Millions of households hire live-in domestic workers in Indonesia, which has a high income inequality. The increasing number of women seeking work has also made domestic workers an inseparable part of the Indonesian household.

However, unclear work contracts and the weak bargaining position of domestic workers have contributed to abuse and exploitation. Severe cases involving physical abuse and denying food have occurred, although they are not commonplace. Nevertheless, long working hours, low salaries and few to no days off are rampant, especially among live-in workers.

Workers’ rights NGOs have urged the House of Representatives to deliberate the long-delayed bill on protection of domestic workers, which was drafted in 2004. But the deliberation has also stalled, because giving domestic workers even minimum rights could potentially upend millions of households that would need to change their long-ingrained habits to comply with the law.

However, conscientious employers might ask whether this is a modern form of indentured servitude or worse, slavery. Am I treating my domestic workers right? Can I fulfill the minimum rights of my domestic workers, even without a law? What are they?

The Jakarta Post spoke with several stakeholders to answer these questions.

What the 2004 bill demands

The National Network for Domestic Worker Advocacy (Jala PRT) said that domestic workers needed the law, because they could not rely on individual employers to ensure that domestic workers were treated decently.

Jala PRT capacity-building head Ari Ujianto said that domestic workers could not count on a public initiative that would advocate for the decent treatment of all domestic workers in the country, particularly in Jakarta.

Ari said the 2004 bill had been shut down and that they had to start from scratch. “We’re going backwards,” he said. However, Jala PRT had been trying to put the bill back on course in cooperation with other NGOs.

Here are some of the bill’s stipulations for live-in domestic workers:

  1. Decent salaries based on the regional minimum wage. Domestic workers are also entitled to a 13th-month salary for Idul Fitri or Christmas, and reasonable incentives.
  2. Basic facilities and nutritional food; halal food for Muslim workers
  3. Clearly defined job description to be agreed upon employment
  4. Reasonable daily working time (maximum 10 work hours a day)
  5. One day off per week; 12-day annual leave for domestic workers who have been employed at least a year. Workers are entitled to maternity leave.
  6. Workers are allowed to communicate with family, join a labor organization or union, and observe their preferred religion. Workers with infants are permitted to breastfeed.
  7. Decent and humane treatment (non-discriminatory, non-abusive treatment)
  8. Safe and healthy working environment, including labor and health insurance
  9. Annual provision of at least three sets of new clothing.

While the bill does not regulate the protection of live-out workers, the same general principles of humane and fair treatment also apply to them.

What employers can expect

The bill also stipulates what household employers can expect from their domestic workers:

  1. Clear and accurate information on the personal identity of the worker, prior to employment
  2. A skillful and loyal worker who upholds work ethics and is able to provide services as described in the employment agreement or contract
  3. A worker who ensures security of the employer’s house, protects the employer’s personal matters and privacy, and who avoids indecent behavior or conduct
  4. Two weeks’ (15 days) resignation notice.

Role of training and outsource centers

More and more households are recruiting their domestic workers from training and outsource centers, commonly referred to as “yayasan“. These centers train potential domestic workers so they are armed with the necessary skills, and also provide employment contracts that cover the rights and responsibilities of both household employer and domestic worker.

LPK Tiara Cipta in Kemang, South Jakarta, which has been around since 1996, has supplied thousands of domestic workers to Jakarta’s affluent families.

“When an employer comes to us, we introduce them to candidates who have identity cards, documented work experience and health records,” said Sutarmi, the owner of Tiara Cipta.

“We serve to bridge the communication gap between [employers and domestic workers],” she said.

Tiara Cipta requires a Rp 2.5 million “commitment fee” from all clients, who pay the worker’s monthly salary to the center. Salaries range from Rp 2.5 million to Rp 6 million, depending on the domestic worker’s skills and work experience.

Although no law exists on the protection of domestic workers, Sutarmi said the center was obligated to report regularly to the Jakarta Manpower Agency.

Hence, although Tiara Cipta was a profit-oriented service business and not a true yayasan (foundation), the center must meet the interests of both employers and domestic workers.

“We’re here to protect the workers’ basic rights like monthly wage, work hours, food and other basic needs. On certain occasions, we’re also willing to replace the domestic worker if the employer is unhappy with [them],” she said. (evi)

Source : The Jakarta Post