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Underground social advances: domestic workers

Giant steps are being taken in the social state model that are blurred by the scuffle and permanent polarization. But, well, this is what it is, in a stoic attitude. If there is no political height –as an unknown and empty expression of the public interest inherent in some- on whom do we discharge the responsibility? oh! The last measure is made up of the ratification by the Congress of Deputies of the Convention of the International Labor Organization (ILO) No. 189 on decent work for domestic workers. We are facing an international instrument that dates back to 2011, although it entered into force two years later, in 2013, being signed by 35 countries. It is true that the trade union world has always been behind the demand for its ratification, but with elusive luck, until now.

Domestic work is that which is carried out in a home or homes or for them. In this area, the employer is not a professional entrepreneur and does not obtain profit from the work of employees. The work takes place in the family home environment. It is, therefore, a clear expansion of the range of rights for those who carry out an effective “professional occupation”, not one carried out occasionally or sporadically. It will have its impact on protection against harassment, abuse and violence at work, on the requirement to receive the working conditions in writing, on the control of the hours of presence, eliminating the figure of the employer’s withdrawal, on the control of the legality of wages for accommodation and meals, safety and health conditions at work, the perception of the minimum wage, activity in the prevention of occupational risks, or, of course, unemployment benefit, until now denied.

What is the philosophy that is contained? Its ultimate teleology is to equalize the rights of these “domestic occupation” workers to those of the rest of the employed workers. This ratification necessarily entails the adaptability of the labor regulations of our country to these requirements, giving us a temporary period (1 year) to provide that legal adaptation. The situation of discrimination in this sector has recently been recognized by the EU Court, considering that due to gender they did not have access to unemployment benefits. It derives from a preliminary ruling raised by the Contentious Court of Vigo in connection with the dispute between a domestic worker and the TGSS regarding the request to contribute for the protection against the unemployment contingency, which was denied. The CJEU pointed out that this refusal to include them in unemployment protection entailed indirect discrimination based on sex.

No one escapes the fact that the sector is predominantly female, with approximately 600,000 people joining it. Needless to say, a significant percentage does so without a legalized employment relationship, therefore, they do it from the opaque economy.

What is involved, with the ratification of this international conventional instrument, is that “domestic workers” enjoy equitable employment conditions as well as decent ones. And if they reside in the home for which they work, they must enjoy living conditions in this sense and, at the same time, respect their privacy space. A period opens in which the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy has to project a space for pedagogy.

The social state does not come to mean the substitution of political representation for corporate representation, nor the substitution of parties for unions. What it projects is the assumption by the State of new tasks that do not come to replace the old and traditional ones, referring to security, defense or public order; in short, ex novo tasks that are based on the dignity and protection of the least favored. That is his leitmotif