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Caribbean Domestic Workers Network calls for recognition and protection of Domestic Workers on International Workers’ Day: Domestic Workers are Workers!

The Caribbean Domestic Workers Network (CDWN) joins the world in commemorating International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2023. As we honor workers across the Caribbean and beyond, we give a special salute to the women and men who work in homes and support families throughout our communities.

Domestic Workers are workers and deserve the same rights and protections as any other worker. It is because of Domestic Workers that our societies can function, businesses can run, schools can be open, and doctors at hospitals can take care of the sick. Domestic Workers are a critical part of the fabric of our countries!

Yet Domestic Workers have been among the least protected workers worldwide – facing long-standing challenges such as lack of recognition, poor working conditions, low pay, and limited access to social protections. The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the vulnerability of Domestic Workers, with many losing their jobs and facing economic hardship.

The International Labour Organisation(ILO)  estimates that there are 503,897 Domestic Workers in the Caribbean alone. This means that fighting for better working conditions for Domestic Workers in our region will positively impact more than 2.5 million Caribbean citizens, as their families often depend on them for day-to-day living.

The Caribbean Domestic Workers Network (CDWN) calls on ALL Caribbean countries to ratify and implement the ILO Convention 189 to recognize and protect the rights and decent work conditions of Domestic Workers. We acknowledge and applaud the governments of Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda for ratifying Convention 189 (C-189). But that is only four (4) of twenty (20) CARICOM countries. We are pushing for ALL CARICOM countries to ratify C-189.

Ratification is the first step to show commitment to protecting and respecting Domestic Workers. It is critical that laws provide pensions, sick leave benefits, injury benefits, overtime benefits, severance pay and other social security benefits to Domestic Workers. The National Insurance Schemes (NIS) across all Caribbean countries provide the legal framework for these social protections, but the laws are not enough. 

Even in the countries where Convention 189 is ratified, too many Domestic Workers go unprotected and vulnerable to poverty as the laws are not enforced. Governments must enforce them and make them real to impact the lives of Domestic Workers in tangible ways. How can a Domestic Worker work in a household for more than 20 years and on retirement has no pension to rely on? The NIS helps in these situations! Employers must live up to their obligations!

Domestic Workers deserve dignity, respect, and equal treatment, and we must all work together to achieve this goal. On June 16, International Domestic Workers Day, we will engage in special activities to raise further awareness of the importance of our workers to our countries as we advocate for better rights and protections.

The CDWN is a network of unions and associations from Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, Barbados, St. Kitts & Nevis and St Lucia that fights for the rights of Domestic Workers advocating for the welfare of Domestic Workers across the Caribbean and beyond. In a conference, convened in October 2022 and sponsored by the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) and the Bureau of Gender Affairs of Jamaica, leaders in these organizations all took a strong stand to build the movement for the benefit of Domestic Workers. 

The Caribbean Domestic Workers Network (CDWN) calls on governments and employers to take decisive action to protect and respect the rights of Domestic Workers. 

Together, let us work towards a future where Domestic Workers are treated with dignity and respect, and their contributions to our societies are recognized and valued.                                                                  Shirley Pryce, chairperson, Caribbean Domestic Workers Network (CDWN)

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