caring labor

ON April 11, the Arts Council auditorium in Karachi resounded with festivity. The first National Convention on Home Based Workers (HBW) was being held there. The disturbance caused by crying babies and chattering women did not detract from the gravity of the serious stuff that was under discussion.

For long, women have been an invisible force in Pakistan as they have sustained the family quietly while keeping a low profile.

But the reality is now emerging that as workers in the informal sector their role is no less significant even though they continue to remain in the background. Ume-Laila Azhar, executive director of Homenet Pakistan, one of the organisers of the convention, informed participants in a media briefing that in 2007 a fifth of Pakistan’s GDP came from the informal sector comprising 20 million workers of which 12 million were women.

With globalisation and liberalisation of international trade, this sector has been growing over the years as has been the number of women who enter it. Their desperation, and with it, their exploitation has also been increasing. All this figures nowhere in official records because the home-based worker is not counted as a member of the labour force by the government.

Without any social security or support but in need of resources to provide for their family, women turn to home-based work
as it is easier to access. It doesn’t demand stringent qualifications and education. They embroider and stitch garments, make bangles, roll incense sticks, make paper bags, process food and even make some items for the electrical goods industries.

Their versatility is beyond belief.

But also beyond belief is the hard labour they put in for a pittance. Zahida from Karachi and Zarina from Hyderabad left the audience flabbergasted when they spoke of their remunerations. A dress that sells for Rs1,000-plus fetches them barely Rs5 but requires hours of work. It is no better in other manufacturing sectors or in other Third World countries. Remember the sweatshops of Bangladesh?

Obviously, this situation has been created by women’s economic needs, the inhumanity and avarice of
manufacturers/middlemen out to earn hefty profits by exploiting helpless workers and the unwillingness or inability of weak governments to exercise social controls and regulate conditions for labour.

The home-based workers’ case is an enigmatic one. ILO’s C-177 convention defines them as persons who carry out
remunerative work in their home or any other premises but not at the workplace of the employer. The nature of their relationship with the manufacturer is tenuous; they never meet and the middlemen ensure this lack of contact, making regulation difficult.

That is why the primary demand of civil society organisations such as HomeNet Pakistan, Aurat Foundation, Sungi, etc has been that the government should formulate a national policy for home-based women workers as stipulated by C-177. This is said to be at the drafting stage.

If the government and society had a conscience they would have paid some attention to these workers who have not been able to lobby for their cause for obvious reasons. They are the poorest of the poor, burdened with family cares, in dismal health, lack education and training, have no awareness and are disempowered. Trapped in their state of isolation they have no contacts with other workers. Hence they lack collective bargaining capacity and social security. With long working hours — as many as 14 hours a day — and very low pay they are open to brutal exploitation.

So a strategy is needed to bring about change. In an interview with the American magazine The Nation, Egyptian feminist Nihal el Saadawi observed correctly, “You need collective power, and that is why we always organise and network. Organising is power.” This message has reached the women in Pakistan.

That is what home-based women workers are now trying to do with the help of civil society organisations. At the convention
on April 11, the main demands were for the government to ratify C-177, recognise the rights of home-based workers to organise and bargain collectively, fix minimum wages, guarantee occupational safety, avoid health hazards and provide social security and maternal protection. They demanded the ratification of C-177 that the government has signed. The government has yet to stir but the convention was a clear demonstration of the will of women workers to organise themselves and fight for their rights.

They have set up their organisations all over the country which now work under an umbrella organisation, the Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) which has 4,000 members in Sindh alone. It has affiliations with the national trade unions. The Labour Education Foundation has arranged adult literacy classes for workers as the importance of education is now widely recognised.

These are positive signals. The slogans that were raised at the convention were assertive and reflected the workers’ aggressive mood. But they also made a political statement. A slogan popular with the audience was: ‘Jub tak aurat tung rahay gee/ Jang rahay gee jang rahay gee’ (‘As long as women are oppressed, they will be at war’).

Infant school occupation, Caen

Since the very end of March, there have been increasing amounts of schools occupations throughout France. Provoked by the suppression of nearly 16,000 teaching posts, the closure of classes, the threatened closure of some of these schools and the consequent increases in class sizes, these occupations have been particularly concentrated on infant schools and primary schools, but have also included “Middle Schools” (“Collèges” for 11 to 14 or 15-year-olds) and those lycées with “Collèges” attached to them. Though it’s hard to gauge how many occupations there have been, it must be at least 250.

Starting off with just a 3 hour occupation at the end of March in an infant school in a village called Kernéval, south of Brest in the North West, this has spread throughout the country, with all night occupations lasting several days, often with parties, barbecues and the parents sleeping in tents in the playgrounds. In and around the Montpellier area in the South West there have been at least 15 (probably a lot more) occupations of infant and primary schools. And a bit further north in Lunel there have been several blockades of schools (as elsewhere) and also a blockade of the offices of the education section of the Prefecture.

The cuts to (mis)education, involving particularly the suppression of classes for those with learning difficulties, has been met with innumerable occupations especially of the schools in the poorer areas (though certainly not exclusively), which for obvious reasons are more effected by such cuts. The initiative for these occupations seems to have come mainly from parents, teachers explicitly saying that they have been heavily pressured to suffer – though not quite in silence, but rather into a practical acquiescence under protest.

News of these occupations have been largely restricted to local news, though just a couple of days ago, TF1, one of the main TV channels, known as Sharko’s favourite channel because its often quite unsubtle propaganda (his ex-wife’s brother is one of the heads of it), broadcast this (in French). In a sense, the fact that such a crap channel can put out a fairly neutral, if not favourable, take on these occupations is indicative of both their strength – they’ve become too extensive to ignore – and their weakness – they only confront the austerity programme but not the more profound question of the form, content and goals of miseducation (at least, not explicitly).

In many parts of France the Easter holidays have begun, but in those parts where they only begin tomorrow night, the occupations continue and many of the occupiers have vowed to continue the struggle after the Easter break. Unlike the lycée struggles, which tend to die out after Easter, these schools aren’t yet hampered by the pressure of looming exams in the summer term. So their promises to continue are very likely to be kept. Watch this space.

The government has set up a women cell at the Department of Foreign Employment (DoFE) to resolve the problems faced by women workers who have gone abroad to work mostly as house maids or caretakers.

Reports quoted Purna Chandra Dhungel, secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Transport Management, as saying that since many women who have gone abroad for foreign employment purpose have become victims of physical and mental abuse as well as economic hardship, the separate cell was established to look into the problems faced by women migrant workers and take appropriate actions to resolve them. The cell will also entertain individual cases.

