- ST Jan 17, 2006
Maids generally not allowed in condo pools
I REFER to the letter, 'Why bar maids?' (ST, Jan 13), and the continuing debate on the issue of maids being barred from using swimming pools in private condominiums, and would like to clarify the position of management corporations.
Live-in maids in condominiums are employed by the individual units' owners to care for their children or elderly parents and are not pure residents in the ordinary sense.
The industry practice is that these maids are allowed to be in the swimming pool when taking care of their employers' children and are generally not allowed to use the pool in their private capacity as though they are owners or tenants.
Similarly, maids are not allowed to book tennis courts, function rooms, the gym, and other facilities for their own use, and this ruling has never been contested, nor discrimination alleged.
The rationale is that maids are employees of the owners, employed to work and not to enjoy the facilities of the condominium.
If we were to allow maids free access to the pool, then we should also allow other employees of the condominium, including gardeners, security guards and cleaners, equal rights because these personnel are collectively employed by all owners to work in the estate.
Similarly, part-time housekeepers (the hourly maid), maids who do not live in, and drivers and cooks employed by some apartment owners should also be allowed the same privilege as live-in maids, failing which it would be a true case of discrimination.
On the other hand, the position of these maids in private clubs is, in our opinion, quite different. When maids accompany their employers to the clubs, they should be regarded as guests of the clubs' members and should not be discriminated against.
Even though they are employees of members, they do not share the same employment status as the clubs' own employees because they do not work in the premises, unlike those in condominiums.
Furthermore, how would the security or management know that these people are maids and not friends of their members? In condominiums, we know their status, but how does a club management find out?
It is dangerous to assume that the Filipino or Indonesian woman accompanying a member is a maid as many Singaporeans do marry Filipinas and Indonesians.
Association of Management Corporations in Singapore
It is quite easy to pick apart Francis Zhan's reasoning. Poke a few holes and the whole structure of his arguments collapses like a house of cards. Here, Mr Wang will give you a few examples:
1. "Live-in maids in condominiums are employed by the individual units' owners to care for their children or elderly parents and are not pure residents in the ordinary sense."Why are they not residents? They live in the condo apartment. They sleep in the condo apartment. They eat in the condo apartment. They shit and pee in the condo apartment. They probably spend more time in the condo apartment than the owners themselves. Their work permit from Ministry of Manpower officially states their residential address in Singapore to be that of the condo apartment.
If these maids are not residents, then all their employers are criminals. That's because the law says it is a criminal offence for an employer of a domestic foreign worker to NOT provide accomodation for her.
2. "The industry practice is that these maids are allowed to be in the swimming pool when taking care of their employers' children and are generally not allowed to use the pool in their private capacity as though they are owners or tenants."Who cares what the industry practice is? We're talking about what the industry practice should be. And by the way, if you and your spouse own the condo apartment, your kids are NOT owners or tenants either. Why are THEY allowed to use the pool? And what about your friends and guests who come to visit? Why are THEY allowed? Are they owners? Tenants? Residents? No, of course not. So why are THEY allowed, Mr Francis Zhan?
3. "The rationale is that maids are employees of the owners, employed to work and not to enjoy the facilities of the condominium."What a stupid argument. Of course maids are employed to work. Anyone who is employed anywhere is employed to work. That in itself doesn't mean that maids cannot enjoy the condo facilities. If I am employed to work at the cinema as a ticket-seller, does that mean I cannot go to that cinema to watch movies on my off-days? If I work at Sentosa, does that I mean I cannot go to the Underwater World or the Musical Fountain after work? That's absurd.
Hey I know a property manager who manages several condominiums in Singapore. In fact, he is also employed to manage the condominium project where he lives. Does that mean he can't use the pool??
4. "If we were to allow maids free access to the pool, then we should also allow other employees of the condominium, including gardeners, security guards and cleaners, equal rights because these personnel are collectively employed by all owners to work in the estate."Well, maybe we should. Frankly, I don't see what's the big deal about allowing them to take a dip in the pool. But that's a completely different issue. Who's talking about gardeners and security guards? We're talking about maids. And just by the way, unlike the maids, those other folks like the gardeners and security guards are definitely NOT residents at the condo. Don't believe me? Look at their NRIC, and check their address.
Et cetera et cetera. By now it should be utterly obvious that Francis Zhan's arguments basically consist of fallacies built upon fallacies. But Mr Wang still hasn't cut through the bullshit yet. Allow Mr Wang to cut through the bullshit and reveal the heart of the issue to you. This is it:
"Do we want to accord maids the social status to use the pool, together with the bosses and their family members?"And that's really it. This is the issue.
Some will say, "No, maids are too low-class, we should not let them use the pool."
Others will say, "I don't see any problem letting them use the pool. No big deal. Singaporeans very high-class meh, cannot share pool issit."
For now, Mr Wang merely wishes to correctly name the issue, and call a spade a spade. It is a class issue. Don't let Francis Zhan fool you into thinking that this is really some kind of employment or residency or condo legal ownership or tenancy issue.
Readers, come clean, and form your own view on the issue, whatever your view may be. If nothing else, be honest with yourself.