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Employment agency that posted 'insensitive' online ads portraying maids as commodities pleads guilty

SINGAPORE - An employment agency which advertised maids that have been hired as “sold” has become the first firm to plead guilty to posting insensitive advertising, breaching regulations laid out in the Employment Agency Licence Conditions.

On Tuesday (March 26) SRC Recruitment pleaded guilty to 45 charges which included initiating the advertisements that cast foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in an undignified light.

Another 99 charges will be taken into consideration during sentencing. One of SRC's employees was fined $20,000 (RM60,282) last November.
For instance, the posts contained a price column and when a maid was selected, the advertisement would indicate underneath her photograph that she had been "sold".

Employment agencies have to operate in accordance with Employment Agency (EA) alerts, which are official messages the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) regularly sends out to such firms.

These alerts emphasise the need for agencies to refrain from "insensitive advertising" that cast FDWs in an "undignified light", MOM prosecutor Vala M told the court.

She said MOM sent out such alerts on three occasions - July 16, 2014; Nov 18, 2016 and Feb 2 last year.

In mid-August last year, one of SRC Recruitment's employees Erleena Mohd Ali, 41, set up a Carousell account under the profile name "maid.recruitment" which was linked to her work email address.

Vala said: "The purpose of setting up the account was to post the biodatas of the available Indonesian FDWs for potential employers to view.

"Erleena sought the permission of the key appointment holder of the accused company, Koh Seng Yeow... Koh informed Erleena that he had no objection to her posting on the Carousell website."

Erleena then posted the advertisements, casting the maids "in a manner akin to commodity that could be bought and sold", Vala said.

Erleena was fined $20,000 (RM60,282) last November and no longer works for the firm which is located at LTC Building B in Arumugam Road, near Paya Lebar Road.

Besides the insensitive advertisements, SRC Recruitment had also failed to ensure that its full name and licence number were displayed on its posts on Carousell.

On Tuesday, Vala told the court that having employment agencies list their full names and licence numbers is a necessary safeguard against unlicensed employment agencies.

She added: "This would not only allow potential employers to know and verify that the employment agencies they are intending to engage are indeed licensed, but also ensures that the FDWs themselves are able to verify with MOM that the employment agencies are bona fide."

SRC Recruitment is expected to be sentenced on April 16.

Published : March 27, 2019

By : The Straits Times Asia News Network