About 300 Indonesian domestic helpers protested in Causeway Bay yesterday, organisers said. The protesters marched to the Indonesian consulate, where they handed in a petition urging officials to allow direct contract renewals, without an agency. Singing songs and chanting slogans, the workers called for the consulate to take a greater role in preventing recruitment agencies exploiting Indonesian workers. Renewal of contracts for Indonesian workers must be conducted through recruitment agencies, which charge fees, and some employers have asked helpers to split the cost. The latest wave of discontent arises from Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's unprecedented inflation-relief measures announced last month. Criticised for being an ad hoc publicity stunt to halt his sliding popularity, the suspension of the maid levy of HK$9,600 per two-year contract has led to a number of problems. The levy was to have been suspended from September 1, but the date was changed to August 1 after protests by helpers' unions. The unions said members had lost their jobs because employers wanted to wait to benefit from the levy suspension and more feared they would be sacked. A rush on work visas has also occurred after employers renewed contracts early to take advantage of the levy suspension. Eni Lestari, co-ordinator of United Indonesians against Overcharging, said recruitment agencies charged between HK$500 and HK$4,000, which employers had to pay since contract renewals cannot be done directly with the consulate. 'Instead of [the levy suspension] making our lives easier, [the consulate] leaves us to the mercy of recruitment agencies,' said Ms Lestari, adding that the agencies 'exploit the advanced contract renewal scheme to charge Indonesian domestic workers more'. The consulate has said it will consider allowing direct processing of such contracts and a decision might be made this week.