On November 9, 2021, 80-year-old domestic worker, Catalina Acosta was rescued by her niece from home in Naucalpan, Mexico State, where she had spent most of her life. After six decades of labour, physical and psychological abuse, she came out of captivity without money and was abused by her employers, with a picture of anemia and malnutrition due to poor diet.
The case of Catalina Acosta reflects the labor violence experienced by domestic workers in Mexico, says Marcelina Bautista, director and founder of the Center for Support and Training for Domestic Employees (How) in an interview.
Catalina was kept incommunicado since the start of the pandemic. Her family was told she could not go out because she had dementia, although a doctor who evaluated her after her release denied that diagnosis. On one occasion, Catalina managed to contact her niece and, via social networks, sought Kasey’s support in getting her aunt out of captivity.
“He told her that they treated her very badly, they yelled at her a lot, they swore at her, that she is no longer useful. We cannot allow our colleagues to defame her like this,” Marcelina Bautista, accompanied by Angelina Hernandez, Catalina Acosta’s niece, asks to look for her at her workplace.
According to UN Women, this condition is largely a reflection of the low social and economic value society attaches to this activity, which reflects the absence of adequate legislation or its lack of effective application.
The domestic worker assured that she was released to pay three months’ salary, but according to Bautista and Kaseh, her migrants’ debt would be higher if they were made to comply with federal labor law. For so many years of work they have to pay you overdue salary, holidays, holiday bonus, Christmas bonus and the same amount of seniority.
Next Step: Mandatory Social Security
According to the latest update from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi)’s National Survey of Occupation and Employment (ENOE), Mexico employs more than 2.1 million people as domestic workers, 91% of whom are women.
Since 2019, federal labor law recognizes certain labor rights for domestic workers in Mexico: working days up to a maximum of eight hours, the mandatory existence of a written contract, social security, maternity leave and paid holidays. These reforms were followed by the ratification of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the Mexican Senate of Convention 189, which establishes and defends the rights of domestic workers.
Convention 189 came into force in Mexico nearly a decade after its international publication. However, there are still no sanctions prescribed for those who fail to comply with the provisions of the law.
“It remains imperative. It is necessary that the work be regulated, a contract is signed and social security is provided, that the bosses stop violating the human rights of workers, ”says Bautista. “The next step is public Have policies that force employers to respect them and punish those who behave like Catalina. Otherwise we will not get justice for those who have been violated.”
Another is pending Social Security legislation reform that mandates domestic workers to be affiliated with the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS); For now, this process is only voluntary. During October 2021, IMSS enrolled 40,992 employees and domestic workers.
The initiative, which is in the process of being approved, will guarantee health care to domestic workers by recognizing their employment relationship, providing them with the same conditions of security of their employment as the rest of workers in other unions.
fair payment for your work
Many times, domestic workers change their rights for good behavior or for payment for a commodity, explains Marcelina Bautista. For example, food and accommodation provided to domestic workers at their workplace should not be visualized as payment, but as a benefit associated with the number of days worked and the type of work they do.
The average daily wage of IMSS is 208.3 pesos, which is almost one hundred less than the minimum wage offered by Cashe. “The reality is that it’s not even enough to have decent Social Security coverage,” Bautista says.
As the case of Catalina Acosta shows, working conditions for this union can lead to alienation making it impossible for them to know their rights, said Dr. Mercedes Pedrero, researcher and expert at the Regional Multidisciplinary Research Center at UNAM. Neato explains. Economics Studies Social, Gender and Domestic Work.
“A big problem for this union is work in isolation, because it means the impossibility of community,” he says. For this reason, the dissemination of NGOs and activists in the field to combat misinformation about their labor rights becomes so relevant.
This phenomenon is not only for Mexico, as it has been repeated in other Latin American countries with high rates of social inequality. Because work relationships take place in an intimate environment, work relationships are often confused with family relationships.
Pedro Nieto explains that part of the violence against domestic workers lies in the misunderstanding of what their work entails. “They maintain that character of slavery, as if it were no ordinary work. Hence, there are other forms of abuse of hours, poor pay, unfair dismissal and other precarious conditions”.
It is a culture that Kasse struggles to change: “We have to address these inequalities to create a respectful culture of work at home. That domestic work is a decision and not an obligation”, affirms Bautista. Is.
Workplace violence increased by pandemic
Violence against domestic workers takes many forms: from the way things are ordered to them, to physical abuse and deprivation of liberty. Marcelina Bautista explains that during the COVID-19 pandemic, others related to the health crisis were added to that list.
For its part, UN Women says the health crisis has exposed the weakness of social protection systems globally, which has tangible consequences for women in general and affects domestic workers in the region in particular. Is.
The family that kept Catalina Acosta in a house in Knucklepan justified the deprivation of liberty with the prevention of infection due to the pandemic. “There are many colleagues who tell that they were locked in the homes of their employers for a year and a half so that they would not come out and bring the virus with them. But if the bosses went out and got infected, they infected them too,” laments Bautista.
Many female workers who were regular at their workplaces were barred from returning to their native communities, and those who worked “until exited” were reduced or fired.
“All this greatly affects the psychosocial level as well. It generates stress, anxiety, isolation, loss of social relationships,” says Paula Alvarez, educator in occupational health and safety and coordinator of the ILO’s Closing Gaps program.
Faced with these conditions, Casey and other organizations in 15 Latin American countries joined the ILO and the International Federation of Domestic Workers (FITH) to develop a protocol on the rights and obligations to prevent infections and take care of their health during this period. ) worked with. ,
“Imprisonment is violence and workplace harassment escalates in that imprisonment. Problems of anxiety, depression begin to appear … All this together with longer working hours than before, because they are always at home, employers do not define the hours of service provision ”, says Paula Alvarez, who participated in the development of the second edition of this guide, published in 2021.
After 60 years of dedication and service, Catalina Acosta Husteca will be able to return to her home community in Potosina, although she will do so without savings, but: “If she doesn’t even have a pension, who will take care of her?” Marcelina asks the Baptist. “The main form of violence against him lies in the violation of his rights.”
As of 2019, federal labor law recognizes the following labor rights for domestic workers in Mexico:
• Maximum 8 hour days
• Mandatory existence of written contract
• social Security
• Maternity leave and paid leave
2.1 million people employed as domestic workers
91% are female