NTUC launches help centre for domestic workers and advisory panel to look into issues

From left: NTUC Central Committee Member Yeo Chun Fing, NTUC President Mary Liew , NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing, CDE Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, CDE Executive Director (Strategy) Shamsul Kamar, and CDE Executive Director (Operations) Phyllis Li
From left: NTUC Central Committee Member Yeo Chun Fing, NTUC President Mary Liew , NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing, CDE Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, CDE Executive Director (Strategy) Shamsul Kamar, and CDE Executive Director (Operations) Phyllis Lim.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - Domestic helpers in Singapore will have one more avenue for assistance in employment-related issues with the launch of a new centre by the labour movement on Sunday (Jan 24).

The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) will provide a 24-hour helpline and other services such as mental health counselling, legal clinics, humanitarian aid and emergency shelter.

This is part of ongoing outreach by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to all workers of all nationalities, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing.

"The centre will also be looking at the entire system to see where we can improve, perhaps that's what you mean by advocacy, so that we can have a more positive environment for our domestic employees," said Mr Chan, who is NTUC secretary-general, at the centre's opening at Goldhill Centre in Thomson Road.

An advisory panel - the Domestic Employees Stakeholders Forum - was formed to gather feedback on policies and issues about domestic workers. It includes employment agencies, non-government organisations and employers of maids and will meet quarterly. The first meeting was on Jan 7.

The 1,200 sq ft CDE currently houses five staff members, including former Manpower Ministry officers and NTUC staff, who speak a mix of English and Bahasa Indonesia.

The centre is recruiting staff with other language capabilities, said its executive director for operations Phyllis Lim. It is also recruiting volunteers from the various home countries of domestic helpers, and has one from Myanmar now.

CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said at a media briefing last Wednesday (Jan 20) that the centre would cater mostly to foreign domestic workers, of which there are around 227,100 here now. The figure is projected to grow to 300,000 by 2030.

Other domestic employees number around 4,000 and include drivers, gardeners and part-time domestic workers, he said.

The CDE will be open from 10am to 6pm on Tuesdays to Sundays except public holidays. The toll free helpline is 1800-CALL-CDE (1800-2255-233).