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Domestic workers entitled to protection under the law

Jean
Lowrie-Chin

Monday, July 15, 2019

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International Domestic Workers Day will be celebrated tomorrow, July 16. Avrie Allen-March, sociologist with the Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), noted: “On this day, in 2011, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Domestic Workers Convention (C189). The convention lays down basic rights and principles to make decent work a reality for domestic workers.”

Well, do I remember that day in 2016 at the GraceKennedy Household Workers Awards ceremony (for which I am happy to be ideator) when president of the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU) Shirley Pryce briefed Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the convention. When he gave the keynote address he declared that Jamaica would adopt this convention. True to his word, he announced its ratification in September 2016.

Allen-March explained: “This means that a domestic worker in Jamaica is entitled to the same protections under the law as any other worker. This includes the following: a contract, sufficient daily and/or weekly rest, a salary no lower than the minimum wage, paid annual leave, compensation for overtime work, as well as social security contributions.”

I am appealing to media colleagues to mention these rights on the air and encourage household workers to join the JHWU to have strength in numbers. Having served on the panel of judges for the GK-Heather Little-White Household Workers of the Year awards, I can attest to the dedication of our household workers, women and men. Indeed, they are nominated by their employers, who clearly appreciate the years of service they have given to sometimes more than one generation. From these interviews we learn that household workers are entrusted with keys and funds when their employers travel. We learn that they hone their skills and practise time management. We learn of their compassion in assisting with the care of special needs children and elderly family members. They have noted the kindness of their employers, sometimes allowing them to include their children in live-in arrangements.

The ILO convention requires that a contract be created for the employee and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security has made it clear that once a household worker gives three days or more of service the employer must ensure that vacation and sick leave are given. With increased National Insurance Scheme (NIS) benefits, we must assist in registration and payment of the modest contributions to the scheme which will provide well-needed funds in their twilight years.

To mark International Domestic Workers' Day, the BGA and JHWU are collaborating to host an awards ceremony with the theme 'Uniting and Celebrating Domestic Workers'. This Saturday, July 20, at Altamont Court Hotel, they will be recognising 27 domestic workers with over 20 years of service with Invisible Giant Awards.

Why am I so passionate about household workers? My mother would repeatedly sing the praises of Fanny Ricketts, both of them of blessed memory, who stayed by her side during hard times when she had a terminally ill husband and was caring for four small children. When my mother told Fanny that she would have to terminate her employment for lack of funds, Fanny organised with her partner to reap produce from our small farm in Hartford, Westmoreland, and sell them in the market to pay herself. Later we ensured that Fanny would spend her years as an elder in the comfort of her own home.

 

Butch Hendrickson's plan

The Business Observer headline announcing Butch Hendrickson's retirement was startling. He is actually past the official retirement age but looks so much younger that we cannot reconcile retirement with the man. He continues to mentor awardees in his Bold Ones of Manufacturing programme, assisting them in their export activities. His National Baking Foundation sponsors a mobile classroom which does early childhood teacher training islandwide. He has been honoured as a lead donor to organisations too numerous to mention.

Happily, when I contacted him, he assured that this would be a gradual process with solid succession planning. I should have known that he would ensure the continued growth and success of his National Baking Company, created by his grandfather Reginald, strategically expanded by his father, business visionary Karl Hendrickson, and modernised by Butch.

We should all take a leaf from his book in planning our exit while ensuring sustainability to benefit our staff and our country. Great going, Butch!

 

Bastille Day celebrations

Yesterday, all of France and several other countries celebrated Bastille Day. This is the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, which was the turning point in the French Revolution and the Fête de la Fédération, which celebrated the unity of the French people on July 14, 1790.

Bastille Day features a huge military parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, witnessed by government leaders as well as thousands of citizens and tourists.

Here in Jamaica, Ambassador of France Hon Denys Wibaux and Mrs Wibaux hosted a happy celebration of Bastille Day at the Résidence de France last Saturday. Ambassador Wibaux lauded our women's football team, the Reggae Girlz, for their arrival on the World Cup stage in France, while Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett thanked the French Government for lighting up their Eiffel Tower in Jamaica's national colours in the team's honour.

 

Farewell, wonderful women

The kindness of Janette Stewart remains in the hearts of her colleagues on the Friends of Devon House Committee. Never a prima donna, Janette was the perennial volunteer and donor for the committee's fund-raisers, happy to give help wherever it was needed. Now, when I admire Devon House, I see Janette's beauty shining through.

At the thanksgiving service for her life, her niece Jaime Stewart-McConnell said in her tribute, “No matter what craziness was happening around her, in our family, or in someone's health, she always was that positive calm we needed and learnt from.”

As we reflect on the life of Ambassador Elinor Felix, we wonder how one so young could have accomplished so much. She became such a part of the fabric of our lives that we are having difficulty processing what for many of us was her sudden departure.

Dr Lucien Jones, her church brother at St Andrew Parish Church wrote: “The late Ambassador Elinor Felix, a friend, and church sister, was a very special person. Lively. No-nonsense, dependable, knowledgeable. Extremely good at what she did — walked with kings, literally, and maintained the common touch as former chief of protocol at OPM over the years... A lady in the truest sense of the word, who we all loved. A lady of faith. She worshipped at St. Andrew Parish Church with her sister Hilary… A little piece of Jamaica goes with her, as she is irreplaceable.”

The elegant Joan Elaine (Cherry) Gruber Chaplin, former managing director of Pyramid Training & Placement Institute and senior lecturer at the College of Arts, Science and Technology, passed away last month after several years of illness. Along with her husband, hall of fame journalist Ken Chaplin, she hosted wonderful 'meet the people' events, gaining many international friends for Jamaica.

We extend condolence to the families and close friends of these three outstanding women. Let us honour their memories by aspiring to their excellence. Rest in peace, dear Jamaican sisters.

 

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.


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