Manpower agents upset over cost of hiring Indonesian maids

National 3 minutes, 47 seconds

BELAIT

LOCAL manpower agencies are puzzled and frustrated with the fluctuating costs of hiring Indonesian domestic helpers, claiming that recruitment fees were double the amount set by the Indonesian government.

Manpower agencies operating in the Belait disctrict said the amount quoted by “Indonesian employment agencies” to recruit and bring a domestic helpers to Brunei had steadily increased over the years. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the agencies said paying about $2,400 was common to bring in domestic helpers from Indonesia.

The agencies took the opportunity to meet Indonesian embassy officials who were in the district to provide consular services to Indonesians over the weekend.

The manpower suppliers added that they also had recorded incidents where they had been “cheated”; where they fronted the hiring fees to Indonesian agencies, but the domestic helpers failed to arrive in Brunei. “The cheating and the inconsistent cost for importing (the domestic helpers) are our biggest problems, not the $350 minimum wage imposed by the Indonesian government,” said one manpower supplier with 10 years of experience.

“The amount for hiring can fluctuate between $1,800 to $2,400 so we agencies are left confused. And it's not a secret either, just survey the agencies and you'll find out.”

As a result, Brunei's employment agencies are charging customers in about $3,000 and above to make a profit.

Consular and technical staff on hand from the Indonesian embassy were quick to acknowledge these claims, but stressed that the best way to address these are through the creation of labour regulations between Indonesia and Brunei.

But as the joint working group meeting on labour cooperation between the two nations is expected, but not confirmed to take place in the next few months, the Indonesian embassy is urging local suppliers to be thorough in their selection and to only do business with Indonesian agencies that are properly registered.

Indonesian technical staff overseeing labour, Ahmad Syahri, said the Indonesian government has regulations that currently cap the maximum cost for hiring – which includes training, flight tickets and document processing – at $1,200 for Brunei.

“If it is more than $1,200 then the (Indonesian) agency is going against what we have set (for the Brunei market). It is also possible that these are false “agencies” who are not properly registered and do not have the proper licensing to carry out such business,” said Ahmad.

He also said that companies in the sultanate should contact Brunei's embassy in Indonesia, which has a list of registered employment agencies in Indonesia, before agreeing to do business.

He added that the $1,200 hiring fee is ultimately borne by the domestic helper, but is usually paid in monthly instalments over the course of maid's contract.

Local manpower suppliers who have paid, and continue to be quoted for well over $1,200 to bring in a helper, said maids repaid the $1,200, but claimed the remaining amount is shouldered by them and their customers.

“If it costs $2,200 to bring one in, then the customer will end up paying $3,000 and above. Out of the say $3,000, $1,200 will eventually paid by the maid, $1,000 will go to the Indonesian agency, and we are left with $800 as profit,” said a representative from a local employment agency.

If there are problems with the maid in the first several months they are here, requiring them to leave the country, the local employment agency shoulders the return airfare, leaving a relatively small profit margin.

The embassy also said the $1,200 fee should be fronted by the Bruneian agency to their Indonesian counterpart before the domestic helper arrives in the sultanate.

However, some local manpower suppliers have gone around this arrangement, only paying the hiring fee after the helper arrives in Brunei and passes their medical test. “How can I risk fronting over $2,000 for a helper to an (Indonesian) agency, when I can't guarantee 100 per cent that they will arrive,” said another local supplier, who said he has never been shortchanged, but that he has “seen enough” cases of cheating to take “precautions”.

Bramantya Dewabrata from the Indonesian embassy’s Consular Section disagreed with delaying payment until the helper arrives.

“First off if they are legitimate, they shouldn't be charging in excess of $2,000. And if they are legitimate agencies, the helper will certainly arrive (as agreed), or it they will refund the money. They are legally obliged to do so.

“What we are working hard on, and is really needed is a bilateral agreement on labour. Then both Brunei and Indonesia can jointly set and enforce accordingly the maximum cost-structure for hiring, minimum wages and other details. At the moment it is just from our side,” Bramantya added.

The Brunei Times