FDWs recover $3.6 million in monetary claims
THE Mission For Migrant Workers (MFMW) helped foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in Hong Kong recover $3.6 million in monetary claims in 2017, the group said in its annual report.
The MFMW, an outreach ministry of St. John’s Cathedral in Central, also said in its Service Report 2017 that labour-related problems, grave working hours and living conditions, and agency malpractices remained as the top complaints of FDWs.
The group said it was able to help FDWs recover a total of $3,605,693.05 in monetary claims and entitlements, a 17 percent increase when compared to 2016. The group assisted a total of 4,687 FDWs who sought its help in 2017 and 88 percent of them were Filipinos.
It said a little over half (52 percent) of these FDWs complained of labor issues ranging from violations of provisions of the employment contract, pre-mature termination of contract, and failing to pay wages and benefits under the Employment Ordinance.
“Almost half, or 42 percent, had their contracts terminated prematurely and were only allowed 14 days to remain in Hong Kong under the Two-Week Rule. Because the rule does not allow FDWs with terminated contracts to work, they were…without any means of supporting themselves,” the group said.
“To contend with the crisis situation, they had to rely on charitable assistance from the limited number of NGOs for shelter, food and expenses, and for transportation and visa extension until their labor complaints were resolved,” it added.
The report showed that nine out of every 10 complainants experienced long working hours and insufficient rest, with 63 percent reportedly working 11 to 16 hours a day, while 34 percent working more than 16 hours.
“One-third of FDWs are made to work even before they take their day-off, while 25 percent complained about insufficient food provision,” it said.
These situations, according to the MFMW, reflect the claim of community organisations that “modern slavery of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong arise from rules such as the mandatory live-in requirement.”
The group also reported that two out of every five clients did not have their own private room and had “alternative sleeping arrangements showing that suitable accommodation is still a grave concern.”
“Clearly, some policies in Hong Kong are in need of urgent review and reform, including the inclusion of more precise guidelines on unsuitable accommodation for FDWs as well as enabling FDWs with ongoing cases to have capacity to sustain their needs while waiting for resolution of their complaints,” the MFMW said.
The annual report said two out of every five clients reported that they were victims of illegal recruitment activities by erring agencies. Illegal recruitment refers to malpractices of agencies that violate recruitment agency rules in Hong Kong and in their countries of origin, the MFMW said.
It said the most extensive malpractices were illegal collection of fees, overcharging, and fraudulent loans that oftentimes result to debt bondage of migrants.
While Hong Kong’s law puts a cap of 10 percent of the first month’s wage for recruitment charges, the actual amount collected is much higher under the guise of registration or training fees, the MFMW said. Fraudulent loans are forced upon FDWs that sometimes take five to seven months for them to repay, it added.
It said about half (49 percent) of the complainants paid HK$5,001 to HK$10,000 to agencies, while 15 percent of them paid more than HK$15,000.
The report also indicated positive responses to several new MFMW initiatives, which were offered to employers and households with FDWs, to help enable an environment where problems in working and living conditions can be mitigated and fair employer-employee relationships can be enhanced.
The report said the new initiatives received positive responses from a number of locals and expatriates.
These new approaches were done to help reduce conflict inside households and mitigate difficulties not only for the FDWs but also for employers, the group said. Happy Homes, a project launched in September 2017, promoted stories of harmonious relations between employers and FDWs that could be emulated by others.”
The MFMW is a leading and trusted service provider and partner of Asian migrants, and a committed advocate in building a caring and inclusive Hong Kong society. Established in 1981, the MFMW believes that migrant workers as integral to but marginalised in Hong Kong, deserve care, respect and protection of their rights.
It provides crisis assistance to FDWs, empowers their communities, promotes harmony in households, and works for a more multicultural and inclusive Hong Kong.