In the south of India, in the Gandhipuram area of Pudur–Madurai, there are around 900 families, mostly unorganized workers, such as flower vendors, construction workers, tailors and approximately 200 Domestic workers. Domestic Workers in this area work two to five houses a day. They are underpaid; some of them only receive old clothes or stale food as wages.

In 2003, NDWM-Tamilnadu initiated an empowerment process of Domestic Workers and they started organizing themselves in a Union. These members register and participate in monthly meetings, where they are learn about their rights and collective bargaining. As a result, in 2004, when the bonus for the Depavalli festival was denied to five of them, the Union representatives negotiated with the employers and ensured these workers did receive their bonus. Elected leaders participate in district and state level training and strengthen the Union by ensuring that other Domestic Workers in their area join in union.

 An NDWM demonstration held in Chennai demanding the Government to fix minimum wage, adopt National legislation for Domestic Workers and ratify the ILO convention 189 regarding Domestic Workers.

Since, contrary to many other Indian States, the Tamilnadu government hasn’t fixed a minimum wage for domestic workers, they themselves have initiated a process to agree among each other and fix their own wages towards employers.

Especially in Pudur, Madurai Tamilandu, the domestic workers union is strong and they lobby to have the government fix their rates as the minimum wage. After consultation, they fix an hourly rate of Rs. 30 and all the domestic workers in that particular area demand the same salary.

The Union leaders are very active; along with their members, they are able to negotiate wages better and leaders often intervene to solve social conflicts between employers and domestic workers. Apart from this, the Union also intervenes to solve certain family issues of their members. One such instance involved Mrs. Tamil Selvi D/o of Domestic Worker Kaamachihad when she faced family problems in her in-law’s house soon after her marriage.  Union Leaders were called in to solve the problem amicably in the Women’s police station.

Solidarity among the members is growing, and goes beyond work issues, as they also share the joys and sorrows in members’ families. One such moment is when a loved family member passes away, and they empathize with mourning families. Such shows of solidarity have inspired other members to join the Domestic Workers Union and withdraw from other central Trade Unions.

Advertisements