Local Domestic Workers Facing Challenges but Determined to Improve Conditions of Work
According to the Social Security Board, at least 800 individuals are employed in some form of domestic work in Antigua and Barbuda. While such employment may satisfy the need for a regular income, many of these workers are confronted with serious challenges due to the nature of their employment.
Norma Nelson, Chairperson of the local Domestic Workers Association, believes that the time has come for domestic workers to rally together for a more sustainable future in the sector. Nelson was pleased to point out that a recently held workshop for Domestic Workers was successful in building capacity among workers and amplifying their voices on issues that affect them.
The workshop took place on 17 June in recognition of International Domestic Workers Day observed on 16 June annually. Deputy Labour Commissioner, Pascal Kentish, delivered a presentation that enlightened participants on various aspects of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code. Finance professional – Kurt John-Baptiste — used the opportunity to share advice on managing personal finances.
Nelson, who sits as an Executive Member of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), expressed gratitude to the oversight body for sponsoring the workshop. She said the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “It was a very exciting evening! It was a learning experience for everyone,” Nelson shared.
However, despite these gains, Nelson is concerned that many domestic workers continue to experience various forms of abuse and exploitation including sexual harassment, unfair dismissals, and violations of employment terms.
A 2017 report from the Social Security Board indicated that maternity and sick leave protection were among critical issues that needed to be addressed in the domestic work industry. The report further noted that there were usually no provisions for vacation leave as prescribed by law and that employers were not held accountable to fair labour standards.
Nelson reveals that the Domestic Workers Association is currently in a restructuring phase which will allow the organization to better serve its members. Some of the goals of the Association are to secure educational opportunities for members, negotiate a group health Insurance plan and develop standardized work agreements. Individuals interested in joining the Association can contact Nelson at 723-2926.
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