Negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia on the return of housemaids from the southeast Asian country collapsed after the world’s dominant oil power rejected demands by Jakarta to raise the monthly salary of its housemaids in the Gulf kingdom by nearly 60 per cent.
The two countries, which maintain strong political and religious links, have been locked in negotiations over the past few months to set new terms for hiring Indonesian maids following that country’s decision to bar its maids from travelling to Saudi Arabia because of persistent violence against them.
Saudi officials said recently the talks have made headway and the two sides are on the verge of signing an agreement organizing the work of Indonesian domestic workers in the Kingdom.But an agreement is believed to have been blocked by tough Indonesian demands relating to salary, break time and new requirements by Saudi employers including presenting certificates of good conduct.
“The negotiations have hit a snag again after the Saudi side rejected demands by Indonesia to raise the monthly wage of its maids in the Kingdom by 60 per cent,” the Saudi Arabic language daily Anbakum said.It said Jakarta wanted the minimum salary for its domestic workers in Saudi Arabia to be SR1,200 while Riyadh insists on SR800.
Saudi Arabia, the largest importer of Asian domestic workers in the Middle East, has also been negotiating with the Philippines for the return of its housemaids to the Gulf country.
Both Asian nations have suspended the travel of their domestic workers to Saudi Arabia following a surge of torture cases against them.According to Saudi newspapers, Indonesia has submitted a draft contract for its domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, stressing that employers must pay maids on time at the end of every month and must not demand that their workers do jobs other than those specified in the contract.
Employers should also grant their maids a weekly day off or pay them extra SR50 for every work day during holidays.“Maids must also be entitled for a break of at least eight hours every work day while they must not be separated from their husbands in case they work for the same employer…they should also be allowed to make regular contacts with their families at home and the employers must not be allowed to see the letters and other messages between their employees,” one report said.
More than 1.5 million housemaids from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other Asian and African nations work in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy with a population of around 28 million, including 20 million Saudis.
The Kingdom has been under fire from local and foreign human rights groups over the death of some maids, who have reportedly died because of torture and maltreatment by their employers.