Gulf: yes to unified minimum contract for domestic workers

Eight hours of work, rest, stop to passport confiscation

26 November, 21:46

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    (ANSAmed) - DUBAI - The undersecretaries of labor ministries from Gulf Cooperation Council countries have decided to introduce a unified minimum contract for domestic workers.

    The document, aimed at domestic help and nannies living with families in the bloc's countries - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab emirates and Oman - sets a maximum of eight hours of work a day, with a maximum of two hours of extra work, and a guaranteed return ticket to the country of origin.

    ''Decent lodgings must also be guaranteed, as well as a day of rest a week'', said Jamal Al Dosari, director general of the labor authority in Kuwait at the end of a meeting of undersecretaries in the emirate.

    The contract also tackles abuses denounced by human rights organizations in the past. Employees will not be allowed to confiscate or keep passports any longer, nor prevent domestic workers from leaving the house or travelling.

    Some 2.5 million domestic workers are employed by families across the six oil monarchies. Most are from the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.

    Labor ministers still need to sign the contract so it can become effective and the issue of the controversial Kafala system remains open. Under this sponsorship system, workers cannot be hired by a new employee unless those currently employing them give their consent.

    The system's rigidity has so far been justified by the initial investment in visas and training expenses undertaken by the employee. (ANSAmed)

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