Domestic workers union wants new minimum wage

| Bernard Chiguvare
South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU) protesting outside parliament. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.

On Thursday, a group of about ten women marched to parliament to protest against the delay by government to extend certain basic rights to domestic workers.

“We are here to say to the government you are taking a long time to respond to our plight. It is really high time for the government to look into the plight of domestic and farm workers. We also contribute to the economy of the country,’’ says Hester Stephens, 67, president of South African Domestic Services and Allied Workers Union (SADSAWU).

Stephens, who is still working as a domestic worker, started work at age 15. She is unhappy with the salary and work conditions of many domestic workers.

“We really feel as domestic workers we should get the recognition for the work we do, because there is no way the employer will feel his or her property is safe if they do not leave a domestic worker at home … The R1,800 minimum wage is not enough for travel, accommodation and food. We are asking the government to peg it at R3,500”.

Stephen showed GroundUp a letter addressed to Minister Mildred Oliphant dated 3 February 2015.

“Employers do not compensate for any injury at work,” says Stephens. Part of the letter reads: ‘We therefore call on you to take immediate steps to commence the process of extending the scope of Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA)’.

According to Stephens, SADSAWU had not received any response from the government within the 30 days stipulated in the letter.

Sindiswe Ningiza, 52, from Khayelitsha, the organiser of the protest, felt the same rights they are fighting for should also be extended to migrant workers.

“We also feel migrant workers should enjoy the same rights as us in respect of salaries. These people come to South Africa for a purpose and they must be educated about their rights,” says Ningiza.

Elizabeth Ely, 54 and a mother of 3, was equally frustrated. “The minimum wage is too little to keep us going for the month,” says Ely.

Joyclin Diamond, 52, who used to work for an Early Child Development centre in Khayelitsha, also joined the protesters. “I am out of work since December last year,” she said. “My concern is that our employer did not call us back nor pay us for December. We were not given any form of compensation.” Diamond said she worked for eight years at the centre. The matter is now with SADSAWU.

The Minister of Labour was not available for comment.

TOPICS:  Labour

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