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Brazil Passes Domestic Workers' Rights Law

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First Posted: Aug 09, 2014 09:07 AM EDT
Brazil passes its domestic workers' rights law
Brazil passes its domestic workers' rights law (Photo : (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images))

The Brazilian government passed a law on Friday that provides basic protections for domestic workers. 

Under the law, employers can be fined if they fail to register their domestic workers and limit the work week to 44 hours. Workers are now entitled to an 8 hour working day, a minimum wage, lunch break, social security and severance pay.

For severance, a fund will be created where employers will have to pay 8 percent of their employee's total salary each month.

There are close to seven million domestic workers in Brazil.

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"Domestic servants work, work, work all our lives and have nothing at the end," Lorainy Cintra Pereira, a 24-year-old nanny, said told Bloomberg.com "Now, with this new law, you can build up a little savings."

Employers, however, have been fighting the basic principles of the law, first passed by the Senate in March, and employing more people to do alternate shifts, and doing more work themselves.

The bill is still called historic and widely welcomed.  The sector is dominated by black women.

"It's the second abolition of slavery. We have house maids who work 18 hours a day," the head of the Sao Paulo's Domestic Workers and House Maid's union, Eliana Menezes, told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo. "They are subjected to their employers' rules in their homes."

Brazil's law is the latest development in a global movement to change the lives and fortunes of domestic workers -- the majority of whom are women.

In 2011, the UN agency for labor rights, the International Labor Organization, passed Convention 189 on domestic workers' rights, which laid out the principals for fair treatment at work, the right to a fair contract and safe work environment. There are estimates of 53 million domestic workers worldwide.Since the passage of the convention, nine countries have passed laws concerning domestic workers to include -- Bahrain, the Philippines, Spain, Singapore,Thailand and Venezuela.

And there are other developments -- a bill is working it's way through the Argentine legislature, and domestic workers in Columbia just established their own union.

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