SINGAPORE: The Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) announced on Sunday (Dec 17) that it opened three new satellite offices at City Plaza, Peninsula Plaza and Union Square in mid-November this year.
The satellite offices act as walk-in centres for foreign domestic workers with employment-related concerns.
CDE said the offices were launched at areas where a good proportion of foreign domestic workers tend to congregate during their rest days. It has since moved out of its previous office at Goldhill Centre at Thomson Road.
City Plaza and Peninsula Plaza are popular meeting spots among the Indonesian and Myanmar communities respectively.
The centre added that it is also looking to open another office at Lucky Plaza, but has yet to find a suitable location within the premises.
The foreign workers and the centre’s volunteers will also be able to use the offices at City Plaza and Peninsula Plaza as mingling places, and engage in activities like handicrafts.
The office in Peninsula Plaza, for instance, has several couches and a beverage station for volunteers and foreign domestic workers to use.
One volunteer with the CDE, 55-year-old Milagros Paris Bangkiat, who is also a foreign domestic worker, said that she is glad to see the centre widen its reach.
“They can come here and they can share their problem, (and) the centre can help them solve the problem,” she said, adding that the offices help workers who meet there get to know each other better.
With the expansion, the organisation said it is looking at increasing its number of staff and volunteers.
E-PAYMENT OF SALARIES
The centre is also encouraging employers to pay maids’ salaries through bank transfers to reduce salary-related disputes.
The workers will be able to open a bank account with POSB Bank called the “POSB Payroll Account (FDW)”, where there is no need for them to maintain a minimum deposit amount, or make any initial deposits.
For now, they have to head to any of the three CDE satellite offices to open an account.
The move came after a CDE report released in January revealed that salary disputes are one of the three most common issues faced by foreign domestic workers.
Chairman of CDE Yeo Guat Kwang said that if a foreign domestic worker requests for her salary to be paid through electronic means, according to the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, the employers shall respect her request and make the necessary arrangements for her salary to be paid through direct transfer into the Singapore bank account.
Mr Yeo added that by increasing their outreach efforts, the centre hopes to be an organisation that workers can turn to early on when disputes arise, not only when the situation becomes dire.
“We realised that we cannot be the last touch points… we need to ... make our help more accessible to the workers,” Mr Yeo said. “(Then,) they will find that in fact it is a friendly organisation. If they really have any problems, straightaway, they can come to us."
Mr Yeo said that the centre is also working on developing other programmes, including a membership plan for workers, where they will get access to a pool of services at a preferential rate.
The centre is currently in discussion with telcos and insurance providers, among others. More details will provided next year, he said.
TRAINING PROGRAMME ON THE CARDS
Also on the cards is a training programme for maids, which will be announced in the first quarter of 2018.
Earlier in April this year, Mr Yeo said that the centre was looking into standardising training standards.
Mr Yeo added that there are currently more than 230,000 foreign domestic workers in Singapore, but that figure is projected to be more than 300,000 by 2030, particularly as the city-state’s ageing population grows.
To ensure that the foreign domestic workers workers continue to seek jobs in Singapore, the country has to help them understand that “in Singapore we do have the law to protect them, and they can actually feel at ease to work in Singapore".