National Launching of ITUC Global

12 by 12 Campaign on the Ratification of ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers Rights

Delhi T.B.Association Auditorium, 9-Institutional Area. Lodi Road, New Delhi – 19th December, 2011

Workers in the informal sector are subjected to serious discrimination in all respect including wages, job security, income security and social security etc. One of the most exploited section amongst the informal sector is that of Domestic workers. The sector is women dominated. Since these workers are often hidden and unregistered the exact number of domestic workers cannot be obtained. Though no authentic figure of Global Domestic workers is available it is estimated that more than 50 million workers are employed to do work in someone else’s house all over the world since most of them are hidden and not enrolled the exact number of domestic workers cannot be obtained. About 83% of the domestic workers are female.

Asia is the home of millions of domestic workers. In India though no reliable data is available about the number of domestic workers yet it varies from 4.75 million (NSSO 61st round 2004-05) to 6.4 millions (Census of 2001). It is also said that the number of domestic workers have been growing very fast. 

What distinguishes domestic workers from other informal sector workers is the fact that they work in private households, their remuneration tends to be among the lowest in the labour market.

Indian and International Trade Unions have been trying hard to organize these workers and demanding decent work for them. It was after a sustained struggle of the trade union movement that ILO decided to propose adoption of a Convention/Recommendation concerning decent work for Domestic Workers. However it had to pass through a quite difficult passage before being adopted as many countries including India opposed the convention. It was only after a sustained pressure by the Trade Unions across the world upon their respective governments that The International conference of International Labour Organization adopted the convention 189 concerning decent work for Domestic Workers on 16th June 2011. The Convention affirms the fundamental rights of domestic workers.

Since any ILO convention does not become effective unless ratified by at least 2 member countries. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has launched a global 12 X 12 Campaign to mobilize movement for Ratification of ILO Convention 189.

As a part of the global campaign Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) and Self Employed Women Association (SEWA) jointly organised National level launch of ITUC global 12 X 12 campaign for ratification of ILO Convention 189 on Domestic Workers on 19th December 2011 at Delhi T. B. Association Auditorium, New Delhi.

56 representatives of HMS, INTUC, SEWA, AITUC, CITU, alongwith Deputy Director, ILO, New Delhi Ms. Panudda Boonpala, Mr., Karthikeyan, Programme Assistant, ILO, New Delhi. Shri P.J.Raju, Secretary, INTUC, Dr. Vijay Luxmi, National Secretary, AITUC, Smt. Kamla of CITU, Ms. Sonia George, Secretary, SEWA, Kerala, Shri Alok Rana, ETI representative in India  attended the Launch (List enclosed).

The programme was chaired by Comrade R. A. Mital, Secretary, HMS. The programme was conducted as per programme enclosed.

Inaugural Session-

Welcome address: While welcoming the guests and the participants Comrade R. A. Mital, Secretary, HMS said that the trade union movement has been working very actively for the cause of Domestic workers. There was strong pressure at global level on ILO to consider adoption of a convention on Domestic workers which yielded desired results when Convention 189 pertaining to Domestic workers was adopted by ILO on 16th June 2011. It was a Red letter day for global trade union movement who rejoiced the success. As per ILO norms the Convention will be effective only when atleast 2 member states ratify the same.

Com. Mital said that International Trade Union Confederation the largest trade union organization of the world came out with a global campaign for ratification of ILO convention 189 which was named 12 by 12 global campaign with the following objectives :-

  • 12 countries to ratify or committed to ratify by the end of 2012.
  • Facilitating the organizations of domestic workers in trade unions,
  • Building and/ or strengthening trade unions of domestic workers.

 Inspite of the fact that the organizing Central Trade Unions were having very little time for preparation said Com. Mital I am happy that the response is very encouraging. Most of the participants are either Domestic workers themselves or office bearers of their unions, he said. The organizers are very much encouraged by the presence of Ms. Panudda Boonpala Dy. Director, ILO-DWT for South Asia & Country Office for India and representatives of major other Central Trade Unions viz AITUC and CITU also.

