Govt Says Malaysian Maid Ban Could End Soon

JAKARTA ~ The government said its ban on sending maids to Malaysia, triggered by the latest abuse case, could be lifted within weeks if discussions are successful.

The ban was imposed last month after a 43-year-old Malaysian woman was charged with causing grievous bodily harm after beating her Indonesian maid and scalding her with boiling water.

Indonesia’s labour minister, Erman Suparno, said that in discussions with Malaysian officials this week, he made proposals that included the introduction of a compulsory day off for maids – who currently often work seven days a week.

He also wants maids to be allowed to retain their passports, instead of giving them to employers, and to have their wages paid into a bank to deter employers from withholding salaries.

“We want severe punishment on employers who abuse their maids,” he told a press conference.

The proposals, as well as a bid to introduce a minimum wage, will be discussed further when the two sides meet here formally on July 15.

“We will start discussions on July 15 and hopefully in two weeks we will arrive at a decision,” the minister said.

“We hope that the discussion will solve the problems so we can resume sending the maids,” he said. “We are optimistic.”

Suparno criticised the low wages Indonesian domestic workers receive in Malaysia, often about 400 ringgit (US$113) while their counterparts from the Philippines earn two or three times as much.

“There should be a standard wage regardless of where the maids are from. There should be no difference between Indonesia and the Philippines. This is a form of discrimination,” he said.

Malaysia has no laws governing working conditions for domestic workers but has promised to draft legislation to protect them from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor conditions.

Malaysian officials said an average of 50 maid abuse cases were reported each year out of 300,000 Indonesian maids working here, but the Indonesian embassy here said 1,000 maids experience violence and mistreatment annually.

About 1.2 million documented Indonesians are in Malaysia, with illegals estimated to number about 800,000.

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