My story on Raheja Vistas “Maid rate fixing” circular.

Female empowerment starts with the under-privileged woman. The women who work as household helps never got a fair chance at education. Most of them are married early and burdened with the responsibility of children. One of the means of empowerment is to turn to household work.

The maids/cooks/helps form the backbone of the upper middle class households. They make it possible for double income family to strive and prosper. Because of the maids the upper middle class has leisure and time to meet friends or call each other for dinners or chill in a Coffee shop. The relationship between the maid and the housewife (whoever runs the house) is symbiotic. The maids are the prime reason, some elites prefer to live in India than in a developed country.

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Hyperlocal Economics – New Towers comes in

Ignorance is BlissRaheja Vihar was a peaceful neighbourhood. Then the new towers come in. One such building is Raheja Vistas which came up in 2011. The flats bought in Vistas are much more expensive, this means the neighbourhood was getting more affluent. This disturbs the delicate harmony of hyper-local economics. This affluence impacts the wages of the maids. The not so connected newer citizens pay more to hire maids.

The AwakeningThese new inhabitants blissfully unaware of high salaries learn to their horror, that they have been shortchanged. Paying more is acceptable, but being out smarted is adding insult to injury. WhatsApp messages fly, mind-maps are drawn to counter react. Raheja Vistas even has a Facebook page. It’s imperative that there should be unity because unity is power. The maids need to either work more or deal with the prospect of less pay or risk getting fired.

The society employs about 500 maids, all of whom have protested against the circular, and are planning to go on strike. The maids have complained that the circular’s rates are 10-20% less than the going rate Suman, who has been working in D wing since the last five years said, “The circular was a shock for us. Currently, I charge Rs 1000 per work and instead of giving us a raise, the employers are asking us to accept a pay cut. It’s just not acceptable.”
– via Mumbai Mirror

picture courtsey Raheja Vistas FB group

 

Months of Planning

A Raheja Vistas resident said they have been planning this for month. Her intention looked sincere. She asked me what do you think is wrong with the circular? I said the entire idea comes off not so progressive.

I told her, only some people from Raheja Vihar were defending the move, while others said that either the rates are low or the whole act is regressive.

A new paradigm in maid management

The document on first impression appears regressive, However It could be a good reference document for the new residents. Not every housewife will have her mother-in-law or her parents close-by to advise on these crucial aspect of daily life.
A lady who lives in Hiranandani said ” This could be dangerous as maids will form unions and this could spread to Hiranandani and then the entire Mumbai,”
This circular is a reference guide than an order. If you read in the fine print it states that “Acceptance/Rejection is the prerogative of each resident”.

One of the homeowners, who didn’t wish to be named said, “Every year the maids demand a hike. I have two maids at home – one is for cleaning and other is for cooking. Three years ago, I used to pay Rs 700 for cleaning and Rs 2500 for cooking plus full salary as a bonus. But the next year, my maid asked 30 per cent hike in salary and I had to do it as I had no choice.
– via Mumbai Mirror

The tone of the document is tough. But keeping in mind this was an internal circular for the locals it perfectly alright.

Some have argued that including the maids was essential as their issue is being decided. I feel as long as the State Government doesn’t recognise them and doesn’t cover them in the labour act why would the residents take the bother of organising them?

 

Current Status Quo:

As far as I know, the strike is still partial and the MNS local functionary as also shown interest in the matter. The builder has removed the notice from the gate yet some are protesting. Rumours are some maids have been blacklisted.

Update 11 am 24th MayA source has sent this whatsapp – Most of the maids are back. The MNS local functionary told them the circular rates are not binding and if the maids don’t have any issues on salary with their employers, then there is not much case to protest. He advised them that a strike would be a long term option and is not probably not neccessary. He has advised them to see how it pans out for another month or two.

What will happen?

Despite doomsday warning that maids might go on an indefinite strike or form a union I think the entire movement of organising the maid power will die down. The matter is intricate and the Vistas group were way too optimistic.

Expert Opinion

I called on Meenakshi Jain, founder of helper4u which provides maids/bai’s/cooks to anyone in Mumbai. She also lives in Raheja Vihar. .

Below are her 3 comments.

Government Recognition
Maharashtra has no law for the maids but Rajasthan and Jharkhand has passed a bill on domestic workers. Once it becomes a law maids/bai’s/cook’s will get protection.

Set Bench Mark for Minimum wage Limit The residents could have set a benchmark for the minimum wage limit, but to set a benchmark for the maximum wage limit is unfair.

Individual Contracts with the MaidsOwners can make written contracts If their intention of organising and helping the maids are sincere. This document will act as a proof for the maid in seeking work elsewhere.

Questions Raised:

Few startups tried to get into this space to get order to this chaotic sector. Instead of each individual doing a contract, the startup would make a contract with them. For the timebeing we deal with the old school of hiring.

Some questions I ask of readers –

  1. Is it time to give away with the old system of un-organised maid labour?
  2. If the maids get protection and recognition from the state, how would that change the current dynamics between the employee and the maid?
  3. Who will the winners and the losers in the organised maid labour market?

The infamous circular