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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Group slams maid program

A group of trainee maids practise setting up a dining table at the training facility of local recruitment agency Philimore Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in late 2013.
A group of trainee maids practise setting up a dining table at the training facility of local recruitment agency Philimore Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in late 2013. Pha Lina

Group slams maid program

A pilot scheme to send Cambodian domestic workers to Singapore has been described as a “failure” by a worker welfare group due to concerns over poor working conditions.

Speaking at a conference in Singapore over the weekend, John Gee, spokesman for Singapore-based Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said that while standards were improving, issues still remained for many of the foreign domestic workers in the tiny island nation.

“They work long hours and there is no holiday.

The problems of Cambodian domestic workers are similar to those from other countries,” he said, adding that salaries were often not delivered on time.

Cambodia began a pilot program in 2013 for 400 workers to be sent on two-year contracts to Singapore, emphasising strict training in an attempt to avoid the well-publicised abuse of Cambodian maids in Malaysia.

Gee said that particular barriers faced by Cambodian workers in Singapore included a lack of English-language skills and work permits that do not specify working hours.

“I think that Cambodia should send more workers, but what it has to do [first] is fix existing problems from the pilot,” he said, describing the program as a “failure.”

An official at the Cambodian Embassy in Singapore who declined to be named said he was “aware” of the issues, which he claimed had been solved by the embassy.

Ung Seang Rithy, director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, denied that such problems had occurred.

“Their boss gives their salary directly to them – there is no lateness,” she said.

“In Singapore, the law is very strict. They have holidays. But if they want to work extra time, the boss will pay them more.”

Seang Rithy said a little over 300 out of the 400 hoped-for workers had been sent thus far, because only women with at least an eighth-grade education are accepted.

Of those 300, about seven have returned because of health or adjustment issues, Seang Rithy said.

However, there have been reports of abuse in the past.

Wham Jolovan, executive director of the Singapore-based Humanitarian Organization for Migrant Economics, said that two Cambodian workers were sheltered by his group for three to six months after they were physically abused.

TWC2 also told the Post last year that it assisted one Cambodian maid to change her employer after she was forced to sleep in the same room as an old man who molested her twice.

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