On Saturday, 6 October, SERI in collaboration with Izwi Domestic Workers’ Alliance hosted a workshop on domestic workers’ employment rights at Hillbrow Recreation Centre. The workshop was attended by 49 domestic workers from Johannesburg. SERI’s Kelebogile Khunou and Izwi’s Florence Sekolane welcomed the participants, sharing the purpose of the workshop which was learn about domestic worker employment rights and to explore together how domestic workers can support each other. Florence emphasised in her opening speech that, “Domestic workers need to work together to see change”.
Izwi Domestic Workers’ Alliance holds the view that domestic workers organising and supporting each other at the neighbourhood level will help to overcome the “atomised” and isolated nature of domestic work, and ultimately lead to more domestic workers realizing their employment rights. This perspective informed the workshop. Kelebogile began with a short talk about the history of domestic work in South Africa and took the participants through SERI’s domestic workers’ rights guide. The participants were then divided into five groups according to their neighbourhoods, for an exercise which entailed reading case studies on employment issues domestic workers experience, like unfair dismissal, unfair labour practices, and other employment standards, and using the guide to find out what the law says on those issues and how to resolve them. A representative from each neighbourhood then provided feedback about their group discussion in a plenary session.
The participants brought a lot of energy to the workshop, singing liberation songs and creating a spirit of solidarity. Izwi members from Alexandra performed a skit for the group depicting the unequal relationship between domestic workers and employers. Kelebogile and Izwi’s Maggie Mthombeni then jointly facilitated a question and answer session on employment rights. The workshop was closed by Izwi’s Amy Tekie, who shared with the group Izwi’s experience in assisting one of their members in a court case against her employer, to demonstrate that “Domestic workers can win cases”.
SERI also has a series of short, mobile-friendly information sheets on the rights of domestic workers in English and IsiZulu. These information sheets cover topics like wages, leave, the Unempolyment Insurance Fund (UIF), employment contracts, the end of employment and the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).