x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Housemaid heads home with fraction of money owed

Filipina accepts a mere Dh2,100 of Dh40,000 she says was owed to her in unpaid wages.

Former housekeeper Caridad Cosmos was rescued from her employer.
Former housekeeper Caridad Cosmos was rescued from her employer.

DUBAI // A housemaid who said she was owed about Dh40,000 by her employer has returned home after accepting only Dh2,100.

Caridad Cosmod, 32, was contracted to work for US$400 (Dh1,470) a month, the minimum allowed by the Philippine government. But when she arrived in the UAE she was told she would receive only Dh700 a month.

Ms Cosmod said she did not receive even that, as her employers paid her barely Dh300.

Instead of the almost Dh53,000 she should have been paid over the three years she worked for her Emirati employer in Umm Al Qaiwain, she said she received barely Dh13,000.

Ms Cosmod fled her employer's home on September 15 in an escape planned by Sangguniang Masang Pilipino International, a group that rescues domestic workers.

She stayed at a women's shelter in Dubai before flying home on October 1.

Ms Cosmod arrived in Umm Al Qaiwain in August 2008. She said that in three years her employer had not given her one day off.

Her employer - whose husband is a senior official in Umm Al Qaiwain - remitted her salary directly to her sister Lucena Miranda, 47, in Caloocan City in the Philippines. But when Ms Cosmod asked her sister how much she had been paid, it was short.

"The amount varied every month," Mrs Miranda said. "Her madame would send 4,000 pesos (Dh335) in one month and 3,500 pesos the next month."

An official at the Philippine overseas labour office in Al Qusais said Ms Cosmod's employer had given him a copy of the receipts, which showed almost Dh13,000 had been sent to the Philippines over the three years.

"Caridad signed the visa cancellation papers," the officer said. "She accepted the amount that was given by her employer. She said that she wanted to go home for an operation."

Speaking from Caloocan City, Ms Cosmod said she felt she had no choice but to accept the Dh2,100.

"She told me that's the only money she could give me," she said.

The employer also paid Dh1,000 for Ms Cosmod's airfare home.

That, said Roy Silvano the founder of Sangguniang, was more than she had expected.

"We're happy that Caridad is now back home," Mr Silvano said. "She didn't expect that she would at least get something from her employer."

The group receives up to six calls every week from housemaids who complain of unpaid wages, long working hours and other forms of mistreatment, and has so far helped more than 20 women.

As for Ms Cosmod, she remains upbeat.

"I've learnt to accept what happened to me in the UAE," she said. "But I still hope to work overseas again some day to help my family."

rruiz@thenational.ae