Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Third Class Workers

Still on the issue on foreign labour, I would like to relay what I witnessed at a Maid Agency I visited a week ago.

I was there to arrange for a replacement for my maid of more than 5 years who will be returning to Indonesia for good.

Though I wished she could stay on further but to certain circumstances, this wish is not possible.

More on her later but let us go back to the scene at the Maid Agency.

While I was busily perusing the biodatas of the available maids (not many though as there were only TWO left), came in two ladies, one the employer and the other the maid.

The employer lady asked the Maid Agency personnel to advise her maid (I presumed to be newly employed) against the maid's wish to buy a handphone for herself.

The Maid Agency, upon her request, and without asking the maid much, straight away pull the maid aside and started to lecture her on why she should not have a handphone.

According to her, her purpose in life (that's while in Malaysia) is to serve her employer as a maid, and that's it! "You are not here on a social visit", she said. "You are here to work. And your work does not require you to have a handphone!", she added.

"Doesn't your employer treated you fairly all these while, she gave you food, shelter and rest hours, what more do you need? Surely not a handphoe, but some sense of gratitude as you now have a job that earns money. Save as much money as you can and when you have completed your contract, you can then return to Indonesia and buy as many handphones as you wish!", she "advised".

The maid then told her that ever since she started working, not once had she had the chance of calling back home to see how her family members were doing without her around. She said that she have kids and a husband. That's why she needed a handphone so that she can be rest assured that everything are under control and that she won't be duly worried over them. "I don't want to sneak using the house phone as clearly the "boss" doesn't like the idea of her using the phouse phone to call home", she then said.

"No, no, maids are not entitled to make phone calls, especially long distance calls. Leave it to you husband who had sent you here to make money for the family. For all you know, he might have a new "wife" now, so why bother calling him up!", said the Maid agensy personnel.

I was aghast upon hearing all these nonsense. How can they cut family ties just because she's here as a maid. It's just like modern slavery, work, work and work with no human emotions. The only difference is that they gets paid while slaves don't. I pity the maid as she had subsequently and eventually agreed not to ask for a handphone anymore, a handphone that she had earlier wanted (on her expenses).

She then left with the employer, sad and dejected.

Though it is premature for me to assess whether her employer is a good employer or otherwise based on the conversations I heard but personally speaking, I think the employer and the Maid Agency personnel are being simply cruel. What harm can it do if she's allowed to call back home once in a while to have a chat with her love ones. Why must you make one feel that she has no one now except her employer and the family of the employer.

If I were her, I would surely be in an emotional crisis, what more to be able to perform (as a Maid) effectively and productively.

Getting back to my own maid, I am proud to tell the world that we (the family) have always treated the maid with upmost respect that she deserves. She have a handphone (bought with her own money) but before getting one, she has been allowed to call back home from time to time. Each time she calls back, we can see the glow on her face, happy and therefore highly sprited.

Every weekend, when we "jalan-jalan", she is together with us enjoying the weekend.

She is also part of the entourage in every family vacations. Be it near or far. We have brought her to Sabah and Sarawak on our expense, something like our own employer would treat us occasionally if not annually.

She has been to almost all the 3,4,5 star hotels, though not a room to herself but sharing with my two other kids. And since her marriage to a fellow countryman last December, she has been given leave on every weekend to be with her husband.

And on top of that, she gets to get back to Indonesia every year for her own vacation at our expense. After all, with the cheap fare available from Air Asia, trips to Indonesia have been cheap anyway.

That's how we treated her, no less than any other member of the house. And all these "priviledges" (if you can call it as priviledges) does not affect her work. In fact she became more responsible in dishing out her responsibilities, responsibly and effectively.

I surely hope that my fellow "maid employers" would put themselves in the maid's shoes once in a while and try to appreciate that all of us are human beings after all. All of us need relationships, access to a telephone is one of the means to that.

Happy Labour Day

Jasni AJ

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