By IAN MCINTYRE, ZALINAH NOORDIN and JOSHUA FOONG (The Star)
PETALING JAYA: Indonesia’s demand that its maids be paid a minimum RM800 monthly salary has hit a raw nerve among Malaysians.
“Not all of us are getting a four-figure pay packet . Wait for us to progress, then such a request can be deemed feasible,’’ Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Kedah chapter chairman Pishol Ishak said.
He said many Matta members could not afford to pay RM800 monthly to their general workers, what more a similar sum for foreign maids.
Calling for rationality, he said: “As much as we value the role played by maids, particularly from Indonesia, the salary expectation must be in tandem with the earning power of Malaysians too.”
Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Da’i Bachtiar has been quoted in press reports as saying that the republic is pressing for the minimum wage following cases of maid abuse by Malaysian employers.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr. S. Subramaniam is expected to comment on the issue today.
It is estimated that 294,115 Indonesian maids are working throughout the country currently.
The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers northern region chairman, Datuk O.K. Lee, said manufacturers would be worried if the Government agreed to such a minimum wage as some local workers earned less than that.
‘‘It would cause anger among the workers. We have to find a balance. Such a move is not advisable at this juncture due to the (global economic slump),’’ Lee said.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun asked whether employers could still afford to hire Indonesian maids if they had to pay that sum.
“Also, will the increase in pay lead to better service from the maids?”
Chew suggested that households opt for other alternatives like engaging local or part-time maids to only work on certain days.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said there should not be a dependency on foreign labour, including that of maids.In a press statement, she suggested that the private sector, NGOs and individuals provide assistance in building more childcare and daycare centres to help families care for their children.
Insurance planning manager Looi Kok Cheong, who has had a maid for 15 years, said:
“It (RM800) will be a big jump from what we are paying now. It will be better if this increase is done gradually and not in one go.”