Please read another follow-up article this time on the subject of the pending legislation to protect househelp in the Philippines. The writer has a good idea to help address this bad idea of a law.
From BusinessWorld Philippines
September 20, 2012
Still no to the Kasambahay Bill
WHEN I wrote that article last week (“No to the Kasambahay Bill”; Sept. 14, 2012), I was expecting huge anger from the readers about the position and the arguments I made. Gratifyingly instead, aside from a few who expressed quite eccentric views, the overwhelming response I got was agreement to my objection to the Kasambahay Bill. This article is meant to clarify and further discuss why I believe the Kasambahay Bill, at this time and as it stands, is a bad idea.
Emphatically, the biggest objection is not merely the minimum wage requirement but fundamentally the idea of fairness, a fairness deserved as well by the employer. Again, this is not to go against the idea that a proper wage should be given for a proper day’s work.
A reader who agreed to my objection to the Kasambahay Bill, nevertheless, expressed discomfort at my seeming “generalization” of maids. My response was: not so. If there was any generalization made, it was made by the Kasambahay Bill of the middle class. And the generalization done was quite negative: that the middle class abuses, underpays, and commits violence against household help. But that is simply not true. Most Filipinos who hire household help are decent people who, as our culture makes pretty clear, treat such household help as members of the family.
This negative generalization of the middle class ignores the fact that middle class employers practically have no remedy against erring or malicious maids. Sue them for damages? But lawsuits cost lots and what money could the maids pay the damages awarded with anyway? Will the police be willing to hunt down maids who, because they simply felt like it, abandoned their employers? In fact, the system is so skewed against the middle class that, with just minimal exaggeration on my part, maids feel they are entitled to get away with any infraction or incompetence simply by uttering “’sensya na po.”
But this negative generalization also ignores the fact, which I pointed out in last week’s article, that “ordinarily in this country, maids that are found working well are compensated generously.” As one reader mentioned to me, because of their maids’ demonstrated loyalty and good work, their family went to the extent of funding their education and even took them to their Hong Kong vacation. Another reader said they funded the maid’s family business in the province. These stories cannot be overemphasized enough considering they (the readers’ families) themselves admitted are “not rich.”
Clearly, the issue is not about withholding deserved compensation to the household help. It is about genuine fairness. And it is also “fair” to say that a lot of household help are “generally untrained, a good number of which work lazily or with a bad attitude.” I quoted Beth Day Romulo’s 1987 book Inside the Palace: “The little maids who flood into Manila from their parents’ farms in the provinces are apt to be pleasant and honest, but also untrained, inefficient, unmotivated — and clumsy.” Note, she was writing from the perspective of a quarter of a century ago. But as one reader wrote to me, having grown up with maids in the house, he is bothered at the fact that the quality of maids (and the service they give) has steadily worsened through the years.
Obviously, there are abusive employers, as the recent newspaper headlines show us. But these abusive people are currently in jail, awaiting trial. What does that tell you? That there are laws currently in place already that protect household help for whom abuse is heaped.
The real objection to the Kasambahay Bill then, to repeat, is fairness: why give to maids, at considerable burden to the middle class, extra rights, professional’s privileges, and statutorily imposed compensation without requiring from them the commensurate professionalism and accountability?
One reader argues that the Kasambahay Bill actually will enable household helps to be responsible and professional. But that’s ridiculous. As anybody who actually managed people would know, you never give a reward or promotion in the hopes that such person will step up and match the reward or promotion. It never happens. It will actually encourage that person to continue behaving or working badly or even worse. Rewards, rights, privileges are given for good work or behavior already done and with the concomitant responsibility to keep doing so. To do otherwise is precisely to encourage a “paternalistic entitlement society.”
If the Kasambahay Bill must be passed, it is suggested at the very least to strengthen the reportorial provisions of the Bill to help protect future employers. This means including a national computerized database for getting mandatory references before a maid is hired. That way, if a maid decides to unjustifiably abandon her employer, robs or steals, or does bad work, such maid can be immediately identified and perhaps “blacklisted.” It will give a bare minimum of protection for the employer and encourage greater accountability for household helps.