In the latest example of Singaporean media granting a platform to unsubstantiated claims about foreign migrant workers, one Singaporean employer recently wrote to a newspaper to rant about the failings of her Indonesian domestic worker.
But first she felt the need to point out that she – the employer – had the misfortune of employing a domestic worker who fell victim to avian flu. Such was the inconvenience – again, to the employer – of that domestic worker being put in an isolation ward, she had no option but to hire another domestic worker through an employment agency to look after her son and daughter.
Just when the employer might have thought she deserved a break, the replacement, a 26-year-old Indonesian, turned out to suffer multiple failings, not least poor personal hygiene.
Despite her new employee having claimed that she had experience in conducting domestic chores and looking after young children, her boss found her performance unsatisfactory. And so the employer, surnamed Huang, ran through a list of examples of her new worker’s shortcomings in a letter to the Shin Min Daily News.
She was inflexible and followed “commands” rigidly like a robot.
When she was asked to store food in containers, she put the food in a box without even putting a lid on the box.
When she was asked to fold clothes, she would fold every item of clothing, including those that were not yet dry.
The employer said that a more problematic issue was that the worker favored her daughter over her son, and was seen to scold the toddler for playing with toys. Huang thought this was rather nonsensical.
As if these performance flaws were not bad enough, the employer observed that her worker had poor personal hygiene; she failed to use hand gel when washing her hands, and was witnessed picking her nose at the dining table.
Huang related that when she sent the worker back to the agency, she was charged S$300 (US$218) for breaching contract terms which stated there would be an additional charge imposed if the employer failed to employ a worker for seven consecutive months.
Huang was unhappy about this, and argued that the fee should be waived given that the agency failed to provide a quality worker as promised.
After some negotiation, the penalty for breach of contract was reduced by 50%. Reports say that the employer has yet to find a suitable replacement worker.
The newspaper, despite naming the domestic worker, seemingly made no attempt to contact her, let alone give her a platform from which to address the accusations.