Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Maids' pay-rise hopes dashed

By EUNICE del ROSARIO
Vol XXVIII NO. 203
Sunday
9 October 2005
http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=123967&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=28203

A NEW minimum wage for Filipina housemaids, stipulated by their own government, is not worth the paper it's written on, say recruiters in Bahrain.

Recruiters may sign the minimum-wage contract required by law to get maids out of the Philippines, but families here will simply ignore it, say agents.

They say Filipina housemaids receive high salaries compared to domestic helpers from other countries working in Bahrain.

More Bahraini families are also choosing Indians, because they are "easier to get along with, learn to adapt easily, experience less culture shock once in Bahrain and are more loyal".On average, Filipina housemaids are said to earn about BD50 a month, while those from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Indonesia reportedly earn around BD40.

The Philippines' government has set a new minimum wage for Filipina housemaids in Bahrain at $200 (about BD75), which it says recruiters will have to meet.But manpower agencies dismissed this as a "formality".

They said the $200 minimum salary would be stated in contracts, but Bahraini families would most likely continue to pay Filipina housemaids BD50.

"I am happy to follow the $200 minimum wage, but the problem here is that the majority of Bahraini families would not be paying this salary. They are not in position to pay," Al Shoala Public Relations managing director and Bahrain Recruiters Society president Ali Al Shoala told the GDN yesterday.

Al Shoala Public Relations, a leading manpower supply company in Bahrain, brings on average about 40 housemaids from various countries to the kingdom.Mr Al Shoala said that he personally would like to see the BD75 minimum wage materialise, but doubted that anyone would pay it.

"It is very rare in Bahrain that families would pay even BD65 for a housemaid. Even rich families won't do that," he said.Three Bahraini families the GDN spoke to yesterday said that they paid their Filipina housemaids BD50 each a month.One family head said he would consider raising his housemaid's salary to BD60, even BD75, after a few years' service.

"It also depends on her skills. If she speaks good English and learns quickly, then why not raise her salary?" he said."Unfortunately, the growing problem with Filipina housemaids is that they generally think they can just leave and run away to their embassy at the slightest hint of a problem.

"Years ago, I had one Filipina housemaid who run away after two months because she said she was homesick."Another Bahraini family said that they would pay BD75 for a Filipina housemaid if she had a college education, other than that - they would only pay BD50."Why should we settle for someone who is not educated?" reasoned one member of the household.

Al Shoala's public relations manager Makki Abdulla said Goan housemaids were in high demand in Bahrain."Most Bahraini families want Indian housemaids now, this is what we have found out," he said."Indians make very good housemaids and they tend to adapt to Bahrain more easily than Filipinas.

They also stay for a long time in each household."All housemaids brought to Bahrain by Al Shoala are also trained prior to working with families here.If they are unpaid, abused or maltreated, they are urged to contact the agency and complain, said Mr Abdulla."If the employer is bad then we immediately put his name in our blacklist.

"A spokeswoman from Shaker Management Consultation Services said that it welcomed the minimum salary, set by the Philippines' Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE)."The Philippine Embassy in Bahrain pushed for a $300 (BD113.4) minimum salary, which we thought was a lot compared to other GCC countries - where it is $200," she said.

"This is in favour of Filipina housemaids definitely, especially if this means we will be able to hire more qualified candidates."Unfortunately, I doubt if anyone would pay BD75 a month. There is a trend in Bahrain that Filipino housemaids get BD50 a month.

"She said that Filipina housemaids got more in other countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, the UAE and Kuwait."Their salary in Bahrain is really minimal, whereas in Abu Dhabi Filipinas earn about BD75," said the spokeswoman.

"But within Bahrain, Filipinas earn more than Ethiophians, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshi housemaids."Lower salaries could mean lower quality of work, said a Zainal Manpower spokeswoman."The $200 minimum wage is just a formality in contracts, because anything less than that, the housemaid may not be able to leave the Philippines. But in reality, they get paid BD50 here," she said.

"But as an agency, our main concern is that the housemaids we bring are paid on time, they are treated properly and not abused."

Meeting

The Philippine Embassy hopes to hold another meeting with the Bahrain Recruiters Society.

Their last meeting was held at the embassy in Zinj in July, to find ways to ensure that employers stick to the standard contract for domestic staff.

The embassy also stressed to the BRS the fact that the Bahrain labour law of 1976 did not cover domestic helpers. This means that they have no benefits, such as medical insurance.

The society said that problems faced by housemaids in Bahrain were 'solvable'.

The society has a total of 61 manpower agency members. #

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