I am referring to the article "Labour Department Clarifies on EAO 2004" by the Department of Labour (DOL) published in your esteemed paper dated December 5, 2012, which is in response to my earlier letter on the matter.
Indeed, I am fully aware of the reason why the EAO 2004 was introduced even without the explanation from DOL. As I can see and which has only been verified by the DOL, the EOA 2004 has its main purpose to substantially protect employment agencies. These agencies have never complained of being jeopardised by members of the public who have taken maids from them.
DOL has missed the very point that I have been trying to point out to them. My question is how is the EOA to benefit a family person like me who just needs a maid to attend to our daily chores at home? I fully support the EOA 2004 but the implication of its implementation has not been thoroughly thought out thus ending with its successful implementation at the expense of individuals like me who have a family to take care of due to the unreasonable restriction imposed by EOA 2004.
Let me share with the DOL the experience I had recently encountered in trying to recruit a maid. I approached a few licensed agencies who unfortunately ran out of bio-data for maids. Most of them charged around $2,400. for the service. I finally found one agency who had a few maid bio-data. I picked one and paid a deposit of $1,200.
I arranged for the agent to terminate my existing maid but I ran out of luck when some two weeks later the agent told me that the maid I had selected was taken up by somebody else. I was shocked as to how this could happen. Having no other option left I opted to find another agent who also charged $2,400 for her service. Again I selected a maid but few days later the agent told me this maid was again taken up by another individual.
For the third time I chose another potential maid and also suffered the same fate.
Now DOL please justify how and what role has EOA 2004 played in improving the service when I had to pay such an exorbitant price. Is this what the licensed employment agencies now can offer us?
For the record I am still waiting for my new maid to arrive despite waiting for over a month now I was lucky that the first licensed employment agency refunded my $1,200 deposit promptly. My own sister was not so lucky in that the agent she appointed failed to refund her deposit promptly but is rather paying her back in installments at $100 a month.
I have a friend who has to wait for over six months for his maid despite promises given by the licensed employment agency. Another friend of mine faced a more serious problem when his maid requested to leave Brunei after having worked for only a mere three months.
I do not recall DOL stating or even addressing this as a positive outcome from the EOA 2004. Living in a relatively small community in Brunei, I believe that the DOL is perfectly aware that the services the public receives from the licensed employment agencies are appalling and worse than previously offered prior to the enforcement of the EOA 2004.
During better times, we only needed to fork out around $600 to recruit a maid compared to $2,400 now That is an increase of $1,800 or 300 per cent for a terrible service than before. I would expect to get nothing but the best for spending that much money.
I can only conclude that the introduction of EOA 2004 is only a way to show that the DOL is doing something to deal with issues with respect to employment agencies who have only hiked up the price for their service without improving their service, which is the very reason the DOL moved to deal with in the first place.
It is in my opinion that the EOA 2004 brings no benefit whatsoever to employers like me who just need a maid.
I feel the EOA 2004 should only be imposed on companies not individuals. As clarified by the DOL, there are issues with regards to the processing of BUR 500. If the DOL is serious about helping us, then the least they can do is to regulate the exorbitant charges imposed by licensed employment agencies. If the prices can be brought down to say $600, it can be very helpful to low income people in this country. The current charge of $2,400 is beyond the reach of most of us.
I seriously urge the DOL to look into this issue again by paying more attention to individual employers like myself, instead of going on and on about the benefit of the EOA 2004 to the country, employment agencies and companies.