You may have to draw a contract with your domestic help, pay hourly wages, give bonuses and four days of paid leave per month—these are among the demands of domestic helps, who are slowly congregating under a banner to press the government for their legal recognition and welfare.
Paschim Banga Griha Paricharika Samity, an organisation of domestic helps, has planned to meet state labour minister Moloy Ghatak with their demands next week. “We have no rights, no dignity. We are not even allowed to use toilets at households and not given proper treatment. If we are sick and absent for a few days, we lose our job. All this needs to change. We want a contract before we engage in a service and hourly pay also. We want paid leave and sick leave, apart from bonuses according to gover nment rates,” said member of the organisation Bithika Roy, who has been working as a domestic help for the last 15 years.
“The gover nment should legally recognise us and set up welfare boards like other states. We are a vital part of the household and if we all do not come for work one day, do you know what will happen?” said Roy.
The organisation, which came into existence last year, has over 5,000 members and is spreading fast in Kolkata and the districts. It held a state convention in December for finalising its demands.
“When we get old, we can’t work anymore. How will we live? We want pension schemes after the age of 60,” she added.
The organisation has prepared a list of demands, which are to be placed before employers and the state government.
Among the demands to be placed with employers is jobs on the basis of legal contracts, hourly pay with specific timings, four-day paid leave a month and to be allowed to use the toilet at the employers house.
To the government, the organisation has demands ranging from recognition as a labour force and identity cards to setting up a welfare board for them. The domestic helps demand that they should be paid wages and bonuses according to labour laws. They also want to take part in government projects and programmes and have crèches for their children when they go to work.
The organisation has gathered support from a conglomerate of NGOs, which are helping the domestic helps to co-ordinate.
“In states like Gurajarat and Karnataka domestic helps are recognized and have their own welfare boards. Their minimum wages are fixed. But in Bengal such a thing is not there. There are a large number of domestic helps in the state, including in Kolkata. There is no official estimate. They are demanding the status of a workforce and want to come under labour laws of the state” said Anibrata Pramanik, advocacy and networking officer, Sristy For Human Society, one of the NGOs working with domestic helps.