Centre for Domestic Employees signs four MOUs to enhance foreign maids' rights and welfare

In 2019, the Centre for Domestic Employees handled a total of 1,951 cases while its shelter also housed 556 maids. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE), a centre set up by the National Trades Union Congress to help distressed workers, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach to further enhance the rights and welfare of foreign domestic workers (FDW).

The agreement will see the CDE bolster support for maids, by providing them with sufficient legal counselling and life skills training via eight organisations that are currently working with the Alliance.

It was one of four MOUs signed on Sunday (Jan 19) at the centre's fourth-anniversary celebrations with several new partners including DBS Bank, the International Institute of Mediators, and Lutheran Community Care Services.

These partnerships, CDE representatives said, would help to further enhance the rights and welfare of maids.

For instance, the centre's MOU with its mediation partners will help develop a network of mediators, to either de-escalate and resolve conflicts between employers and maids, or help settle contractual disputes for a small token fee.

Meanwhile, DBS Bank has gifted a sum of $35,000 to support the building of a fruit and vegetable garden, as well as a herb and spice garden, at the CDE's shelter residences, which will give workers at the shelter a space to tend to plants in their free time.

"We have realised that there are many organisations that support domestic workers - whether it be in community and social services or in training programmes," said CDE executive director Shamsul Kamar.

"We believe in outreach, and we are exploring how we can tap the resources of stakeholders to do good, do better, and do more for our domestic workers by becoming a one-stop centre for them," he added.

The need for more assistance to help maids follows a rise in reported cases of welfare issues handled by the CDE.

In 2019, the centre handled a total of 1,951 cases, up from 1,358 in 2018, while its shelter also housed 556 maids, up from 373.

The centre attributes this rise to an increased awareness among maids of what the CDE can do to help them.

To date, it has more than 800 volunteers, up from 376 in 2018.

They act as the organisation's eyes and ears on the ground to spot a host of welfare issues that maids might face - from abuse, to salary and employment disputes.

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of CDE, said the centre's vision is to be the go-to non-governmental organisation (NGO) of choice for maids who work in Singapore.

"In our journey towards actualising this vision, we wish to be the NGO that can effectively assist foreign domestic workers when they face employment-related issues, while also looking after their welfare while they are in Singapore," said Mr Yeo.

"We are grateful that many partners have pledged to support us in this long-term journey, because all of us share that same passion in caring for, developing and engaging our foreign domestic workers," he added.

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