Too much? Some people think the amount of work domestic housekeepers have to do is akin to slave labour. 
*MCT photo
Too much? Some people think the amount of work domestic housekeepers have to do is akin to slave labour. *MCT photo

Undoubtedly to some, the ad appeared innocuous enough.

A housekeeper was wanted; the advertisement listed the duties. Heavy cleaning, laundry, ironing, polishing brass and silver at three separate households. 

But for some on the island, such ads are further proof of a kind of indentured servitude that is often at the very least unethical.

The gig would come with some supervision of children and tending to pets as well. Flexible hours would be needed; evening and weekend work would be in the cards.

However, some in Bermuda, like Laverne Furbert, say such jobs are tantamount to slave labour.

Exploitation of foreign domestic workers in Bermuda, says Ms Furbert, is still a problem.

“The state of their employment is unbelievable. The way that they’re treated by Bermudian employers is unbelievable,” said Ms. Furbert, who works for the Bermuda Industrial Union but was not speaking on behalf of the group.

She added: “We’ve had people come to us because they’ve had no other resource.” 

Last year in Jamaica, domestic workers formed a union. Ms Furbert thinks something similar should happen here.

Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Walter Roban said the problem of domestic workers being overworked or underpaid is ongoing.

“It’s clearly a situation that’s unreasonable,” he said recently. 

“There are situations where they’re asked to perform unreasonable tasks.”

The size of the problem, however, is unclear, since many incidents go unreported; the foreign domestic workers fear they will lose their jobs or immigration status on the island.

“They must feel intimidated,” said Mr Roban.

Mr Roban would like to see a ramp-up in enforcement and perhaps creation of new standards that outline what is and is not acceptable in terms of working conditions for such workers. He added that one idea worth considering was to refuse any more immigration applications for multiple household domestic helpers.

“We need to move from just sort of blaming the foreign worker to say ‘Listen, there are local employers who are doing things that are not appropriate’.”

Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy did not respond to a request for comment before our deadline.