PESSI urged to register Domestic Workers  International Domestic Workers Day celebrated

“Women domestic workers face multiple problems including low wages, longer working hours, violence at workplace and lack of compliance of minimum wages notification. The rampant and illegal practice of child domestic work is an ugly form of modern slavery, which needs to abolished. The Punjab provincial govt. should issue social security cards to domestic workers per requirement of Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019. A public awareness campaign regarding the domestic workers law and their rights is prerequisite as majority of workers and employers are not aware of this law”. 

These views were expressed by speakers at a seminar organised in connection with International Domestic Workers Day 2024, by Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE) here, Thursday at a local hotel. A large number of women domestic workers and civil society activists joined the event.

Bushra Khaliq Executive Director WISE, speaking on the occasion said women domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of working conditions, terms of employment and to other abuses of human rights. They are forced to face issues like long working hours, multiple forms of abuse at work, child labour, lack of minimum wage, labour inspection and law enforcement. Talking about Domestic Workers law, she said it provides protection of domestic workers labour rights, regulating their terms of employment, working conditions of service and provision of social protection and welfare. 

It has been observed that the hard labour of such workers is exploited by their owners. The barely minimum wages don’t commensurate with their work output. Their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing also lack adequate attention. Despite passage of law in the last five years none of DWs is registered with PESSI or issued social security card so far. Rules of business for the effective implementation of the Domestic Workers law needs to be framed at earliest to enable the departments concerned to applicable the law in letter and spirit, she demanded.

Speaking on the occasion Deputy Secretary Labour Rao Zahid, told that according to a survey conducted in year 2022-23 by his department through Punjab Bureau of Statistics, there are 912000 domestic workers in the Punjab province. Out of which 8% are live-in workers while 92% are live-out work force. Majority of these domestic workers have multiple employers as they work in 3-4 houses, making it difficult to determine the employer who is supposed to be liable for submission of contribution to workers welfare Fund. He said Child Domestic Labour is a big issue, which govt. alone can’t resolve. Employers and parents must play their positive role as well to discourage this menace, he added. 

talking about the mechanisms of labour inspection of workplaces of domestic workers said per DWs law it has been linked with Dispute Resolution Committees to be established at UC level. Unfortunately, due to the absence of elected LG system these committees are delayed. However, whenever these committees are formed the representatives of DWs will be part of these committees, he added.

Mohammad Shahid, Secretary Minimum Wage Board Labour department said the Domestic Workers law provides same rights as provided to industrial workers under other labour laws. However, these workers can only be able to get benefits of this law if they are registered with Punjab Employees Social Security Institution. Talking about Rules of Business, he said rules have been finalised and sent to govt. who is going to present them in the Punjab assembly for final approval. He said the Punjab Labour Code 2024 is a draft yet, open for discussion and suggestions. A number of pro-labour amendments like complaint-based mechanism of labour inspection, increase in age of child labour from 15 to 16 years, have been suggested to make it a comprehensive document. All the 26 labour laws in Punjab have been into one Labour Code, he further shared. 

Aima Mahmood, member governing body PESSI emphasized on the need to work for changing of mind set of the employers, who rarely treat these workers as human beings. She urged the need for inter departmental coordination and collaboration and activation of the labour department for the resolution of the problems of workers. Talking about the minimum wage notification for DWs, she said domestic workers should not be treated as unskilled workers. Their job demands skilled hands therefore, their wage must match with the skilled labour, she opined adding that labour solidarity is need of the hour.

Ayyaz Ahmad Farooqi, Director C&B, PESSI said the real hurdle in the way of registration of DWs with PESSI is lack of funds in Social Welfare Fund. Since there is no contribution yet from employers or workers in this fund, it is impossible to register them or issue social security cards, he added. PESSI would ready to register If govt. provides seed money or an effective mechanism of collection of contribution from employers and domestic workers is placed in, he clarified. Talking about the combination of Dispute resolution Committees, he said PESSI should be given representation in these committees.

Expressing their views, the representatives of Women Domestic Workers Union-Punjab including President Shehnaz Bibi, General Secretary Shehnaz Fatima and Finance Secretary Amina, Perveen Latif Ansari and Zarina Ashraf said their work is generally undervalued, invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom belong to disadvantaged communities. They demanded of the govt. to register them, issue them social security cards and ensure implementation of minimum wages.

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