SINGAPORE: The Philippine government on Wednesday (July 2) barred two employment agencies in Singapore from recruiting foreign domestic workers from the Philippines.
This follows an online media report by Al Jazeera alleging the agencies had treated the workers like "commodities" at shopping malls. The Philippine Embassy in Singapore is investigating the allegations. So far, no evidence of wrongdoing by the two agencies has been found.
The agencies are Homekeeper, an agency accredited to bring in Filipino maids; and Budget Maid, which is not accredited by the Philippine embassy. The embassy says it is still trying to confirm the online report, but has barred the two agencies first as a preventive measure. This was communicated to both agencies during a meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
Mr Vicente Cabe, Labour Attache for the Philippine Embassy in Singapore, said the agencies expressed concern about the immediate suspension, “if they are already guilty without being proven first. But we did say that, 'No, don't consider it a penalty, but a preventive order, while we are trying to investigate and find out what really happened.’"
Budget Maid could not be reached for comment. But Homekeeper is crying foul over the online report by Al Jazeera. The maid agency’s Managing Director Carene Chin said: "The embassy understands us very well. They are confident that we are not doing it. To me, this article, this writer, they have not studied or understood the situation well. As far as I am concerned, this is very serious defamation. All the allegations that he has made are not true."
Ms Chin said it is unclear how business will be impacted by the ban, but she believes it will be business as usual for Filipino maids who are already in Singapore.
To ensure that Filipino domestic workers here are treated fairly, the Philippine embassy will continue conducting checks at maid agencies, especially during weekends. If all goes well, it will submit a report to Manila within a week, and the ban could be lifted in as soon as a month.
The Association of Employment Agencies in Singapore says it will appeal on behalf of Homekeeper, for investigations to be expedited. It also hopes the ban will be lifted as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Manpower Ministry said in a statement that it did not find any "inappropriate displays" of foreign domestic workers, or improper advertising, during a visit to the two agencies. However, it stressed that such practices are unacceptable, and foreign domestic workers should be accorded basic respect.
The ministry said it "proactively audits" agencies, and those found to have "acted in a manner detrimental to the interest of foreign domestic workers will be dealt with in accordance to law”. The ministry will send an advisory to all employment agencies on this and other related matters.
Channel NewsAsia understands foreign domestic workers in offices at employment agencies are often those awaiting transfers, or new workers waiting to be picked up by employers. Some agencies also have training centres nearby, so maids can undergo training conveniently.
Said Ms Flora Shah, manager of the United Channel Employment Agency: “I don't think we are displaying them here. They are doing training here. So far, the feedback we get from employers is very positive. And so far, the maids being trained here are happy. It's not like they are being stressed or they are unwilling, or they are unhappy about it."
New maids usually undergo training here for about a week, while transfer cases are usually resolved within 14 days. - CNA/xy
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