He further said that there are also many cases of women being duped by nefarious man-power agents in many ways since they are not found taking the workers permit from the government before going abroad.

The government has made it mandatory for Nepali women to seek the government’s permission before going abroad, especially the Gulf countries, to work. This measure was taken as many women were found physically, mentally and even sexually abused by their employers in countries like UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia, forcing some to even commit suicide.

However, Nepali man power agents have been found flouting the rule by taking Nepali women workers to Gulf countries via India.

An Ethiopian maid struck back at her allegedly abusive employer in Dubai, slicing off the Emirati man’s penis in response to harassment, the 7DAYS daily on Wednesday quoted the emirate’s police as saying.

Police responded to a call from the man and “found him bleeding badly. His housemaid had chopped off his private parts using a knife”, 7DAYS quoted a Dubai police official as saying of the attack on Monday.

“She claimed the man used to abuse and harass her. On the day of the incident, she claims he asked her to give him a massage. She got angry, went to the kitchen to get a knife and attacked him,” the official said.

The maid has been charged with assault, the paper said, while the Emirati man is recovering in hospital. It was not clear if his severed member had been re-attached.

The UAE and other Gulf countries have come in for repeated criticism from human rights groups over their treatment of millions of foreign workers, mostly Asians.

Rights groups and activists have reported various cases of employers torturing maids in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The watchdogs have also sharply criticised the sponsorship system, still in force in most Gulf states, by which workers must be sponsored by their employer and which has been likened to modern-day slavery. – AFP

During the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009, men lost far more jobs than women. But since the recovery began, the tables have turned and women have fared worse, largely because of public sector cutbacks. As governors continue to trim spending to balance budgets, more layoffs are on the way, and women-dominated fields such as teaching, nursing, and home health care are vulnerable.

In the rancorous debate over government jobs, pensions, and collective bargaining, the disproportionate effect on women has gone almost unnoticed. Women lost 72 percent of 378,000 government posts cut between July 2009 and March 2010, according to the Labor Dept. When private sector gains are included, women had a net loss of 212,000 jobs between July 2009 and last month.

Men added 757,000 jobs, mostly in the private sector, in that same period, though they continue to lag behind women in overall job gains. The male workforce is 6.8 percent below its prerecession employment level, while women remain 3.7 percent behind.

Now as the private sector ramps up, the public sector—and local government especially—continues to shed jobs. This year will be “the toughest year yet for local governments,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a Mar. 16 report. Local government has the highest concentration of female workers of the three government levels, at 62 percent. Females hold 57 percent of all government jobs, Labor Dept. data show.

Some of the biggest hits are in public education. Women made up about 76 percent of teachers in the 2007-08 school year, the latest available figures from the Education Dept. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has cut school aid by $1.3 billion since taking office in January 2010. Eighty percent of the state’s districts reported teacher reductions this school year, says Frank Belluscio, a spokesman at the New Jersey School Boards Assn. Ohio Governor John Kasich’s spending plan would cut 7,000 teachers over two years, says Innovation Ohio, which lobbies for the poor and middle class. Government is “taking a wrecking ball to what have traditionally been female-dominated professions,” says Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Dawn Willis, 39, is among those who have lost jobs because of budget cuts. She was a social studies teacher in Jackson, N.J. “I find it hard to believe we’re in a recovery,” she says. After eight years of classroom experience, she may switch careers. “I’ve always been very optimistic, but now I’m starting to swing the other way.”

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Washington research group that advocates limits on labor power, says the laws curbing union bargaining will allow fewer dismissals and limit tax increases, saving states money. “The current system is unsustainable,” says Furchtgott-Roth, who was chief economist at the Labor Dept. under President George W. Bush. “Women are the winners in all this.”

That’s hard to square with the data: Last month, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder stripped bargaining rights from home-based child-care workers, 94 percent of whom are female. The widely publicized law championed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, which is being challenged in court, would revoke bargaining rights for university hospital workers, home health aides, and day-care providers. Firefighters and police, overwhelmingly male, are exempt. Limiting collective bargaining could also jeopardize flexible work hours and maternity leave, says Joan Entmacher, a vice-president of the National Women’s Law Center, as well as widen the gender wage gap. In 2010, female union members earned 89 cents for every dollar male counterparts earned, according to the Labor Dept. Non-union women made 81 cents on the dollar.

The bottom line: Public sector job losses have fallen disproportionately on women, as states cut female-dominated jobs in education and health care.

MANILA, Philippines – In this little coffee shop in Cainta, everyday is a cosplay convention.

It is not unusual to see everyday people dressed in anime-inspired French maid costumes, or garbed with long tresses, cat ears, or colorful hairpieces in this hang-out place. No, they are not competing in some cosplay tilt. They are actually servers at Meidolls Café, the very first maid café in the Philippines.

“As an otaku (or an anime/J-Pop enthusiast), I’ve always been familiar with the maid café concept. In toy and comic conventions, there are maid cafés that are set up. So I thought why not put up something permanent so that otakus like me can have a tambayan,” says owner Reia Ayunan, a cosplayer since 2003, and a J-Pop fan all her life.

The maid café trend has been around in Japan for over a decade now. In these places, waitresses treat their customers as masters, much like the traditional geisha would regard their customers. Waitresses are required to engage with their customers, making sure they feel at home. But customers are not allowed to ask personal information from the staff.

“In Japan, karamihan sa mga otaku are very shy so they go to maid cafés where they feel at home and welcome,” Reia explains. “After a busy day at work or in school, the Japanese just want to lay back and be served by their own servants.”

With Filipinos being naturally hospitable to guests, the idea of a maid café fits perfectly well in the local setting.

Everyday is a new experience

Meidolls Café has so far done well with the help of the growing Filipino cosplay community.

“All of the waitresses are cosplayers, but it is not necessarily a requirement. The foremost requirement is they should have a background in food or customer service. It is a plus if you are a cosplayer that is known in the cosplay community. Our target market is cosplayers, so ‘yung staff can entice their cosplayer friends to come here,” Reia explains.

The food is simple fare, a mix of Italian and Japanese. Some of the staple favorites include curry carbonara, fishkatsu, lasagna, fried sushi rolls, cupcakes and the Meidoll Ramen.

“I try to keep them as inexpensive as possible because cosplayers are mostly students. The food has to be affordable to them,” Reia says.

