Rights for Homeworkers
For over 40 years homeworkers have been organising into trade unions, associations, self help groups, cooperatives and informal groups, to press for change. Their key demands can be summarised as:
1. Rights and recognition as workers
Homeworkers are rarely recognised as workers, and do not receive the same rights and protections as other workers. Despite the fact homeworkers work long hours, play a key role in production and are earning vital income for their families their labour is often dismissed as ‘not real work’. Women’s work is often devalued and dismissed in this way and it essential that homeworkers are recognised as workers with equal rights.
2. A living wage and regular work
Homeworkers are usually paid by piece rate and their wages are very low - generally well below any statutory minimum wages. The irregularity of their work can be even more of a problem, as homeworkers can only earn when there is work available and have no guarantee of work from one day to the next. Wages that are both low and irregular can make budgeting for basic needs extremely difficult - and whilst a living wage is a basic labour right it is a distant aspiration for many homeworkers.
3. Social protection and health insurance
A key demand for many homeworkers is entitlement to protection when they are sick or at times of maternity or old age. Homeworkers are often unable to access social protection because they lack recognition as workers. In some countries there is no social protection or the system that exists is not flexible enough to respond to homeworkers’ fluctuating working patterns. Whatever the context, employers and governments should be working to ensure homeworkers can access basic social security.
4. The right to organise and have a voice
Freedom of Association is a fundamental human right, but in practice it can be difficult for homeworkers to exercise this right. Homeworkers face many challenges to organising - not least the precarious nature of their work, and the fact homeworkers can be isolated in their homes, rather than grouped together in a workplace. Most homeworkers are women, and the responsibilities they face leave them with little time and space for additional activities. Creative and flexible approaches to organising are needed, which respond to the homeworkers situation and local context. In this way homeworkers can build strong and independent organisations of their own choosing.