Jakarta policy riles 
    maid agents in Spore

 Jakarta Post
June 18, 2012

By Amelia Tan
Asia News Network

MAID agents - unhappy with a new policy by the Indonesian government that bars agencies from earning commission from maids - hope to resolve the issue with the Indonesian Embassy here (Singapore).

They want the president of the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore) (AEAS), K. Jayaprema, to meet the embassy officials.

The agents said the officials should come out to say that Singapore agents could charge Indonesian maids commission and not face repercussions such as being blacklisted by the embassy.

If the embassy does not do this, the agents said they will have to pass on the cost of the commission, which generally ranges from 1.5 to two months of a maid's salary, to employers.

Employers will likely baulk at having to pay, say the agents, who added that they cannot absorb the fees as it will cause a huge dent in their profit margins.

An Indonesian maid earns about $450 a month.

Sukmo Yuwono, a counselor at the Indonesian Embassy here, said in response to queries from The Straits Times that Jakarta 'does not encourage' maid agencies here to charge the maids commission but is aware that it would be difficult to enforce Indonesian government regulations here.

He added: 'If the maid agencies in Singapore want to charge maids fees for their services, they must get the Indonesian recruiters and maids to agree to it.'

In a further sign of their unhappiness, about 40 maid agents have signed a letter requesting that the management committee of AEAS hold an extraordinary general meeting to discuss the association's stand on the issue.

Jayaprema responded in an e-mail last week that she will do so at a date to be confirmed.

The new guideline implemented by the Indonesian government on May 1 is part of broader changes introduced to bring down the costs incurred by maids when they look for a job overseas.

Under the previous system, Singapore agents could charge Indonesian maids placement fees to cover costs such as advice and housing before an employer is found - but they cannot do so now.

The agents said they are entitled to these fees as the Employment Agencies Act states that employment agencies in Singapore can charge the worker a fee not exceeding one month of the salary, for each year of the duration of the work pass or employment contract. The total amount they can charge must not exceed two months of the worker's salary.

Maids work on two-year contracts.

The rule changes have led to a slowdown in the supply of Indonesian maids and are raising frustration among agents.

Vine Employment Agency owner Yong W.P., who rallied other agents to request for the extraordinary general meeting, said: 'It is unfair not to get paid for our services. If the maid has problems, agents spend time counseling both her and her employer.'

Karl Tan, who owns Inter-Mares agency, said: 'We will have to pass on the cost to employers. And the increased costs will shock employers.'

A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower noted that while source countries may choose to impose additional requirements, 'employers and employment agencies should assess whether they can fulfill these conditions when choosing which source country to bring workers from'.

There are now some 206,000 maids here and about half of them are from Indonesia.