Ban cleaning of windows, urges MP Employers must do more to protect maids, says Halimah
Monday • December 18, 2006
Chow Penn Nee
TO prevent the tragic accidents of maids falling to their deaths while cleaning windows, this activity should be banned altogether, said an MP.
This could be done through an explicit clause in a maid's work permit, said Madam Halimah Yacob, MP for Jurong GRC.
Noting that much has been done to improve the situation of foreign workers in the past few years, she felt that employers can "do more" to protect their maids from dangers.
"I am perturbed that we continue to have reports of foreign domestic workers falling to their deaths while cleaning windows," she said, "Perhaps the Manpower Ministry should consider banning foreign domestic workers from cleaning windows in high-rise buildings in order to protect them, if there is no other way of stopping these unnecessary deaths," she said, in a speech at the International Migrants' Day celebration yesterday.
There were eight accidental falls relating to maids last year. Some 99 maids fell to their deaths from high-rise buildings between 1999 and June 2003.
Earlier this year, an employer was jailed for two weeks for making her maid hang laundry on the ledge, resulting in the maid falling to her death.
Under the law, employers can also be barred from hiring a maid in cases where they put their maids' lives in danger.
Madam Halimah, the assistant secretary general of NTUC, also called for "tighter control and regulation" in the sending countries against errant agencies.
"Exploitative foreign employment agencies that suck the workers dry and make them highly indebted even before they come to Singapore and those who promise their workers jobs which do not exist or bring them in illegally, are but some of the problems."
All 880,000 foreign workers in Singapore will also be affected by the removal of health subsidies in October next year, to be possibly replaced by medical insurance schemes which companies have to purchase.
The Manpower Ministry is discussing the costs and areas of coverage with insurance companies, and estimates put the monthly premium at about $10 to $20 per worker.
However, many of the foreign workers whom Today spoke to during yesterday's event seemed unaware of the impending changes.
Those who knew were worried that they would be short-changed.
Indian national Rasu Aruldaj, is a case in point. He was injured thrice at his workplace, a stone foundry, but was not allowed by his boss to go to a hospital as he deemed it not serious enough.
"I went to a polyclinic and my employer paid, but he later deducted it from my pay," the 31-year-old told Today through a translator.
Volunteers like Jolovan Wham, a social worker with Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), said he is concerned about how comprehensive the insurance might be.
That is why non-government organisations (NGOs) like his wants to be included in discussions on compulsory health-care insurance for foreign workers.
"We want to have a dialogue with the government on the terms of the medical insurance," said Ms Braema Mathi, president of advocacy group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2). "This might include whether it will cover diseases like malaria and chicken pox which foreign workers might contract on the work site," she said.
Yet another wonderful “Scholar” approach to the problem.
I have better suggestion then Halimah call for ban on cleaning window.
Banned maids all together! Not only you eliminate maid falling to death, you also eliminate employees having affair with maids. You also eliminate maids being torture by employee. See 3 birds are killed with one stone.
It is rather sad that Singapore, being a 1st world country that we love to boast about is treating foreign workers so badly.
You can sometime see the whole family wolfing down crabs and seafood while the maid just sat there with a bowl of rice. I have also seen maids carrying a baby plus 3-4 bags while the employee walk in-front empty handed.
Yes they are maids or foreign workers, but they are also a human being. Perhaps the Ministry of Education should re-look the important of the subject call social studies.
Once end we treat these workers like dirt and at the other ends we are sucking up to the so called Foreign talents.