Monday, June 22, 2009

Maids Issue

The maids issue has made the headlines again. Do we have to go through the same issues each time? Its always the same issues on both sides. Let's look at the areas we can agree on:

1) Bad employers are few, relative to the majority.
2) Bad maids are few, relative to the majority.
3) Some employers mistreat the maids - physical and mental abuse, over working them, putting them to do dangerous tasks, wtf are those employers who ask their maids to clean the outside of the windows when they are staying in condos???
4) Some maids do behave irrationally or may steal or "hurt" the kids / old people when left alone in the house.

While we all may be surprised that the majority of employers are against giving the maids the day off per week, it is understandable. Many fear that the maids may get involved with new boyfriends, and/or be made use by unscrupulous people to loot the employers' homes, or bring their boyfriends back to the house when the owners are out.

Its a reflection on reality triumphing over morals and human decency issues.

Its always so much easier to "put up stickers that you want world peace", but its so hard not to be pissed off with your neighbour's antics.

I believe all households that want to employ maids should ask themselves these questions honestly:
a) Who is the maid to you and your household? A helper, a worker, or someone who is a lesser human being.
b) How will you treat the maid? As part of your family, or purely a worker.
c) What kind of lessons in life are you imparting to your children by the way you treat the maid? Are your children learning that all people should be treated with respect, or that some people can be treated differently or with disdain? Are you teaching them that its ok to discriminate, or that some people are less "valuable" as a human being? Do you reprimand necessarily to the extent that your kids think that its ok to do likewise?

Maids are just people like you and me who are brought up in a less fortunate environment. How we treat our fellow human beings tells us a lot about the kind of person you are? All maids are someone's wife, mother and child... just like you and I. Sure, some may be not as smart, but thats not reason enough to treat them any less than a human being.

We should treat people how we want ourselves to be treated. Some might say that even after their best efforts, the maid can still be difficult. At least we should still set the right example - whether it results in a better relationship is secondary. We should not second guess our behaviour, if we treat people with respect and its not reciprocated, we at least did our part. Maids are not machines, they are just fallible like all of us. Do what you should do, the way your parents and religion brought you up. When people are nice and helpful, its easy to love them. When they are not, it means we should try harder.... if it gets really difficult, don't get a maid anymore.

We can ask for things to be in a certain way to protect our families, but we should also be mindful of what we are asking for to achieve that. There are basic human decency rules in our hearts and minds, there are worker's rights as well. Its very very difficult to leave your family and friends and maybe children behind for a few years to live and work in a foreign place. If one of your brothers or sisters is in that predicament, how would you want their employers to treat him/her. Its a very tough life, the more we embrace them and live as an extended family member, the better the conditions for all. You do not want to make life even more difficult, oppressive and deplorable by putting them in an "inhumane work environment".

If you honestly fail to answer these questions in the "right way", and you yourself know the "right answers"... you shouldn't really be having a maid.

Having said that, the rules are inadequate both ways currently. The employer does not get sufficient protection after paying hefty fees should the maid absconds or get pregnant, there needs to be better laws to allow for maids to be changed if things are not working out, without penalty. The maids also need better protection, there must be a unit to monitor or for abusive conditions to be reported so that they can be checked, investigated and rectified immediately.

The really superior human being is the one who knows in his/her hearts that everyone is truly equal.

p/s photos: the evergreen Cherie Chung Chor Hung is back in a recent commercial shoot


Jessie said...

great article!

Paul Prabhakar said...

Mr Salvotore,

I was having this same conversation with my wife. I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, just like homeowners who are susceptible to abandoned projects, Malaysians who employ maids do not get the protection from our laws.

We pay around RM7,000 (last year's rate) to the agent to secure the maid. There's only a leeway of a few months (3 if not mistaken) whereby we can request for a different maid if the existing girl does not meet our requirements.

After that stipulated time, there's no refund. So if the maid absonds, gets pregnant, etc, it is the employer's responsibility and you can say sayonara to your payment.

For me, this is the problem. If we can protect the employer's rights, the maid's rights will follow.

Little Bear said...

If you can't afford to take care of your maid, then don't get one. If you get one, she is your responsibility. She is your employee, not your property. Your relationship with her is between 2 human beings, not with a piece of meat where if it spoils you can send it back to the supermarket where it came from.

