SOCIAL DIALOGUE

Decent Work for Domestic Workers in Argentina

In Argentina, domestic workers make up about 16 percent of wage workers. They are often in a vulnerable position, and most are female and hired informally.

Since domestic workers often work long hours for low wages and in isolation, few have the time and resources to join unions or defend their rights. It’s also difficult for public authorities to monitor their employers and enforce compliance with regulations.

To resolve this, several tripartite agreements were established to formalize informal domestic work through social dialogue.

Extending labour protection to domestic worker
In 2013, a new law granted domestic workers maternity leave and protection against dismissal before and after maternity leave. It also awarded employment benefits equal to other private occupations and made it mandatory for employers to purchase occupational risk insurance.

The new law also led to the creation of a tripartite commission responsible for setting wages and working conditions for domestic workers. The commission includes representatives for workers, employers and the government.

Traditionally, only the largest trade unions were invited to negotiations in a particular sector. A more inclusive approach was taken for domestic workers, and about half of the country’s trade unions for domestic workers were invited. The employers were represented by an organization of housewives, since they tend to be in charge of hiring domestic workers.

Strong results
The tripartite agreements led to a progressive increase of the minimum wage for domestic workers, and today it’s almost on par with the minimum living wage. The wage setting process has proven to be flexible, and raises have generally followed changes in inflation and the cost of living. This adaptability has benefitted both workers and employers.

The road ahead
The workers’ organisations have agreed that the collective bargaining should be extended in the future to cover other conditions of employment, such as bonuses for good attendance, recognition of long service, separate payment of travel expenses to and from work, and stipulation of basic health and safety standards in the employer’s home.

Government representatives played an important role in leading the first rounds of negotiation. As employers and unions become more experienced, the government is expected to gradually step back and hand over responsibility to the private parties.

 

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