Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Labour and Social Security. (FP)

The proposed Employment Rights Bill has the ability to empower vulnerable groups such as domestic workers, migrant workers and specifically the domestic migrant worker.

This assertion was made by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, as she delivered an address at a recently concluded workshop in Jamaica hosted by the Global Forum on Migration and Development in collaboration with UN Women and the International Organisation for Migration.

Dr. Byer Suckoo told regional and international participants, the Employment Rights Bill could be viewed as a best practice which articulates the rights of workers.????

She pointed out that despite the growth of the global domestic work industry, there were no labour laws protecting domestic workers in many countries.?? The Labour Minister stressed that the Employment Rights Bill seeks to address decent work for domestic workers and, by extension, all employees, adding that regional domestic stakeholders see the Bill as a crucial and pivotal piece of legislation.

The Bill includes the standards of working conditions; freedom for representation – the right to join a union; social protection, which incorporates agreeing to wages in writing before employment; receiving a written job description defining the expected tasks and responsibilities, job times and working days; and the right to social benefits such as sickness, vacation and national insurance.????

Dr. Byer Suckoo told the gathering, "…if these rights are applied to the domestic worker, it would see the domestic worker in a less vulnerable position."

She proclaimed too many domestic workers, migrant and local, do not command the respect of their employers, adding that many are being underpaid, undervalued and overworked.??

The Labour Minister acknowledged numerous local and migrant domestic workers are undereducated and originate from economically deprived backgrounds.?? She maintained that these women may oftentimes feel obliged to accept the conditions under which they are forced to work, as their options are few and they need to earn a living for their families.

"Many domestic workers work in homes where there are no standards for the conditions under which they work.?? One day a domestic worker could be told to wash and iron; the following day instructed to look after a sick child or asked at the last minute to work on the weekend without regard for her already working a full week," the Labour Minister stated.

Declaring that the Employment Rights Bill was a tool this vulnerable group could use to protect itself, Dr. Byer Suckoo said another positive step in rectifying the situation came in June 2011 at the International Labour Conference of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, when Barbados signed onto a convention and recommendation on Decent work for Domestic Workers.


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