Ramaphosa woos domestic workers on campaign trail

Domestic workers are 'the glue and strings that tie the social fabric of our country together', President Cyril Ramaphosa tells Cosatu women's event

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
Domestic workers and members of Cosatu take selfies with ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, after he delivered the keynote address at the Mall of Thembisa in Ekurhuleni on October 28 2021 at an event to recognise the role of domestic workers.
Domestic workers and members of Cosatu take selfies with ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, after he delivered the keynote address at the Mall of Thembisa in Ekurhuleni on October 28 2021 at an event to recognise the role of domestic workers.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday turned on the charm for domestic workers, encouraging them to vote on November 1 so that they “can change their lives and the country for the better”.

“This is an opportunity for domestic workers to also make their voices heard. It is an opportunity to choose representatives who have the interests of workers at hearts,” he told a Cosatu women’s event at Imbizo Shisanyama in Thembisa.

Ramaphosa, who was on the campaign trail in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, told the women they should use the local government elections to choose representatives who would be committed to improving the lives of domestic workers.

The day was used to commemorate the International Labour Organisation Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers.

It was important, he said, to choose representatives who “will do everything in their means to make sure that there is service delivery and who are committed to building safer, cleaner and better communities”.

“This is an opportunity for domestic workers to recognise the great advances that have been made under the leadership of the ANC and to demonstrate that they expect the ANC to do more and better in improving conditions under which our people live,” he said.

Ramaphosa added that this was an opportunity for a renewal of the ANC so that “the ANC can fulfil its historic mission”.

“A mission it was given in 1912, when it was formed. I urge all domestic workers throughout the country to use this vote to change the country for the better. As a society we need to give domestic workers the recognition they deserve and due to them.

“We need to ensure that their rights are protected, upheld and that the conditions of employment that they work under are improved and that they received decent wages. As a society, we have to build on the progress that has been made for the conditions of work since 1994, we must intensify the struggle that has brought us this far and we must not rest until we have made decent work a reality for every domestic worker,” he said.

Ramaphosa, whose mother was a domestic worker, added: “It is important that we acknowledge, recognise and celebrate these very important people who do work day in and day out in our country.”

He said this was a contribution that many never understand.

“It is a mammoth contribution in homes across the country. Around 1-million domestic workers and more carry out essential household tasks — cooking, cleaning, caring for various people in various households, looking after children, caring for the sick and the elderly.

“As they do this work, they keep the social fabric of our country together. They are the glue and strings that tie the social fabric of our country together. They are the ones who make society intact, to function at a variety of levels.”

Ramaphosa said house keepers “contribute both directly and indirectly to the growth and the sustainability of our families, households and communities but most importantly, of our economy.”

Without them, the economy would not function, said Ramaphosa, adding that more must be done to improve the minimum wages and working conditions for domestic workers.

He said, domestic workers suffered a blow from the devastating impact of Covid-19, where there was a 26% decrease in employment among domestic workers in the first and second quarters of 2020.

“While there has been some recovery, we have not yet returned to pre-Covid-19 levels … This year, the national minimum wage for domestic workers has increased to 88% of the minimum wage and is expected to be aligned with the general minimum wage in 2022.

“Since February this year, domestic workers can now qualify for benefits under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. It is also mandatory for employers of domestic workers to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Full-time domestic workers can also claim UIF payments, in cases of long-term or temporary inability to work due to illness, maternity leave and unemployment.”

Ramaphosa said the department conducts inspections on the basis of complaints to ensure that employers comply with labour legislation. “Cosatu leaders always complain that we do not have enough inspectors, which is true, but the day will come when inspectors will be able to knock on every door of our households to inspect how domestic workers are treated. The day will come.”

He said the government needs to strengthen its enforcement and capabilities and needs to improve the resourcing and efficiency of bodies such as the CCMA, UIF and the Compensation Fund.

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said: “We have always said domestic workers have played this role since 1956 in the women’s march. But also, it's the president's recognition that we have not done enough and that we do not have enough labour inspectors to monitor employers. We are looking forward to getting more labour inspectors so that these cases can be eliminated.”

After the event, Ramaphosa took his campaign to Phola Park, Katlehong and Vosloorus to encourage South Africans to vote for the ANC on Monday.

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