Loh Chee Kong
Dr David Tio has witnessed a disturbing sight for the past two weeks, walking past his neighbour’s house on his way home: A group of maids lying huddled on the cemented backyard, sleeping on thin mattresses, mats and newspapers underneath the zinc roofs.
His neighbour’s HDB terrace house in the Whampoa area is situated next to a raised pavement and a multi-storey car park. Passers-by get a clear view of the maids sleeping in the backyard.
Said Dr Tio: “This is no way to treat fellow human beings. How can you make the maids sleep outside? Besides the discomfort, there’s no privacy at all.”
Today visited the double-storey house four times over the past week in the wee hours of the morning. About six maids were sleeping outside the house on two occasions.
When approached by Today, the owners of the house, who have been running a maid agency for 13 years, claimed that the arrangement was only “temporary” until a new boarding house is ready this week. The wife, who employs a maid of her own, claimed that “under no circumstances” had the maids slept a whole night out in the open.
The bespectacled, middle-aged woman claimed the maids had “only rested outside on not more than two occasions” as there were visitors in the house and it was “inconvenient”. After the visitors left, she said, the foreign domestic workers would go up to the room — one of three bedrooms in the house — of the couple’s maid to sleep.
But on one of the nights that Today witnessed the maids sleeping in the backyard, there were clearly no guests in the house as the lights were already out.
The maids spend their day at the employment agency’s office and only return to the house at around 9pm to sleep.
Telling her neighbours to mind their own business, the wife told Today in Mandarin: “We run a reputable agency and of course, we know how we should treat our maids … Would we be in the business for so long if we ill-treated them?”
The couple’s maid, who has been working for them for 14 months, said that her employers were “nice” to her. Speaking to Today when they were out, she said: “They treat me very well but I wouldn’t know how they treat others.”
When contacted, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said it would investigate the matter. From June last year, all maid employment agencies were required to adhere to best practices — which include guidelines on accommodation and food — and be accredited by CaseTrust and the Association of Employment Agencies Singapore. Those that fail to meet these standards risk not having their licences renewed.
Ms Braema Mathi, president of civil society group Transient Workers Count Too, said the couple’s actions were inexcusable.
She said: “Is there no space within their home to let the maids sleep in? Even if there is really none, I don’t understand why the owners didn’t have alternatives. They could have rented rooms for these maids.”
Adding that there is a “basic decency level to treat humans”, Ms Mathi said: “If this is their business model, this agency’s practices leave much to be desired.” Loh Chee Kong
I read the article here.
Yesterday there was news about installing cameras around the house to keep a watch on maids because we, as employers are afraid of “maids gone wild” (I saw them trying on mam’s clothes while she was out! She brought home her Bangladeshi boyfriend home! She totally manhandled my child!) And today we have this.
What is the world coming to?! What are Singaporeans coming to?! The way to measure one’s character is how we treat the people under us. If we treat them like crap, who are we then to say that we have progressed as a society? More needs to be done on this issue! What are you all doing ah, Gahmen!