Singapore denies maid ‘sale’
Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has denied media reports that domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma (Myanmar) were being “displayed” in malls in the city-state and made “available for hire at cheap or discounted prices.”
The Al Jazeera TV network reported last month that foreign domestic workers were being marketed “like commodities” at the Bukit Timah Shopping Centre in central Singapore and at Katong Shopping Centre on Mountbatten Road.
But MOM said it visited the two shopping centers concerned and did not find “any inappropriate display of foreign domestic workers.”
Basic respect in practices
“MOM requires employment agencies to be responsible and accord basic respect in their practices to both their clients—the employer and the foreign domestic workers—and expects them to exercise sensitivity when marketing their fees or services,” MOM said in a statement released Wednesday.
The ministry also deemed an “unacceptable practice” the alleged “inappropriate display” of foreign domestic workers in the premises of employment agencies.
The Al Jazeera report said foreign domestic workers were shown in galleries called Homekeeper and Budget Maid demonstrating household and care-giving chores, such as “pushing the wheelchairs of the elderly” and “changing diapers of a baby doll.”
Super promo rates
The report also said the workers were advertised on “super promo” rates and “special discounts,” with Filipinos tagged as “smarter,” Indonesians as “less bright” and Burmese workers as “sweet-natured and compliant.”
MOM said “it is not unreasonable for foreign domestic workers to perform such chores as some employment agencies have training facilities in the same premises as their front offices.”
The ministry also quoted Philippine Labor Attaché to Singapore Vicente Cabe as saying that while he saw some foreign domestic workers sitting on one side of a room in some agencies, waiting to be interviewed by clients, “it seems a bit exaggerated to say that there is anything wrong with that.”
Proactive audit of agencies
MOM said it proactively audits Singapore employment agencies and those found to have acted “in a manner detrimental to the interest of the foreign domestic workers” will be dealt with in accordance with the Employment Agencies Act.
“MOM’s rules are clear that employment agencies have to ensure the well-being of foreign domestic workers in their care,” the ministry said in the statement. “Employment agencies are also informed that they are not allowed to restrict the foreign domestic workers’ movement or make them remain outside the employment agencies’ premises against their will.” Gervie Kay S. Estella
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