‘No use if it is just a nice-looking paper’

THE focus of the inaugural Caribbean Conference of Domestic Workers in Jamaica will be the creation of an action plan to effect and implement the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions 189 and 190.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer after the opening ceremony on Friday during which issues of violence and harassment experienced by household workers was a top item on the agenda, general secretary at the International Domestic Workers Federation Elizabeth Tang, and Sofia Trevino from Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing mentioned putting strategies in place to ensure domestic workers are treated fairly.

“For Jamaica, I really want to see this country continue to be the champion of Convention 189 and to take the lead of making real changes on the ground. It is not enough to just ratify the conventions — it must be implemented. And I know that many domestic workers in Jamaica are not earning the minimum wage and they also experience unfair dismissals, so this has to be stopped,” said Tang regarding the conference, the first of its kind and which will be held from October 7 – 11 .

Tang added that while Convention 189 has already been ratified, there needs to be more effort to ensure workers benefit from the standard.

“We have to know that Convention 189 actually says that domestic workers must enjoy the same rights as any other workers, and I think much has to be done in this country. Ratification is the first step but if not implemented it will just frustrate more domestic workers. It is no use if it is just a nice-looking paper. Over the next three days we will strategise and make an action plan so that we will take action step by step and see improvements,” she said.

Meanwhile Trevino echoed similar views, adding that a convention is meaningless unless it is adopted and put to use.

“We are going to build the strategy, share experiences for both the ratification of Convention 189 and 190, build the alliances and find ways to ensure the ratification is done of both conventions in the different countries – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada. A convention doesn’t mean anything if it is not adopted, used by the workers — and this is why Jamaica is an incredible example for the world because when you speak with them, they know about the contracts and rights,” she said.

The issue of violence and harassment was raised by president of the Jamaica Household Workers’ Union Shirley Pryce in an Observer story earlier this year which pointed to an increase in the number of domestic workers who have fallen prey to sexual harassment on the job during the COVID-19 crisis.

Convention 189, which stipulates the safeguards for the welfare of domestic workers globally, was ratified by Jamaica on October 11, 2016 while Convention 190, which has not yet been ratified, speaks to violence and sexual harassment in the world of work.

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