Commodity' maid agency gets relief

Commodity' maid agency gets relief
Maids undergoing training at Homekeeper maid agency, Hougang Green Mall, July 2, 2014.

Two months ago, a maid agency here was nailed by Arab news agency Al Jazeera for allegedly marketing maids as "commodities".

Homekeeper was then temporarily suspended from bringing in Filipino maids by the Philippine Embassy while investigations were ongoing.

Now, the suspension has been lifted and it is back in business.

Vicente Cabe, labour attache at the Philippine Embassy here, told My Paper that the embassy was not able to verify the allegation despite checking on Homekeeper.

"The embassy made several visits to the office of Homekeeper but was not able to confirm the report of inappropriate display of maids," he told My Paper.

He added that the agency was given the go-ahead to bring in Filipino maids a week ago, as its written explanation was "deemed satisfactory".

The Al Jazeera story detailed how maids at agencies in shopping centres were treated and mentioned Homekeeper, among others.

"They sit beneath garish signs and posters, testifying to their friendliness and industriousness, or advertising 'super promo' rates and 'special discounts'," the article said.

The agencies were also said to display women at work, and the article went on to describe them ironing the same shirt, making the same bed, and cradling a baby doll, pretending to change its diapers.

The scenarios described are believed to be those from rooms made to look like flats for training purposes.

Mr Cabe said that in Al Jazeera's reply to the letter from Homekeeper which was shown to the embassy, the news agency stood by its story, but did not pinpoint Homekeeper as the agency responsible for the reported mistreatment of maids.

The Philippine government launched a probe into the marketing strategies of agencies here.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) also sent out a letter to all maid agencies, asking that their advertisements accord maids "basic respect and human dignity".

In it, MOM's deputy commissioner for employment agencies, Penny Elaine Yapp, said the ministry is concerned by "incidences of insensitive advertising and inappropriate display" of maids.

Mr Cabe said that as far as the embassy is concerned, the advisory is "enough" to ensure that maids will not be treated as "commodities" in the future.

"We will continue monitoring employment agencies by making surprise or unannounced visits and will suspend or cancel the embassy accreditation of erring agencies and will likewise report them to MOM for appropriate action," Mr Cabe said.

Mark Chin, general manager of Homekeeper, said the management is touched that many customers and even competitors spoke in support of his agency.

When asked whether they have made any changes, he said: "No. We didn't do anything wrong. All along, we never used pricing as our marketing strategy."

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