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Domestic Employees Center In Singapore
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National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has recently set up The Center for Domestic Employees (CDE) in order to help the foreign as well as domestic workers where they can air their employment related grievances whenever they feel like. This center was officially launched by Labor chief Chan Chun Sing on Sunday, January 24, 2016.
This initiative was taken specifically to help affected workers like Ms Mersi Fransina Missa (28year old Indonesian maid) who had not been paid since last October when her employer went into Coma. The employer, a single lady, had no intentions of depriving Ms Mersi of her salary until the second stroke in October.
The center is located at Goldhill Center along Thomson Road. The workers looking for guidance can visit the CDE or call at 1800 2255 233 which is a toll-free 24-hour helpline. The hotline is managed by the center’s staff, which is trained to spot signs of mental health distress. CDE will provide shelter and humanitarian aid to the maids where needed.
Similar to Ms Mersi, for the past two years, about 600 complaints have been received by The Ministry of Manpower from maids related to non-payment of salaries each year. Initially, the staff handling the helpline will be able to converse with the callers in English or Indonesian. NTUC has planned to introduce other languages like Cambodian, Tagalog and Burmese eventually.
As stated by NTUC, CDE will be actively promoting its services by sending its staff to meet and talk to maids at their common gathering places. It will be organizing mental wellness talks, provide free legal talks and teach maids about their rights. CDE also offers mediation and counseling services to tackle possible issues before they exacerbate. The center will be organizing workshops and social functions to promote healthy employer-employee relationships.
But for it to be truly effective, CDE has to go beyond being just a place for the workers to air their grievances. It has to give them a voice and make that voice heard in policy making.The number of maids in Singapore has been increasing steadily over the years. As per the status in June last year, Singapore had about 230,000 maids which is expected to rise to more than 300,000 in the next 14 years.
The strength of CDE is that it is an NTUC enterprise and NTUC possesses the financial and political power which NGOs like the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (Home) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) lack. In 2015, HOME sheltered about 700 domestic workers who had fled from their employer’s homes. The complaints were commonly of emotional and physical abuse, followed by non-payment of salary.
TWC2 does not operate an institutional shelter so sometimes due to its limited capacity, it has to turn away workers or refer them elsewhere. But CDE has the ability to boost the help that NGOs are already providing to the domestic workers here. Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, Assistant Secretary General, NTUC said that through this center he hopes to reach out and help other foreign and domestic workers like Ms Mersi.
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