Occasionally, the waitresses entertain customers by singing and dancing to Japanese songs. They also gamely pose for photos.

Ivy, a Tourism graduate, used to work as a ticketing agent for an airline company prior to working as a server at the Meidolls.

“It was my mom who told me about Meidolls Café because she knows I’m a big anime fan. I was already out of work for one year so she suggested that I should try applying at Meidolls Café. I’m enjoying it here now. Nakakakwentuhan mo ‘yung regular costumers. I also studied intro to Japanese in school so nagagamit ko ‘yung Japanese ko kasi minsan may Japanese customers kami,” relates Ivy, whose favorite character is Misa of Death Note.

On the other hand, Tenshin, an incoming HRM sophomore student works at the café to save up money for school. “Masaya dito. Kakaiba siya sa mga ibang fastfood chain. It’s always a new experience everyday. It doesn’t feel like work because I enjoy cosplaying. At the same time, natutulungan ko pa ang parents ko,” shares Tenshin.

Dream come true
Ever since getting into cosplay, it has always been Reia’s dream to put up a café. And to raise enough capital, she worked as a librarian for two-and-a-half years at the American International School in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia.

“That was difficult for me. But every time na nahihirapan ako, I just visualize this dream so that when I got back here, I would have enough money to put up the café. I did research, I went to Batangas and to different places to learn how a coffeeshop business works. There were a lot of difficulties along the way. But we were still able to manage to open last January. Kaya umiyak ako noong opening day kasi natupad ‘yung dream ko,” she relates.

Reia believes that passion and uniqueness are the keys to have a successful business.

“I could have just put up a takoyaki cart business but then I wanted something that has never been done or seen here. And I feel so passionate about the maid café concept so I pursued it. You don’t open a business just for the sake of opening one. It has to be something unique. Or kung hindi man siya bago, you give it your own twist and make it more interesting.”

Resorts Casino is trying to capture a Prohibition theme...

Donald Kravitz

Resorts Casino is trying to capture a Prohibition theme…

...and a group of cocktail waitresses claim they lost their job because they didn't look good in skimpy costumes.

…and a group of cocktail waitresses claim they lost their job because they didn’t look good in skimpy costumes.

Seven middle-aged Atlantic City cocktail waitresses claim they were fired because their boss didn’t care for their looks – or the date on their birth certificates.

A discrimination lawsuit, filed Thursday in state Superior Court, charges Resorts and new owner Dennis Gomes canned the employees because they failed to fit the boss’s “body ideal or appearance ideal.”

The women were dismissed after they were forced to squeeze into skimpy flapper costumes, complete with fishnet stockings and high heels, according to the suit.

The waitresses claim the only available outfits were sizes 2 and 4. They were then judged by a modeling agency hired by the casino and dismissed if they weren’t found “feminine enough,” lawyer Kevin Costello told The Press of Atlantic City.

Their replacements were uniformly younger, attractive women, the suit charged.

“As far as I’m concerned, a man or woman can do that job at any age as long as they have a good personality, a good memory and good balance,” Costello told the newspaper.

Although 15 women were fired, only seven joined in the legal action.

“I can’t think of anything I’ve dealt with that was more disgusting and dehumanizing than what they’ve done to these women,” local union president Robert McDevitt told The Press.

Resorts, in a prepared statement, defended its decision to fire the middle-aged ladies. The casino plans a Memorial Day weekend debut of its Roaring ’20s theme.

“All cocktail servers were given individual consideration, and the selection process was conducted in a fair and objective manner,” said Resorts spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham.

“We empathize with the cocktail servers who lost their jobs and gave them hiring preference in other open positions at Resorts. Some took advantage of this offer and some did not.”

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Women who work rotating shifts may be somewhat more likely to experience shifting menstrual cycles according to a new study that raises the possibility of work schedules affecting fertility.

In a study of more than 71,000 U.S. nurses, researchers found that those working rotating shifts were more likely than other nurses to have irregular menstrual periods.

Irregular, for the purposes of the study, meant that the time between a woman’s periods usually varied by more than a week.

Women on rotating shifts were also more likely to have either very short menstrual cycles (fewer than 21 days between periods) or very long ones (40-plus days) — although few women in the study were at either of those extremes.

In general, menstrual irregularities make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. Whether shift work induces disruptions in some women’s cycles that contribute to infertility remains unknown for now.

The current findings do not actually prove that shift work, itself, disrupts women’s menstrual periods, according to lead researcher Christina C. Lawson, of the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Her team factored in a number of other things that might explain the link, however — like the women’s age, weight and exercise levels — and shift work was still connected to menstrual irregularities, Lawson told Reuters Health.

“That gives us more confidence in the association,” Lawson said, but an association does not necessarily equate to cause-and-effect.

On the other hand, there are physiological reasons to believe that rotating shifts could alter a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Working nights disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms, and studies have shown that this can alter basic physiological functions — like blood pressure control and hormone production.

“We don’t really know the exact mechanism,” Lawson said. “One possibility could be that exposure to light at night alters melatonin production.”

Melatonin is a hormone produced mainly during dark hours that helps regulate sleep and other body processes. Its relationship to reproductive hormones in humans is not clear.

The study findings, published in the journal Epidemiology, are based on data from a long-running study of female nurses from across the U.S.

At the start of that study, just over 5,000 women between the ages of 28 and 45 had worked at least 20 months of rotating shifts in the past 2 years. (A rotating shift meant any month where a woman worked at least 3 nights in addition to days and evenings. The study did not look at women who worked nights only.)

Of women who did the most rotating shifts, 12 percent said they had irregular periods. That compared with 9 percent of the nearly 58,000 women who had worked no rotating shifts in the past 2 years.

When Lawson’s team accounted for other factors, women who’d worked at least 20 months of rotating shifts were 23 percent more likely to have irregular periods than those who’d worked none.

Women who’d worked fewer rotating shifts fell somewhere in between.

When it came to having very short or long menstrual cycles, the odds were higher among nurses who’d worked the most rotating shifts.

Few women were at those two extremes, though: 2 percent of those with at least 20 rotating shifts said their menstrual cycles lasted 40 to 50 days, for example. That compared with 1 percent of all other women.

For women who must work the night shift, Lawson said, “my biggest advice is to try to take care of yourself and catch up on your sleep when you can.”

It’s not clear whether that catch-up sleep can right any menstrual irregularities. But it’s a wise move for your overall well-being anyway, according to Lawson.

She also suggested that women who work nights pay close attention to their diet and exercise habits — both of which can be challenging for people on irregular work schedules.

