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Simpson Miller moves to extend rights of domestic workers

Published:Saturday | October 3, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Portia Simpson Miller

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has reportedly given instructions for Jamaica to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 189 on domestic work, which extends fundamental labour rights to an estimated 53 million domestic workers worldwide.

Making the revelations in the Senate on Friday, Senator Lambert Brown said Simpson Miller, "to my certain knowledge, has given instructions for convention 189 be ratified".

"There are a number of stumbling blocks along the way, but I am confident that the Ministry of Labour is working to overcome those obstacles," Brown said.

The announcement of the move to ratify the convention comes even as a bill to address occupational health and safety in the workplace remains an unfulfilled promise. The Government, through Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding said that the bill was 97 per cent ready.

The decent work issue was brought to the floor of the Senate by Government Senator Imani Duncan Price, who told legislators that October 7 will be observed as World Day for Decent Work. She said that the Jamaica Household Workers Union would be staging an event on the day to raise awareness on the importance of promoting a decent work agenda.

Duncan Price said the decent work agenda does not only focus on household workers, but "anybody working in the domestic sphere who, over the many years, have not been treated with the dignity expected for the contribution that they make every day to our society".

Opposition Senator Kavan Gayle, in commending Duncan Price for bringing the matter to Parliament, said, "It is important that we recognise, as a Parliament, the need to promote the decent work agenda."

Convention provisions

Among the provisions in the convention is the recognition of inalienable rights of domestic workers, such as freedom of association and collective bargaining, elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, and elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

If Jamaica ratifies the convention, it will have to take measures to ensure that domestic workers are informed of their terms and conditions of employment in an appropriate, verifiable and easily understandable manner, and, preferably, where possible, through written contracts, in accordance with national laws, regulations or collective agreements.