Dec 5, 2017

Labour rights groups stunned by Malaysia-Cambodia agreement to protect domestic maids

Labour rights groups stunned by Malaysia-Cambodia agreement to protect domestic maids

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia and Cambodia have signed a new agreement on Nov 29 which aims to protect domestic workers.


The agreement, which among others, includes the need for maids to be given smartphones, bank accounts and counselling, however came to as a surprise for labour rights groups in both countries.

The Phenom Penh Post, in a report, said labour rights groups claimed they were not consulted on the long-awaited memorandum of understanding (MoU), which has yet to be made public.

The signing ceremony, which was not announced in Cambodia, were attended by its Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng, the ministry’s Director-General Seng Sakada and Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies President Jeffrey Foo.

Foo was quoted as saying that the agreement would help to create a raft of protections for Cambodian domestic workers, who are needed to fill a shortage of maids in Malaysia.

He said the association is hoping to bring in up to 20,000 maids a year to Malaysia, starting with a small batch at the beginning of next year.

The association, he said, would provide each worker with a free smartphone, monitor their salary payments and ensure that employment agencies sign contracts underlying the duties and responsibilities of maids.

“We have to work very hard to train and convince the people in Cambodia that Malaysia is a good place to work.”

“We will have to treat this very carefully and make sure the interests of all the parties are protected,” he was quoted as saying.

Cambodia banned the sending of maids to Malaysia in 2011 after workers reported widespread abuse, including overwork, salary disputes and even physical and sexual assault.

The two countries agreed to reopen the pipeline in 2015, but the rollout was marred by procedural confusion.

Meanwhile, Keo Poeurn, coordinator of the labour group Informal Democratic Economy Association, said he hoped that the agreement would make it a requirement for regular inspections of working conditions and time off for workers.

“If they don’t give protections like that, I don’t think maids working in Malaysia are safe,” Poeurn said.

Adrian Pereira, executive director of Malaysian human rights group North-South Initiative, questioned whether the agreement would really be enforced as maid agencies were not informed about the new agreement.

“[The Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies] needs to ask itself how many of its own members have gone through the guidelines,” Pereira said.

Representatives of anti-trafficking NGO Chab Dai and human rights group Adhoc said they were also unaware of the new agreement.

It is not clear how many agencies, if any, are currently sending maids to Malaysia.

A source from Phnom Penh-based recruiting firm Elite Manpower Agency said the company has not seen the new MoU with Malaysia.

“Our agency has started to advertise for recruitment and preparing training, but we’re looking to see the new regulations from the Ministry of Labour to be able to set the timeline to send the maids,” she said.

Source : NST

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