Last 16th of June was the 8th anniversary of ILO’s Domestic Workers Convention 2011(No.189; on Decent Work for Domestic Workers). The convention was overwhelmingly approved by ILO memberstates including the Republic of Korea. It is also the anniversary of International Domestic Workers’ Day, when the rights of domestic workers was turned into reality worldwide after the declaration in 101st Session of the International Labour Conference. 


    In commemoration of this respectful day, Korean Domestic Workers Association(Domestic workers’ rights activist organization under Korean Women Workers Association) hosted a press conference on the legislation of the Special Act on Domestic Workers and campaigned in Gwanghwamun Square urging: “Domestic workers’ labour rights should be protected”. 





    Domestic workers who joined the event displayed discriminative words they actually heard from employers on the cork board, which were often insulting and offensive. Some of those words were rather cruel: Suspiscions like ‘I can’t see my ring’, ‘Have you seen my purse?’, or Disrespects- ’You don’t need to come to work from tomorrow(on a text message)’, ’You don’t have a trustworthy impression’, ‘Old lady’, ‘Housekeeper’, etc- were displayed, showing that many domestic workers are suffering from prejudice and disrespect. By erasing those words altogether with citizens and other activists, the domestic workers were able to erase the wounds in their hearts.





     Korean Domestic Workers Association has been stating and campaigning that using the term ‘domestic worker’ instead of ‘housekeeper’ can attribute in social recognition for domestic workers. Still, many people underevaluate the significance of domestic labor, merely thinking it as a repetitive and simple chorse. It is a matter of course that proper recognition on domestic labor will bring respect for domestic workers, resulting in better domestic labor service, thus there ought to be the change in our common perception towards domestic workers.   





     The members of Korean Domestic Workers Association had been building up movements to raise awareness in the labor rights of domestic workers while fighting against the stigma on  domestic workers and labor. They had been urging that the “Labor Standard Act”‘s loophole  excluding domestic labor from the definition of labor is a serious discrimination against social justice. While protesting against the injustice, the members were able to announce themselves proudly as a activist and laborer. 



     During the press conference, one of the members shared their work experience and how proud they feel as a professional domestic worker.


 

[ Hello. I am Kim Soon-Duk from Incheon branch. I am one of the domestic worker who does cleaning, laundry, cooking, and etc. I am not a caretaker, so usually I work without supervisor. But I always work hard and sincerely since there are lot to take care of. 

  I was deeply disappointed when the clients blamed me for stealing their valuables Some of the clients often put their belongings too deep inside their lockers and forgot where it was originally. But often, I was the one to be blamed for the loss. I heard the suspicious doubts from the clients for multiple times, but all of them found their belongings at home. Those suspiscions were very hurful and disappointing. Once, there was a client who worked in China that blamed me for stealing his passport, since it could be used in many countries. I asked the client about the details, but he was merely suspecting me although his memories weren’t clear. He called me almost ten times a day and threatened me, telling me about the immigration office and his respectful friends. I suggested that it would be better if he notifies the case to the police, but he refused. He told me that it can’t be a case since there is no evidence and got offended by what I sad. This made me very heartbroken and upset. 

  It is very difficult to work hard after hearing these groundless suspiscion, but all I could do is to ask my clients to trust me. If the domestic workers become widely recognized as a normative profession, I believe that those groundless suspiscion and ignorance will no longer happen. I want to work with trust and dignity. Thus, I am looking foward for the national assembly to pass the legislation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. ]

 

 

 

 

I am Yeonja Kim, a house manager working at Bucheon branch of National House Manager’s Cooperative.

As a house manager, I used to work for one family every day from Monday to Friday, dropping off and picking up the family’s child. It took a toll on my health, so I gave up the job. But they never sent me the last month’s pay, which amounted to 880,000 Korean won (about 780 US Dollars). I even visited the family to exact a promise from them, but they didn't keep the promise. They just delayed sending me the pay, lying to me as if they could give me the money right away such as “I am at the bank right now”, “the money will be sent to you by tonight”, or “tomorrow I will borrow the money from my friend.” So I visited them and rang their doorbell again and again, but nobody answered. While doing so, I remembered hearing that they had a plan to move out, and this made me more anxious.

