Loubna Amiar: “Racism and classism often intersect with domestic workers”

Loubna Amiar: “Racism and classism often intersect with domestic workers”

By Sonia Potoy and J. Palomés.

Loubna Amiar is part of the Micaela Collective. She arrived in Mataró five years ago from Tangier with her family and is currently a very active member of the association.
According to Idescat, there are approximately 25,000 foreign women residing in the Maresme region, many of whom are dedicated to housework and care. The Micaela Collective was born in this region and is made up of more than a hundred migrant women who work in the home and care. Its aim is to accompany, support, advise and, as explained in its presentation brochure, “to be protagonists of our own struggles as migrant and working women”.

The report Essentials and without rights, drawn up by Intermón-Oxfam, denounces the situation in which 550,000 domestic and care workers in Spain find themselves: 32.5% live below the poverty line and almost 40% move in what is called the underground economy; a collective, therefore, quite punished by precariousness, poverty, xenophobia and discrimination.

What are the main tasks you carry out at Col•lectiu Micaela?
To begin with, our main goal is to dignify and make this work visible. We are talking about very vulnerable workers, oppressed by working conditions and ignored by the administration. A very important task we do at the Micaela Collective is to fight against misinformation. Information for these women is vital. Make them understand that they have rights that cannot be trampled on and that they do not have to settle for the job insecurity that they have to endure.

Tell us about these precarious conditions…
Well, almost 40% of the women who work in this sector do so without an employment contract, and this has increased since the pandemic. Many female colleagues were laid off with the pandemic and then rehired in the dark. There are many cases like this… Working under these conditions means not paying into Social Security, not being able to get sick because you can’t take leave or not have a paid holiday, for example. In the case of internal migrant women in an irregular situation, there is a lot of abuse, because they often have to accept the conditions imposed on you: working days of 14 and 15 hours, Saturdays and Sundays for 400, 500 or 600 euros

But there are regulations, legislation…
Yes there are. In fact, in theory, from this year all employers who have or hire a domestic worker must register her with the Social Security. But this is not fulfilled, as, often, other regulations and rights that we have are not fulfilled. Is it like that.
Let’s take the immigration law as an example, a law that affects us fully. Well, this law makes the rights of female migrant workers invisible for three years, which is the time needed before obtaining a work permit. In these three years what they tell you is: find your life! This means that many women workers accept anything, any working conditions. In the case of domestic workers, 9 out of 10 are foreigners.

In these cases, then, what do you recommend to these workers?
There is little we can do. Simply, the existing regulations are not applied and, on the other hand, there are no work inspections inside the homes. The State, the Generalitat, society in general should get involved to cover the needs of the care system, so that there are no families that, for economic reasons, hire irregular migrant women for 500 euros per twenty- i-four hours a day, every day. With an adequate Dependency Law this would not happen, because these families would be covered by the Law and could pay the worker as necessary.

You were talking about invisibility. Like the one that can exist in the case of abuse, for example, right?
On some occasions we have to suffer vexations and insults and on many others, simply contempt. We notice it. All female companions reject the thought of being considered slaves, of course, but the need is always there. The pennies are needed, the rent must be paid. How will we pay the rent if there is no income? For this reason, many colleagues do not want to report and remain silent even if they are completely right.
There is a colleague who worked in Reus who did not want to pay her for the month and she went to report it to the police. That complaint went nowhere. The family was quite well-known in Reus and the complaint went to waste. Racism and classism often intersect.
In addition, there are forms of vexation that are not given importance, but are very humiliating. There is a colleague who took care of an elderly man who kept making rude comments to him and if he found the opportunity, he would touch her. When he complained to his daughter, she replied: “Don’t pay attention to him, woman! Don’t you see he’s old?”.

And in your case, have you suffered situations of this kind?
I have not suffered abuse or insults, the truth. But there is a way of dealing that bothers me a lot, which is contempt, indifference, superiority. And I have suffered this in a house I was in. The lady treated me as if I were an ignoramus, who had just come from herding goats in the mountains. I got a better job and on the last day, very politely, I showed him the certificates of my law studies in Tangier and those of a French teacher. I just wanted you to know that I was no illiterate. I earned my living in Tangier as a French teacher, but I emigrated because I want a better future for my children. Like all people who emigrate.