Comrade Mital said prior to formal launching, a Press Conference was organized jointly by HMS, INTUC and SEWA on 17th December, 2011 where in the importance of ILO Convention 189 and that of ITUC global 12 by 12 campaign was highlighted. It was appropriately covered by Times of India and the Daily Telegraph in their 18th December issue. Copy of the news clipping from Times of India and The Telegraph are enclosed. It was also adequately picked up by the electronic media.

Comrade Mital was confident through this launch, the Trade Unions will be able not only to carry forward the campaign for ratification but will be able to spread understanding about the same.

Inaugural Address: The launching was to be inaugurated by Dr. Sanjeeva Reddy, M.P., President INTUC but due to unavoidable circumstances he could not come. The programme was inaugurated by Ms. Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Director, ILO-DWT for South Asia & Country Office for India. In her inaugural address she said that adoption of ILO Convention 189 for Domestic workers is an indicator that ILO is now moving towards informal sector. It is a historic event and is outcome of collective tripartite efforts.

Elaborating the convention she said that convention will safe guard the interests of Domestic workers and will also take due care of their children. It will help regulating their working hours, weekly off, respect to fundamental, trade union and human rights of the domestic workers.

She said no authentic figure of global Domestic workers is available as no surveys have been conducted in this regard in most of the countries.  More than 50 million domestic workers are reported globally but since many of them are hidden the figure may reach 100 million mark. Domestic workers amounts to 5 to 10% of the total workforce in many countries, “Good number of migrant Domestic workers are there”.  Safe guarding the interests of domestic workers is collective responsibility of the all the 3 social partners viz Government/ Trade Unions and Employers Ms Boonpala said.

The Government of India has almost finalized the Draft National Policy on Domestic workers which seems to be in line with ILO Convention 189. She thanked Trade Union Activists for their very active, sincere, committed and consistent effort in this direction..

Ms .Boonpala said the ratification of convention will result in granting benefits of different labour legislations to these Domestic workers. Unionization of domestic workers will strengthen the trade union movement itself. We have to see how the Convention is implemented.

Vote of thanks:- Shri P.J. Raju, Secretary, INTUC while proposing vote of thanks to Ms. Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Director, ILO-DWT for South Asia & Country Office for India said it was her personal interest for the betterment of working and living conditions of Domestic workers that she wished to be with us during the National Launching of the Campaign. He hoped that the Campaign will be getting her support in future too.

About 12 by 12 Campaign

Com. R.A.MITAL briefly explained the 12 by 12 campaign and its objectives and the launching programme, which had been circulated in advance. The participants approved the programme schedule.

Domestic Workers in India

Experience sharing by HMS, INTUC, SEWA, AITUC,  and CITU

Initiating the discussion Com. Mital said that it was important to know the condition of Domestic Workers in different parts of the country and the efforts being made by different trade unions either separately or jointly. This will help the organizers to develop a strategy for future.

Explaining different types of Domestic Workers he said Domestic worker who works 2-3 hours per day with his/her employer is known as Part time domestic workers. Full time Domestic worker is one who stays with the employer during day and comes back to his/her place during night (live out). Another Full time domestic worker is one who stays with his/her employers generally in out houses deprived of basic amenities such as fresh air, light, good drinking water etc (live in). Com. Mital then invited the representatives of different trade unions to share their views.   

Sonia George, Secretary, SEWA, Kerala State said that there had been many campaigns and actions globally to safeguard the interests of Domestic workers during last 10-15 years. Sharing various experiences of SEWA activists. She said that it was very difficult to establish employee-employer relationship between the domestic workers and the person who were being served by them as the work place was a private house hold. Domestic migrant workers are treated as bonded labour in most of the places. She specifically referred Saudi Arabia where these workers face lot of problems.

She suggested that the trade unions should very seriously chalk out the strategies to identify the employer. There were many gray areas in terms of categorization of domestic workers. There have been different types of migrations –

  • Out side migration
  • Inter state migration
  • Intra-state migration

We have Act for Inter State Migration but it does not speak much about domestic workers. Ratification must be preceded by a National Policy on Domestic workers.

Shri Amzad Hasan of INTUC in his address said that Domestic workers are working in very inhuman working conditions. INTUC has been organising Domestic workers in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra. In Delhi INTUC has organised Domestic workers coming from Jharkhand, Chattishgarh, Bihar, Orissa.