I felt so sad and anxious that I could not even sleep well. I was afraid they might not give me the money and just move house. Finally, I visited a kindergarten where I used to drop off and pick up the family’s child. At the kindergarten, I heard that the child was leaving next week.

That day in the evening, I visited the family again; I rang their doorbell, but again, nobody answered. When I called the child’s name out loud, the door opened, and the child’s parent, looking very surprised, came out and asked me to come in. (S)he apologized to me mentioning her/his difficult financial situation, and finally gave me the last month’s pay.

This experience made me realize house managers’ working conditions. In reality, we house managers are so helpless, and we can not be protected by anyone. Because we are hardly recognized as ‘employees’, it is difficult for us to be legally compensated for our overdue pay. I would not have had that experience if house managers had been recognized as employees that were eligible for social insurances. I felt ashamed that I had not joined any campaign or discussion session for improving house managers’ working conditions. My rights as an employee will never be recognized until claimed by myself. Today, I feel cheerful to see other house managers, who are standing here for the day all house managers are respected as ‘employees’.

I’ll do my best for our rights and dignity at work. Thank you.

 

“Domestic Workers Are Employees: [2018 International Domestic Workers’ Day] Press Conference on Legislation for Protecting the Domestic Workers”, Participant’s Comment #2

 

 

 

 

I am Hyeonju Han, a house manager working at Seoul branch of National House Manager’s Cooperative.

I am in my sixties, and working as a care worker. I am quite old now, but still participating in paid work in this aging society. I’ve met many women of my age who want to work. These women are those who want to earn money, spend their time more meaningfully, or become financially independent from their children.

But some of them are hesitating because they are afraid of working or starting a new job. Sometimes they are afraid that others might look down on themselves because of their job.

I used to be a home maker, but I wanted to get a job. So I visited a women resources development center to learn vocational skills, and searched for lots of job information. Finally, I chose ‘care work’ as my job, which I think I can do even at my age.

These days, there are many care-work jobs for elderly women, such as babysitting or taking care of women who have just given birth. Care work is not easy. It takes physical and emotional labor, and sometimes, professional knowledge.

This is not easy, so I think it’s a job for especially elderly women, who have years of experience in parenting and dealing with many different situations in their real lives.

Sometimes, people feel pity for me, saying, “you’d better retire.” But every morning on my way to work, I hum to myself a pop song, “what about my age?” In the hustle and bustle of a city, I feel the happiness of work. I can have this very meaningful feeling because I’m an able elderly person who are still actively working.

Now, I feel very lucky. I am working hard and leading a diligent life, which I have been taught as a way to save myself. My healthy body is another great reward for my job.

Dear women care workers doing your best at work everyday, I’d like to give you my respect and warm regards for your passion and determination.

 

“Domestic Workers Are Employees: [2018 International Domestic Workers’ Day] Press Conference on Legislation for Protecting the Domestic Workers”, Participant’s Comment #3

 

 

 

 

I am Sunae Kang, a house manager working at Ansan branch of National House Manager’s Cooperative.

Now, I’ve been working as a house manager for ten years.

Everyday I am on my busy way to work, to keep my promise with my clients. Today, I’m working for two families. I am gladly welcomed by them, and sometimes I enter their empty house to work alone. Luckily I’ve met nice families, and had a long relationship with them.

Working as a house manager, I’m taking care of my clients’ housework just like my own. Also, my clients politely treat me like family. They give me drinks, cold in summer, hot in winter. In the tired afternoon, just a piece of chocolate given to me really cheer me up. When one of my fellow house managers had surgery, her client supported part of her hospital bills and waited until she came back after recovery. Isn’t this an exemplary case of respect for house managers?

Even though some are looking down on our job, thanks to our clients supporting us, we can be always confident at work. I am proud of my job. A neat and clean house makes people really happy. Care work can be done by only humans, no matter how much robots become widely used with the advance of technology. I want to happily keep working as long as my health permits. I also want to become an ‘employee’ so that my working conditions could be protected by law. I hope, pretty soon, our bills for on-the-job accidents will be covered by social insurance so that we can more freely go see a doctor. Thank you.

 

“Domestic Workers Are Employees: [2018 International Domestic Workers’ Day] Press Conference on Legislation for Protecting the Domestic Workers”, Participant’s Comment #4

 

 

 

 

I am Gyeonghui Ahn, a house manager working at Incheon branch of National House Manager’s Cooperative.

