Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Made/Maid to rest

Straits Times is not running this letter, so I am copying it here. Added some footnotes to make my points clear.


Allow me to look at the “maid* off days” and minimum wage debates together.

When our forefathers first came to Singapore there was no minimum wage, but they often had sympathetic employers who awarded wages according to their work as well as needs.

If an employee got married or had another child, the employer raised his wages. If one were a good and trustworthy employee, employers did that to ensure that his business continued to thrive. It was self-preservation.

I was once a single foreign worker. I understand the strong desire to be with someone from the same country, speak the same language, or eat familiar foods**.

Foreign workers (not only domestic workers) carry with them a personal, social and cultural baggage. This baggage needs to be set down, re-packed and perhaps shared at timely intervals.

When was the last time an employer organized a party for the maid, allowing her to invite her compatriots, cook some familiar foods, in a safe and convenient environment, simply “to chill”?

Our forefathers did that. They had their village and clan associations. They played, worshipped and celebrated together.

From a biblical perspective*** maids should have a day of rest every seventh day. When I had worked continuously for weeks to meet project deadlines, my body always told me that I needed both physical and mental rest. That is how our body is designed.

Rest does not mean doing nothing. Rest does not need to be on a Sunday. Rest should not mean maids must spend it outside her employer’s home. Rest could simply mean not having to do the chores whether at home or on a family outing. “Ma’am” or “Sir” could change nappies, no?

Sure, some families need “cover” for those days that their maids are off. Why have our entrepreneurs not started a weekend maid service?

This is going to cost money****, you say.

If we desire that our loved ones are being well looked after, then it is our prerogative to treat our maid as we would like to be treated.

Would YOU work on minimum wage, with only two days off in a month?

* I used "maid" instead of "foreign domestic worker" to reduce number of words.

** We see these workers out in the parks sharing food.

*** Note also the Bible also admonishes the Israelites to treat their "aliens" well, remembering the time that they too were aliens.

*** If families can only afford to employ foreign domestic workers with little left over for anything else, then perhaps they might consider life without the maid.

When was the last time your Residents Committee organize a party or event for all the foreign workers in your area? The RC could provide a safe environment for these workers. But does anyone bother?

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