"We've strongly encouraged all employers of domestic workers to continue to pay salaries even during lockdown when helpers aren't coming in to work." Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
"We've strongly encouraged all employers of domestic workers to continue to pay salaries even during lockdown when helpers aren't coming in to work." Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Covid-19 lockdown without pay could be catastrophic for domestic workers

By Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Mar 26, 2020

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Cape Town - With domestic workers' basic spending not covered by the minimum wage and barely covered by the average wage, the looming lockdown will have catastrophic effects on these service workers and their dependants.

So said Aisha Pandor, the founder of SweepSouth, talking against the backdrop of their annual domestic workers' report on the effects the lockdown will have on families dependent on domestic workers as breadwinners.

The SweepSouth 2019 annual report found that most domestic workers were being paid a minimum wage, not a living wage. Pandor said based on the report, they still felt that domestic workers were not being paid enough to make ends meet, and certainly not enough to save adequately for situations like the lockdown.

“As such, we've strongly encouraged all employers of domestic workers to continue to pay salaries even during lockdown when helpers aren't coming in to work. Like everyone else, domestic workers in South Africa rely on their income to put food on the table for them and their dependants,” she said.

According to the report, most domestic workers (over 70%) are single mothers, and over 80% are primary breadwinners.

“This makes the income they earn even more critical. If domestic workers aren't paid during the lockdown, they'll soon be unable to pay for necessities, including food.

"We ask those who can afford to, to assist over and above normal salaries with supporting domestic workers by sharing some of the things they are buying," Pandor added.

United Domestic Workers of SA president Pinky Mashiane said they had advised their members to abide by the president's announcement of staying at home, but added that this was a trying time for most domestic workers as it meant loss of income.

Mashiane said they were working on cases where the employers had locked gates, not allowing domestic workers to go home.

“Other employers are refusing to allow workers to go home, saying if they go they should not come back as they will infect them with the virus.

"The president has made it clear that only essential workers will be working during this period and the rest must stay at home. We are now working around the clock to ensure that those workers are released before the lockdown is implemented at midnight (today),” she said. Mashiana said they were planning to take other cases to the CCMA and the labour department after the lockdown period.

@Mtuzeli

[email protected]

Cape Argus

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