GCC agrees on draft contract for housemaids

January 18, 2013 - 1:33:22 am

DOHA: The GCC states have finalised a common draft job contract for domestic workers, with Asian diplomatic circles here saying such a contract would work only if the wages are uniform and there is provision for a day off in a week for the workers.

“Unified wages and accent on the welfare of household workers will hold the key to making such a common contract work,” said a diplomatic source.

The wages for domestic workers must be unified and fixed in US dollars, the source said. “If that’s the case, all manpower exporting countries would welcome the common contract, else it would be a futile exercise,” the source added.

Undersecretaries from the labour ministries of the GCC states reached an agreement on a regional unified draft contract for household workers at a meeting in Bahrain late last week. Maids constitute the largest segment of household workers in the region.

The Director-General of the Executive Bureau of the GCC Council of Ministers of Labour and Council of Ministers of Social Affairs, Aqeel Ahmed Al Jassim, said they had agreed on the draft contract, which will now be submitted to the GCC ministers of labour at their meeting to be held in Bahrain this year.

He said discussions led to several amendments in the draft aimed at balancing the working relationship between families and the domestic workers, including protecting the rights of all the parties.

Al Jassim added that the undersecretaries also adopted a working paper from Qatar on a Gulf strategy to address the pressures faced by GCC states from manpower exporting countries, and it will be put before the Council of Ministers of Labour for adoption.

He said the strategy suggested holding collective meetings with manpower exporting countries, and several other steps aimed at unifying procedures in the member states for recruiting domestic workers.

It is likely the draft contract would contain clauses entitling workers to end-of-service benefits if they have completed a year of service with a family.

This and several other benefits like specific working hours and entitlement to a day off in a week have been recommended by Qatar, although the common draft has reportedly been prepared by Saudi Arabia.

It is highly unlikely the draft would have a clause suggesting unified wages for the workers, and the issue of remuneration might be left to each member state to decide. 

A manpower agent told this newspaper on grounds of anonymity that it would be a welcome step if a GCC committee oversees the recruitment of domestic helpers from different countries.

“We don’t know what clauses the proposed draft would have. Maybe they would make rules stricter for household workers,” he said.

But one clear disadvantage would be that a domestic worker may not be permitted to work in any GCC country if he or she has flouted rules in a member country.

Currently, such a ban is imposed on domestic workers only if they are involved in very serious crimes, he claimed.

THE PENINSULA

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