In this study, Lawson noted, overweight and obese women were more likely than normal-weight women to have irregular menstrual cycles.

Foreign workers children Children of foreign workers at Friday’s protest in Tel Aviv.
Photo by: Tali Mayer

The state is continuing to deport illegal foreign workers despite the objections of aid groups: Two Filipina women were arrested Thursday and placed in Ben-Gurion International Airport’s detention facility with their young children. They are scheduled to be flown back to the Philippines on Monday.

Both came to Israel legally to work as home health care aides, but lost their visas after giving birth, an NGO spokesman said.

One of the women’s children, an 18-month-old child, is the son of a Turkish asylum seeker who is legally living in Israel, the spokesman said. The father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate and the parents are registered as living at the same South Tel Aviv address, the spokesman added.

Immigration police said the father’s name was not on the birth certificate, but aid groups offered documents purporting to refute that claim.

A representative of the Population and Immigration Administration said in response that at first the woman claimed she had no documentation and then produced a birth certificate that lacked the father’s name.

“The mother’s official documents and investigation findings do not mention the child’s father. We don’t know where other documents came from that are inconsistent with the mother’s.

“It is also strange that the father submitted an asylum request in his name alone, without mentioning the mother or child. To remove any doubt on the matter, a father is not a defense for the mother and child.”

The organization Physicians for Human Rights criticized the government’s conduct in the case, saying: “The State of Israel continues to treat individuals it brought to the country as disposable slaves that can be expelled and deported after they have fulfilled their function.”



AN UNEMPLOYED woman was jailed for six weeks on Wednesday for abusing her Indonesian maid.

Poon Wen Mei, 31, a single mother of two, pleaded guilty to causing hurt to Ms Sunarwati, 26, by grabbing and cutting off a portion of her hair at her home in Upper East Coast Road on Feb 23 last year.

The court heard that she confronted the maid and asked if she had used the kitchen scissors to trim her pants. When Ms Sunarwati denied this, she became angry, grabbed her hair and cut off part of her hair, causing pain to her scalp.

Poon was also jailed for a day and fined a total of $500 for cheating BHG Parco Bugis Junction on 23rd July last year.

She was also given a day’s jail and fined $1,000 for stealing $321 worth of items from NTUC FairPrice in Tampines Mall on February 22nd this year.

Another maid abuse charge was considered during her sentencing.

A strike ballot of cabin crew at British Airways ends on Monday of next week.

The ballot looks set to deliver another overwhelming vote for strikes—and the Unite union must call action immediately.

Cabin crew are fighting attacks on their jobs, pay, conditions and union rights.

What happens in the dispute matters for every worker in Britain.

There is a new boss at BA. Keith Williams has replaced the hated Willie Walsh. But the war on workers goes on.

The latest attack targets pregnant women.

Pregnant crew are grounded from flying as soon as they believe they are pregnant. Instead of flying, they perform ground duties at airports.

A longstanding agreement limited the distance that grounded crew would have to travel to work, to cut the risk of miscarriage or other risks to health.

BA has now scrapped that agreement. Pregnant crew will be forced to travel to Heathrow and Gatwick—regardless of how far away they live.

If they don’t, BA won’t pay them anything for the duration of their pregnancy.

Most BA workers are women.

Brendan Gold, a Unite national officer, called the move a “shameful attack”. He said, “Instead of rebuilding the battered relationship BA has with its cabin crew, BA is continuing to provoke anger and resentment.

“BA has closed its regional bases forcing workers to travel hundreds of miles to their place of work, yet it now intends to stop payment to any pregnant crew staff member who is unable to commute to BA’s last two hubs, Heathrow and Gatwick.”

The attack on women cabin crew shows the determination of BA bosses to rip up workers’ rights and drive down conditions for cabin crew.

Workers have shown, in ballot after ballot, their own determination to fight back.

If the latest ballot delivers a yes vote, they must demand that Unite calls a programme of strikes to stop the assault.

Wednesday marked a week since nurses from the Nationwide Union of Nurses and Midwives union (OZZPiP) occupied a section of the Sejm, Poland’s parliament. It was also the second day of a hunger strike for five women.

The nurses are protesting an amendment to the law on medical services adopted by the Sejm last Friday, which would make it easier for hospitals to hire staff on temporary contracts.

OZZPiP has said that an increase in temporary contracts would lead to fewer rights for nurses, longer working hours, greater job instability and less time for patients.

But the Ministry of Health has countered that restricting hospitals’ rights to employ nurses via temporary contracts would be unconstitutional, as it would infringe on the freedom of choice. Other members of the nursing profession are siding with it.

Elżbieta Wrona, president of the smaller Polish Nurses and Midwives Association, was among them. OZZPiP’s position, she told the Polish Press Agency (PAP), is incomprehensible. In her experience, temporary work contracts allow for more flexibility. She added that limiting the ability to work via such contracts would be tantamount to limiting civil liberties.

Maria Ochman, the president of the Solidarity trade union’s Health Protection Secretariat, agrees that temporary contracts are “a plague,” but she said her organization had decided they were not the main threat emanating from the new law, and would not join OZZPiP in their protests.

“The new law creates a much more serious threat: subjecting health care to the rules of the market,” she was quoted by PAP as saying.

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled in 2005 that prohibiting temporary contract employment of nurses and midwives in health-care facilities was unconstitutional. However, the Tribunal also noted that while contractual employment could not be completely prohibited, it would be advisable to limit it.

Negotiations between OZZPiP and Health Minister Ewa Kopacz broke off on Sunday. In the meantime Dorota Gardias, head of the union, has resigned.

The Sejm is scheduled to discuss the legislation again on March 30.

  • One million NHS staff earning over £21,000 will have to forego pay rises for two years
Nurses in need: Union bosses said health workers were already having to pay higher pension contributions

The pay of more than a million health workers is going to be frozen for two years, the Government confirmed today.

The freeze was first proposed in last year’s June Budget. It was confirmed today after Government said it had accepted the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body for 2011-12.

The decision is expected to save £3.3billion a year by 2015.

Unison said the announcement was a ‘bitter blow’ for nurses, paramedics, therapists and other NHS staff who were already facing increased pension contributions.

Low-paid workers such as cleaners, porters, healthcare assistants and cooks, earning below £21,000, will receive a rise of £250, but the union said this was ‘totally inadequate’.

However, the review body said they had noted the Health Department evidence ‘that an increase of £250 is all that can be afforded’.

