Migrant worker groups slam lawmaker seeking stay-home order on weekends

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Foreign domestic workers in Central.

Migrant worker groups hit a Legislative Council member’s call to prohibit domestic workers from staying outside and gathering during the weekend and prosecute those who do so.

Sringatin, a spokesperson for the workers’ group Asian Migrants Coordinating Body, dubbed the proposal by lawmaker Elizabeth Quat as “modern slavery.”

“It is a really cruel proposal, it doesn’t have a sense of humanity,” Sringatin said.

Quat, a member of the pro-Beijing party Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, had reportedly complained about domestic workers’ gatherings during the weekends as it increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 in Hong Kong.

Local media reports said Quat contacted the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Food and Health Bureau to study the feasibility of implementing a “holiday ban order” for domestic workers.

The lawmaker also criticized the lack of enforcement of social distancing policies in areas where these workers gathered, reports said.

Quat had also reportedly cited the presence of hundreds of these workers in Tamar Park on Friday, and the absence of authorities implementing social distancing.

But Sringatin said workers comply with the social distancing measures when they are outside.

“If they say that we are not following social distancing, there are the police and also the security who check three times, four times a day,” she said.

The AMCB spokesperson also said the proposal is proof that the Hong Kong government is not listening to the 370,000-strong migrant worker population in Hong Kong, who have long complained of dire working conditions when they stay at home.

“They just want to say we are the lowest workers in Hong Kong,” Sringatin said.

She said migrant workers under the Employment Ordinance have the right to a rest day, and they also lack spaces to spend their rest days in.

Pieter Nootenboom, founder of migrant worker support group HKOFW, echoed Sringatin’s sentiments.

He said the government should be considerate and designate resting space with facilities for hygiene and waste disposal for workers during their days off.

“Considering all the benefits Hong Kong gets by allowing the employment of Domestic Helpers for which depending on their hours of work they are paid between HK$11HK to about HK$13 per hour!” he said in a Facebook post.

Quat’s proposal comes in the wake of a recent outbreak in an agency-managed dormitory in Tai Po housing domestic workers, where at least 14 cases were reported. Health authorities had said domestic workers had gathered there during the weekend.

The Employment Ordinance states that employers may neither ask domestic workers to work on their day off nor ban them from taking their 24-hour rest day. Violators of this law may be fined HK$50,000.

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