Monday, March 8, 2010

Some maids double as ‘hostel manager’ or ‘concierge’

DOMESTIC helpers or hostel managers? When it comes to some maids working in several private houses surrounding the Mt Elizabeth Hospital, the distinction is often not so clear.

One such maid, who gave her name as Madam Kartini, cooks, does the dishes and irons the laundry for 71-year-old ‘Lina’ and her son in a two-storey house in Jalan Lada Puteh.

When she is not cleaning, she acts as the concierge for the illegal budget accommodation at her employer’s house.

Madam Kartini’s contact details, as well as photographs of the house, are listed on a website advertising the house as a hostel for Indonesian visitors. Charges are between $60 and $110 for a night, depending on the number of guests.

As the contact person for the business, Madam Kartini liaises with the largely Indonesian clientele in their native tongue – overcoming the language barrier faced by her Mandarin-speaking employer.

‘She handles everything. She’s the one who handles telephone bookings, prepares the rooms, hands over the keys and settles payment,’ explained a 47-year-old Indonesian businessman who has helped several of his friends book rooms from Madam Kartini over the last three years.

‘Once, my friend arrived past midnight and she was at the house waiting for him,’ he added.

According to Madam Kartini, her employer lives there, but is usually not around during the day. Her son lives in a terrace house across the road, where the doors are also open to foreigners.

It is a similar story at the stretch of private houses along the nearby Jalan Elok where, residents told The Straits Times, maids acted as the contact points for their respective houses.

The owners of these houses – on the other hand – were rarely seen, said residents, and some do not even live there. One resident sees her neighbour only occasionally dropping off her laundry.

‘The maids run the show – they will even dress properly to fetch tenants from the hospital,’ said a resident who declined to be named. One of the maids even handed out a name card with her name, contact number, and the heading ‘Rental Room With AC’. AC stands for air-conditioning.

These maids seem unaware that their activities are illegal. Under the Ministry of Manpower’s regulations, maids are allowed to perform domestic duties at only their employers’ residences.

Employers violate work permit conditions when they use their maids to perform non-domestic work, or to work outside of employers’ residences. If convicted, employers can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to six months, or both.

Source: Straits Times, 8 Mar 2010

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