Baldoz: Singapore malls ‘maids for sale’ an affront to worker dignity

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

LABOR Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Wednesday condemned the reported "selling" of household service workers (HSWs), including Filipinos, inside shopping malls at "discounted prices", describing the act as being an affront to the dignity of workers.

Baldoz said such a practice is unacceptable since it is subjecting Filipino workers to moral and psychological abuse as being made to display themselves in malls as if they are commodities.

"This kind of practice is an affront to the dignity of the workers," said Baldoz in a statement.

Earlier, reports came out that the Bukit Timah Shopping Center in Central Singapore was found to feature galleries supposedly offering foreign women workers for hiring as domestic workers at "super promo" rates.

A report by news outlet Al Jazeera depicted the plight of the domestic workers in "maid agencies" in the city-state, where the workers are allegedly made to sit beneath signs and posters that testify to their qualities, or advertise promo rates and discounts.

According to the report, the workers are also made to simulate real-life housework, like taking care of the elderly or children.

Vice President Jejomar Binay earlier urged the Philippine embassy to investigate the matter, as he expressed confidence that Singapore will act on the matter once it is brought to their attention.

"The Philippine embassy should investigate the report and if needed, make the proper representations with Singaporean authorities," Binay, the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers' Concerns, said.

He said if the report is true, the act of "displaying" domestic workers in malls to be scrutinized by prospective employers violates human rights and international laws upholding the rights of migrant workers.

The Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) had already directed the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Singapore to undertake an investigation on the matter.

Baldoz said Polo-Singapore has decided to suspend one of the two foreign placement agencies (FPA) allegedly involved in the scheme.

"The Polo had invited the manager of Homekeeper Agency to answer the allegation of treating their foreign household service workers like commodities and also instructed them to bring to the Philippine Embassy the Filipino HSWs under their care for interview," said Baldoz.

She said the Dole will not hesitate to slap concerned FPAs with applicable sanctions, if proven guilty, such as blacklisting them from hiring OFWs, or canceling their accreditation with the Polo.

As for the other agency, Baldoz said Budget Maid Agency was found to be unaccredited with Polo-Singapore but was still referred to the Singapore Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

"MOM officials had assured the Philippine Embassy and the Polo that they will look into the matter and provide feedback at the soonest," said Baldoz.

The labor chief said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is also set to look at possible liabilities by local counterpart recruitment firms.

She related that POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac is already set to meet with the officials and representatives of Maanyag International Manpower Corporation, Migrant Workers Manpower Agency, Inc., Kirsten Recruitment, Inc., and Uni-Link Overseas Placement Agency Corporation.

"The four POEA-licensed agencies in the Philippines has the Homekeeper Agency as their principals. We will ask them to explain why they allow their principal, Homekeeper Agency, to practice the 'discount on maids' marketing strategy in enticing Singapore employers. The POEA will base its subsequent action on their explanation," Baldoz said.

As for the five HSWs subjected to the scheme, the Dole said two of them, identified as Louvette Seguerra and Gina Limpag, have already been repatriated Tuesday after settling their claims with Homekeeper.

The cases of the remaining three, namely Mary Grace Cansejo, Armie Ponce, and Lilia Patrocinio, are still being worked on by the POLO-Singapore. (HDT/Jun Sarmiento/Sunnex)

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