Barred from going out on Sundays, FDH terminate contracts after failing to attend worship services

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Compared to previous Sundays, only a few groups of Filipina domestic workers can be seen at Chater road on Feb.9.

Two Filipina domestic helpers chose to terminate their respective contracts after their employers allegedly prohibited them from going out on their rest days, preventing them from attending worship services.

Sources from the Philippine Labor Overseas Office told Hong Kong News on Feb.10 that the domestic helpers, both members of the Christian religion Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), decided to leave their jobs after they were stopped by their employers from going out on their days-off for two consecutive weeks already since Feb.2.

One of the domestic helpers was initially allowed to leave her employer’s residence, but only for two hours. The other one was not permitted to go out at all.

Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) holds worship services on Thursdays and Sundays, the latter being the designated day-off for foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

The Labour Department has requested domestic helpers – 220,000 of whom are Filipinos – not to go out on their rest day in a statement issued on Jan.30.

The Labour Department said that their appeal to foreign domestic helpers (FDH) to stay at home during their rest day in light of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) scare in Hong Kong is just a “suggestion,” adding that  the domestic workers will ultimately get to decide if they want to go out or not.

“It is just a suggestion, it is not a law, it is not an ordinance,” a spokesman of the Labour Department told Hong Kong News on Jan.31.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended the appeal made by the Labour Department in a press conference on Jan.31, saying it’s part of a strategy for “social distancing” or minimizing social contact to prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV, which has infected at least 36 people in the special administrative region as of Feb.10, with one casualty.

Over 40,000 people have been infected in 27 other countries and territories, with at least 910 dead. Bulk of the cases came from mainland China, with the first cases of infection reported in the city of Wuhan in mid-December last year.

Migrants’ rights groups have called on the Labour Department to withdraw such appeal, saying it is “discriminatory.”

“Unless the government is telling everyone to remain at home, there is no need to single-out foreign domestic workers. It is unfair, unjust and discriminatory,” the International Migrants Alliance of Hong Kong and Macau said on Feb.5.