Every morning we house managers go to work to keep our promise with our clients. Sometimes it’s pouring, snowing hard, freezing cold, or extremely hot, but we don’t care. What we care is help our clients live in a healthy, clean, and pleasant house.

When starting working in our client’s house, we’re somewhat stressed because we’ve got to finish lots of work with limited time. However, when looking around clean and shiny rooms after all the work, we feel happy and get energy for another day of work. Client’s thank-you message is enough for us to recharge.

Work makes our body and mind healthy. Doing housework where we got skills and know-how, not only we earn money, but we also feel proud. With our job, we help others having difficulty doing their own housework. We would not have such happiness of work if we just sat back at home doing nothing.

Socializing with fellow house managers in the cooperative, we’ve learned a lot about social issues. We house managers work hard and responsibly. Given respect and proper rewards for our job, we work with confidence as professionals.

Even though still there are some who wouldn’t see us as professionals, everyday we feel that people treat us differently than in the past. This would be impossible without our untiring efforts to make our own voices heard, so let’s cheer up! Let’s take another step forward for the day the law recognizes us as employees. Let’s proudly enjoy our job. I’m happy working as a care worker at the cooperative. As always, I will keep working and enjoy it.

 

“Domestic Workers Are Employees: [2018 International Domestic Workers’ Day] Press Conference on Legislation for Protecting the Domestic Workers”, Participant’s Comment #5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the hearing, domestic workers read the letters to citizens aloud, and proceeded the campaign insisting the legislation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. 

 

There needs to be a social recognition admitting that domestic labor should treated as a lawful and equal labor. Therefore, there needs to be a legal recognition on domestic laborers by including domestic labor as an “employee” in Korean Labor law, especially in the “Labor Standard Act”. 

 

Accordingly, we strongly urge that the Korean government must establish the legislation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. 

 

 

Our letter to the citizens:

 

The government should legislate for protecting the domestic workers so that they could work as respectable employees!

We are house managers!

Our workplace is our client’s house. We work hard to make there neat and clean. Everyday, we’re proudly working as professionals titled ‘house managers’, caring for people and their lives.

However, people are still looking down on our job as menial labor that anyone can do. This prejudice makes no room for respect for housework and the domestic workers. It is partly due to the legal system under which we can not be acknowledged as employees.

Over the last 60 years, we have been excluded from the legal protection, due to Article 11(1) of the Labor Standards Act which makes an exception of the domestic workers from the employees. We are not eligible for the injury benefit for our injuries at work. We are also not eligible for the unemployment benefits despite our vulnerable job security. Unless filing a civil suit, there is no solution to our overdue wages. We are given no severance pay for our years of service even though we work and get paid just like any other employees. We are disadvantaged preparing for our old age as we can not benefit from the national pension for the employees. In sum, we domestic workers can not enjoy any basic rights for the employees and legal protection for the problems at work.

In order to change our working conditions, we domestic workers strongly felt a need to make a new law based on our own reality. This led to ‘the bill for protecting the domestic workers’ labor and basic human rights’, which National House Manager’s Cooperative worked on with Korean Women Workers Association and experts. And finally with Congressperson Jeongmi Lee, we proposed ‘Legislation for Protecting the Domestic Workers’. All these efforts became possible by our long-felt want of a law for the domestic workers’ labor rights.

In 2015, the government announced ‘a plan to formalize informal labor market’, and promised to enforce a new law for protecting the domestic workers by 2016. This year is 2018, and already its first half has passed. Still, there has been no legislation and even no sign of pre-announcement of the legislation. The government has done nothing to fulfill its promise.

President Moon’s famous phrase in his inauguration speech, “Opportunity will be equal. The process will be fair. The result will be righteous” is also for the domestic workers. In order to make a country that most values people and their human rights, we are asking that the government immediately pass ‘Legislation for Protecting the Domestic Workers’ so that our labor caring for people and their lives could be appreciated.

Today we work in our client’s house. Today we work facing alone all the risks and problems at work, still not acknowledged as employees.

We are asking your concern for our working conditions not to make vain our voices, “We are respectable employees and professionals!”

 

June 16th, 2018

National House Manager’s Cooperative

 

Posted by KWWA