Wed, Jan 19, 2011
The New Paper
No maids allowed in pool

By Geraldine Yeo

IT IS wrong to discriminate against people because of their jobs or nationalities, period. But why are our condominiums openly practising such discrimination?

This was a question posed by Ms Sabrina Chang on The Straits Times forum last week.

Yes, the "no maids allowed in condominium pools" policy has come under fire again. But The New Paper's checks showed that the policy isn't likely to change any time soon.

Eighteen out of the 20 condos that we polled said that they have the policy in place and that it is unlikely to change even if their residents feel otherwise.

Another TNP poll of 100 condo residents had 63 saying they have no problems with domestic helpers using their pools.

Ms Chang, who lives at Sarkies Gardens in Newton, is the latest to asksometough questions.

In her letter, which was published on The Straits Times forum online last Thursday, she said: "I am dumbfounded by the ban and have come to learn that it is a common practice in Singapore.

"My husband and I work and we rely heavily on our maid to take care of our children.

"My helper is their nanny and she takes them to the playground and swimming pool. They are under five years old and cannot play unsupervised."

First World society?

She then added: "How can we claim to be a First World society when we discriminate against others because of their job and nationalities?"

The New Paper could not reach Ms Chang for further comments.

When we visited Sarkies Gardens, a man, who claimed he works for managing agent Citiprop, told us that the rule has been around for more than 10 years.

The man, who gave his name only as Ivan, said: "We are just following the policies that other condos have. Perhaps it is because we recently sent out a letter to residents that they think it's new."

However, contrary to Ms Chang's claim, he said that maids are allowed to use the pool if they are there to supervise children.

He said that the last time letters were sent out informing residents of the condo's regulations was in 2004.

"We usually send out these letters every few years as the tenants keep changing," he said, adding that 90 per cent of the condo's 21 units are rented by expatriates.

When we were at the condo, we saw a notice stating the condo's regulations put up at the guard house.

Among the 10 or so rules listed, one said that "no maids are allowed to use the pools".

The condo has a big pool and a small wading pool. In our poll of 20 condos, of the 18 with the same rule, 13 of them allow maids to use the pools if they are accompanying children, while the rest do not allow maids in the pool at all.

Woollerton Park's condo manager Alex Cheong, 50, said: "We have a children's pool, so maids can go in wearing shorts. But there isn't much reason for maids to go into the adult pool."

He added that such policies are fair, since all non-residents are not allowed to use the common facilities.

"The prohibition extends to the management, myself included, and the security guards," he added.

Apart from pools, it is also a common condo rule that maids cannot use other facilities such as the gym or book facilities such as barbecue pits and function rooms.

Some condominiums like Mandarin Gardens in Siglap have a total ban on maids in pools.

Miss Mala Devi, an employee of the condo management, said: "We have received feedback from a majority of the owners saying that they do not like maids to use the pool."

Mr Francis Zhan, the chief executive of the Association of Management Corporations in Singapore's (AMCIS) told TNP that the regulation of not allowing maids to use condo pools has been around for about 20 years.

The rationale, he said, is that maids are here to work and not to enjoy themselves.

Mr Zhan said: "If we allow all the maids to swim in the pools at the various condos, it will be swamped and over-utilised."

The general principle in most condos is that the pool and other facilities are available only to owners, tenants and their friends. But the association is against condos not allowing maids to supervise their employers' children at the pool, he noted.

"Should anything happen to the children while they are in the pool, the management committee would have to take responsibility and risk being sued," he said.

But what do condo dwellers think about maids using the pool? TNP's poll of 100 condo dwellers revealed that 63 per cent feel that rules prohibiting maids from using swimming pools was unfair.

A resident of Sarkies Gardens, who declined to be named, said there was nothing wrong with being in the same pool as a maid.

"Maids are also humans and they need to be treated with respect and dignity," said the Singapore PR who moved to the condo a few months ago.

Like Ms Chang, he said he was surprised to receive the notice from the management two weeks ago.

"Maids live here as well, so in some way they are residents too," he added.

-Additional reporting by news room interns

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