Sat, 21 Feb 2004

RI Embassy shelters 30 troubled workers

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A woman migrant worker who had her leg amputated recently is still staying with 29 other colleagues, including a child worker, at the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore awaiting compensation for her suffering from her Singaporean employer.

Ranis Andriani from Cilacap in Central Java, has stayed at the embassy for several weeks to seek fair compensation for the incident that caused the loss of her leg.

Ranis fell when she was cleaning the windows of her employer's high-rise apartment, causing serious injuries. Unfortunately the damage to her leg was so severe it had to be amputated above the knee.

The second secretary of the Indonesian Embassy, Fachry Sulaiman, confirmed on Friday that 23-year-old Ranis had not yet received any compensation from her former employer or the Indonesian labor recruitment company that sent her to the island state five months ago.

"The embassy has hired a Singaporean lawyer for Ranis since her employer apparently has no commitment to settle the case properly," he said, explaining that the embassy had spent S$3,500 to cover her medical fees and to pay the lawyer.

Fachry said the lawyer in cooperation with the embassy had filed Ranis' case with the Singapore Police.

He added he was astounded that Ranis' former employer did not have the goodwill to settle the case amicably, on the contrary he reported to the police that she had attempted suicide. The police met her to ask her to sign a statement that she had tried to take her own life.

Ranis refused to make such a statement and called the embassy for assistance.

According to her work contract, Ranis has the right to receive S$5,000 from her former employer and Rp 15 million (US$1,800) from the Indonesian recruitment agency.

Ranis is only one of many Indonesian workers who have had accidents in their workplace because they were not trained to work in multistory apartments. Several domestic helpers died last year under similar circumstances.

Fachry said further that the embassy had also given refuge to a nine-year-old child worker who was brought in by his uncle from Medan to seek work in Singapore.

"The school-aged child has rejected repatriation, saying he will only go home with his uncle," he said.

Most workers have been stranded at the embassy because of financial and administrative problems preventing them from returning to Indonesia. Most had escaped their workplace and could not return home because they were not paid, while their passport was being kept by their employers.

Asked about key reasons behind the workers' troubles, Fachry said many workers ran into difficulties because they were unskilled and often became depressed due to the lack of communication with their employers and their families at home.

"To solve the main problems encountered by domestic helpers, Indonesia has decided to provide training for workers at a training center in Batam, Riau, before they are employed in Singapore. We are also still lobbying the Singapore government to give one day off per week to Indonesian domestic helpers working there," he said.

Hundreds of Indonesians are employed in Singapore as domestic helpers with an average monthly salary of S$230 (Rp 1,150,000).

Secretary of the director general for overseas labor placement at the manpower ministry Suwarno said the government was accelerating the development of a training center so that the government could start providing services under one roof for workers who wanted to work in Singapore as of March 1.

"The training center is near completion. Workers will be trained and get the necessary documents at the training center before they are employed in Singapore. It is important to make sure workers have the appropriate skills before being employed and to prevent them from illegally entering the neighboring country," he said.