Sunday, June 21, 2009

Malaysians prefer to consider domestic workers as ...servants, maids - but NOT worker..

If you ask the employer (or potential future employers) whether their workers should be given one rest day per week, they will most likely say "NO" - and give all kinds of reasons. If you ask employers, if their workers should be given paid public holidays...or paid annual leave...or paid maternity leave, they will, most likely say 'No'.

Hence, the Star's survey, an SMS poll at that, gave us the result that 75% are against the granting of a day off per week to domestic workers - and I bet you that most of them were employers/potential employers/family of employers of domestic workers. Also wonder, what was the question asked in that poll? And, in what language?
More than 75% of respondents in an SMS poll conducted by The Star are against the idea of granting maids a day off every week.

Yesterday’s poll, which asked if maids should be given one rest day a week, drew a total of 769 respondents over 11 hours.

About 76.1% or 585 respondents said “no,” while 23.9% or 184 respondents said “yes.”...

....The proposal has drawn mixed response, with civil society groups lauding it and others – mainly employers of maids – against it. - Star, 19/6/2009, Many against day off for maids

Interestingly, many of the employers of these domestic workers are workers themselves - and, they have 2 different standards when it comes to worker rights - one standard for themselves as workers, and a different sub-standard standard for their own workers - the domestic worker.

What 'Domestic Worker'? They are domestic maids...domestic servants... - this is how many would like to see..."They are not workers...they are servants...maids..."

And that is why we need to be liberated from this narrowness - and, the first step is to call a worker what he is a worker - a domestic worker.

As a worker, we need to make sure that this worker too have all those 'worker rights' that we have been fighting for and succeeded in getting.

With regard to 'domestic work' is work - this has been part of women's struggle for a very long time - that fight to define 'household work'..., and in fact the campaign for that housework should be paid salary/wages started in 1974...

Today, in Malaysia, many families can no longer survive on the earnings of a sole bread winner and hence both spouses have to work - and hence, the need for someone else to do the housework..

Sometimes, it is not just a question of 'must', but one of 'choice', whereby both spouses want to be gainfully employed and/or be involved in some business/profession - hence, again the need for someone else to do the housework..

The solution today seem to be to employ a 'domestic worker' ....and, this worker must be treated with dignity as a worker..,and also accorded rights properly due to any worker..

The Wages for Housework Movement originated in Italy, where its first public demonstration took place in March, 1974.

Addressing the crowd assembled in the city of Mestre, one of the speakers proclaimed: ‘Half the world’s population is unpaid – this is the biggest class contradiction of all! And this is our struggle for wages for housework. It is the strategic demand; at this moment it is the most revolutionary demand for the whole working class. If we win, the class wins, if we lose, the class loses.'[14]

According to this movement’s strategy, wages contain the key to the emancipation of housewives, and the demand itself is represented as the central focus of the campaign for women’s liberation in general. Moreover, the housewife’s struggle for wages is projected as the pivotal issue of the entire working-class movement.

The theoretical origins of the Wages for Housework Movement can be found in an essay by Mariarosa Dalla Costa entitled “Women and the Subversion of the Community."[15] In this paper, Dalla Costa argues for a redefinition of housework based on her thesis that the private character of household services is actually an illusion. The housewife, she insists, only appears to be ministering to the private needs of her husband and children, for the real beneficiaries of her services are her husband’s present employer and the future employers of her children.

‘(The woman) has been isolated in the home, forced to carry out work that is considered unskilled, the work of giving birth to, raising, disciplining, and servicing the worker for production.

Her role in the cycle of production remained invisible because only the product of her labour, the labourer, was visible.'[16]

The demand that housewives be paid is based on the assumption that they produce a commodity as important and as valuable as the commodities their husbands produce on the job.

Adopting Dalla Costa’s logic, the Wages for Housework Movement defines housewives as creators of the labour-power sold by their family members as commodities on the capitalist market. Dalla Costa was not the first theorist to propose such an analysis of women’s oppression.

Both Mary Inman’s In Women’s Defence (1940)[17] and Margaret Benston’s “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation” (1969)[18] define housework in such a way as to establish women as a special class of workers exploited by capitalism called “housewives.”

That women’s procreative, child-rearing and housekeeping roles make it possible for their family members to work – to exchange their labour-power for wages – can hardly be denied. But does it automatically follow that women in general, regardless of their class and race, can be fundamentally defined by their domestic functions? Does it automatically follow that the housewife is actually a secret worker inside the capitalist production process? -Women, Race and Class, The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class Perspective - Angela Davis 1981

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