Many websites have been talking about the maid rate fixing and the fairness of the rate card implemented by Raheja society, Chandivali, the protest that followed and the subsequent sacking of the maids by many residents. Here’s my take on the story based on multiple conversations with the protesting maids and residents. (please note it’s a personal opinion you may differ with the same):
Making a rate card is fine, and most domestic workers will welcome it, provided it is fair.
Even in the current case they were against the rate card because it suggested a salary which was far less than what many of them were already getting (and is also less than the rate card NDWM had published two years ago).
Logically any maid rate fixing card should only make minimum wage compulsory, and leave room for better salaries based on experience, expertise and requirement of the employer. If we really want to get better output, make a rate card/contract that motivates the workers to work better and earn more, instead of encouraging them to work less or worse because of the salary structure.
Any fair employer would agree that we should have a rate card that follows the yearly increments as given by the local governments, and allows for leaves and benefits like other blue collared workers. Alternatively, we should compensate the workers in lieu of these.
Otherwise, on Diwali let us not expect our domestic Helper to work overtime to help us clean our house (when we have a day off and she does not) and not clean her own house
Let us treat our Helpers in a humane way, if for no other reason than for the fact that our homes run even in our absence because we have these domestic helpers.
Most domestic workers we talked to during the strike were OK with a rate card, as long as it was “fair”. If the residents actually wanted fair negotiations/benchmarking, they should have only fixed a minimum salary, included directions for incremental salaries based on experience & expertise of the Helper, provided guidelines about improving their working conditions, and involved the Helpers in a discussion before finalising anything.
Instead, the maid rate fixing card suddenly came up, recommended salaries less than the ongoing rate (or what many workers are already getting), “advised” employers who are paying more on how they can recalibrate their payments, fixed increment at 5% (seriously…) and suggested a bonus at 25-50% (as against the current practice of 100% for all ABCDE: Aya, Bai, Cook, Driver and everyone similar)! This one sided dictat only took away from the domestic workers, and predictably gave rise to the “uprising”. Unity threatened to become a power for the other side too!
Interestingly, while talking about the take home salaries of the Helpers, employers conveniently give example of cooks, who earn approximately three times more than the maids. We should try to calculate how much a maid will take home after full day’s work, as per the rate card. Then, think whether she will be able to run her home with that.
Some employers reason that the quality of work they get does not justify the salaries workers are demanding. But, if we really want to have better output, we should make a rate card/contract that is smart and incentivises the workers to work better to earn more instead of making them feel like victims and pushing them to either strike or work worse for the salary offered.
On a positive note: A heartening point in this whole episode was that the rate card had support of ONLY 100+ members, out of a total of 700+ residents. Many residents were actually upset with the circular, as was seen in the limited support and criticism on social media. While a few Helpers did lose their jobs, most of the residents in fact did not penalise their Helpers at all as they sympathised with them.
Here is how it all started.
Take a look at few general rules one should keep in mind while hiring a helper in India here.