Mr. Hasan said biggest challenge for the trade union in the matter of Domestic workers are placement agencies who are exploiting the domestic workers. There are more than 1100 placement agencies in Delhi. We have received data in respect of more than one lakh Domestic workers in Delhi through 212 placement agencies. He said that these agencies are charging handsome amount from the employers and paying very little to the domestic workers. No identity cards are given to them. INTUC is trying to achieve Social Security for Domestic workers wherein both the worker and the employer will contribute He told that in Delhi 165 placement agencies have been got black listed. In Delhi it has been decided that no cash payment will be made to Domestic workers, their wages will be remitted directly to their Bank/Post office account. It will reduce their exploitation, to some extent.

Ms. Champa Verma, Chairperson, HMS Women Committee and member of Women Committee of ITUC -explained that there was no age limit fixed for these workers. We may find domestic worker of 15 years and 75 years. No fixed wage is paid to them.

She said the skill and working hours too differ’ in case of domestic workers. Domestic workers may work for 2-3 hours and if the relatives of the master come he/she has to work even for 8 hours generally with no additional remuneration. There exist no “rules and regulations” for these workers.

Ms. Champa Verma said ratification of ILO Convention 189 alone will not work. We shall have to fight for it’s proper implementation.

Unionization of migrant workers is the need of the hour. It requires “strong will power”. HMS has been working for domestic workers since1995 when Gharelu Kamgar Union was formed in Rajasthan with the initial enrolment from slum areas. Similar unions have been formed in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi ,Noida and odisha. In odisha one of the HMS affiliates has conducted a study on the working conditions of domestic workers. The affiliate has organized the Domestic workers in the state. In Maharashtra Molkarin Gharelu Kamgar Sabha an HMS affiliate has organized Domestic Workers and has generated remarkable impact. On it’s initiative a grand Dharna was organized before Maharashtra- Vidhan Sabha on 16th March, 2011 which was participated by more than 20,000 Domestic workers. The chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Prithivi Raj Chouhan invited the delegation of the union in his office the same day. Some issues were settled then and there for rest the dialogue is on The union believes in developing leadership from among the ranks and file of the workers. It’s General Secretary, Ms Vidhya Vishnu Gadakh is a domestic worker “HMS Maharashta Domestic workers Committee” has been formed, a Project has been prepared to organize unorganized specially Domestic workers in Maharashtra.  

Dr. Vijay Lakshmi, National Secretary, AITUC in her address said that domestic worker issue has taken a central stage. ILO is also taking the issue on priority basis. Recognition to domestic work is the need of the hour. Trade Unions should also discuss the issue at length in their meetings.

All Central Trade Unions including AITUC has demanded Rs.10,000/- p.m. as minimum wage for domestic workers. Domestic workers are scattered. It is very difficult to meet them. One has to contact them only after their work is over. In case of whole time worker too it is very difficult. The owner keeps a watch on the movement of domestic worker. People generally call the domestic help not by his/her name but as “Kamwali”. AITUC has been working for domestic workers in Delhi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and other states.

She suggested that National initiative should be taken at Central level regarding recognition of domestic work. State may follow.

Due care should be taken of children of domestic workers who are generally weak, anemic. Domestic worker should be covered under sexual harassment at work place bill.

Mrs. Kamla from CITU. In her address Mrs Kamla said that main problem in organising the domestic workers is the worker him/herself. They don’t want to be recognized as domestic workers as they themselves take the work as lower grade work. We should motivate them to come out of this notion. They should be made aware of their important contribution to the society.

We should organize capacity building programmes for them. Placement Agencies are also exploiting the domestic workers. Generally they are engaged for 11 month, not aware of their job, their destination, their wages and working hours. Nothing is being explained to them before their hiring.


Summing up the discussions Com. R.A.MITAL said various important aspects of Domestic workers have been discussed by the speakers pertaining to their working conditions, remuneration, exploitation of domestic workers by placement agencies, efforts made by several Trade Unions to organize these workers- A very important issue of identifying the employer of domestic worker needs serious attention and concrete strategy Mr. Mital said that all these points will be taken care of during the campaign.  

