By PAUL GABRIEL
KUALA LUMPUR: The Indonesian Embassy will renew passports of maids if employers agree to pay them a minimum monthly salary of RM500 and not RM800 as reported.
Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Gen Da’i Bachtiar said the embassy would be flexible although the benchmark set was RM600.
“If the maid is happy with a RM550 or a RM500 wage, the embassy will renew her passport when the employer seeks to extend her services.
“The benchmark we are setting is RM600. But it is between the maid and her employer to decide on what is acceptable. But it can’t be lower than RM500,” he told The Star.
Gen Bachtiar was clarifying reports that he had set a RM800 minimum wage before the embassy would renew the passports of Indonesian maids. This drew criticism from various sectors here which said RM800 was too steep.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil described the wage limit as not feasible.
Clarifying his position, Gen Bachtiar said he had probably been misunderstood during a recent buka puasa event he hosted for Indonesian workers here.
“Many told me that their monthly wage was below RM500. I asked the factory workers how much they were paid and found out that their wages were even lower.
“I said this should not be, as factory workers are categorised under the formal sector and should receive higher pay up to at least RM800. This could have been misunderstood by the media to mean RM800 for domestic workers as well,” he explained.
On Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam having confirmed that Indonesia had asked for the RM800 minimum wage for maids, Gen Bachtiar said he was unaware of that.
“There must be a reasonable limit set. Our maids, with the same ability level as the ones sent here, earn RM1,600 in Hong Kong and Taiwan, between RM600 and RM750 in Saudi Arabia, and RM700 in Singapore.
“Their wage in Malaysia, in the peninsula, is between RM500 and RM600 on the average. But in Sabah and Sarawak, it is as low as RM200 to RM300,” he added.
Meanwhile, in Kluang, Subramaniam said the Government might consider reducing the RM445 annual levy charged for employing Indonesian maids to ease employers’ burden.
The minister, however, did not disclose the proposed amount after opening the National Job Carnival 2009 yesterday.
Employers had expressed concern with the high agency fees incurred for employing Indonesian maids which could cost between RM6,000 and RM7,000 for each maid.
Speaking of the request for the Indonesian maids’ salary to be raised above RM800 a month, Subramaniam said such a request had never been made by the Indonesian administration. - The Star