FDHs submit petition asking for better working conditions

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Migrant domestic workers ask for a $5,500 minimum wage. (AMCB photo)

 

MIGRANT workers of various nationalities marched on September 9 to push for regulated working hours and for an increase in their minimum wage to $5,500.

The migrants, led by the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB-IMA), also submitted a petition signed by 15,000 migrant domestic workers (MDWs) to lobby lawmakers to improve their working and living conditions.

The workers are asking for an increase in their minimum allowable wage to $5,500 from the current $4,410 and a $2,500 monthly food allowance from the current $1,053.

They also want 11 hours of uninterrupted rest for two consecutive working days and three meal breaks and have “a decent accommodation while working in Hong Kong.”

The workers said the standard contract for foreign domestic workers should be amended to clearly state their rest hours and decent and humane accommodation. AMCB spokesperson Sringatin said that MDWs remained shackled to “slave-like conditions.”

“Our working hours, being unregulated, often interfere with our rest. Some experience being woken up in the middle of the night to attend to domestic matters that could have waited in the morning,” Sringatin said.

“There are also those who do not sleep for days because their duties prevent them from doing so,” she said.

“Even if we are able to sleep, ‘not everyone is able to in a restful environment,’” she added. Sringatin said that despite being explicitly stated in their contracts, private rooms are not provided to MDWs.

The room provided is usually used for other purposes, such as laundry, which is detrimental to the health of MDWs, Sringatin said.

“We are also made to sleep with male adults, creating conditions for sexual misdemeanors,” she said.

“And some of us are made to sleep in cupboards, or even the hallway of the building where our employers live,” she added.

According to AMCB spokesperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, “modern slavery is inherent in neoliberal policies.”

“It is neoliberal policies that push wages down and maintain miserable working conditions. This is to ensure the constant stream of cheap labor,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

“With wages no longer able to support families, coupled with government policies, workers have no choice but to migrate to work in higher-income societies,” she said.

“And sometimes, these societies do not follow international standards regarding work,” she added.

Balladares-Pelaez noted that Hong Kong had yet to ratify the International Labor Organization Convention No. 189 for domestic workers, which “regulates working hours.”

She reiterated that it was time for MDWs to “reclaim our dignity not just as migrant domestic workers, but as human beings.”

“Our rights have been kept from us; our dignity, trampled upon. It is high time we reclaim what makes us human beings, equal footing with everyone else in this world,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

The AMCB, the Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU), and the Komunitas Buruh Migran (Kobumi) and other migrant groups earlier asked the Labour Department during a consultation meeting on August 7 for an increase in the food allowance.

“The food allowance for foreign domestic workers is unbelievably low,” the groups said in a joint statement.

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