Highlights of the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers

Shri Karthikeyan, Programme Assistant, ILO, New Delhi briefly explained the background of the 12 by 12 global campaign. Starting with adoption of Convention 189 by International Labour Organization on 16th June, 2011. He said that it is the only Convention adopted by ILO which pertains to informal economy. It took more than four decades to adopt the Convention. Trade Unions had been fighting for the same since long.

Mr. Karthikeyan while describing the Convention, explained in detail the provisions regarding Promotion and Protection of human rights, elimination of child  domestic work, minimum age, protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence, terms and conditions of employment, decent working and living conditions, respect to privacy, minimum  wage, occupational safety and health, social security etc. He said trade unions should pressurize the Government for ratification of Convention 189.

Since Mr. Karthikeyan could not speak in Hindi, Com. P.J. Raju, who was moderating the session explained the presentation in Hindi.

Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers:

Comrade R. A. Mital while giving the background of Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers said that Government of India after sustained persuasion by the Central Trade Unions decided to formulate a National Policy to establish and promote the labour rights of domestic workers and to extend to domestic workers all such rights and protection which is available to other categories of workers. It set up a Task Force to evolve the same. The Task Force consisted representatives from Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Social Justice, National Labour Institute, representatives of Domestic workers and ILO. The final Draft of the National Policy has been put on the labour Ministry’s website and also sent to various stakeholders including Central Trade Unions for their comments and suggestions if any. ILO assisted in drafting the policy based upon discussions. As already said by Ms. Boonpala Dy Director, the draft policy seems to be in conformity with convention 189.

The organizers’ planned a discussion on draft National Policy on Domestic Workers by one senior fellow of V.V.G. NLI. Consent of the speaker was obtained but at the last moment due to some unavoidable circumstances the guest speaker could not reach. Comrade Mital requested SEWA representative Ms. Sonia to discuss the same. As SEWA was a member of the task force. Shri Alok Rana, ETI representative in India moderated the session.

Mrs Sonia George: The Task Force started functioning in February, 2010 and completed it’s task in August 2011. Many drafts were shared in the process. The policy contains provision very similar to the Convention 189. Preamble of the Draft National Policy said that the Government will accord high priority to making decent work , a reality for domestic workers. Domestic work sector’s contribution to the economy by providing care services, it is invisible and under reported both in labour market and in the society. It engages large population of rural men and women from vulnerable communities and backward areas many of whom are illiterate and unexposed to the urban way of life. Policy says that suitable amendment will be made in all the relevant legislations applicable to workers, generally to explicitly include domestic workers and to enable their effective implementation and enforcement Policy also aims at skill development of the domestic workers.  Mrs. Sonia said much has been committed in the draft policy. We have to ensure optimum implementation of whatever has been assured.

Policy is almost silent on how the financial resources will be generated. The policy also assures grievance redressal of domestic workers at par with other mainstream workers. Regarding role of employers it has been limited only to the awareness generation. Mrs. Sonia said employers too should play more responsible role in safeguarding the interests of the domestic workers. Ministry of Labour & Employment, Govt. of India will be responsible for establishing the mechanisms to implement the National Policy on Domestic Workers.

Shri Alok Rana translated the presentation in Hindi and appealed to all the participants to discuss the Draft National Policy in details in the next session so that the Policy becomes more useful to the domestic workers and easy to implement.

Discussion on the Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers:

Moderating the session Com. R.A.MITAL said that the Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers is before you. Central Trade Unions are on the way to suggest amendments if any. He according requested the participants to express their views on the policy.

Shri Sanjay Kumar Singh, INTUC: He said the employers always take advantage of the loop holes in any scheme. The main problem in unionization of Domestic Workers is the “feeling of fear” of being fired if they form or join any union activity. It is our duty to motivate them to overcome it. We are doing it. He said in some cases domestic help is looking after a chronically infected patient of diseases like T.B. etc. with no safeguard against infection. In case of any infection transmission to domestic worker nobody takes any responsibility or render any support to infected domestic worker. We demand that management and Government should come forward for help in such cases.

Shri R. P. S. Chouhan said domestic worker is a very wide subject. We not only need a policy, enactment but more than that is required the proper implementation of fram, policy, scheme or legislation.

