New shelter for distressed maids next year

Mr Velucharmy Muniapparaj (centre), 30, an operations executive who was the winner at the finals of the Our Migrant Workers Got Talent 2! competition yesterday, posing for photos with fellow participants.
Mr Velucharmy Muniapparaj (centre), 30, an operations executive who was the winner at the finals of the Our Migrant Workers Got Talent 2! competition yesterday, posing for photos with fellow participants.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE), a help centre set up by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), plans to launch a new shelter for distressed workers in the second quarter of next year.

The shelter will be able to house and support around 100 maids.

This was announced on International Migrants Day (IMD) yesterday, at one of two events by NTUC non-governmental organisations, the Migrant Workers' Centre and CDE. The new shelter will bring CDE's total housing capacity to 150 as it rents 50 bed spaces at an undisclosed location, making it Singa- pore's biggest shelter for maids.

Most maids in shelters may be embroiled in disputes with the authorities, their employers or employment agencies, said CDE.

Speaking to the media yesterday, CDE's executive director for strategy, Mr Shamsul Kamar, said that as more maids come to Singapore, "what we want to do is strengthen our capabilities and how we can give humanitarian, social, emotional support (to them)".

He added that having its own shelter will allow the CDE to "provide direct support to our domestic workers who are having issues".

The new shelter will have counselling and mediation services.

Ms Sheena Kanwar, executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), was heartened to learn of the new shelter and its services.

Currently, Home runs Singa- pore's largest shelter for maids in distress, with rooms for about 70 workers.

"Once (workers) report abuse or exploitation, their safety might further get undermined and alternative emergency housing becomes essential," said Ms Kanwar. "Holistic socio-legal support for the shelter residents is very important."

Home continues to call for maids to be covered under the Employment Act, which will ensure them labour rights such as statutory holidays and paid leave.

To celebrate IMD, the Migrant Workers' Centre organised a talent show in Hougang.

The centre's chairman, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, said on the event's sidelines: "With the 20,000 cases that we have helped, the main issues are still with salary disputes, workplace injury compensation claims and concerns about workers' accommodation."

He hopes for more enforcement in the future to ensure salaries are promptly paid and for effective resolutions to claims submitted.

He also urged the authorities to "consider imposing a deterrent sentence" such as jail for errant employers who collect kickbacks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2016, with the headline 'New shelter for distressed maids next year'. Print Edition | Subscribe