Brock researcher delivers report on domestic workers’ rights in Jamaica

Brock University Associate Professor of Labour Studies Simon Black travelled to Kingston, Jamaica, this week to share a new report on the seventh anniversary of Jamaica’s ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Domestic Workers Convention.

“Achieving Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Jamaica: Progress and Prospects Seven Years After the Ratification of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189),” written in collaboration with Lauren Marsh of the University of the West Indies, includes 17 recommendations for improving the working conditions of domestic workers in Jamaica.

“The Government of Jamaica has done a good job of ensuring that domestic workers are covered under the law,” says Black. “However, it is one thing for workers to have rights on paper and another to have rights in reality and work in everyday conditions of dignity and respect.”

Black says that domestic workers “must enjoy decent work, both in law and in practice,” and that the report seeks to show the progress made since the ratification.

Black and Marsh began their research collaboration at the Hugh Shearer Labour Studies Institute at the University of the West Indies Global Campus. Together, they worked with the Jamaica Household Workers’ Union (JHWU) to survey over 200 domestic workers about their experience. They also ran focus groups, conducted interviews with government officials and analyzed documents and reports in order to complete their study.

The report’s recommendations include suggestions for government investment in labour-standards enforcement in the domestic work sector and encourage measures to strengthen collective representation — especially as the research demonstrated that members of the JWHU were more likely to be aware of their rights and have other advantages over non-union domestic workers.

“When Jamaica ratified the Convention, it committed to making decent work a reality for these workers who are marginalized but essential to the Jamaican economy and well-being of many Jamaican households, including their most vulnerable members, such as children, the elderly and those living with disabilities,” says Black.

Black says that he hopes the findings and the identification of best practices within the report will “contribute to advancing decent work for domestic workers not only in Jamaica, where estimates put the number of domestic workers between 56,000 and 100,000, but in the broader Caribbean community.”

The research and report launch were supported by funding from Brock’s Council for Research in the Social Sciences, Social Justice Research Institute, and Canada-Caribbean Institute, with additional support from the Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies and the Canadian Committee on Labour History.

But Black notes that the research would not have been possible without the cooperation of the JWHU and the Government of Jamaica’s Ministry of Labour.

“The Government of Canada has yet to ratify the Convention,” Black adds. “It should take its lead from Jamaica and do so — domestic workers around the world deserve the same rights and protections as any other worker.”

In the near future, Black will be expanding the research to include Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana as case studies.

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