He said Noida has become an important industrial hub specially of multinational companies. Thousands of workers are engaged but hardly 10% are local workers rest come from different State like Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Assam. We have migration Act but implementation of the same is almost NIL. The worker should be registered in the parent State and also in the State he/she has migrated into. This is the joint responsibility of Labour/Police/District Administration but the ground position is that no agency is serious about these migrant workers. He supported his saying by giving several examples from Noida only.

Dr. Vijay Luxmi, National Secretary, AITUC speaking on the issue said that generally children also accompany their parents when they go for work. Due care should be taken of the children of Domestic workers. There should be working women hostel type arrangements for their accommodation. There is no mention of minimum wage in the policy. It may vary from Metro to ordinary cities/ rural areas. Minimum age for child labour is 14 in our country, it should be raised to 18, she said.

She also referred the problems, struggle and achievements in respect of Anganwadi workers, women engaged under mid day meal schemes and other such scheme. Dr. Luxmi said that Govt. appointed Arjun Sengupta Committee recommended 18,000 crore for social security of unorganized workers. There was another recommendation of allocation of one lakh crore but the Govt. allocated just 1000 crore. The Draft National Policy on Domestic Workers is not clear on the issue.

Ms. Champa Verma said that workers in unorganized sector specially the domestic sector which is female dominated sector are compelled to work in very unhygienic, inhuman and unsafe working conditions. They are most neglected lot. She appealed all Central Trade Unions working for formal workers to come forward to organize this most vital but equally ignored sector.

Ms, Kamla of CITU said that nation wide awareness campaign should be conducted at district, state and national level on only one issue of domestic workers. Vocational or on job training to workers should be imparted, social net working should be developed and enhanced.

Developing and Presenting the Trade Uunion Commitment/Action Plan on campaign for Ratification of Convention 189, Sum up and Concluding

An action plan on campaign for ratification of convention 189 was to be developed but due to paucity of time the same could not be done. Comrade Mital said we cannot stop here only. We have to decide the future course of action and then he opened the house for discussion. The following suggestions emerged out of the discussions.

  • Serious efforts should be made to chalk out the strategy to indentify the employer for Domestic Workers.
  • Efforts should be made to ensure proper implementation of interstate Migration Act.
  • Efforts should be made for proper monitoring of placement agencies which are exploiting the Domestic Workers.
  • In some states like Kerala Identity cards, Uniform and Bags have been provided to the Domestic workers. These measures have helped in raising the Moral of Domestic workers and have enhanced their level of confidence.
  • Strategy to demand these facilities for Domestic workers in other states should also be evolved 
  • Issue of Domestic Workers should figure prominently in all Trade Union meetings.
  • Capacity Building programmes are to be conducted for Domestic workers to make them aware of their important contribution to the society.
  • Similar Capacity building Programmes be conducted for Placement agencies for making them realize their obligations.
  • Role of employers as envisaged in Draft National Policy for Domestic workers be enhanced.
  • The Draft National Policy is almost silent on how the financial resources will be generated. We should demand specific provisions in the policy on the issue.
  • Children of Domestic workers are normally unhealthy, ill, and anemic because of malnutrition. Due care be taken to ensure basic amenities to them.
  • Awareness campaign should be conducted at District, State and National level on single issue of Domestic workers.
  • Vocational or on Job training should be imparted to Domestic workers to make them professional in their areas.

Com. R.A.MITAL said that all the above suggestions will be placed before a Joint meeting of HMS, INTUC and SEWA and an action plans will be evolved to pressurize the Government of India for an early ratification of ILO Convention 189.  

Concluding the proceedings Comrade Mital said that we have very complex priorities. We should stop blaming others and start doing something. He said that this Launching Programme could provide a lot of information to us. We were privileged by the views of leaders of central trade unions based upon their experiences. We have to go a long way. It is evident that central trade unions in India are not only very much concerned for ensuring of Decent Work for Domestic workers but are also committed to make all possible efforts to persuade the Government of India to ratify ILO Convention 189 at the earliest. He thanked all the participants and distinguished Guests for their valuable coordination and cooperation.  The work needs continuous pursuation by organizing awareness campaigns in all the states of India, which will be organized in due course.  

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