Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Letter of the Day | Dead or migrate - domestic helpers’ alibi

Published:Thursday | May 25, 2017 | 5:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

The traditional saying, 'Get a helper from the country', has now become archaic. Arguably, the introduction of technology where persons have been able to communicate and transfer information effectively, as well as the short time it takes to commute from one parish to the other may have assisted some domestic helper hopefuls who appear to be very enmeshed and singing the same song, 'dead or migrate'.

Interestingly, the core function of a domestic help sits squarely at the foundation of washing, ironing, general household cleaning, and by extension, meal preparation, if so desired by the employer(s). After three Gleaner personal advertisements seeking a domestic help for a family of four, coupled with numerous Gleaner publications over a two-year period, I have interviewed 86 persons and to date unable to find a live-in domestic helper.

During the interviews, some face to face and some by telephone; the prospective employees pompously make their demands for weekly salary payments ranging from $9,000 to $14,000. The harsh reality is that the salary request is not in tandem with the applicant's ability to work or their qualification.

Thirty-five per cent of those persons who were interviewed have major limitations, such as unletteredness, encumbrances with the law, unable to iron, physical challenges, as well as features akin to that of diminished responsibility.

For the pathological 65 per cent who have skilfully answered the domesticated questions and also demonstrated great enthusiasm for the job, they scored 80-100 per cent of the questions asked.

The monster that stands in their way is the recommendation. When these prospective employees were asked about their previous employers, the sneaky responses were very sugar-coated and rehearsed. They would talk about the length of time they spent with their previous employers, none of whom claimed they had more than three employers, and hasten to flaunt how satisfied their employers were.

As a part of the interviewing process, they were asked to get one or two recommendations from their previous employers. The general responses were, "The person(s) that I was working with dead", or "The family migrate and mi no have no numba fi dem."

However, background checks have proven otherwise. The information that they gave in relation to themselves are falsified. The verification came from their own family members, including children and spouse, and also community members. Some of the interviewees do not even live or are known in the community that they claim to be from. When confronted with the facts, some confessed saying they lied because they want the job and time is hard, while some were left speechless and astonished.

As an extremely proud child of a mother who was a domestic helper, and also a proud brother of four sisters who did domestic work for a living, I am bemused to know that innate disintegration of morals is reaping havoc on the employment industry. Let us revisit our history!

Garland Barrett

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW Student)

Jamaica Theological Seminary

14-16 West Avenue,

Kingston, Jamaica