Imagine your wife's employer telling the employees to not get pregnant. Because if they do, it will cost the company money and the company does not think that it is right for them to do so. Would you like your wife to work there?

random said...

wow dali yr blog is featured on BFM 89.90

nice work!

hc said...

Mr Salvadore,

You articulated your points very well, just like most of your financial articles.

I have been away for twenty years and somehow I find it difficult to understand the over-dependence on foreign maids.

I'm not suggesting to do away with foreign maids totally. There are situations where we really need to have maids or butlers, whether they are from local or overseas

In the longer term, employers, government and families need to look for a better solution, such as flexible working hours, job-sharing,teaching kids and partners to share in the daily chores etc.

We are living in the 21st century, hence there is no reason to exploit the socially disadvantaged. It's time to discard the master-slave relationship.

Like you mentioned earlier, maids are also human beings. If we need to employ them, we should give them the proper respect and working conditions,just like what we expect from our employers. We just cannot continue with the double standards.

see said...

I do believe many employers are not prison wardens & won't mind giving a day off to maids. But the stickler is runaway maids which is very common. Something should be done about syndicates "stealing" maids. Coincidently many runaway just after 3 months cooling off period - strange isn't it? $7k has to be paid for each maid to agents. We can't compare with HK or Taiwan. If maids runaway there, where they gonna go? They gonna stick out like sorethumbs. Here, they meld with local population so huge problem with runaway maids. Authorities has to look into rights of employers too. At the end its the agents which benefits the most at expense of maids & employers

K H said...

At the risk of being flamed, why is it that the employers who abuse their maids are usually women themselves.

Don't believe me? Just ask the foreign maid agencies. Most of the complainants said "Bapa baik, Ibu ...."

me said...

i take it mr salvatore doesn't have a maid, or at d very most, is living off d help of parent's maid. Is that a generalization? Perhaps in d same way that u r generalizing. by not letting them roam d streets on weekends, where they r susceptible 2 all imaginable n unimaginable temptations, we r not treating them as family? we r putting them in inhumane work environment? how fast n how easy we humans conclude. forget that we buy things 4 them when we go holiday, ignore d fact that we constantly worry abt whether they hv enuf 2 eat, nevermind all other good things that happen in each household, that we let them hv mth long holidays n laden them wth all sorts of gifts n gold when they go. Scratch that you schedule in some rest time 4 them n worry about over-working them even when u don’t. cancel out everything, simply becos of 1 thing; they don’t get 2 go out on weekends. apparently if you don't let them go out, they r worth less than a human being n it negates all other gd things you do 4 them n d ways you care 4 them? not being able to go out on weekend n suddenly they r being treated so worthless? is this too extreme a generalisation? 1 point agst 100 others. human relations r based on more than 1 factor. but we only see what we want 2 see, don’t we?

it is only a practical solution in d view of the current situation we r faced with, with no protection to employers. perhaps u have not faced with maids sneaking out in d middle of d night 2 hv affairs even when they r not suppose 2 go out? perhaps you hv not had things go missing, even when you hv left them in yr own living room, in broad day light. maybe maids sticking themselves with coathangers in toilet in toilet to abort themselves n then bleed uncontrollably. how abt maids having friendship network so extensive n friends/ ppl trying 2 get all types of info fr them, latching on 2 any n every male worker that enters d house in a most pathetic manner, EVEN when they r not suppose to go out. i could go on and on, but perhaps it's tiresome n u get the idea. the problems exist even with our pathetic supposedly-practical solution at d moment, can u imagine d mayhem if they r allowed 2 mix n roam d streets? they already do not show maturity in d way they handle themselves, r we suppose 2 give them more freedom? if it was your child behaving so irresponsibly, wld u let them do as they please n stay out? How then, are we not being equal? and don't forget, even if you treat them like family, they r not your flesh and blood and do not have to listen 2 your teachings, no matter how u stamp yr feet/nag.

talk about human equality all you want when it doesn't burn too close too home, but it makes u a hypocrite. there are maids out there that may plan 2 rob u when influenced, those that bring men over in yr bed when u r not home, those that wear yr clothes n hook up with any man. exaggerating? i only wish.

When they run off, agents n govt don't care. they hv contagious disease, despite medical check that they r supposed 2 hv undergone, they get pregnant, ntry to abort themselves, leaving themselves half dead n u hv 2 send them 2 hospital, they catch aids fr their roamings, they steal yr things, sell them, d agents n gvt don't care. we r seen as d evil party simply because this is our only choice of protection. When d law doesn’t protect us, don’t strip us further of our protection.