Mike Jackson, Unison’s national officer, said: ‘The Government’s decision to freeze pay is another bitter blow for hard-working NHS staff.

‘The squeeze on NHS finance is already placing a heavy burden on health workers. They see jobs being cut, operations cancelled or delayed and patients suffering as a result.

‘It is completely unjust for the Government to make nurses, paramedics, therapists and skilled NHS staff the fall-guys for the financial crisis brought down on the country by the bankers.

‘The £250 is a totally inadequate token gesture designed to salve the conscience of coalition MPs. They know that health workers did not cause the crisis, that inflation is going up and that families, already struggling with mounting debts and rising inflation, will suffer because of their decision today.’

Mr Jackson said he expected widespread anger over pay at Unison’s health conference in Liverpool next month, adding: ‘The job cuts, cancelled operations and longer waiting times are deeply distressing for health workers and the pay freeze is likely to be the final straw.’

Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘By taking tough decisions on a pay freeze, we have been able to provide a fair increase for the low paid. I am pleased the Pay Review Bodies have recommended a £250 uplift.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We welcome the report of the NHS Pay Review Body and accept its recommendations in full.

‘They will support continuing NHS service improvements and the position of lower paid NHS staff in the face of a tough economic climate They also achieve the Government’s commitment to protect those on low incomes.’
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NAIROBI, 18 March 2011 (IRIN) – A go-slow by nurses at Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area has exposed serious challenges at Kenya’s largest maternity hospital, with officials calling for urgent intervention to improve services.

“Working conditions at the hospital remain deplorable,” Festus Ngare, secretary-general of the Kenya Local Government Workers’ Union, which represents the nurses, told IRIN on 17 March. “Although we have reached agreement with the hospital’s management on some of the issues and others are still pending, the working environment at the hospital is a major concern for all.”

The 180 nurses at the hospital staged the go-slow on 16 March to protest at being overworked and the withholding of their uniform and other allowances by the hospital’s management.

Ngare said: “As a matter of urgency, the [Nairobi City] Council should have not less than 30 doctors and not less than 100 nurses posted to the hospital immediately to help ease the workload. At the moment, some nurses find that after working a 6pm to 8am shift, there is no one to relieve them. They find themselves working for many more hours and this is not only a danger to the mothers and their newborn babies but a danger to the nurse herself.”

According to Pumwani’s chief executive officer, Fridah Govedi, the hospital delivers an average of 80-100 babies daily, 20 of them by Caesarian sections. Ideally, she said, there should be one nurse for four patients but in Pumwani one nurse can serve up to 20 patients.

She said the hospital had two full-time doctors. Doctors from the Nairobi City Council’s district-level hospitals are often called in to help, Govedi added.

“What we need is support to boost personnel so we can improve the work environment,” Govedi said. “We lack specialized reproductive health delivery equipment such as foetal monitors; there is poor laboratory support and we rely on old equipment most of the time. The hospital started operations in 1926 and relies on donations for any new equipment.”

She said there was only one resuscitation machine for newborns. “Although we encourage skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible, it is sometimes difficult when up to three babies need resuscitation at the same time.”

Govedi said although there were three operating theatres, only one ran effectively because Pumwani lacked comprehensive obstetric care facilities, such as a blood transfusion unit. “We rely on the National Transfusion Unit and we sometimes lose mothers because it can take time to get the blood to a patient.”

She said besides support for personnel, infrastructure development and a blood transfusion unit, the hospital required support for its midwifery school to enable the hospital to become a comprehensive reproductive healthcare one-stop facility.

“We are willing to partner with any donor organization to improve Pumwani,” she said. “We have the city council’s go-ahead to engage one-on-one with donors and we have even launched the Babies of Pumwani Initiative, with the aim of getting all those who were born in Pumwani to come back and see that standards at the maternity hospital have improved.”

Photo: Allan Gichigi/IRIN
Nurses at Pumwani Maternity Hospital staged a go-slow on 16 March to protest at being overworked (file photo)

Pumwani, run by the Nairobi City Council, is a public health facility, and often waives the Ksh3,400 (US$42) charge for normal delivery and Ksh6,000 ($75) for Caesarian sections for the most vulnerable.


Govedi said the allowances issue raised by the nurses would be solved at month-end when they would receive their arrears with their salaries.

Achieng*, who delivered her baby on the day of the nurses’ go-slow, told IRIN: “I gave birth at 8.25am with the help of trainee nurses; things were really bad for many of us on that day. Whenever I called out to a nurse, they would refuse to attend to me. It is only later that I learnt that they were on strike.

“Although my delivery was normal, I don’t know yet when I will go home, I have been in the hospital now for four days; I don’t know whether this has anything to do with the action by the nurses but I am glad that today they are back at work.”

Ngare, the unionist, said the nurses had resumed work but the union had given the hospital’s management until 24 March to solve their grievances. “If they have not done anything, then we’ll issue a proper strike notice and this won’t be good for the poor women who seek to deliver their babies at Pumwani.”

According to the 2008-2009 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio for the 10-year period before the survey is 488 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Chipata District Women’s Lobby Group has bemoaned the increased reports of alleged poor conditions of service for domestic women workers who work for Zambian citizens of Asian origin in the district.

District Women’s Lobby Group chairperson, Diana Tonga said her office had received many reports from the women employed as maids in the district for alleged poor condition of services.

Mrs Tonga said numerous reports from women who had visited her office frequently indicated that their employees do not sign any contract forms and where getting as little as K150, 000 to K300, 000 per month.

She said the affected women sometimes were unfairly dismissed from employment without notice or at times sent away without being paid their dues.

“Many women have been flocking our office with numerous complaints of alleged poor condition of services. Many have complained that they were working under harsh condition of services and in some case they were dismissed without any benefits despite the years they have served,” she said.

Mrs Tonga appealed to the ministry of Labour and Social Security to intervene in the matter.

And Chipata Muslim Association of Zambia vice chairperson Aiyub Mogra said his association had not received such complaints from the maids.

“Maids have never complained of their alleged poor conditions of service to the association. We are not aware of complaints,” he said

Mr Mogra challenged such maids to furnish the association with the details of the alleged poor conditions of service.

And when reached for comment over the matter, provincial Labour Officer Kabuba Mufana decline to comment on the matter.

Surrogate pregnancy, an assisted reproductive technique (ART) in which a woman carries in her womb the baby of another woman, has seen a spurt in India. Due to the healthier lifestyles of to-be mothers and lower costs compared to the West, the country could become a global hub in the field, gynaecology experts say.

