Two years ago, Ecuadorians voted “yes” on a referendum question to require the employers of dependant workers (mainly live-in maids or nannies) to sign up their employees to the social insurance system (IESS) and pay the required dues and minimum wages.
Mariuxi Cedillo now works as a maid and is affiliated to the IESS.
“Before, they wouldn’t pay us minimum wage, we weren’t insured, we worked more than 8 hours a day and they didn’t pay overtime. There was a lot of abuse: of our worker’s rights but also physical and verbal abuse,” she says.
Cedillo says the referendum accomplished that housemaids could start getting minimum wage, but that all employers don’t yet follow the law: there are still short-notice firings, contrary to the regulations in Convention 189 (C189).
The C189 is the Convention on Domestic Workers, adopted by the UN’s International Labour Organization in June 2011.
The treaty creates protections for domestic workers. As a result, a local organization called the Association of Paid Household Workers (TRH) launched a public awareness campaign called “I support the C189–do you?”
The association is made up of 250 women affiliated to the IESS. Their objective is to get Ecuador to ratify the UN’s treaty. They’ve already secured the support of members of the National Assembly. But there are still domestic workers in Ecuador who prefer not to be insured through the IESS:
“My bosses have proposed enrolling me in the IESS, but I don’t want to because I get the “bono” (a monthly payment for low income Ecuadorians) and I’ve heard that if you’re with the IESS they’ll take that away,” she said. However, this is not the case.
Cedillo says the association has tried to broach the subject with Ecuador’s Ministry of Labour of the problems that still exist with enforcement of the laws, but she is told that because they are an association and not a union their lobbying is not effective.