Nearly 100 domestic workers and NGO members yesterday marked the seventh Domestic Workers Day by pushing for better labour conditions in line with upgrades seen in the garment sector.
Ou Tepphallin, vice-president of the Cambodia Food and Service Worker Federation, said most people thought that domestic work was easy and therefore did not pay workers well.
“They say domestic work is not difficult. Cleaning the house, cooking and washing clothes means no stress, but sometimes domestic workers must work in the house all day with the houseowner,” she said. “When we all join together with lots of voices, our voices will let our difficulties become known and a solution will emerge.”
Van Samphous, president of the Cambodian Domestic Workers Network, said domestic workers also need good labour conditions and reasonable wages like other sectors, especially factory workers.
She said domestic workers had created networks for many years but just recently the government issued a directive to boost working conditions for domestic workers. This was a historical change for domestic workers.
Chan Sreymoch, 22, a domestic worker in Phnom Penh, said she has been in the industry for two years.
“We work all day when the houseowner orders us to work, and I work from Monday to Sunday,” she said, noting she only earns $70 per month.
Last month, the Labour Ministry issued a directive laying out expected working conditions for domestic workers to ensure their safety and prevent abuse from homeowners in the wake of a woman being arrested for torturing her maid.
According to the five-page directive signed by Labour Minister Ith Samheng, domestic workers must be over 18, and if they are younger, can only be assigned light work.
The directive said maids should be paid bi-weekly and that homeowners must provide accommodation, food and health treatment free of charge for their maids if they are hired to live with the family. Forced labour and debt bondage is prohibited.
Mr Samheng also said homeowners must permit maids to have Sundays or another day off each week.
He added that domestic workers must be given national holidays off in accordance with the Labour Law and if they work, they must be paid 200 percent of their normal working day wage.
The Cambodian Domestic Workers Network says there are about 250,000 domestic workers in the country.