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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Indonesia, Malaysia clinch maid deal

The two countries have settled for a 'win-win solution' in the recruitment of Indonesian domestic helpers.

JAKARTA: Indonesian domestic helpers will enjoy better working conditions in Malaysia under a new agreement between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur designed to end abuse and torture, a minister said today.

Indonesian Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said the agreement signed in Bandung late yesterday meant the lifting of a two-year freeze on Indonesian maids working in Malaysia.

“After going through a long negotiation process, we have eventually reached an agreement that is a ‘win-win solution’, with a number of improvements for the Indonesian worker,” he said in a statement.

“All this while, Indonesia and Malaysia continue to conduct research, evaluation and improvement in worker-placement mechanisms to protect the rights of both workers and employers.”

The agreement seeks to remove common areas of dispute between maids and their employers, as well as some of the ways the women, who often have little or no education, have been intimidated and blackmailed.

They will be allowed to retain their passports instead of giving them to their employers, and will be guaranteed the right to communicate with relatives and Indonesian authorities, Iskandar said.

Rather than working seven days a week as was common in the past, the women would be entitled to one day off or cash compensation in lieu.

Both governments will now determine the recruitment fee, including flight and accommodation costs usually borne by employers and maids and fixed by recruitment agencies.

But the agreement made no mention of a minimum wage, which was understood to be one of Indonesia’s negotiating points.

Malaysia is one of Asia’s largest importers of labour such as domestic workers, mainly from Indonesia. The women often work for as little as RM400 (US$130) a month, and have no laws governing their conditions.

Indonesia froze the market in June 2009 after a series of incidents of shocking mistreatment of Indonesian citizens at the hands of their Malaysian employers.

Malaysian woman Hau Yuan Tyng, a 45-year-old mother of two, is serving 11 years in jail for inflicting horrific wounds on her Indonesian maid, Siti Hajar, using a hammer, scissors and scalding water.

Siti, 35, escaped from her employer’s upmarket condo last year and made her way to the Indonesian embassy. Pictures of her injuries were splashed in newspapers in both countries.

- AFP

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