Thirteen Singapore maid agencies have wound up on a blacklist at the Indonesian embassy for flouting its rules on the recruitment of Indonesian maids.
The 13, which include several large agencies, have been barred from bringing in maids, said embassy counselor Sukmo Yuwono.
He declined to name them.
However, he said he would meet agency representatives in the coming weeks. If he is satisfied that they will comply with the rules, they will be taken off the blacklist.
Those who stay on the list will find themselves locked out of the Indonesian government's online database, to which they need access to register the maids they recruit.
Policy changes on May1, aimed at raising the professional standards of Indonesian maids and minimizing problems with employers, spelt out how the cost of sourcing and training these maids was to be shared among the various parties - the maids, their Indonesian recruiters, the agencies and employers in Singapore.
By working with Indonesian recruiters to circumvent the rules, the 13 agencies are said to have brought in 260 Indonesian maids since May 1.
Mr Sukmo clarified, however, that the 260 maids are working legally as they have been issued work permits by the Singapore Government.
The May 1 changes lowered the placement fees payable by Singapore-bound maids to Indonesian recruiters and training centers from S$3,000 (US$2,400) to about S$2,000 (US$1,600).
This had the immediate effect of crimping the commission earned by the Indonesian recruiters.
Unhappy, they began leaning on Singapore maid agencies to pay them under-the-table money of up to S$1,000 (US$800) - otherwise, they would stop sourcing for maids.
As a result, the official supply of Indonesian maids slowed to a trickle from May, and even now, the supply is thin.
Last month, about 20 maids arrived through legitimate channels - far fewer than the 3,000 who had been arriving each month before the changes took effect.
Employers now typically wait two months for an Indonesian maid, compared to three weeks before the new rules kicked in.
The Straits Times understands that the 260 here since May1 were secured by Singapore maid agencies by bribing Indonesian recruiters.
Some maids came in through Batam, where checkpoints are believed to be less stringent than in Jakarta.
Sukmo said this happened because Singapore agencies - anxious due to the long wait - were caving in to the demands of unscrupulous recruiters.
Some agencies, when told by this newspaper that they were on the blacklist, said they had been caught in a bind.
"We have no choice but to give under-the-table money because the recruiters don't support the new rules. It's not fair that the Indonesian government penalizes us when they can't get their recruiters to follow the rules," said one, who declined to be named.
The others, who echoed this point, also declined to be named.
Some agencies said the banks which lend money to the maids to pay their placement fees are telling them to wait because Jakarta is recalculating the loan amount and monthly installments.
One agency said: "I'm running a business. How can I just wait and wait for the banks to be ready? I have to find ways to bring the maids here."
Sukmo confirmed that the loan quantum and installments are being reviewed, and said a decision will be made soon.
But he will not let up on his crackdown, he said.
"Next week, my sources will give me another list of Singapore maid agents who are not following the rules. I'll blacklist them too," he warned.