“The reason why surrogate pregnancy is rising is mainly because of the low-cost factor, and the preferably healthy lifestyle of Indian women, much needed during pregnancy,” Shivani Sachdev Gour, fertility expert and gynaecologist, said in an Interview.

“Women here are less exposed to a lifestyle with drugs, alcohol and smoking, which has a positive impact on the health of the baby as well as the mother. Also surrogacy laws in India are much lenient as compared to other countries,” added Gour.

She says she gets around 25 patients every month from countries like Britain, the US, and countries in the Middle East at the Surrogacy Centre of India Healthcare, a private hospital she runs in south Delhi.

While the cost of treatment and expenses involved in surrogate pregnancy vary between Rs.50,000 and Rs.100,000 ($1,000 and $2,000) in India, the cost in other countries like the US and Britain is nearly five times that in India, said Gour.

“Surrogacy is advised in cases of malformed uterus, or when pregnancy is life-threatening. But the reasons are slowly expanding in our country,” said Alka Kriplani, professor at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

According to experts, the success rate of surrogate pregnancy at centres in India is higher than in other countries.

“In over 60 per cent of cases, the prospective mother carries back a healthy baby, while the miscarriage rate is less than 15 per cent,” said Gour.

Experts also emphasise on the need for stringent surrogacy norms at ART centres.

“A proper screening process is required. Apart from the carrier’s age, which should be between 21 and 35 years, their medical, personal and family history should also be gauged to decipher her mental and physical well-being,” explained Gour.

After the preliminary screening of the surrogate, a well detailed contract as per Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines is made between the surrogate and the couples in question. The process involves all the three main parties – the parent, child and the surrogate.

Prospective parents – mostly coming to India from the US, Britain and Israel – have discovered that the surrogacy laws of other countries often come in the way of parents returning home with their children, experts said.

“Surrogacy is rising and it is important to keep an eye on the use of the technique. It can be misused also as poor women are lured into becoming surrogate mothers because of the money involved,” said Kriplani.

The draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Regulation Bill, 2010, that lays down guidelines for the practice of surrogacy, states that the birth certificate of a baby born out of rent-a-womb arrangement should be in the names of the intended parents, who would automatically become the new born’s legal parents.

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On Thursday UK teachers and school staff held the first of six strikes at Brecon High school in Powys. 800 students had been told not to attend their classes on the day of strike, over cuts.

The National Association of Schoolmasters/ Union of Women Teachers NASUWT said a number of job positions are to be cut.

The NASUWT criticized school governors for their mismanagement in financial issues. It said the governors had turned £100,000 surplus into a projected £650,000 deficit over three years and failed to tackle budget deficit, which was caused by the educational cuts.

“The school has taken very positive actions over the past three years to tackle an anticipated budget deficit, as the union very well knows. Teaching costs have been reduced by more than 10 percent despite year-on-year teacher pay increases.” said Paul Martin, chairman of governors.

“All vacant posts have been carefully assessed to see if there was scope to reduce staffing levels without the need to have compulsory job losses. As a result 12 vacant positions have not been filled and the school has been able to reduce its staffing levels by more than 10 since 2007,” Martin added.

Rex Phillips, of NASUWT, talked of the strike as a successful attempt. He says the strike was “solid and went well”.

“Now we’re waiting to see if the school and the local authority will come to the negotiation table to discuss this with us,” said Phillips.

Powys council has planned to cut a number of secondary education job positions. Under this proposal, schools will merge and sixth forms will be shut.

The second and third of the six strikes are to be held on March 30 and 31.

Eight nurses and midwives have been arrested in Jayapura for their
involvement in a strike that resulting in a halt to services at the
general hospital in Jayapura. They face charges of inciting their
colleagues to take part in a strike.

The eight persons are being held by the criminal investigation unit of
the Papuan police command. The police claim that there is sufficient
proof that the persons had acted in violation of the law, forcing others
to engage in acts of violence and citing a number of articles in
Indonesia’s criminal code. Media attempts to contact the police for
confirmation of the arrest were unsuccessful.

According to Anum Siregar, one of the lawyers acting for the eight, a
group of fifty personnel from the security forces had gone to the homes
of two of the persons and told them that they must report to police
headquarters in Papua. The two women, Leni Ebe and Popi Mauri, then
contacted the lawyer to inform her of what had happened. The two women
then reported to the police as requested, in the company of the lawyer.

The two had earlier received notification from the police that they
would be summoned as witnesses in connection with the strike action of
the hospital personnel.

According to Anum Siregar, after being questioned for several hours by
the police as witnesses, the police changed tack and indicated that they
were being held as suspects. Soon after, the police took the six others
into custody.

According to Bintang Papua, the eight detainees have been subjected to
prolonged interrogations while other personnel from the hospital have
rallied in support of their colleagues. Anum Siregar accused the police
of acting in violation of the rule of law, saying that the medical
personnel were only acting in defence of their legitimate rights. She
also said that the action by the police would have a negative effect on
the provision of services for patients at the general hospital.

‘The impact will not be felt by officials in the province because they
never go to the local hospital for treatment on occasions when they fall
ill but fly to Jakarta or overseas for treatment.’

She also said that the arrests had led to expressions of solidarity from
members of the medical profession throughout the Land of Papua in
protest against the actions of the police.

SAN BRUNO, Calif. – California school districts have issued at least 19,000 layoff notices to teachers and other school employees amid heightened uncertainty over the state budget, the teachers union said Tuesday.

The California Teachers Association announced its estimate of preliminary notices on the day school districts must let employees know they could lose their jobs. It comes as Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers negotiate over how to close the state’s nearly $27 billion budget shortfall.

Many districts have not reported how many pink slips they have issued as they prepare for worst-case budget scenarios, said CTA President David Sanchez. He expects the number to surpass 20,000 when the union has a more complete count by week’s end.

“The numbers speak loudly about this crisis,” Sanchez said at a news conference at Portola Elementary School in San Bruno. “Pink slips are causing chaos for teachers and parents who worry about their children’s education and future.”

The union’s early estimate includes almost 500 school employees in San Francisco, 540 in Oakland, nearly 900 in San Diego and about 5,000 in Los Angeles, Sanchez said.

Vivian Arciniega-Aanenson, a music teacher at Parkside Intermediate School in San Bruno, was among the pink-slipped educators.

“It is very demoralizing,” she said. “It’s one of the worst feelings in the world not knowing what’s going to happen next year.”

