NEWS

‘Cinderella Sisters’ Claim They Worked Like Slaves

  Domestic worker Tuipolotu Tala­toka claims her and her colleague, Salaseini Serukeitoga, worked like slaves in Samoa. Ms Talatoka made the claim in Suva yes­terday after her return from the
25 May 2018 10:31
‘Cinderella Sisters’ Claim They Worked Like Slaves
Tuipolotu Talatoka holding her payslip

 

Domestic worker Tuipolotu Tala­toka claims her and her colleague, Salaseini Serukeitoga, worked like slaves in Samoa.

Ms Talatoka made the claim in Suva yes­terday after her return from the island na­tion.

“We felt like the Cinderella sisters. A promise of a good job in paradise turned out to be hell in paradise,” she said.

Their claim of exploitation was high­lighted in the Samoan media. She claimed she was lured by a Fijian friend in the Apia hotel industry to work as a nanny.

“So I was willing to go and when I asked about my contract and other documents, they said things will be sorted out once I reached Samoa,” she said.

“I had that trust because the employer was a big man there.”

Ms Talatoka arrived in Samoa on April 3, 2017. On the same day, she was told by her employers that in two to three days, they would talk about her job.

“Before then, all I knew was my job de­scription was to be a nanny,” she said.

“Apart from being a nanny, I was given other tasks.

“I was a housemaid, a gatekeeper, chef and cleaner which was out of my agreed job description.”

Ms Talatoka said maybe because she did not sign any contract was the reason she was given all the other jobs outside their verbal agreement.

“I was supposed to get the contract in black and white when I was still in Fiji, but I had all that trust.

“I was ill-treated, the right word for me to use is slavery.”

She said she worked from 6am until whenever her employers return from work and at times, 2am would be the latest time they would reach home.

“Twice, I knocked off at 4.30am and I had to resume duty at 6am. I had long working hours.

“We were treated like slaves.”

Ms Talatoka said she had her National Provident Fund deducted without even having a NPF number or a working permit and she did not sign any legal document as well.

She added that she went to Samoa on a 60 days visitor visa.

“When I asked them about my working permit, I was told that it takes one year for them to do a working permit, so I waited.”

CINDERELLA SISTERS

After working alone for a few months, Ms Talatoka arranged for a Salaseini Se­ruikeitoga to join her. She flew in around September 2017. They did not know each other personally until she reached Samoa.

“In the hot sun or when it is raining, we had to cut flowers outside,” Ms Talatoka said.

“We had to open the gate day and night sometimes at 11pm to 12am.

“We had to scrub the whole house, the tiles lining and we always joke around that we are the Cinderella sisters.

“We had to treat them like queens and kings.”

“As a woman in a foreign country, I was concerned with my safety and health,” Ms Talatoka said.

“They always swear at us while working, it was sad when you have to tell off your staff and using vulgar words.”

She said there was no fixed time for their meals.

“I was scared even to eat and life was un­bearable,” Ms Talatoka said.

“I lost a lot of weight because of the envi­ronment I was working in.

“I am a human being and not an animal, I sleep for maximum six hours, sometimes only four hours.

“But I never did show my family back at home that I was going through hard times.

“If only they can come home in the even­ing and say ‘thank you for the hardwork’, at least a thank you.”

She added that she went to Samoa to work for his employer and his wife. Instead she ended up with five bosses and they were living in her employer’s in-laws residence.

“I had to work for the whole family in­cluding my employer’s parents and a sis­ter as well,” she said.

“At times my employer will tell me some­thing which disagrees with the other counterpart, and I get the telling off.”

Ms Talatoka added that it was really sad that the issue in Samoa was happening to a lot of Fijians working there and they did not have the courage to speak up.

“They want to speak out but they are scared. Most of them are desperate for money.”

The duo worked for few more months, however, on Easter morning, they left the residence. Ms Talatoka said through a friend, she found out that the working per­mit could be done in less than three weeks and not a year. She also found out that she did not have any record with the Samoan Immigration Department of her arrival in the country.

“My name was not in their system data­base from the day I flew in to the country. How could that possibly have happened?”

She added that on the day they left the residence, their employer accused them of stealing valuable items. A picture of her passport was posted on Facebook her employer stating: ‘Wanted, Run away nan­ny and housemaid with stolen valuable items.’

“What he did was defamation of charac­ter,” she said.

Ms Talatoka is the only girl in the family and she is the youngest.

THEY LIVE IN TACIRUA.

National Employment Centre manager Seruwaia Bavai said: “Fijians wanting to go abroad, once they receive an offer to come and visit us and seek advice in terms of their working conditions and contracts,” Ms Bawai said.

“Especially, for housemaids and nan­nies, those are the vulnerable categories. Unlike working for industries, those are more recognised.

“For those who are overseas to liaise with the ministry if they are going through the same experience as what Ms Talatoka and Ms Serukeitoga went through.”

She added that it was important to un­derstand the terms and conditions of the contract before leaving.

Edited by Percy Kean

Feedback: selita.bolanavanua@fijisun.com.fj

 

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