domestic Workers Society) obtained a trade union certificate from the state government earlier this week after applying for it in 2014. “Every day I set out for work at 6 am and return home in the afternoon. Since 2014 I had to rush to the Labour Department’s office several days a week to ensure that our organisation is granted trade union status,” said Tapsi Moira, the former secretary of PGPS and currently a State Committee member told The Hindu. The 38-year-old domestic worker from Dhakuria, South Kolkata, had to go to the Labour Department’s office in central Kolkata almost daily after work to inquire about the status of their application said the report by The Hindu.
It is the first organisation of domestic workers to be granted trade union status in the State, Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, senior Trinamool Congress (TMC) trade union leader and Minister said in the report.
This development could mark a milestone for people working in the unorganised sector. “They do not have fixed lunch breaks and are not permitted to take leaves, even during emergencies. If they do go on leave, employers deduct their pay. Often the situation takes a bitter turn when the workers’ demand for a salary raise ends in charges of theft levelled against them. Domestic workers often do not know how to shield themselves against such crimes,” reported The Wire.
“In urban areas, domestic workers face innumerable difficulties at their workplace, ranging from being given stale food to being humiliated at security checks. Sexual and physical violence too are common. A principal reason behind the systemic exploitation is the absence of legal protection for domestic workers. According to data, Indian homes have witnessed a 120% increase in domestic workers in the decade post liberalisation. While the figure was 7,40,000 in 1991, the number increased to 16.6 lakh in 2001. Over the years, incidents of crimes against domestic workers have also been reported. There are only two laws in the country that grant domestic workers ‘labour’ status. First, Unorganised Labour Social Security Act, 2008 and second, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. But none of the laws talks about any legal framework regarding rights of domestic workers,” the report stated.
In 2017, The labour and employment ministry announced that it will give legal status to domestic workers in the country by formulating a national policy that will ensure minimum wages and equal remuneration for around 47.5 lakh domestic workers in India including 30 lakh women.