If it’s so tedious, don’t get a maid? Speak when you walk a mile in other’s shoe. Judge only when you have actually lived it.

Salvatore_Dali said...

Mr. Me,

Thank you for yr posting from the other side. I think yr points are very valid, and if I had implied that "not giving the maid the day off" as being cruel or inhumane, I was wrong, I apologise.

I have had 3 maids before. So, not a hypocrite.

I guess I need to tweak my posting somewhat, but yr points are very valid, I must say. Thanks for sharing.

solomon said...

I guess most of the city dwellers have one "kakak" in the house now.

In searching for a good maid, it is as good as recruiting a new grads. People character are hard to predict....

I have not been to US or Japan, just wondering how these countries survive without a maid?

But, to prevent disheartening news from the maids supplying countries, I think we should develop a more practical ways such as giving employees who had family an hour off early. But come to second thought, if we have an efficient transportation system, we should save the time for this purpose too.....all is square one if we did not have determination to do it.....

easystar said...

Hi Solomon,

I am in UK and the lack of maid is overcome via:
(a) Child care center as well as schools operate from 8am-6pm (don't really like keeping my kids there that long - but that is their solution). Some will use childminder that will pick kids up, feed them and send them home at 6pm. Most of these facilities will consume up to about half of ONE parent after tax salary (so about 25% of net family income).

(b) Maids are human beings looking for work and should be treated fairly. Agents are there in the introduction business and are just like normal recruitment agent - if the candidate does not work out, they will still keep their fees. I wonder why there is no Malaysian business setting up in Indoensia as detective agency to provide background check for employers?

As for run away maids, when notified, Malaysian government should cancel their work permit and sent home - that would be a reasonable deterrent.

I think there are lots of workers doing lots of strange things in the office as well and I am afraid that is just the risks of being an employer. At least, in Malaysia, one don't get sued for discrimination if one asked a pregnant maid to go home.

solomon said...

Good day EasyStar,

Whether this is a joke or reality, someone did tell me a run away maid can come back to the country with second name??

On the other context, I believe there are some Malaysian detective agency in foreign countries. I guess the difference is when professionalism and money set in. Most of them choose money, as a result the quality of maid deteriorates and employers suffer.

The ideal solution I think is still to have the old folks staying nearby (while the wife wouldn't nag at you for no privacy and yet the children are well taken care of)...

easystar said...

Hi Solomon,

Coming back using new names are common, even to UK. Many immigrants go back, change their name, get new passport (through lax of checks, or by blatant bribery) and they reapply for Visas. Fingerpriting (as UK now does), will get that sorted.

But being sent home certainly should not precluded them from reentering Malaysia after say one year ban or so. After all, bad employees are just about everywhere.

We haven't punish anyone in EPF, Banks, Port Klang projects etc for losing millions. Compare that to a maid's transgerssion, I think those are far far worse.

Born2Reign said...

Dali, not sure if you currently have a live-in maid.

My 1st maid decided to have a boyfriend living behind my house coz she has "nothing to do" (she told my neighgour's maid). She even left my young kids at home alone while she goes to see her lover boy.

Ever since then I decided my maids cannot be left idle, not overworked, but not idle. So far so good. I always inspect and do spot checks, also change my phones to digital ones to track any calls out. I alwo believe in not over-working them and feeding them well (all my maids put on weight), they even get to sleep by 8pm.

That said I don't believe in hitting our maids. We can scold them, but if she is too dumb to be trained, then just send her back. Yes, we lose out a lot monetarily, but then a company faces the same thing when they hire a head-hunter. Does the MD have to beat up the Sales Manager that does not perform? Sack the fella lor!!

And Solomon, the answer is yes, the maid can change name, change religion, and come back here 2nd or 3rd time.

And before our govt wants to be so goody and let our maids roam, please arrest all the illegals like in Singapore. At least we know that our maid is arrested and not married to a local, and given PR and mykad and awarded BUMIPUTERA status, at our expense of course (we paid for their agent fees, their airfares, penalties, substitute babysitters, etc).

Dali, unless we think like them and take preventive measures, we'll end up doing charity for the Multiply Bumiputera Operation. Don't count me in.

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