I RECENTLY attended the tripartite workshop under the auspices of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) entitled, “Domestic Work Stakeholders’ Workshop Towards a Participatory Assessment of the Kasambahay Situation in the Philippines.”
It was attended by representatives from DOLE and local government units (LGUs), civil society, religious organizations and households employing kasambahay [domestic help]and kasambahay themselves from all over the country. It was a dynamic group of those affected by Republic Act No. 10361, better known as the “Domestic Workers Act” or “Batas Kasambahay,” an act instituting policies for the protection and welfare of domestic workers.
We were divided into eight groups. The first four groups are those in government, civil society, religious organization and employers. Two groups were those of household employers and two groups of kasambahay.
In the household employers groups were Alice Balakid, Augusto Betis, Dolores Quides, Eline Pecayo, Emma Santos, Flor Sinsuat, Joel Moulic, Maria Lourdes Urmeneta, Marlane Villareal, Neptune Pitman, Rufina Buenaventura Ofelia Fernandez, Sandra Carillo, Teresa Abellera, Teresita Sarmiento, Sandra Cabilagin, Noemi Vinoya, Marilyn Picayo, Fe Valencia, Jose Roland Moya, EDitha Mestidio, Julieta Enriquez, Joeboy Agriam and Sonia Casem.
In my group, we had a very animated discussion. We were tasked to do a visioning exercise of how we see the kasambahay situation in 20 years. Our answers were very idealistic (as it should be): Kasambahay is a career/profession with a wide range of skills, knowledge and attitudes. Kasambahays would be professionals in terms of recruitment, training and other human resource management system. Kasambahays will be well-capacitated and earning more, enabling them to live independent and better lives and to send their children to school. Kasambahay could be a part-time job doing specific functions like doing laundry, ironing, cooking, driving, and others. Kasambahay would do specialized work exclusively such as caregiving and infant and child care (nanny). Kasambahays would be in a position of choice and they could choose to pursue their dreams. Kasambahays would enjoy more benefits aside from social protection (SSS, Pag-ibig, Philhealth) such as leave benefits, maternity benefits, scholarship, and many others. Standards of work would be clearly defined. Benefits and wages would be skills-, productivity- and performance-based.
Or there would not be kasambahays anymore with technology intruding more and more into households and making all those household chores easier to do by just pushing a button or even clicking a remote control wherever the household employer would be.
Upon the other hand, with very young children, toddlers and infants even, and with the ageing population, more and more kasambahays would become indispensable additions to a household.
The group also defined the prevailing situation of kasambahays and their employers and how far it is from the vision. Best situations would be where kasambahays are treated as part of the family, given on-time and good wages (The law says P2,500/month but most households give P3,500 and above), they are safe, they are provided with humane sleeping conditions and privacy. They are given opportunity to voice out their complaints and grievances. They are now currently employed with SSS, Pag-ibig and Philhealth coverage. They receive the benefits mandated by law such as weekly rest days, 5-days service incentive leave per year, 13th month pay, adequate meals, and appropriate rest and basic medical assistance, and the benefit of a formal contract. Most household employers have even given their kasambahays training on best practices on doing household chores. They are now treated with more importance and dignity unlike prior to the enactment of the law. Most importantly, they now have a sense of hope.
The thing is, with everybody wanting to work abroad (with a much bigger salary, never mind the separation from their family for long period of time and the risk of physical and psychological harm), finding a good and loyal kasambahay is becoming more and more difficult.
In my next column, let me share with you the usual and the worst prevailing situations and the helping/hindering situations from the present to what is envisioned. Very interesting! And to think that these are from the points of view of household employers.
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