Monday, April 23, 2012

Stop the epidemic of falling maids now!

Dear Friends,
I just read the Straits Times and realised Minister of State ( Community Development, Youth and Sports) has advocated the same thing!
For the records, I had submitted the letter below to the Forum over the weekend before Mdm Halimah said anything about this. It does not matter-just stop the carnage!
Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

The letter to the Forum pages
Addendum (26.4.12): My letter printed in the ST Forum ( with some editing) here .
Dear Editor

Stop the epidemic of falling maids now!
There is an epidemic of falling maids!

Seven foreign domestic workers (FDWs) have died in less than 4 months of this year (2012) alone, mostly after falling from heights whilst cleaning windows.

These women, many from remote villages in Indonesia or the Philippines, work for meager wages so that at the end of their contracts, their families can have a chance of escaping the poverty trap back home.

However the 7 this year and numerous others in previous years, have sacrificed their lives needlessly for some speck of dirt on their employers’ glass windows.

It is obvious to most that Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) actions have fallen on deaf ears and have been ineffective so far.

Drastic problems require drastic and sometimes seemingly ridiculous solutions.

I propose the following short and long-term solutions.

Short-term solutions:
1.  Immediate ban on cleaning of the outside of windows in all apartments/flats by maids. Flouting of this ban should attract stiff penalties.
2.  HDB (Town councils) or Management corporations ( for private apartments) will make arrangement for professional window cleaners, who are equipped with “gandolas” etc, to clean these windows for a small fee per household. 
Long-term solutions:
1.  Developers (of private and public housing projects) should be incentivized to install windows that can be pivoted so that no-one needs to stretch precariously to clean any parts of windows.
2.   The hanging of clothes on bamboo poles outside the apartments should finally be done away with (as in most private apartments now where laundries are hung at designated washing areas inside). These are unsightly and ,of course, dangerous.

Some cynics will say that a handful of deaths (out of about 150000 FDW’s) is statistically not really alarming and to inconvenience many households just to save a few lives may not be logical.

However, I feel that this is a small price for all of us to pay as even one unnecessary FDW death is one death too many.

MOM, MND and HDB please do something about it now.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan


Anonymous said...

Yup, no employer should require or allow their helpers to clean external window panes in high rise apartments. It's just too cruel and unthinkable that helpers who are unskilled in working outside high rise apartments are made to do such jobs when there is clearly a risk of them falling out and plunging to their death.

In Australia here, we notice that external window cleaning of high rise apartments(much lower than in Singapore anyway!) are only done by contractors (with gondolas, and the whole safety works) called in by the building management yearly for owners who want and are willing to pay for the services. Most people just live with letting nature (the rain) do the job. Frankly, who really cares if they are not sparkling clean, especially when we know that lives could be spared?

The Pariah said...

Within next two decades, there won't be cheap enough foreign labour even for gondola-housed or harness-strapped prof window cleaners (expect to pay $1-$2k for monthly mgmt fee). Die lah, cannot even retire in Singapore, must go to JB or Batam as per Minister Khaw's idea even though we don't need a Nursing Home.

Below is a story of SHORT TERM GAIN for Govt and Biz and LONG TERM PAIN for People.

All new condos have all-glass curtain wall facade in our equatorial climate. Why are we living in 3-sided aquarium?

Because URA allow developers to charge for Net Saleable Area (NSA) from the inner surface of the glass panel. Whereas under Strata Title Area (STA), developers can only charge from the mid-point of the thickness of the external wall on which the window frame sits.

So when you multiply that 3" by the 3-sided perimeter of each condo unit and further multiplied by the number of units on each floor over 36 or 42 floors - now you know why we have aquarium condos!

BTW, all-glass panels improve productivity for the Construction Industry because it hastens the Buildability Rate. So the Govt also give out grants to these developers/contractors using our public $$$. Of course, Time is Money to developers too.

- Never mind that glass traps heat most efficiently during the day.

- Never mind that with ageing population, flexi-work hours and soho set-up, apartments are occupied during the day (read: air con at full blast to counter efficient heat retention).

- Never mind that Asians typically are more private, turning their condos into cinemas with ceiling-to-floor drapes fully drawn 24x7 except for a sliver.

- Never mind about frequency of drapes laundry versus external wall repainting in terms of electricity and water usage.

- Never mind that water seepage is more likely than wall cracks when the slightest glass panel seepage is more problematic than wall cracks that must be wide enough to cause problems.

Anonymous said...

Me pity those workers that are unjustifiably or ill treated by their employers. Indeed there were many cases.

Just as equally sad and worrying are those sick BUT not seeking medical help becos they cannot afford.

The elderly and less endowed too are another neglected lot.

What is happening in Sin? And why?