Domestic workers press wage hike, decent food

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FOREIGN domestic workers expressed their dissatisfaction over the recent meeting they had with representatives of the Labour Department as they sought to hike their wage and improve their working conditions in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Philippine diplomats also pressed the Hong Kong government to provide mandatory food allowance to Filipino domestic workers.

Speaking to journalists after the consultation meeting held on Aug. 28, Eni Lestari, spokeswoman of the Asian Migrants’ Ccordinating Body, said the LD officials neither made commitments nor give suggestions to improve the lot of more than 360,000 foreign domestic workers in the territory.

Foreign domestic workers are seeking to increase their minimum allowable wage to $5,500 from the present $4,310 and their food allowance to $2,500 from the present $1,037.

Lestari said the 12 representatives from FDWs groups, and charity organizations presented studies to the LD representatives in a bid to convince them to specify suitable food and accomodation for the domestic workers.

While the LD representatives listened to them, they refused to commit to issue regulations about food and accommodations.

“If the employer does not want to provide money for the domestic worker’s food, then there should at least be a regulation of what is decent food because every person is different.

“It’s not that Hong Kong employers are not kind, it’s just that some of them do not think about this and most of them spend their time outside, and the domestic workers are always inside the home and so there is no communication,” Lestari said.

As for accommodation, she said the LD should ban sleeping places for foreign domestic workers such as cupboards, rooftops, toilets, and kitchens.

“The suitable accommodation is not specified, so even if a worker shares a room with the daughter of the employer, and the worker sleeps on the floor, that’s not a violation of the contract,” Lestari said.

She said a big rally will be held by the FDWs on Sept. 3 from Chater Road to the LD office in Central.

Meanwhile, Philippine officials have reiterated their call to provide mandatory food allowance to Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

A report submitted by the Philippine Consulate General to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila stated that the PCG made the request during the July 19 Technical Working Group meeting with Hong Kong officials.

The PCG said Filipino domestic workers have been complaining that they were not given enough food by their employers or were even made to eat leftover food of their wards.

“(The PCG) added that a food allowance will help an FDH to have sufficient nutritional intake, resulting in better efficiency and effectiveness in executing household chores,” the report said.

However, the LD said granting of food allowance is decided on a “case-to-case basis”.

“Culture and religion are the main considerations by employers on giving the monthly food stipend. Some employers do not cook at home and thus provide monetary food allowance,” the LD said.

In October, the PCG had asked the Hong Kong government to include the food allowance of FDHs in their salaries.

Employers are required to provide FDHs with free food but they can also give a “food allowance” instead.

At present, the vast majority of employers provide free food to FDHs, many of whom complain that get only noodles, biscuits, or leftover food. Many FDHs are asking that the food allowance should also become mandatory.

The TWG, composed of Philippine and Hong Kong officials, meet regularly to resolve issues concerning overseas Filipino workers in the city.

Sought for comment by Hong Kong News, the LD said they would  continue to listen to the concerns of FDWs.

“As in the past, the Labour Department will meet with foreign domestic helper (FDH) groups and employers groups to listen to their views on the review of the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) and food allowance, as well as other matters of mutual interests.

“Indeed, the department will meet with the stakeholders from time to time to gauge their views on matters pertaining to employment of FDHs,” the LD said.

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