Maids 'on display': Manila bars 2 agencies

Maids 'on display': Manila bars 2 agencies
Maids being trained at Homekeeper agency in Hougang Green mall.

Two Singapore maid agencies have been barred by the Philippine government from recruiting Filipinos as they are being investigated for marketing maids as "commodities".

Manila launched the probe after Homekeeper and Budget Maid were named in a news report last Friday for having displayed maids in "galleries".

Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a statement yesterday that the Philippine Embassy in Singapore has suspended the accreditation of Homekeeper.

As Budget Maid is not accredited by the Philippine government, Manila has asked Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to follow up by verifying the allegations against the agency.

MOM said in a media statement that its officers "did not find any 'inappropriate displays'" of the maids at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and Katong Shopping Centre, which were named in the article.

Ms Baldoz said Manila is also investigating four recruitment agencies in the Philippines which supply workers to Homekeeper.

Budget Maid declined to comment. Homekeeper managing director Carene Chin said the report, by Arab news agency Al Jazeera, is "inaccurate and damaging" and she is seeking legal advice.

The report said maid agencies had rooms and galleries where dozens of women sit beneath "garish signs and posters testifying to their friendliness and industriousness" and offering "super promo" rates and "special discounts".

It described the women as being on "display at work in mock living rooms" as they performed tasks such as ironing clothes and pushing one another on wheelchairs.

The Straits Times visited the two malls on Tuesday and found banners advertising $1 maids at a handful of agencies.

Some domestic workers sat at the agencies' shopfronts. But most of the women were sitting in the offices reading books or chatting with one another.

Agents who were interviewed said the domestic workers are not on display, and are there to meet potential employers.

Operations manager Lilian Ho of Innova Resource in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre said: "The domestic workers need to be here to be interviewed by employers. How else can they get jobs?"

The agents said the "mock living rooms" described in the report are training rooms, with furniture for the women to clean, and baby dolls which they use to learn how to care for infants.

While the rooms provide less-than-authentic work environments, the agents say the women still get to brush up on their skills.

MOM said it is "not unreasonable" for the maids to be seen doing chores in the agencies as some have training areas.

United Channel managing director Kerri Tan, whose agency has a training room in Katong Shopping Centre, agreed. She said: "The maids are actually learning. It is not for show."

The agents also clarified that their "$1 maid" banners are meant to grab attention, and do not actually mean that employers will pay only $1 to hire a maid.

MPL Employment Agency boss Roy Siah said: "How can it be true that you will spend only $1? We will explain to employers that there will be extra fees."

Maids said they do not feel uncomfortable waiting to be interviewed by employers in their agencies' offices.

Ms Nanyati Moe, 25 and from Myanmar, said: "Employers can see me when I am here. If they like me, they will hire me. Then I can earn money for my family."

This article was first published on July 03, 2014.
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