Free mediation help, with more teeth, for maids

A maid agency in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. Foreign domestic workers can now get free mediation services at a non-profit organisation that may lead to legally binding settlement agreements.
A maid agency in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. Foreign domestic workers can now get free mediation services at a non-profit organisation that may lead to legally binding settlement agreements.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Foreign domestic workers can now get free mediation services at a non-profit organisation and arrive at legally binding settlement agreements.

The Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (Fast) said yesterday that it has received accreditation to provide such services, and can help domestic workers resolve problems they may face with their employers or employment agents.

Fast has been providing pro bono mediation services since 2016 and has handled 46 cases so far, said its mediation sub-committee chairman Michael Chew.

But although all those cases were settled amicably, the agreements were technically not legally enforceable, he added.

Mr Chew said the cases were referred to Fast by various sources, including the parties involved in the dispute as well as embassies and the police.

A team of 14 volunteers at Fast, who are from other mediation organisations such as the Community Mediation Centre managed by the Ministry of Law, has been helping domestic workers resolve issues such as days off, home leave and getting enough food.

Mr Chew added that the number of volunteer mediators may have to double as Fast will begin taking on cases referred to it by the Ministry of Manpower.

 
 
 

Fast is the first social service organisation in Singapore to receive accreditation, said Mr Marcus Lim, executive director of the Singapore International Mediation Institute (Simi). The institute is the only official accreditation body for mediators here.

Mr Lim said Fast had good practices of its own in place even before it was officially accredited.

Simi helped Fast firm up some processes, such as its criteria for assessing volunteer mediators, he added.

While other commercial mediation centres offer services to anyone, including domestic workers, most charge a fee that is too high for domestic workers to afford, said Fast president Seah Seng Choon.

"Mediation is an essential service," said Mr Seah. "We want to save jobs, so that the helper can continue to work for the employer, and the employer saves the hassle of looking for another helper."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2019, with the headline 'Free mediation help, with more teeth, for maids'. Print Edition | Subscribe