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Plans afoot to push for e-payments for all maids in Singapore

Labour representatives hope the move will tackle salary disputes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 2:14pm

By Neo Chai Chin

With salary disputes forming a significant proportion of cases it saw last year, the labour movement’s Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) in Singapore will push for electronic payments for all foreign domestic workers, according to centre chairman Yeo Guat Kwang.

“Today, it’s still not standardised,” Mr Yeo said at an event at the Singapore Flyer to mark the CDE’s first anniversary and to thank 50 of its volunteers.

The centre does not want merely to fight fires by tackling problems after they arise, he added. To prevent salary and employment-related disputes, it wants to go upstream by, for example, promoting better communication between employers and employees.

It has launched a handbook for bridging the cultural divide in four bilingual combinations: English and Bahasa Indonesia, Burmese, Tagalog and Tamil.

The CDE was launched last January and saw 517 cases last year, which mostly came via its 24-hour helpline. The most frequent cases were salary disputes, transfer requests and physical abuse; they formed nearly half the total number of cases.

Nearly three in 10 cases comprised Indonesian maids, and nearly one in five involved maids from Myanmar, followed by the Philippines. The centre resolved 83 per cent of the cases, and the rest are ongoing.

CDE’s partners at yesterday’s event gave e-payments the thumbs up. Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) president K Jayaprema said cashless payments help domestic workers, their employers and the authorities to track whether payments were made correctly and punctually.

CDE volunteer Tina Esmas, 42, who is from the Philippines and has worked more than 20 years for a Singaporean household, also said e-payments are better.

But some domestic workers may be unable to meet the minimum amounts stipulated by banks in order not to incur fees, she said.

Last year, the CDE also sheltered about 110 domestic workers and realised that some of the women had to remain at the shelter for more than three to six months.

“For such cases, it’ll also be important for us to give them some form of retraining or arrange some temporary job arrangement, so we can keep them occupied and, at the same time, increase their competence and confidence,” said Mr Yeo.

The centre will open a new shelter with capacity for 100 women by June, with additional buffer capacity of 50 through a lease arrangement with a dormitory operator.

The CDE may also work with remittance services, banks and other financial institutions on a more structured way in which foreign domestic workers can repay loans to agencies in their home countries.

There could also be an insurance package to secure the loan repayment, and Mr Yeo said details could be announced next month.

CDE executive director Shamsul Kamar added that it will launch a survey next month, which aims to cover 1,000 employers and 1,000 workers, for a better understanding of issues faced by both parties.

Plans afoot to push for e-payments for all maids