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Thursday, January 20, 2011

DOMESTIC WORKERS WAGES – latest ‘wish-list’ from the Union

An e-mail is currently doing the rounds containing information sourced, variously, from the Domestic Workers Union and/or the ZCTU, setting out new monthly minimum wages for domestic workers, as $150 for a gardener, $160 for a cook/housekeeper etc.

Until such time as a Statutory Instrument is gazetted, these figures do not have the force of law. As we understand it, they merely indicate what the Union would like employers to pay. In our view, it is unlikely that an SI containing such figures will be gazetted. We say this because historically there has been a close association between wages for domestic and agricultural workers (even in August 2009 minimum wages for agricultural workers were one-third of those sought by the Domestic Workers Union for domestic workers). Below we go into more detail and offer some comments.

We last reported on the woefully-neglected matter of domestic workers’ wages and allowances in September 2009. At that time, the Domestic Workers Union indicated monthly minimum wages ‘should’ be $105 for a gardener, $110 for a cook/housekeeper etc, with transport and housing allowances ‘the exact amount they pay’. We characterized this at the time as a wish-list. Those figures did not have the force of law then. Up till now, they have not been formalized in an SI, so still do not have legal effect.

However, for your interest, below we compare the Union’s suggested monthly minimum wages with effect from 1-8-2009 and, seventeen months later, from 1-1-2011.

Grade 1-8-2009 1-1-2011 $ increase % increase
1. Yard/garden

worker $105 $150 $45 43%
2. Cook/
housekeeper $110 $160 $50 45%
3. Child-minder $115 $170 $55 48%
4. Disabled/
aged-minder $120 $180 $60 50%

An un-named official at the ZCTU reportedly said that the new figures from 1st January 2011 have not been gazetted but ‘talks have been agreed upon with the relevant authority, and is now law’. With all due respect, that is not correct. Law is not made in talks – as our recent political history has shown. Law is made by legal instruments. In this instance, this would consist of a new set of ‘Domestic Workers Employment Regulations’ contained in a Statutory Instrument and published with the Government Gazette. Until such time as that happens, Union figures can be no more than a wish list.

This is reinforced by the lack of detail supplied by the Union about allowances. It merely states that ‘those workers who do not live-in must also be paid allowances for transport, accommodation, cooking fuel, water and electricity’. (Actually, the correct term is not ‘electricity’ but ‘lights’ – since the allowance would be for candles where accommodation is not electrified.)

The above is no doubt all very interesting. It may give relief to those who, for whatever reason, do not wish to pay the ‘new’ wages. However, where does it leave employers and domestic workers? We are in a deplorable situation where government neglects its responsibility to stipulate wages/allowances for domestic workers in the absence of a National Employment Council for this important sector. It is precisely because of this information vacuum that periodically some employers – particularly those with a reasonable income themselves and/or who feel vulnerable for whatever reason – seek specific guidelines from the Union, since no-one else seems interested. Union labour officials will always be happy to oblige with guidelines. It is their job to represent the interests of their constituency as strongly as possible. However, in our view that should not extend to misrepresenting ‘talks’ as ‘law’.

If you can afford these wages, or even those suggested in 2009, you could certainly base pay on them. Legally, you are not obliged to do so. Amounts probably approximate near-to-living basic wages for resident workers with no additional accommodation/transport/water/light/cooking fuel expenses. You will no doubt still be asked to assist with school fees, medical expenses and so on. If you cannot afford – and those employed by government and themselves earning less than $300 obviously cannot – you may have little alternative but to pay what you can, supplement where you can, and expect to experience pilfering and moonlighting as those at the end of the food chain (and often, in your absence, in sole charge of your most important asset) try to keep body and soul together, while all the time hoping for better days.

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2 comments:

  1. l myself l was wrking at Archer clothing .we hvnt bin paid for 2mnths what am asking for .is for the grvnmnt to cme in and intrject in this horrible situation tht we are in .hw a we to survive ,even our landlords are chasing us out of their homes pliz help us

    ReplyDelete
  2. As much as employees are suffering from these injustices the economy is going down hill so it is so difficult to complain as most of these companies are over trading.

    ReplyDelete