It is estimated that in Barcelona more than 34,000 people are currently engaged in housework and care. It is a sector characterized by very unequal salary and working conditions and with a high informality index. In Spain, between 30 and 40% of domestic workers do not have an employment contract and, therefore, neither contribute to Social Security nor can they access an unemployment benefit. As part of the commemoration of Labor Day, on May 1, we spoke with two of the most representative organizations in the sector, Mujeres Pa’lante and Sindihogar, about labor rights and struggles.
«Domestic workers are under a special regime and we have been fighting for many years for the reincorporation and equalization of our rights to the general regime. Government after government have been delaying this comparison because they believe that our work is neither fundamental nor important. We have nothing to celebrate on May 1. We are defending the basic rights of decent work and the same rights as any other worker in Spain”, explains Rocío Echevarría, a member of the Sindillar union of domestic workers.
But the fact is that few women have access to an employment contract under these minimum conditions. The groups of women domestic workers recognize that the most vulnerable are those who work in the black economy, around 30 or 40% of the total. In the current situation of socio-economic crisis, it is they who cannot even access the specific subsidy approved by the Spanish government because they were not contributing and cannot demonstrate that they have lost their jobs. “The situation in these cases is even more desperate because they have no resources or any type of protection,” says Clara Romero of Mujeres Pa’lante. “Even the black work that was for them has disappeared and they have no chance of having support at this stage because they do not have access to information from official organizations. We have really desperate cases of women who have no job, no papers, no money for food and who owe months of rent. It is a bleak picture”.
Another condition that contributes to the precariousness of the sector is that many of the migrant domestic and care workers, a majority within the total, are in an irregular situation. “If we only focus on claiming the improvement of employment contracts, we are leaving aside a large majority that does not even have the possibility of being considered a citizen”, Romero reflects. “They are people who contribute and work within society and should receive the respect they deserve for the work they do.” “We want regularization, we want equal rights in the general regime and we want the right to register,” adds Echevarría. “The registry is the basis for one to exist here and access any possibility to consider herself a citizen with rights. Even to be able to travel the streets freely ». In addition, Mujeres Pa’lante denounces that the impossibility of solving the legal situation of these women has prevented them from responding to the health emergency and the continued calls from the administrations to recruit workers for residences for large people. “We have given hundreds of training courses for women on home work and care for the elderly. They are prepared, accredited and have experience and knowledge. However, with all the urgent demand in this sector during these weeks, there is no way that they can offer their services because there is no possibility that they will have papers. They cannot resolve their situation nor can they contribute to solving the health crisis». In this sense, the Barcelona Immigration Council published, on April 4, a statement requesting, among others, the residence and work authorization for immigrants to face this crisis, as well as the express regularization for the Immigrants who have requested and pending residence and work authorization. In 2017, the same body produced the document “Proposals for dignification and awareness in the field of home work and caring for people. ”
The precariousness of their working conditions contrasts with the fact that the Covid-19 health crisis has evidenced, more than ever, the importance of care work. “Families have finally realized the importance of exercising our work within each home,” believes Echevarría. “This motivates you to think that what we do is not just anything, but the state still does not recognize us as just another worker. We do not want to be victims but to be recognized. And that’s why we will continue to fight, until we understand what our work is and the importance it has. ” “I would like to be optimistic and think that the situation has opened a space for reflection to value the care work we do every day,” concludes Romero.