HK Labour Tribunal allows Pinay in PH to testify via video link vs employer

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Labour Tribunal in Yau Ma Tei

In landmark decision, the Labour Tribunal yesterday (February 19) allowed a former domestic helper—who is now a factory worker in Laguna—to testify via video link from the Philippines.

Labour Tribunal Presiding Officer Timon Shum also allowed a union officer to represent in court claimant Joenalyn D. Mallorca, who is suing her former employer, Ng Mei Shuen, for a total of $85,935.56 (P576,427.48) in damages.

This is the first time the Labour Tribunal has allowed a claimant to give testimony via video conferencing. Before today, workers had to physically visit the Labour Tribunal in order to pursue their cases, according to Justice Without Borders, a regional charity which assisted Mallorca.

“Until now, migrant workers who have been victimised by bad employers have had to remain in Hong Kong, living in shelters and staying unemployed while pursuing their cases,” said Mr. Douglas MacLean, Executive Director of Justice Without Borders.

“Many have had to make the difficult choice of missing out on salary while pursuing claims, or returning home and giving up their rights altogether.  Now, going home does not need to mean going without,” he added.

Justice Without Borders said the landmark decision gives workers “real hope that they can pursue justice for common employment violations, even after they leave the city.”

These violations include unfair dismissal, nonpayment of wages and illegal deductions, the group said, adding that the decision allows workers “to potentially avoid the often months-long process of pursuing their claims at the Labour Tribunal.”

Claimants can now go on with their lives without giving up their right to access justice. It also means bad employers cannot escape responsibility by dragging their feet until their former employees go home, the group said.

Shiella Grace Estrada, Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions (FADWU) secretary, said the trial would be held at the Technology Court in West Kowloon from September 16 to 19.

“We were very happy when he heard the decision. This means at least the system is opening up and responding to the pleas of foreign domestic workers to get justice,” Estrada said in an interview.

Mallorca filed a case at the Labour Tribunal against her employer after she was dismissed in September 2017.

However, she had to go back to the Philippines in December 2017 to take care of her young children and her elderly mother who was diagnosed with cancer.

The Labour Department had offered to shoulder her expenses for her to come back in HK and testify but, besides taking care of her children and sick mom, she cannot afford to be absent for a long time from her factory job in Laguna.

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