Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Singapore Maid Abuses

In Singapore, foreign domestic workers (FDW) or better known as maids are often subjected to abuses of many forms. And while Singaporean employees are protected by our labour laws, maids are not. Although the Singapore government has taken notice of the frequent maid abuses and has taken more significant steps to persecute any maid employer, the relation between these employers and their maids still seems to be of a “personal arrangement” and there can be many interpretations of what this relation can be.

Day-offs, for instance, are privileges not entitlements. Even though there are indeed some caring employers who allow their maids to take adhoc off days whenever they desire, very often we see maids work as per normal on weekends. The exclusion of legally entitled off days and also maximum working hours from the Employment Act on foreign domestic workers could also mean the maid’s working conditions and schedule can be arranged solely at the employer’s discretion. No wonder we often hear complaints of maids having to wake up very early at 5 but only allowed to sleep at midnight after they have finished their work and their employers have retired to bed.

Besides this, I have seen maids told to share meals with the children. And mind you, it’s not huge portion of food, just about the same amount which an average adult would need to make himself full. How can maids who need to do a lot of menial work survive with so little food?

Maids are also often required to carry heavy loads of shopping bags while their employers walk freely or carry very little stuff. Such discriminative treatment in daily life is equally stark.

I do not think maid abuse is an isolated problem. Some people do not even know what abuse is. To them, they think it is alright to treat someone who happens to work for them any way they want as if they are the kings and queens and the poor maids are their slaves.

I also believe if you treat the maid well, she will also reciprocate, work harder for you and employer-maid relationship improves. Isn’t that a win-win situation?

Other related article: A national blip - Overlooking and abuse of maids affecting region's image of Singaporeans as spoilt, insensitive people

Wife's turn in jail - for maid abuse
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, Oct 31 2007

A WOMAN whose husband has just completed a three-week jail term for molesting their Filipino maid will find herself checking in on Monday for a two-week sentence for abusing her. Senior planner Thya Meng Hong, 42, pleaded guilty last month to caning and pinching the 24-year-old maid on her arms. Two other charges were considered during the sentencing for the offence, which took place at her Paya Lebar Road home last November.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Luke Tang told the court that the maid, who began working for the family the month before, was in the kitchen when the couple's five-year-old son wanted her to write some numbers in his notebook. When the maid said she was busy, the boy started to cry. She had no choice but to do what he had asked.

When Thya saw her writing in his notebook, she asked angrily why she was doing so and why the boy was crying. The maid told her the boy had asked her to write as he was lazy. This made Thya even angrier, whereupon she picked up a cane and hit the maid, and pinched her as well.

Two days later, the maid lodged a police report on the abuse. Mr Luke Lee, representing Thya, said she had been suffering from migraine and back pain from slipped discs. Thya, who has been on medical leave since August, had been under stress from having to return a succession of maids to the agency and train replacements from scratch, he added.

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