The situation is not unique to California. School districts throughout the country are warning of cutbacks involving teacher and other employees, as state legislatures seek to close massive budget shortfalls by cutting education spending.

Not all of the estimated layoffs will be carried out in California. Schools have until May 15 to issue final layoff notices.

At this point last year, the CTA reported that districts had issued about 22,000 pink slips. Two years ago, districts handed out layoff notices to a record 26,500 teachers, but only 60 percent of them ended up losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, teachers and parents rallied around the state Tuesday to drum up support for Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal.

Brown’s plan for closing the state’s nearly $27 billion budget deficit seeks to maintain current K-12 spending levels by asking voters to extend temporary increases in the sales, personal income and vehicle taxes for five years.

The leaders of both legislative houses on Tuesday scheduled votes on Brown’s budget proposal on Wednesday afternoon, even though no Republicans have come forward to promise the votes necessary for approval.

Without the tax extensions, school districts would face another round of deep budget cuts that education officials warn would prompt widespread layoffs and campus closures.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson urged state lawmakers to allow the state’s voters to decide the tax question.

“It is only fair to allow the people of California to have this great debate,” Torlakson said at the news conference in San Bruno.

In Union City, between San Jose and Oakland, kindergarten teacher Quyen Tran was one of about 60 school employees in her small school district to get a layoff notice. She started teaching in New Haven Unified School District in 2006.

Quyen, 30, said she was laid off last spring but hired in August right before the school year began. She is expecting her first child in June.

She said she’s not only worried about her own finances but also the impact of state budget cuts on her students.

“With all these layoffs of teachers, they will have no choice but to stuff more kids into these classrooms,” she said. “They’re going to be cheated out of their education just because there are not going to be enough teachers around.”

THE union for Cathay Pacific flight attendants has urged the airline to stop overnight crew stays in the Saudi capital over fears for the safety of female staff, a spokesman said.

The demand follows an incident last month in which a man tried to force his way into the hotel room of a junior Cathay attendant, Tsang Kwok Fung, general secretary of the Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union, said.

Other complaints have been made involving unwanted telephone calls to female staff also staying at the Marriott Hotel in Riyadh, he added.

Last month, Cathay switched its layovers to Riyadh from the Gulf state of Bahrain because of political unrest that has swept across much of the region.

The union has now called for overnight stops to be moved to Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, but is yet to receive a “positive response” from management, according to Tsang.

“We will write to the government on this matter if (the airline) does not act swiftly,” he said. “The safety of our staff is of utmost importance.”

In a statement, a Cathay spokeswoman said the airline was “taking this very seriously and are monitoring the situation closely to ensure that all crew are safe and well taken care of.”

The airline spoke to the hotel’s management immediately after the incident was reported, she said, adding that the hotel responded by enhancing security and closed-circuit television inside lifts.

On February 28, the female flight attendant answered a knock on her door by a man dressed in “Arab clothing” who then tried to force himself inside the room, Tsang said.

The woman screamed and tried to push the door closed while threatening to call police. The man then left.

Other female cabin crew members staying in Riyadh received unwanted calls in their rooms on the same day, Tsang said, adding Cathay’s female cabin crew have now refused to leave their hotel rooms while staying in the city.

The Indonesian government is waiting for the result of the ongoing appeal on an Indonesian female migrant worker who is facing death penalty sentence by a Saudi preliminary court for allegedly killing her employer in Saudi Arabia, an Indonesian senior official said Monday.

“We are expecting the result of our appeal on the death penalty charged against our migrant worker. The process is progressing at the moment,” said Michael Tene, Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson.

He said the government has the pardon from the victim’s family earlier this year with the condition that the government must pay 2 million Saudi riyals (about 535,500 U.S. dollars) in compensation to the victim’s family.

Michael said the government would take the best solution regarding the legal issue faced by the migrant worker.

“We would wait for the appeal result and consider which option is best to settle this problem,” Michael said, referring to options of whether to pay the compensation or receiving the appeal ‘s result.

The migrant worker named Darsem was charged of guilty by a Saudi court two years ago for her defense act from being raped by her employer, that eventually led to the death of her Saudi employer.

Indonesia filed the appeal on her case in Saudi Arabia in January.

BEIRUT: It was a cloudy Sunday in Beirut’s Burj Hammoud district as members of Nasawiya, a Lebanese feminist group, took to the streets to find out what female migrant workers had to say about their treatment in Lebanon.

“We know that bad things happen to migrant workers,” Farah Salka, a Nasawiya coordinator, told one Filipina who stopped to talk. “But we don’t want to just keep talking between ourselves. We want to hear what you have to say.”

“Migrant women are invisible from campaigns for women’s rights in Lebanon,” Salka told The Daily Star. “We don’t work like that.”

The previous day, around 25 volunteers had taken up positions across the country to get all women’s take on their treatment in society. Responses were varied, said Salka. While some said the situation was good, complaints included the right to pass on nationality and sexual harassment.

Nasawiya shared responses on Twitter throughout the day. Responses ranged from a woman in Furn al-Shebback who declared: “Women have enough rights!” to another in Sassine who said: “If I was the president I would dig a hole and put in it all the people with patriarchal minds and burn them.”

In Burj Hammoud Sunday, many of the women migrant workers were quick to say their experience was positive, and their employers fair.

“Some women, even if they have a good situation, they want more,” one woman said. “They want holiday.”

“They’re often too scared to say anything,” said Salka. “It’s probably the first time a Lebanese person has talked to them about something that’s not to do with the house. So it’s understandable.”

But there are some telling stories.

One woman, a Filipina who has been in Lebanon for 11 years laughed when Salka told her many of her colleagues had reported positively on the situation. “No,” she said. “It’s not good. I know this much.”

Another woman tells Nasawiya’s Nadine Moawad about the ill treatment her daughter received when she came to work in Lebanon from Sri Lanka.

“After a month she tried to kill herself,” Moawad said. “They sent her back, without any of her papers, or compensation. When she got there she was put in to a mental hospital.”

Nasawiya intend to analyze their results for patterns in the coming days.

The biggest recurring issue Sunday was the ban the Filipino government placed on sending workers to Lebanon in 2007, later tightened to stop existing workers return to Lebanon once they have left, meaning they can’t freely visit home. “Homesickness,” one Filipina who has worked here for five years said. “Of course that’s the biggest problem.”

The uprisings sweeping the Arab world have been provoked by long injustice, low income, police brutality, and lack of social security.

While the world looks at this, the suffering of up to three million maids across the Arab world remains wrapped in silence.

