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Employees deserve better

Employees deserve better

In a part of the world where many employees exist in difficult situations, maids are perhaps the most exposed. Sam Potter argues we need to protect them better.

August 4, 2010 4:21 by

Meanwhile in Saudi, reports of abused and unfairly treated maids continue. In one instance, late last month, a maid attempted suicide. Though her motivations are unknown, the case resonates with another suicide attempt just a month before. In 2008 a campaign against maid abuse in the country sparked controversy with its shock tactics – pictures of a maid wearing a dog collar next to a kennel made headlines around the world.

We live in a part of the world in which many people work in difficult or harsh conditions, but there is something peculiarly affecting about the plight of domestic workers. Because they are often employed in a family home they are most often isolated and alone – at least the laborers in the hot sun are working together.

In the past some would argue that these offending nations were still forming, still modernizing, and the treatment of employees and workers like this was an unfortunate, lingering cultural throw back. That’s not to excuse it, just explain it. But times change, and we can no longer be patient. Gulf countries wish to be considered as modern nations on the world stage – trading hubs, financial centers, even world powers – but these ambitions will only be truly achievable when the bar for the way our societies live is set higher.

They say you can measure a nation’s greatness by the way it treats its weakest members; on that basis, the region has some way to go. An employer has a responsibility to their employee(s) to provide a fair wage and ethical treatment; that duty is no less important if an employee comes from another country or does our dirty work for us. We must be better, fairer, and kinder to every employee – perhaps even more so to those lonely maids.

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