A baking class for foreign domestic workers run by ACMI. File photo

The archdiocesan commission for migrants says it is pleased with the Manpower Ministry’s announcement that foreign domestic workers (FDWs) be given a weekly day off starting next year.

According to the Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ACMI), it was the first to advocate for the rights for these workers when it developed a workshop, Building Harmonious Relationship between Employers and FDWs, in 2001.

In a statement, ACMI said it hopes “that our local parishes welcome their fellow Catholics on their precious day off and provide them with the pastoral care that they need”.

ACMI says there are currently about 207,000 FDWs, according to Manpower Ministry statistics, of which 60,000 to 80,000 are Filipinas who are predominantly Catholic.

ACMI adds that “this is the best time to seriously consider the Pope’s recent Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2012 that ‘the Church is faced with the challenge of helping migrants keep their faith firm; and Christian communities are to accompany them with prayer, solidarity and Christian charity’”.

Archbishop Nicholas Chia, in his 2011 Message for the World Day of Migrants, had noted that there are people who believe “domestic helpers should work seven days a week, sometimes even 24/7, with no days off and little or no time for themselves each day”.

“If you enjoy having a day off during the week, would it not follow that your domestic helper would also enjoy and appreciate this ‘luxury?’” he asked.

Catholic employers that CN contacted said they welcome the new policy.

“[Maids] have to have their time away from the home, so once a week is not too much to ask,” said Mr Michael Hong.

“It’s a fair policy that everyone needs a break. My only concern is that my maid should not be alone without the company of friends on her day off,” said Ms Sharon Tan.

Ms Agatha Koh, on the other hand, said, “I think it’s a bit drastic from one to four off days [a month]. My only reservation is that now they might abuse their off days instead of finding something meaningful to do.”

Some maids contacted shared their thoughts.

“I like this new rule of the day off, as I had requested it from my employer before,” said Ms Kin from Myanmar.

“Sometimes I get a day off but I don’t know what to do. So it doesn’t really matter to me”, said Ms Jacqueline Quilates, from the Philippines.

Filipina Emily Carganillo, on the other hand, said, “I’ve already been given a weekly day off for six months already.”

By Martin See
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