Victims of abuse, confinement and rape, migrant domestic workers are often invisible because they suffer in places that remain hidden to the public eye, mostly private homes.

A freelance Indonesian domestic worker in Jordan says, “If you go to the Indonesian embassy in Jordan you will see hundreds of women who ran away from their employer.

“I also ran away after mistreatment. I want to go back to Indonesia but the embassy has no money to send us.”


A survey by the Saudi magazine Sayidaty titled ‘Maids Rights’ reveals that more than three million maids in the Arab world are subjected to conditions akin to slavery.

The survey found that across several countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, an absence of laws regulating the relationship between domestic workers and their employers allows abuse to run rampant.

“We didn’t sleep day or night, we had to be up whenever the baby cried,” said Potri a domestic worker from the Philippines working in Jordan. “We didn’t even have time to shower or eat during the day because we were always rocking him so he doesn’t cry. It was like that for two and a half years.”

From her salary of just $100 dollars a month, Joan, another domestic worker, said she had to giver her Jordanian employer money to buy food for her: “So basically we were working for free.”

Sexual abuse

Before leaving Madagascar, Dima 19, was told she would find good employment and an opportunity to provide much needed money for her family that was struggling with extreme poverty and unemployment. But within a few hours of arriving at the home of her new employer in Lebanon in early April of last year, she confronted a different reality.

“The male employer picked me up from the airport and when we arrived to the home he told me to take a bath,” said in an interview.

“He insisted that I leave the door slightly open and while I was in the bath he entered and raped me.”

It became worse some weeks later. She says she was tied up and raped by the employer and two of his friends.

Within a month Dima escaped. “While the family was getting into the car I started running. I couldn’t bear living like this any more.”


The current financial climate in Africa and Southeast Asia has forced many families to look for desperate ways out of life in extreme poverty.

“Recruitment agencies from our home countries are tricking new domestic employees by telling them that will have a great job, with a high paying salary and the ability to save money and provide for their families,” says Aimee, a community leader and freelance domestic worker from Madagascar.

“But when they arrive they realise that it was all a lie.”

The demand for migrant domestic workers in Arab countries is fed by an influx of Arab women into the workforce, and by definitions of social status in line with the number of servants under command.

The increased demand has swollen the expatriate population, at places to outnumber the locals.

According to a study by the Centre for Women and Gender Studies, nearly 85 per cent of the United Arab Emirates population of four million is migrant workers. In Bahrain and Saudi Arabia 65 per cent of the workforce are expats. In Kuwait it is 82 per cent, and in Qatar almost 90 per cent.

In Bahrain, granting of citizenship to foreign workers as a means of changing Bahrain’s sectarian balance is a major source of discontent amongst protestors.

Texas has long been a hotbed of controversy on immigration issues. And a proposed immigration bill in the Texas state House is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows. The bill would make hiring an “unauthorized alien” a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, unless that is, they are hired to do household chores.

Yes, under the House Bill 2012 introduced by a tea party favorite state Rep. Debbie Riddle — who’s been saying for some time that she’d like to see Texas institute an Arizona-style immigration law — hiring an undocumented maid, caretaker, lawnworker or any type of houseworker would be allowed. Why? As Texas state Rep. Aaron Pena, also a Republican, told CNN, without the exemption, “a large segment of the Texas population” would wind up in prison if the bill became law.

“When it comes to household employees or yard workers it is extremely common for Texans to hire people who are likely undocumented workers,” Pena told the news giant. “It is so common it is overlooked.”

Jon English, Rep. Riddle’s chief of staff explained that the exemption was an attempt to avoid “stifling the economic engine” in Texas, which today is, somewhat ironically, celebrating its declaring independence from Mexico in 1836.

“Excepting household workers from a anti-immigration laws renders the law impotent and self-contradictory, just like the current U.S. immigration policy, of which it is almost a perfect microcosm,” legal ethics writer Jack Marshall wrote on his blog. “It guarantees a measure without integrity that sends a mixed enforcement message and does nothing to stop the long-standing deplorable ‘we don’t want you but somebody has to do those menial jobs’ attitude that has paralyzed our immigration policy for decades.”

Rep. Riddle made headlines last year when she claimed unnamed FBI officials had told her that pregnant women from the Middle East were traveling to America as tourists to give birth, and then raising their children to be terrorists who could later enter the U.S. freely as citizens — so-called “terror babies,” a devious offshoot of “anchor babies.” She became somewhat infamous on the web when she stumbled repeatedly in a CNN interview about the claims, complaining later that host Anderson Cooper’s line of questioning was more intense than she had prepared for.

“They did not tell me you were going to grill me on specific information that I was not ready to give to you tonight,” Riddle said when Cooper pressed her for more details. “They did not tell me that, sir.”

CHENNAI: A 23-year-old maid, detained at the Kodungaiyur police station on charges of stealing her employer’s gold ring, attempted suicide by hanging on Monday. She was admitted to a private hospital in Kodungaiyur where doctors said her health was normal. The police later slapped a case under IPC Section 309 (attempting suicide) against the maid. She had earlier been booked under IPC Section 381 (servant theft).

On Monday, the Kodungaiyur police based on a complaint from Caroline of Madhavaram Milk Colony detained her maid, S Banu of Thiruvalluvar Salai in Kodungaiyur, for alleged theft. After Caroline noticed a half-a-sovereign gold ring, kept on the table, missing she questioned Banu. After a detailed grilling, Banu admitted to stealing the ring and Caroline informed the Kodungaiyur police.

In the evening, Banu was taken to the police station for questioning and she confessed to having committed the crime. The stolen ring was recovered. Around 7.30 pm, Banu told the police she wanted to go to the bathroom. When she didn’t return after more than five minutes, the police grew suspicious and banged on the door. There was no response and the police broke open the door. They found her hanging from the ceiling. She had made a noose using her dupatta.

Banu was immediately brought down and rushed to a private hospital in Kodungaiyur.

Caroline is said to have told the police that Banu had already indulged in a similar theft at her house and that she had initially ignored it. Banu had been working as maid in Caroline’s house for the past nine months. Caroline’s husband Alexander is an official with the Reserve Bank of India.

The police said Banu’s brothers Ramesh and Ganesh had been involved in theft cases in Avadi and Kodungaiyur and were now in Puzhal prison. Banu lived with her husband Sankar on Thiruvalluvar Salai in Kodungaiyur.”We will arrest Banu after she is discharged from hospital for theft and attempting suicide,” a police officer said.