Domestic helpers, employers discuss labour concerns
Jordan Times - Admitting that they resort to illegal practices such as restricting domestic workers’ movement and confiscating their official documents and personal items, employers and recruitment agencies have argued that their actions are “necessary” to protect the their own rights.
During a debate earlier this week, organised by Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Support, domestic workers and employers were brought together to discuss labour laws and a number of worrying practices prevailing in the local market.
Treq Nuti, an owner of a recruitment agency, explained that many recruitment agencies and employers confiscate domestic workers’ passports and work permits to ensure their stay, adding that “many of them have absconded after a few days or months following their arrival to the Kingdom”.
“Some domestic workers have abandoned their workplaces with the help of their fellow nationals to earn more money by working for multiple employers in part-time jobs,” Nuti said.
Another employer said that she prefers keeping domestic workers’ personal documents to ensure they stay at her house, claiming that many domestic workers have “run away” from her house “despite the decent living conditions they had with me”.
Addressing the employer, Hannah, a Filipina domestic worker, said: “Why keep a passport that is not yours… It would be stupid for a domestic worker to leave your house if she has all her rights, and I don’t think all domestic workers are that stupid.”
Tamkeen Director Linda Kalash told The Jordan Times that “such a debate was the first of its kind in the country”.
Hebautul Hayat Obeidat, a journalist leading the debate, said that there are around 50,000 regular domestic workers in the country and another 30,000 irregular ones.
In the Kingdom, a domestic worker who flees his/her employer’s house and/or works for another employer without the permission of the first employer is considered irregular and becomes subject to detention and deportation.on in the contract signed. It also entails whether his/her religious beliefs and privacy will be respected and if he/she will be treated well and provided sufficient food, Hannah noted.
“We work for long hours and need food to be able to work. From a personal experience, I learned how to steal food after working with my second employer who allowed me only one meal a day,” one of the workers recalled.
Rahma, an Indonesian domestic helper who has been working in Jordan for 14 years, said she has been helping her “abused and exploited” peers to reach out to their embassies and to Tamkeen, but she also fears that she would not be given her weekly day-off, as stipulated in her contract, in addition to breaks during the work day.
“In very rare cases we might find girls [domestic workers] working 8 hours a day or getting a day off each week but most of them work from early morning till night and many don’t get a day off even once a year to relax,” Rahma added.
Nuti claimed that letting a domestic worker leave the house whenever she wants to go wherever she wants is “against Jordanian society’s traditions and norms.”
For her part, Hadeel Abdul Aziz, executive director of Adel Centre for Legal Aid, said that imposing personal beliefs on domestic workers under the pretext that society is socially or religiously conservative is “unreasonable because she is not a family member and she has the freedom to go wherever she wants”.
Rahmad also stressed salary deductions as another major concern for domestic workers.
Ayman Khazaaleh, an employer, suggested creating a payment system allowing the government to put an end to deducted or unpaid wages.
For Nuti, exploitation of domestic helpers often lies in recruitment agencies’ and employers’ ignorance of relevant laws and regulations. “Recruitment agencies must provide a proper orientation to both domestic workers and employers regarding the rights and duties of both parties and they must do regular checks on working conditions,” Hannah suggested.