Domestic Labour : So That They Enjoy Decent Wages, Work Conditions

A group of trade unions and women’s associations held a press briefing in Yaounde on June 15, 2023.

In prelude to the celebration of this year’s International Domestic Workers’ Day on June 16, 2023, the Confederation Camerounaise du Travail, CCT trade union and the International Labour Organisation, ILO Cameroon Country Office on Thursday, June 15, 2023 in Yaounde held a press briefing. They were joined in the organisation by domestic labour associations such as Act Together, ASDAM and Horizons Femmes.

The Urgency Of Ratification 
The briefing focused on the urgency for Cameroon to ratify Convention No. 189 on Domestic Labour. CCT President, Mrs Ekoan Antoinette announced that her trade union and the partner organisations have been involved in a nationwide awareness campaign on the rights of domestic workers since January 2023. In addition, she said, seven days of activism on domestic labour rights will be embarked on as from June 16, 2023. During which the organisations with lobby National Assembly and Senate members on the need for Cameroon to ratify the ILO Convention No. 189. 

Sit Up Cameroon!
Ekoan recalled that the convention was passed way back in 2011, with Cameroon in the chair of that particular ILO session. “But decades after, our country is yet to ratify this important convention,” she noted with regret. She appealed to journalists to help them present this all-important cause for a possible change of attitude and mentality by everyone.

What The Convention Provides 
Convention No. 189 on Domestic Workers entitles them to the promotion and protection of their human rights, and the respect and protection of fundamental principles and rights at work. Included here are the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; the abolition of child labour; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Similarly, domestic workers should effectively be protected against all forms of abuse, harassment, and violence; and should enjoy fair terms of employment and decent living conditions.

Endless Work Hours  
According to Mrs. Claudine Yurci Mboudou, the President of ASDAM, domestic workers contribute to the economy and should enjoy the same rights like all other workers. They should receive decent wages and serve in decent work spaces. Unfortunately, she regretted, this is not often the case in Cameroon. Mrs. Mboudou cited the cases of some live-in domestic workers who begin work at 4 am and always the last to go to bed.  “Even those who work and return home are still confronted with too much work because they end up carrying out work meant for several people. All this for meagre wages and shabby treatment by their employers and family members,” Mboudou lamented.

No Social Security 
Added to this litany of woes, Claudine Mboudou said many domestic workers in Cameroon are not registered with the National Social Insurance Fund. And even when it is the case, they do not receive maternity allowances and other dividends. “We are forced to serve many people at the same time with no insurance cover and with wages ranging from 5,000 FCFA to 60,000 FCFA only,” Mboudou complained.

Endless Abuses 
Mrs. Ngo Sende Chantal of Horizons Femmes spoke of the abuses endured by Cameroonian domestic workers. They include physical, sexual and psychological violence; with salaries often below the minimum wage. She said though the law provides for domestic workers to be aged at least 15 years, there are still cases of 9-year-olds performing domestic work for pay. 

Change In Perception Needed
According to Dr Arlette Bwaka Bikoula of the International Labour Organisation Cameroon Country Office, domestic work deserves respect. “The ILO would like to see a change in the perception by the public of the services of domestic workers. Families should treat their domestic workers decently because they benefit from their services,” Dr Bikoula appealed. She regretted that the legal framework on domestic was obsolete, thus the urgency to carry out a wide-ranging review of the legislation. Dr Bikoula admitted that even if good domestic labour laws would be adopted, implementation by everyone would still be required.  ...

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